Saturday, 27 November 2010

bite me: the week in bite-sized chunks

Amazon: Tad Williams and Christopher Paolini have been in conversation on Amazon this week. This is mainly news to me because Paolini is no longer the self-published 16-year-old first-time writer who penned Eragon and is now an actual grown up. This makes me feel old. I loved this conversation because it’s two SFF writers eking out each others’ opinions on Fantasy writing and what it means to them. Here’s a snippet of Paolini’s thoughts on why SFF resonates so keenly with readers today and why it will continue to as long as humans don’t spontaneously mutate:
‘Fantasy is the oldest form of literature; the very first stories that humans told while crouched around campfires were stories about gods and monsters and tragic mistakes and heroic feats. Even now, those topics still resonate with us on a primal level, which is one reason I think fantasy will remain popular with readers as long as humans are still human.’

Del Ray: Every Friday Del Ray Spectra post 50 pages of one of their titles up on their home site, Suvudu. This week it’s the turn of Terry Brooks’ Urban Fantasy Running With The Demon, which is a departure from his usual elves and swords Fantasy (warning: ‘elves and swords Fantasy’ does not accurately represent of all of Brooks’ work to date). Anyway, I’m not sure how much credence could possibly come from a geek who uses this word, but this is amazingly cool of Del Ray to give these tasters, and on a Friday too (the perfect day for tasters). They started this on 15th October and the excerpt for every title they’ve done this for is still available. They also welcome comments and requests for specific titles so it’s well worth an interactive look, especially if you’ve been considering purchasing Star Wars fiction as it’s good to be sure it’s worthwhile.

The Black Library: A straight-to-DVD film of Warhammer 40k is being released on Monday 29th November, the aptly named Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 movie. The first film stemming from over twenty years of material, SFX magazine have given it 2.5 stars for being a ‘difficult film to love’.

Voyager: back from their holidays and encouraging readers to bookmark their author Peter V. Brett’s blog and showcasing some truly lovely, minimalist reissuing of Megan Lindholm’s backlist using Jackie Morris’ beautiful artwork to match alter-ego Robin Hobb’s covers. Since returning from holiday, Assistant Editor Amy McCulloch has sent me a Hobb book to review for their blog, The Dragon Keeper, Book One of The Rain Wild Chronicles. This is despite the fact that the reviews so far that I’ve put up here have been negative in parts (and lacking in parts), indicating that they put their readers first above their own wellbeing. At first glance, on a purely visual level, Morris’ artwork alone is enticing, although the metallic covers bizarrely put me in mind of the silver pogs I used to collect at primary school (seriously, what are pogs?).

Thursday, 25 November 2010

new Orbiteers: Anne Clarke and James Cook appointed at Orbit

Orbit have appointed Anne Clarke, previously from the fiction department at Hodder and Stoughton, as their UK Editorial Director. They’ve also appointed James Cook in his first publishing role as Editorial Assistant (following the lovely Anna Gregson’s promotion to Commissioning Editor earlier this year. Lovely because she’s helped me with my inane queries before now). I’ve just discovered Cook’s book blog, Speculative Horizons, through this news. He’s from Manchester too, so hopefully there isn’t some bizarre universe rule that states only one person can be plucked from this city to work in Orbit’s offices in any given period of time. However there can be a rule that states Coincidence is on the sidelines ready to jump in when the moment’s right. I might have mixed up the universe with football there, in which case I hope the referee holds extreme bias towards Manchester.

Anyway, just as I’ve discovered this delightful blog, it’s been taken away. Or shut down, rather. Cook has stated that he doesn’t want to have anyone to doubt his professional credibility (unlike a certain hypothetical referee) or company bias. Commendable, but also, selfishly, a real shame that I’ve come in at the end and his work is now finished. Still, there’s an archive and I have some time before Misfits...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

film review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

(Editing courtesy of Manchester Confidential)

The familiar opening music begins but fades to nothing. The Warner Bros logo swings into view, tarnishes and rusts. There will be no frivolity in the halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this term. There will be no Hogwarts at all as Lord Voldemort is back. But without the end of term - how on earth will he know when to attack?

The last one-but-one film begins with goodbyes. Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) destroys her parents’ memories of her while her love-interest Ronald Weasley (Rupert Grint) bids farewell to the comfort of his home, and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) watches his aunt and uncle, the Dursleys, leave him behind without so much as a backwards glance.

After an excellent but brief motorway broomstick chase with Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), a quick smooch between Harry and Ginny and a crashed Weasley wedding, it’s time for the three young leads to leave the usual cast of adults behind them and go on the run from the Death Eaters.

But nowhere is safe, not even the non-magical Muggle world. With nothing but Hermione’s Mary Poppins-esque clutch bag of possessions (tent comes as standard), the three set off to complete the task that Hogwarts’ headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) left them before his death: to destroy the remaining Horcruxes that contain parts of Voldemort’s soul in order to make him mortal.

Their Horcrux-hunt leads them to the Ministry of Magic, where Dolores Umbridge (a terrifying Imelda Staunton) has the real version of the fake Horcrux. Unfortunately, the Ministry has been infiltrated and the Minister of Magic replaced by one of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) own. Harry Potter is now undesirable number one and even Ministry members are being carted off so their blood can be tested for magical purity.

Following the genuinely tense climax of this outing, the film’s plot loses steam, with in-tent bickering between the three (it’s not the best idea to accessorise with a Horcrux), some useful evil-doer updates through the Volde-link via Harry and a few forays to other locations based on whim alone. This is the crux of the problem towards the latter end of JK Rowling’s much-loved series. The plot doesn’t so much as progress as jerk forwards at random intervals through a convenient leap of Hermione’s logic or timely bit of magic.

At least Voldemort is back so we know we’re out of filler territory. The decor in his HQ is so dark that three skeletons have moved into his cellar and a witch keeps tripping over her cat. There’s no getting away from it; Voldemort is evil. But just in case that’s not completely clear, within the first five minutes he kills a woman and orders his snake to eat her. Every Flavour Beans are evidently no longer the snack of choice for this franchise.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. For every ear being shot off with magic, there’s a scene like the one with seven Harry Potters (and Radcliffe in a bra), which is brilliantly light-hearted. Humour has been prevalent from the start of the Potter-verse thanks to Rowling. The wit shines through where its needed most in the films, dispelling tension and delivering a quick remark that makes you forgive even the most mawkish of scenes (Grint just can’t quite get away with the deeper stuff).

There’s no doubting that Radcliffe, Watson and Grint have matured as actors, which is lucky for third-time around director David Yates, and in the absence of the usual, excellent adult cast it’s up to them to carry the film. Steve Kloves has been writing the screen adaptations of Rowling’s franchise since book one and has taken these characters – and the actors – through to maturity. The fresh-faced tots from the first film are the adults now. Although, no matter how mature they might be, the naked scene was still a bit much to take (Voldemort, you old perv).

For someone who was once out-acted by a CGI talking snake, Radcliffe has established himself well as an actor. He’s fooled around with horses in the West End, gone yellow for The Simpsons and is soon to appear in the much anticipated horror The Woman in Black. It’s his comic timing, dry delivery and surprisingly subtle displays of emotion that help to make what is essentially half a film worth watching.

Being split into two does allow this film to linger over some beautiful moments – the Dementors leaching off the despair of court trials, Hermione and Harry’s oddly tender dance alone in the tent, an animated interlude – but also results in a less than satisfying conclusion. It doesn’t help that this final book suddenly introduced a whole other storyline – the Deathly Hallows – as if Rowling lost faith in the whole Horcrux thing, and is consequently a bit of a mishmash.

Relatively, it’s darker; the cast are alone in the world, one of them is tortured and familiar names are reeled off as missing over the crackling radio, but like its predecessors, this film finds it hard to strike the right balance for its ‘tween-age audience. There are deaths but the cast are still prone to exclaiming ‘blimey!’ in times of peril. Still, at least we’re out of rom-com territory – Potter is back on form for the final leg.

Friday, 19 November 2010

bite me: the week in bite-sized chunks

Atom: top billing again this week due to announcing a book/film tie-in of a hormone-fuelled retelling of Red Riding Hood, directed by Twilight’s Catherine Hardwicke and based on the book written by newly-acquired Atom author Sarah Blakley-Cartwright (conveniently at the same time). Expect star-crossed (tantric) lovers, brooding males, pale, sensual females and Muse (probably). Choice quote from the trailer: brooding male lead: ‘I’m wrong for you.’ Amanda Seyfried: ‘I don’t care.’ ETA: March 2011 and not a grandma in sight.

Harry Potter: I can’t not mention the so-dark-you-can-no-longer-see-the-actual-characters-only-hear-them latest Harry Potter being released this week, particularly as it’s the last one-but-one. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is out now and will be reviewed later on this week. *grabs Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and forgets cynicism*

NaNoWriMo: shameless self-promotion. This week’s news: me! Writing a guest post during NaNoWriMo month on Jo and the Novelist’s funny and beguiling blog (thankfully undiminished by my post).

Orbit on NaNoWriMo: read Orbit’s blog here for some excellent time-travelling writing advice for the final slog by Editor Dongwon Song, giving professional tips on genre-writing from an editorial POV. Highlights: industry-relevant keywords explained such as ‘hookiness’, ‘pace-y-ness’ and, the all-important, ‘awesomeness’. Who would have thought that your 10,000 word ode to your character’s relationship with his grandma in order to emotionally-ground his vision of her untimely death wasn’t going to cut it? This is where Song’s advice on pace-y-ness comes in handy. This is such a great way for Orbit to engage with new writers, and pass on age-old pie-metaphoric wisdom.

Orbit again: author Rachel Neumeier on the Orbit blog discusses categorization, particularly because she thinks that her series, The Griffin Mage, doesn’t fit strictly into any genres defined at the World Fantasy Convention 2010. This is a great overview of subgenres, but the reason I really like this post is Rachel Aaron’s response. Author of the eponymous antihero series The Legend of Eli Monpress, Aaron writes about the reaction she receives when she’s trying to define what sort of fiction she writes: ‘“oh! Like Harry Potter!” and I’m like no, that’s YA, I write adult fantasy…. and then they give me this dirty look and I have to spend like 10 minutes qualifying that and trying to make sure they know I’m not writing erotica.’ Beautiful. Perhaps the stigma that sometimes surrounds SFF can be mostly defined as simple ignorance. For more information on Aaron and a glimpse between her gorgeous covers, visit her blog.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

hardcopy romantics: cover art

Richard Ford’s Occult Steampunk novel (author’s own genrefication) Kultus from Solaris has had its cover art revealed this week, and the author is clearly pleased. By talented artist Frazer Irving, best known for his comic artwork, the graphic-novel influence can be clearly seen. I love this cover, it’s unique and it’s a world away from other photorealistic genre covers out there, which are even used for fellow Steampunk titles like Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series from Orbit (which are beautiful, striking covers). It also makes a nice change to have the lead, particularly one that is happily described as a ‘bastard’ in the blurb, look like the thuggish fellow he is, instead of Paul Bettany.

Book blurb: Thaddeus Blaklok – mercenary, demonist, bastard and thug-for-hire – is pressed into retrieving a mysterious key for his clandestine benefactors. Little does he know that other parties seek to secure this artefact for their own nefarious ends and soon he is pursued by brutal cultists, bloodthirsty gangsters, deadly mercenaries and hell spawned monsters, all bent on stopping him by any means necessary.

In a lightning-paced quest that takes him across the length and breadth of the steam-fuelled city of Manufactory, Blaklok must use his wits and his own demonic powers to keep the key from those who would use it for ill, and open the gates to Hell itself.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

bite me: the week in bite-sized chunks

Atom: This is the sister imprint of Orbit and it’s mostly known for buying the UK rights to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series (it was only a matter of time before that made an appearance here, opinion notwithstanding). But that’s not all they do! No, they also have the foresight to invite bloggers to their offices, feed them buns and give them a presentation on their upcoming titles. Now that is tasty and savvy marketing. But they missed out on a treat (aha) by not having Edward and Jacob faces on each bun and making people choose between them (because this is what people like to do), and have a bun-off. Because visual aids are useful, and I had too much time on my hands, I’ve mocked these up for you. The original photo was from blogger Amanda Rutter, whose Floor to Ceiling books blog is always a good place to while away some quality browsing time. She also talks about the new initiative Atom are starting called the Atomics that involves teenage bloggers – ah to be young. Read more here.

NaNoWriMo: It’s National Writing Month where every kind of (mad) writer sets aside a whole month to write – what, a short story? A poem? A soliloquy? – a novel, of course. It’s an exercise in sheer determination, bloody-mindedness and willpower, and it doesn’t matter what you write as long as it’s 50,000 words long. Even if you’re not participating, you can hop on over to the forum and peruse topics like ‘NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul’, which sounds promising. For SFF, head over to the genre section where you can read threads like ‘Raise someone from the dead, how?’ and, my personal favourite, ‘If you were an abusive umbrella, what you would yell?’

Top 2010 SFF titles announced: Three of the top 5 are Orbit’s - The Bone Place by Amanda Downum about the sex industry and vampires, Feed by Mira Grant (a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire) about zombies and Republicans in the Midwest and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms/The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, two novels about ordinary people being manipulated by gods in a changing world. There’s also Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death by Penguin USA’s DAW imprint (the first ever publishers dedicated to SFF) about a post-apocalyptic Saharan Africa and Pegasus’ A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter by Peter Straub, which is actually only a short story/excerpt from A Dark Matter. The full list can be found here in Publishers Weekly.

Solaris book launch: if you’re lucky enough to live in/around London, rather than the publishing-barren Manchester, then you can go to the FREE Solaris’ book launch event at Foyle’s on the 16th November. More information can be found on the Solaris editors’ blog. It’s The End of the Line edited by Jonathan Oliver, a book of Horror short stories set on the underground. This is exactly the kind of book I love – set in the hidden parts of a city and taking the otherworldly element of the underground literally - and I can’t wait to read it. Just check out the blood-smeared cover. Lovely.

Friday, 12 November 2010

TV review: Misfits series 2 (AKA Barry saves us)

Last night the series two opener of E4’s ASBO-generation superhero equivalent of Smallville aired. For those who missed it, Bandwagoners, Misfits is about a group of five British teenagers performing community service who were struck by lightening in a mysterious storm that left them with superpowers stemming from aspects of their personalities. Mind-reading, sexual prowess and turning back time are just some of the five’s new powers, which aren’t always so much gifts as life-threatening ailments. Try walking through a crowd of men who want to do unspeakable things to you just because your skin brushed theirs, and you have what the beautiful Alisha (Antonia Thomas) has to contend with on her average stroll down the street. She and ex-sporting champion Curtis (Nathan Stewart Jarrett) are forced to maintain a look-but-don’t-touch relationship that’s as tender as it is wicked.

The final episode of series one ended with the now immortal Nathan (Robert Sheehan) buried six feet under, his massive ego suitably justified since finding out his power (unfortunately for the others). This episode begins with the not-so-typical chav-esque Kelly (Lauren Socha), who can read thoughts, following an anonymous tip-off from the biker we saw at the end of series one and getting the group to dig Nathan up. Once that’s out of the way, we’re back to the (brutally unrequited) sexual chemistry between the atypical pair.

Group dynamics re-established, they return to their community service for this week – a device which throws up unique possibilities for each episode – helping at an art class for the mentally ill. The brilliantly awkward, sometimes invisible Simon (Iwen Rheon, last seen sending himself up in Simon Amstell’s Grandma’s House) recognises an old love interest from his time in incarceration and the shenanigans begin. Suddenly there’s too much soft-focus on the lens and nobody is quite sure who anybody is.

As far as Fantasy goes, this is realism. If superheroes exist they aren't off saving the world at the expense of love and life. They're sunbathing on concrete rooftops, they're abusing their powers, they're finding out your worst secret and telling everyone so they can all have a good laugh about it. They're propping up their latest victim in the freezer so they have some company while they eat a chocolate bar. At least, these ones are.

Rather than suffering from hype-raised expectations, this excellently executed opener proves that Misfits was not a flash in the pan. With a razor-witted script, darkly unique SFX (the shapeshifting bathroom scene is terrifying) and fast-paced, intelligent narrative, what makes this series great is that its central characters really are misfits – who wouldn’t balk at eating a cornetto that’s shared a freezer with a dead woman - but they’re misfits we genuinely care about. Even the smart-mouthed Nathan has a vulnerable centre and Simon is a beautifully constructed exercise in facial tics and painful, relatable awkwardness (pyromania and murdering aside).

Ongoing from the first series, the mismatched group are still trying to shake the police after their tendency to accidentally kill their probation officers and their mysterious black-clad saviour makes another appearance. Who is this person who has suddenly stepped up from riding a bike quite well to being able to leap over rooftops and throw paper aeroplanes really, really far? Stay tuned and find out, it’s so much better than you might think.

Monday, 8 November 2010

TV review: The Walking Dead

I love a big budget. AMC/FX’s The Walking Dead has seen a lot of publicity, not least because Simon Pegg has been tweeting his little heart out about it. Has it been worth the characters spent though?

This new zombie/Horror series is based on the black and white comic of the same name by writer Robert Kirkman. To sum: it’s the zombie apocalypse and deputy sheriff Rick James (Andrew Lincoln – more pointy and more American than I remember) has awoken from a gunshot-induced coma to discover that the world has been overrun by zombies. So far so an American 28 Days Later. It’s like the horror version of Sandra Bullock’s While You Were Sleeping only with less hilarious misunderstandings and more gunshot wounds to the head. After the shock of this new world (dis)order sinks in, Rick begins the trek to the standard utopia that exists wherever the people are not, as cleverly mocked in Zombieland, in order to find his wife and young son, picking up other survivors along the way.

The 90-minute opener, 'Days Gone Bye' (see what they did there?), aired over the weekend on FX in the UK and it was good. The SFX are amazing and the creators have got the fast-zombie vs slow-zombie issue sorted. They’re slow when they’re just meandering about, feeling a bit peckish and mooching for live flesh to munch on. But the moment they hear a loud noise – a gunshot for example – or they spot their elevenses - you - they’re loping towards you faster than you can crawl beneath a vehicle to await your inevitable demise.

I’m looking forward to 'Guts' next weekend – it sounds quite promising in the gore department (not that seeing a horse get eaten alive didn’t satisfy my bloodlust – although who knew they are much roomier on the inside than the out? Those zombies got the loaves and fishes of a gut-medley).

Saturday, 6 November 2010

review: Robert Jackson Bennett's Mr Shivers

I chose to review Orbit’s Mr Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett because Orbit were doing their usual persuasive hype for this title, putting their all into marketing it at every stage, including a ‘create your own hobo signs’ competition, and with Creative Director Lauren Panepinto’s ability to get excited about a huge spectrum of Orbit’s titles and subgenres, it was hard not to get caught up by it all.

Way back when in September 2008, then-new Editor Dongwon Song flagged up Mr Shivers as his first requisition, calling it ‘chock full of hobos and murder and blood’.

And it is. This thriller/alt-history Horror is set in Depression-era America, but not as we know it. All across America people are travelling in droves, leaving their homes and belongings behind them to seek out a better life. Marcus Connelly is also blazing a trail through America’s dustbowl, but not to seek his fortune. He only wants revenge; to kill the mysterious scarred man, the stranger, Mr Shivers, who murdered his little girl. Connelly has left his wife behind and family home to become one of the new generation hobos. Risking the perils of riding the trains, of hunger and thirst, of the strange company he keeps, Connelly relentlessly hunts the shiver-man through the sightings and folktales of the people he encounters along the way. Like his companions, Pike, Roosevelt and Hammond, who have also lost loved ones to the mythical killer, as he gets closer to the legend, he must also come to terms with his mission, and whether he can commit the murder he desires more than life itself.

Mr Shivers has a simple but effective plot. Although at times it felt frustrating that the characters continued their relentless pursuit at the expense of all else, including plot intricacies and character development, this is a feeling that the book is supposed to evoke. The characters don’t have much in the way of background or personalities, and Connelly is barely there at all. But this is because they are victims of their own grief, their twisted journey across a barren land a metaphor for how they’ve sacrificed their own lives to this all-encompassing emotion.

I love the world that Bennett has created. You can practically feel the heat from this red-tinged, dust-ridden, dry desert landscape rising up from the pages. The land has a personality, and a cruel and pitiless one at that. It reflects the despondent age of the Great Depression, and the desolate shells of human beings navigating across its pitted surface.

Like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods-lite, Mr Shivers deals with mythology and the creation of folklore through oral tradition. This slight book doesn’t have the scope of American Gods however, merely hinting at a deeper mythology beyond the basic goings-on, and it would have been fulfilling to have seen more done with this theme throughout the narrative, as opposed to it cropping up in odd, but effectual, places.

This is a thriller/Horror but there are times when you want it to be more horrific than thrilling. There are key moments throughout the narrative where the writing pulls away from the ‘big reveal’, missing out on the pay-off at the end of a gripping, tension-inducing set-up, leaving the average Horror reader no doubt feeling slightly cheated. This is also, however, another mark of debut-author Bennett’s writing prowess, as he deftly manipulates and builds his readers’ frustrations, so that they mirror his characters’ own lack of fulfilment.

Unfortunately, there is a turning point towards the end in Mr Shivers where reader sympathy with the lead protagonist, Connelly, shifts. The way the book is going to end from then on seems like forgone conclusion and, ultimately, this is where the book lost me.

You can read an extract of it on Orbit’s site. It is well worth a look as overall I really enjoyed this book; I just prefer my protagonists to retain my sympathy until the last possible sentence.

The next tile by Bennett is The Company Man, again set in an alternative history of America, but is not a sequel to Mr Shivers. It's a detective noir in the Horror genre. I’m genuinely excited to read this author again (plus I’m an old romantic when it comes to alternative detective noir, like Malcolm Pryce’s underrated Aberystwyth series).

bite me: the week in bite-sized chunks

SF Signal: I’ve been enjoying this week’s Mind Meld. They’ve been discussing what fantasy books or series are better than LOTR. Personally I find Tolkien to be more sprawling and languorous than an Ent family reunion, so for me it’s a bit of a balm to see other authors being recommended. Mine would be most things, but primarily Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, George R. R. Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire series and Robin Hobb’s (getting on for) 12-title-epic, starting with The Farseer Trilogy. Based on one recommendation, I’ve picked up a copy of T. H. White’s compilation The Once and Future King, which I suspect will provide more of a thorough telling of the tale than the BBC’s thoughtful and compelling take on Arthurian legend, Merlin (tragically, I actually love this series).

Angry Robot Books: I’m really excited about this publisher and if you’re a blogger you can join their Robot Army for free eBooks or hardcopies. Launched in 2009, Angry Robot Books state that they are a ‘global imprint dedicated to the best in modern adult science fiction, fantasy and everything in-between.’ So far I’m a failed recruit but my next book to review is going to be the new UK Science Fiction release Amortals by Matt Forbeck (who has 8-year-old quadruplets, Fact Fans). Apart from Douglas Adams I haven’t read any SF, and this seems a pretty good (free) place to start.

Neil Gaiman: It was the House on the Rock weekend over Halloween, so above is a lovely picture of Gaiman on the World’s Largest Carousel. For a slideshow of photos from the weekend, go to the Huffington Post and indulge in full geek-out session of wishing you had been there. I would have ridden the zebra. Hopefully he’ll blog about it this week.

Roc (Penguin USA): Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files short story collection Side Jobs is out now in the USA , which includes two novellas from Thomas' and Murphey's POV. I wish I knew how to order a new copy of this title from Roc because I lust after Chris McGrath's artwork. See Butcher talk about his short stories (which he describes as ‘trying to have a knife fight in a phone booth’) and his short hair at the NYCC here.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

good place to catch a train

I’m currently coming to the end of Orbit Horror Mr Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett. I get to the train station early every weekday morning in order to get a parking spot, which is fine because the precious pocket of time this creates is for reading. Today I was so engrossed in Mr Shivers that I managed to miss my train, despite turning up 25 minutes early for it.

Orbit have set up an ace site for this title, where you can click on all of the ‘hobo’ symbols – placed throughout the book too on chapter headings – and unlock different parts of the Mr Shivers mystery. This appeals to the part of me that likes to think I could have been a detective. For example, I have ‘discovered’ that the symbol on the front cover of the paperback version means ‘Get out fast, hobos are not welcome in this area’. I like the thought of someone taking the time to put this in a visible spot despite the danger that requires any hobo to exit at speed.

Instead of chapter titles there are symbols, for example the chapter I’m reading at the moment has the symbol for: 'Hit the road! Quick!' If you’re interested (and you should be), have a look here. The hobo language is beautiful.

As a side note, ‘hobo’ feels like a terribly un-PC term to use, however as practically everyone in the America portrayed in Bennett’s title is homeless, the term hobo takes on a whole new meaning. Review coming soon.