Saturday, 29 January 2011
Sunday, 23 January 2011
Nothing to do with publishing but I love it anyway. Although, personally, this song could also be ‘I’m watching TV’, ‘I’m eating breakfast’ or ‘I’m reasonably tired’.
Gollancz: are promoting Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London at the moment and have posted this great interview with the author at Forbidden Planet on their Facebook page. It’s also their book of the month on their website. I’ve been hugely excited about this book since I saw it featured in The Bookseller a while back. Aaronovitch describes it as ‘magic cops’, with a dash of the Sweeny and Gaiman’s Neverwhere (LOVE). I have an oddly particular taste in Urban Fantasy and this ticks all the boxes for me: set in a city, preferably Chicago or London: TICK. The police are involved in investigating supernatural crimes: TICK. And keeping them quiet from the public: TICK. Magic is needed to solve murders: TICK. It involves wizards: TICK. Vampires: TICK. Gods: TICK. And, bonus ticks for the unexpected yet delightful addition of Londoners turning into violent mannequins: TICK. Incidentally, barring the mannequins (yet), this is the same checklist that Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files gets full marks in. I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve mentioned him.
Saturday, 22 January 2011
It was released by Night Shade Books in the US and Orbit in the UK. I read Orbit’s paperback, published in December 2010, although in a burst of marketing-prowess, the publisher released the eBook shortly before the print version.
It’s set in 23rd century Thailand, in a world where Europe and America have succumbed to the calorie wars and ‘genehack’ plagues created by bioengineering companies, global warming has caused the oceans to rise and temperatures to soar and engineered seedbanks contain the world’s failing food supply. It’s Steampunk meets Science Fiction. Factories are powered by kink-springs, goods are flown over by dirigibles and cars are things of the past. Thailand is ruled by a child queen, but governed by two rival generals, Pracha, of the Environment Ministry, and Akkarat, of the Trade ministry.
The present tense narrative is split between several key players.
Hock Seng, one of the city’s unwelcome yellow cards - Chinese refugees and survivors of the horrific Malaysian purges - is employed by Lake and wants his factory blueprints, and, always, to survive another day.
Emiko is the eponymous character. Outlawed in Thailand, she’s a beautiful, genetically engineered Japanese windup who’s been designed to serve and obey but was abandoned in the city by her master. Emiko is now forced to work in the sex industry, spending her nights being repeatedly raped for other peoples’ pleasure, but also dreaming of escaping to the rumoured safe haven for ‘New People’.
Beginning with an enraged rampage from one of Lake’s factory megodonts – vast, genetically modified elephants – a domino effect of events occur within the confines of the city’s walls, inevitably leading to tumultuous consequences. Each of the main characters represents a division within the city of Krung Thep. Thai, Chinese, Japanese, the farang Westerners, the engineered windup. Each fraction hates the other with extreme prejudice and sweeping generalisations. This serves to both highlight the ridiculousness of racial intolerance and deprives you of a character you can emotionally invest in.
It’s an environmental social commentary. Man-made plagues have already wiped out much of the earth’s population and narrowed its food supplies, but still prejudices divide the remaining peoples so they are constantly at threat of turning on each other, when another plague or global warming-related disaster is always just around the corner.
And yet, despite my admiration for Bacigalupi’s talent, I can’t bring myself to love this book, because I couldn’t find any joy in it. The plot was excellently executed, but the characters left me cold. Each one has a necessarily dark past that is alluded to, but you still barely feel like you’ve scratched their surface. The characters are all products of their tragic lives, and their current situations are so dire it’s hard to gain any sense of hope, or really feel enough for one of them that you want them to survive their hardships. The only truly relatable character – again, this speaks volumes for Bacigalupi’s overriding message and gift – is the windup girl, Emiko, but her genes force her to go around in circles, never finding the escape she desires. Her rape scenes are harrowing – and even though they are a justifiable point in the plot, they resound through the text and set its bleak tone.
This is why I’m so torn over this book: I can see the writing talent and intent behind the desolate design - no one would want this future - but I also want to be able to root for at least one character, and instead as readers you’re constantly held at arm’s length.
The book is described as ‘hard science (fiction) and magical realism’ by io9, who absolutely loved it. Perhaps as a Fantasy fan, rather than a Sci Fi fan, I’m not the target audience. But Orbit are all for targeting ‘the widest possible readership’, it says so on their site. However, I clearly am of the ‘everything should be sunbeams and rainbows’ perspective, so I’d still encourage you to try this for yourself before accepting anyone else’s verdict, especially mine. I’d love to hear what you thought. Here's a free sample chapter. I do spoil you.
Friday, 14 January 2011
i09: these guys, whoever they are, have released The Power List, filled with people who ‘rocked science fiction and fantasy in 2010’. These 20 listed individuals have been helping to cajole SFF out of its niche and into the glaring spotlight of the public eye, which is exactly what my dissertation is focussed on (or will be, one day). Even better, rather than simply striving to reach a mass market, they’ve only made the genre richer for the rest of us. Some of those involved in drumming up the geek chic in 2010 are: Steven Moffat who demonstrated that it was possible to do a worthy remake of Sherlock Holmes without resorting to Dick Van Dykian dialects. Oh, and pulled off a freaking ace new series of Doctor Who. Orbit author Paolo Bacigalupi (pronounced Batch-i-ga-loop-ee according to Paulo), whose novel The Windup Girl has won the Hugo and Nebula awards, is on there for proving that ‘hard SF can still be relevant and popular’. I’m experiencing a love-confusion relationship with it at the moment, as I’m not a major fan of SF (barring Douglas Adams, obviously), but it’s engaging and like nothing I’ve ever read before. Also the cover is gorgeous and, while this might sound odd, the book has a weighty feel to it that makes it so satisfying to hold and read. Also it smells great. Review to follow. Another score for Orbit as Publishing Director Tim Holman has been setting up the imprint’s New York branch. Even Sandra Bullock gets a nod for playing self-consciously kooky crossword writer (she wears red boots!) in All About Steve. No wait, for being in SFF movie Gravity directed by Alfonso Cuarón. After Steve she knows the only possible way is up. Head on over to i09 for the full list. Now.
Sunday, 2 January 2011
Websites used: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Fantasy Book Critic, Publishers’ Weekly, Good Reads, Kirkus Reviews, Fantasy Book News, SFGate, Fantasy Faction and me.
|Amazon.co.uk||Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan (Orbit)||Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks (Orbit)||Against All Things Ending by Stephen Donaldson (Gollancz)||The Ambassador's Mission by Trudi Canavan (Orbit)||The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton (MacMillan)|
|Amazon.com||Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris (Ace Books)||Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan (Tor)||Changes by Jim Butcher (Roc)||Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs (Ace)||Bullet by Laurell K. Hamilton (Berkley)|
|Fantasy Book Critic||Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks (Orbit)||The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (Viking)||The Scarab Path by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor)||The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker (Orbit)||Aurorarama Jean-Christophe Valtat (Melville House Publishing)|
|Publishers' Weekly||The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum (Orbit)||Feed by Mira Grant (Orbit)||The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit)||Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (Daw)||A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter by Peter Straub (Pegasus Books)|
|Good Reads (Nominees - winners announced soon)||The Way of Kings by Brian Sanderson (Gollancz)||Kraken by China Miéville (Pan)||The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (Orbit)||The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman||The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett (Harper Voyager)|
|Kirkus Reviews||The Bird of the River by Kage Baker (Tor)||Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks (Orbit)||Side Jobs by Jim Butcher (Orbit)||The Palace of Impossible Dreams by Jennifer Fallon (Tor)||Shadows in the Cave by Caleb Fox (Tor)|
|Fantasy Book News||Lamentation by Ken Scholes (Tor)||The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz/ Orbit USA)||Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor)||Daemon by Daniel Suarez (Quercus)||Elantris by Brian Sanderson (Tor)|
|SFGate.com||Not Less Than Gods by Kage Baker (Tor)||The Passage by Justin Cronin (Orion UK)||Planetary: Spacetime Archaeology by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday (DC Comics)||Horns by Joe Hill (Gollancz)||Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)|
|Fantasyfaction.com||The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett (Harper Voyager)||The Way of Kings by Brian Sanderson (Gollancz)||Spellwright by Blake Charlton (HarperVoyager)||The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (Orbit)||Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz/ Orbit USA)|
|Me||Changes by Jim Butcher (Orbit)||Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot Books)||Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett (Corgi)||The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobbs (HarperVoyager)||The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Orbit)|