Today, an interview with horror author Toby Venables, whose latest novel Knight of Shadows was recently published by Abaddon Books. We chatted about the changing nature of genre fiction, writing, undead vikings, and a 12th Century James Bond…
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Tonight is a special, terrible night. A woman sits at her father’s bedside watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters – all traumatised in their own ways, their bonds fragile – have been there for the past week, but now she is alone. And that’s always when it comes. As the clock ticks in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her...
Clocking in at only about 125 pages, The Language of Dying nevertheless packs an emotional wallop. A daughter watches over her dying father, as her brothers and sister visit their childhood home. Each is dealing with their own issues and difficulties – be it drug abuse, general unhappiness with their lives, and also their difficulty in dealing with the imminent death of their father. The narrator recounts a number of fond memories and also some extremely painful ones (which, if I recall correctly from a blog-post the author wrote not too long ago, may be at least inspired by certain real events). The book is filled with a great many small, intimate details – it’s quite British, too, in that respect. The family is clearly a broken family, in many ways, and their dealings with each other can be difficult and cause friction. But then, at other times, they reminisce together over happier times. There is perhaps, also, a history of mental instability. This gives a certain dreamlike and questionable quality to a possibly-supernatural slant to the story that is alluded to at the start, and appears again at the end (one I really liked – and I enjoyed the ambiguity).
“… I still look. Forty next birthday and I’m looking out of the window for something that may be imaginary, that I haven’t seen in fifteen years, if ever I saw it at all…”
This is, as I say right at the top, is a powerful, elegant tale of loss and family, and some of the different manifestations of grief. The story is incredibly moving, and I will admit to shedding at least a couple of tears (ahem, ok, more than that). A remarkable, short piece of fiction. Very highly recommended.
Two short stories by one of Black Library’s up-and-comers
As one of the vaunted Crusader Host, Brother Crius stood as the representative of the X Legion upon the soil of Holy Terra, but when he learns of the death of his beloved primarch Ferrus Manus at the hands of the traitors, his stoic, mechanical grief imbues him with the strength and resolve to undertake a special mission on behalf of Rogal Dorn himself. Striking out into the stars, he searches for any signs of his lost Iron Hands brethren, hoping to bring them back to Terra to aid in the final defence of the Palace. The question remains – just who has survived the slaughter on Isstvan V, and what yet remains of them?
I’m always happy when a new piece of Horus Heresy fiction is released, and this one is by an author I have not read much by, before. The story follows Brother Crius, a member of the Iron Hands, struggling with the loss of his Primarch, Ferrus Manus. He is tasked by Sigismund, the First Captain of the Imperial Fists to seek out any other survivors of the Isstvan V massacre, and bring them back to Terra to bolster the defence against the eventual attack by Horus’s forces. Heading out, with the support of an Imperial Fists captain, what Crius and his companions discover is not at all what they were expecting – nor, actually, what I was expecting.
I like what French has done with this story. While I wasn’t entirely clear as to why Crius was incarcerated at the start of the story, the author nevertheless has written a pretty great story. We see a little bit more of what makes the Iron Hands tick, and also a little bit of the psychological damage that the death of Ferrus has caused. True, it’s still a relatively short story, so there isn’t too much of this, but I would certainly like to read more about the Legion pre- and post-Ferrus’s death. The final battle is pretty intense, and not over-described (which was certainly welcome to me). Overall, this is a recommended addition to the growing Heresy story.
On Prospero, a solitary living soul walks across the shattered world. Beneath the ruined spires, Ahriman, exiled son of Magnus the Red and destroyer of his Legion, contemplates what once was, what is, and what may yet be. And amidst the dust of the long-lost paradise world, the sorcerer faces his mistakes and decides his destiny.
This (very) short story is part of Black Library’s Advent Calendar series of eBooks. It is also the second by French featuring the Thousand Sons (All is Dust, another micro-story, was released early last year). Hand of Dust follows one of the greatest sorcerers of the Thousand Sons traitor legion – Ahriam, the architect of the Rubric that ‘froze’ his fellow legionaries, in an attempt to rescue them from the fate that has plagued the sons of Magnus for centuries.
Hand of Dust is perhaps too short to really have much to write about it. The premise is interesting, and I think it could (and, perhaps, should) have been extended. It’s like a teaser for French’s writing and also his Ahriman fiction. It’s a good one, too. As with Riven, above, French’s writing is pretty solid and well-crafted. It is perhaps not as streamlined and fluid as some of the other, more-established Black Library authors, but it’s still very good. It will certainly be interesting to see how he develops over time.
French also wrote the first Ahriman novel, Ahriman: Exile (below), which is out now, and has now been bumped up my tottering TBR mountain. Ahriman also features in Rob Sanders’s Atlas Infernal and Graham McNeill’s superb A Thousand Sons (and a handful of other Horus Heresy novels). French will also be writing a follow-up to Exile, Sorcerer, which is due for publication in 2014.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
A novel about the intersections in the lives of three friends, now on the cusp of their thirties, making their way — and not — in New York City. There is beautiful, sophisticated Marina Thwaite — an “It” girl finishing her first book; the daughter of Murray Thwaite, celebrated intellectual and journalist — and her two closest friends from Brown, Danielle, a quietly appealing television producer, and Julius, a cash-strapped freelance critic.
The delicious complications that arise among them become dangerous when Murray’s nephew, Frederick “Bootie” Tubb, an idealistic college dropout determined to make his mark, comes to town.
As the skies darken, it is Bootie’s unexpected decisions — and their stunning, heartbreaking outcome — that will change each of their lives forever.
This novel came very highly recommended, but for some reason it took me quite a long time to get around to reading it. I have a weak-spot for novels set in New York City. This is the first one I’ve read that takes a look (near the end) at the impact of 9/11 on inhabitants of the city – not in terms of politics or the War on Terror, but rather as an event that would turn the lives of these protagonists upside down, in both large and small ways. I certainly enjoyed reading the novel, but it’s not perfect. It offers some shrewd, pointed commentary on the foibles and anxieties that face or characterise the lives of privileged (and some not-so-privileged) white youth in New York City.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Meg Howrey is one half of the writing team that goes by the name “Magnus Flyte” – Christina Lynch forms the other half. Their second novel, City of Lost Dreams, was released in the US yesterday by Penguin (it is also available in the UK). Penguin US organised a Q&A, which is reproduced below, in which Howrey discusses writing as a partnership, cake (such good cake…), and the two novels (of course).
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The first of this year’s round-ups of bookish things you and your bibliophile and SFF friends that should make your Christmas and/or holiday season all the better. I’ll be breaking these down by publisher, and maybe a smorgasbord post at the end. And, because I am always looking forward, I’ll include some recommendations for the new year, too. As much as I would like to include all the books published by my favourite publishers, it would take far too long, and so I’m just picking out a selection.
First up, books you should check out from Jo Fletcher Books…
A quick and cheerful post. I have one copy of The Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan to give away to some lucky reader in the UK. It’s the US Hardcover edition (published by Tor Books), but you should also know that it is going to be published soon in the UK by Titan Books, so if you don’t win, you will be able to get hold of the book easily in the near future.
Here’s what it’s about…
You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart — no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments — even at the risk of one’s life — is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten...
All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.
Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.
Leave a comment or email if you’re interested in winning the book. That’s really all you need to do. I’ll select someone at random in one week (December 3rd, at midnight).
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Another impressive book-haul, this month. Also rather varied, too, which is always nice. As per usual, I can’t read them all instantaneously, so here is an initial, first-look at the books that are coming soon to the blog and to bookstores/-shelves near you.