Space-Time Hiatus

Bad Xero!

So it’s been over two months since I updated this. Which is not because I’ve given up on it, or because I have once again tried to pick writing up only to fumble the ball. The opposite, in fact.

Part of starting a new blog, for me, was about getting into the habit of writing. Because writing regularly makes you a better writer (this is something you will hear a lot if you have any kind of teaching on the subject, and it’s true). When you write regularly, phrasing and flow fall into place more easily, you develop a ‘voice’.

I’m pretty sure I lost my voice for a bit there. It’s a workable metaphor, you have to strain a little to say anything, it’s uncomfortable, even if you really want to say things. Looking at the reviews I’ve written they seem functional to me, but not personal. And why would someone read a minor blog like mine if all they got was the same as elsewhere, if they didn’t get anything of me (even if I updated regularly… ;) )

Well, I’ve been getting up early and writing. Just exercises, micro-fiction. Micro-fiction being my preferred form anyway; if anyone tells you it’s restrictive and confining they don’t understand what it is for, what it can be. And if anyone tells you it’s easy, well, it is easy to write something with only a few words, but it’s not easy to do it well.

And it’s not easy to write a piece every day. A whole new story, sketch, world, moment, character… every day. But that’s what I’ve been trying. I’m a few days behind, but generally it’s been going well. I’ve been writing. I’ve been creating.

You can see the fruit of my labours at Xeroverse: Missing Pieces.

It is, of course, alternative genres. Sometimes science fiction, if not always overtly so. As with the fiction I read, I find mainstream, ‘real world’ fiction without any kind of fantastical, surreal or dark edge, uninteresting. Which isn’t to belittle those who do write that, it just isn’t to my personal tastes.

For something a little different. I’ve also started reviewing books I haven’t read

As soon as I get round to working out how to do it I’ll fix the front page of johnxero.com so that it runs all of my everything on one feed. Hopefully I’ll get back to updating this more regularly too. In the mean time, for anyone that takes the time to follow the links. Thank you. And I hope you enjoy my work.

-Xero

Review: The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross

Ok, so it’s not the review I promised you… or even the apocalyptic fiction blog… but it’s what you’re getting. So shush.

And it’s got an end of the world flavour to it anyway, what with cultists trying to bring the whole thing about… I’m not too sure if this is actually going to be the cover… but it’s all I could find for now. The book’s due in July. =)

The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross

The Fuller Memorandum by Charles StrossThe Laundry series is like Dan Brown (with less intrigue and better writing) meets Lovecraft (with less ridiculous synonyms), or a less dense Declare by Tim Powers. There’s some weird shit going down behind the scenes (behind what we perceive as reality) and it’s their business to keep us safe from it; ‘them’ being a covert department in the British secret service called the Laundry. And it definitely owes a hell of a lot to Lovecraft – I’ve not read enough H.P. to know if Stross’ gods (actually ancient, vastly powerful aliens) are ripped in their entirety from Lovecraft or just mostly… Lovecraft has Nyarlathhotep, Stross has N’yar lath-Hotep… So it’s only right that Stross makes direct reference to Lovecraft, “the mad pulp writer of Providence”.

There’s nothing wrong with borrowing from Lovecraft of course, there’s a fine tradition of spinning out and expanding his universe, except (and this could be my misinterpretation) Stross seems to be taking a sly swipe at him in a couple of places. Which is odd, since the Laundry exists to fight an evil that wouldn’t exist without Lovecraft’s work. Not that this has any direct influence on how good the book is, of course, more a point of thought.

The Fuller Memorandum is pulpy read: cheap and action-packed. Something bad happens, and just when the protagonist has got over that, something nasty and new strikes (sometimes even when he hasn’t got over the last thing). Bob Howard (yes, Bob) is sent on a routine assignment (isn’t that always the way) which goes wrong in a particularly traumatic fashion, then his wife gets in trouble on a job, then a zombie hitman turns up on their doorstep, then… you get the idea. It’s definitely not a bad thing, it keeps the book fast-paced and exciting, and the sense of humour, while not ‘laugh out loud’ funny, keeps the book light and entertaining.

Stross is another author I’ve been meaning to try, particularly the Atrocity Archives which has been recommended to me more than once. The Fuller Memorandum is actually the third book in a series which began with the aforementioned Atrocity Archives, something I wasn’t aware of when I originally offered to review the book (for a much smaller 100 word review for a magazine).

It’s an interesting thing, reading a book out of sequence; sometimes it makes little difference, other times major story arcs cross from book to book. Certain trilogies would fail badly if you were just to pick up the third, other series, like Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books, fall somewhere in the middle. You could pick up any of the first four books and enjoy them, although you might feel you were missing a little of the larger picture, but the fifth book is the culmination of a lot of the background arcs, it would be a much lesser work for someone who hadn’t read the others. (I highly recommend the Felix Castor series by the way – Mike Carey is one of my favourite writers, be that in comics or novels)

Back to the Fuller Memorandum, I don’t think I missed a great deal by not having read the earlier two (which isn’t to say they aren’t worth reading, I don’t know that, just that this one is easily readable without having done so). You might be slightly more invested in the characters if you have read the earlier ones, with them already having substance in your mind, but this book wasn’t huge on characterisation, so I shouldn’t think that’s too much of a factor.

It’s an enjoyable read, it certainly makes me want to go back and read the first two. I think it’s worst point is that it doesn’t always wear its first person skin very comfortably, with Bob Howard sometimes ‘imagining’ what the other characters were doing at certain points when the plot needs to happen in places he wasn’t, but I suppose it serves to keeps things moving – which is probably more important to this type of novel than literary finesse. The twists are pretty obvious too, but it’s more about the action and suspense rather than the intrigue and the whole thing builds to a pretty spectacular climax. When the plot goes off, it really goes off and you’re in for a few pages of pure blazing awesome. It does fall off a little in the wind down, unfortunately, I think things could have been explained a little more clearly, but that’s a minor quibble.

The Fuller Memorandum is definitely pulp fiction – thrilling, throw-away, page-turning action. If you’re up for some humorous, urban/ occult fantasy, this is for you. If you think a glibly-witted secret agent battling for his sanity and reality itself is your thing, then go for it. Dark gods, a zombie hitman, a cursed violin, crazy cultists, and the end of the world… perfect summer holiday reading.

And what is with this recent trend in books I’m reading where the minor characters I really like get killed…!?

My week in SF – Iron Man 2 – Feed – Halo Reach beta.

It’s so bad not being in the habit of blogging regularly… it’s like bumping into a friend you haven’t seen for ages, there’s so much you have to say, but you don’t know where to start, and if you’re not careful the two of you will just stand there, awkwardly. Hi… So… How have you been?

Well, there’s now a Facebook page you can ‘like’ Space-Time Industries on. It’s basically a less chatty version of this. And will probably be updated more often… Anything exciting and science fiction in the UK I’ll post as I hear about it. As well as a summary of each month’s new releases in film, games and books. I’ll add a link to the –> side as soon as i remember how…

Below the RSS feed, which I should grab a button for too. And if that seems like more information than you need… It’s really a seamless segue into a mention of an awesomely geeky book cover I came across a couple of days ago… It’s called Feed, by Mira Grant.

The cover for Feed, by Mira Grant I love a bad pun, and this works on so many levels. It’s a post-zombie tale and, from what I can tell, society didn’t fall, but it didn’t exactly win either. The story’s told by bloggers (hence ‘feed’) investigating the conspiracy behind the original outbreak. Hopefully there’s more substance to it than just a great idea for a title, and given that it’s the first in a trilogy (the Newsflesh Trilogy), I think there just might be.

I received my (huge!) reading copy today. I’ve got one or two things to get to first, but I’m really looking forward to reading this one and I’ll drop a review as soon as I have.

I was planning on mentioning the apocalyptic fiction table I’ve set up at work, tying in neatly with this, but it’s really late (again) so I’ll have to save that one for another day… I’ll try and manage a double-post on Friday for that and a review for the Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell. (two updates in one day!?! I know, I’m not even managing two a week right now…)

So I saw Iron Man 2, that was awesome.

Was it better than the first one…? Yes, and no. It’s been a while since I’ve seen no.1 but this one felt a little more disjointed, but a little more awesome. Really, you should see them both (in order preferably). They’re great films and Robert Downey Jr. is just the perfect Tony Stark. Scarlett Johansson was outstanding as Black Widow too, not a massive role in this film, but a good cameo for the character in the continued build to the Avengers movie.

I’ve been playing a little in the Halo: Reach beta too. It’s fun. Yes, it’s Halo multiplayer again (what sequel isn’t noticeably a descendant of the preceding games), but it’s the culmination of years of feedback, experimenting and tweaking (actually, this is really the final stage in that tweaking process). When I say it’s fun, I mean simply that – really, really fun. I’m not the best FPSer, of 11 games played so far I’ve only won one; through luck more than anything else. I’ve also bottomed the chart on three games, but I’ve enjoyed it all; at the end of every game I want to get back in there, do it again. I’m liking trying out the new equipment, the new (and old) weapons. Still haven’t quite got the hang of the new controls, but I will. And just when I have, they’ll take it away from me… and I’ll have to wait till Autumn.

The two maps I’ve played are really nice, both in layout and graphically (although there’s a camp spot on one of the maps that’s just ridiculous). I haven’t played any team games yet because I have a bad habit of shooting everything that moves… fine for lone-wolfing it, not so fine for when it’s your team mate looking for some support…

People already seem to have broken the ground pound move too… when I played on the first night it was really useable, now people (including me) tend to just drop a grenade on you and wander off. Coming out of the manoeuvre (which grants you temporary invulnerability while keeping you stuck on the spot) takes too long and a well-timed grenade kills you with no effort. Jet packs are so cool though (and yes, I did misjudge my fuel and plummet to my death, but just the one time).

I was going to hop on again tonight, but I really need sleeps right now…

Halo reach screen shot.

I had a better picture… but I called it ‘Shine on’ and apparently xbox live finds that offensive (what?), so I can’t get at that right now as there is currently no ‘rename file’ option… *v_v*

g’night.

Review: For the Win by Cory Doctorow

I bumped this review up the list a little since the book has just hit the shelves here in the UK. I know it has because I put it there myself, two days ago.

Cory Doctorow is an author I’ve been meaning to read for a while: the blurbs all appeal to me, I hear good things and I like what I know of his ideas (and ideals). So when reading this book came up in the course of my work (in the line, as it was, for our monthly pick) I couldn’t help but look forward to it, but not without a little trepidation. I have a habit of picking the wrong book by which to sample an author, often because i go with the newest, and not the classic, or the first, before the author has truly come into his own. And, well… to the review!

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

For the Win by Cory Doctorow - coverLet’s start with the obvious – Doctorow is well-versed in the lore of the internets. Check out the title. FTW is an acronym you will find liberally scattered across bulletin boards, blogs, social networking sites… in fact, all across the whole world wide web. And that’s the point, the title isn’t just there to appeal to us geeks; this is a novel about the web, about the games people play there, about the money made in the games and the people who play them, people from across the whole wide world. And it’s a book about winning.

Doctorow understands the internet, he sees its importance the way a lot of people don’t yet. And when I say a lot of people I primarily mean people in power, and the people who listen to them unquestioningly. But the great thing about the internet is that as it becomes increasingly easier to access, and as access becomes more wide spread, the people who are willing to ask the questions, to speak out, can reach more people and so the unquestioning majority is lessening day by day (it’s nice to think this is the case, anyway).

Now there are many variations on SF, and I don’t know that FTW is really science fiction in any traditional sense, it feels too real, it feels too now. Handily, however, SF is the multi-tool of acronyms, and it can also mean speculative fiction. And that’s exactly what is going on here, this is a speculation on tomorrow, made by someone with full access to the facts of today.

Anyone who has gamed online in a MMO of any sort will have come across gold farmers, or rather, the Dellboy end of the operation, spamming public chat with links to gold for money. It’s a plague, it’s a nuisance, it’s a legitimate business tactic. It’s not something you really think about beyond the nuisance angle, the people who don’t play the game, the people who, literally, farm it for in-game goods they can sell for real world cash. Except Doctorow does think beyond that, he humanises that which is so easily demonised, kids trying to earn some money, to survive.

Gold farming is the new sweat shop enterprise of the twenty-first century. A new breed of child labour we can call our own. This is real, Google it.

So, how do you campaign for better rights when your workplace is the internet? You can’t blockade your workplace, because your employer will just log on somewhere else with some new kids who want the money just as much as you do. But this is the internet, and they might be able to get onto it from anywhere, but you can also use it to talk to anyone. The biggest part of the internet is community, bringing people together, for a cause. Whether that cause be kittens, or science fiction, or workers’ rights. Of course, people have fought for their rights before, and this is where FTW borrows from the past; we know how these fights can go and Doctorow uses that past to bring an edge of realism, an edge of hard fact to the events that unfold. Now that may sound pretty heavy, but FTW keeps that in check, it is as readable and entertaining as its themes are serious. Harsh in places, but light when it needs to be.

The characters are believable and deep, complex; they are fallable, likeable and sometimes despisable, and FTW doesn’t offer simple redemption or punishment, but satisfying and real conclusions for each of them. They are from all around the world, but then that’s the beauty of the internet, paths can cross without either person needing to leave their chair and Doctorow handles the multiple cultural and linguistic collisions well. With all its characters, FTW is a multiple strand story; reminiscent of Gibson, except that not only do the plots all come together well at the end, in a satisfying way, but the book actually feels finished rather than the traditional cyberpunk glitch of just running out of steam.

Part of the book is, necessarily, the economics about which these worlds revolve, there’s a lot of money in play and some of the plot is entangled in the intricacies of markets and dealing. Unfortunately that does mean that sometimes the book devolves into an economics lecture, it’s often dressed up in an interaction between a more knowledgeable character and one less so, but the fabric is thin, the disguise is weak. It’s the book’s single shortcoming in my opinion, and it isn’t a bad one. As I say, it is necessary to the plot to know a little about how these things work, so it’s not something I begrudge Doctorow, but it is there, and it does intrude. Particularly in the last instance where the story is accelerating, the climax approaching… and there it is again, unnecessarily I think just that last time, almost a recap just to make sure we’re following, and it does trip you as you’re rushing excitedly to the end.

Beware of the economics, but do read For The Win. It’s a great book, a really great book. It isn’t typical sci fi by a long shot (even if there are mecha, zombies, a twisted wonderland and a mushroom kingdom, albeit in game worlds) but it is about the future (as near as that might actually be). FTW is very intelligent without making you feel stupid; the characters are real and the plot is well-structured and well-executed; it’s touching in places but brutal too (when necessary), and it can be exhilarating.

This is a story about the real world and about the internet, about how the two are inextricably entwined and how an action in one world has inevitable repercussions in the other. Anyone who has spent any time playing MMOs should read this, and anyone who realises just what a big part of our future the internet is. In fact, anyone who likes an interesting, gripping, relevant story should read this.

Review: The Noise Within by Ian Whates

Wow, I’m already falling behind on updates, and I promised you reviews… And, for what was supposed to be an all inclusive SF blog, I’ve been sticking to books quite a lot haven’t I…?

So, continuing in that vein…

A book review!

The Noise Within, by Ian Whates

Perhaps disappointingly for the first review on here, it will be neither effusively enthusiastic nor unilaterally damning. The Noise Within is average. It has the potential to go somewhere good in the next book, but this book, unfortunately, fails to rise above (or fall below) the mediocre.

The technology is interesting, but not ground-breaking (in space opera terms). The plot is more of a set-up, if it’s going to do anything intelligent then, again, we’ll have to wait for book two to find out (and it might, the potential is there).

And there is the same problem with the characters; I didn’t dislike any of them, but they’re fairly generic and there’s no real development over the course of the book; they’re basically the same person at the end as they were in the beginning, just in different places. Or, to be more precise they are all now in the same place, waiting for book 2 to happen to them. The one character I started to really feel for, who showed the most potential for development and redemption, was killed off pretty sharpish.

The only real bad points with the book were structural. At one point the various characters plots begin to converge, and Whates writes overlapping sections that cover some of the same time period but from the different characters’ points of view. Now I have no problem with this in principle, if it serves a purpose, but it doesn’t here, it just feels like the word count needed upping. There is no great insight gained into the characters or situation by this overlapping narrative.

And then there is the great reveal towards the end – a momentous event. Except that it wasn’t clear to me at all what it was that had happened or, more accurately, I wasn’t sure who specifically this event involved and so the wow of the moment was lost on me. I thought it was another party, who I knew were headed in the same direction, but only later do you find out what has happened to them.

(^see me dance around trying not to spoiler things for you… I’m so good to you)

As I say, this is not a bad book, but it’s not a great book either. It has some good action, and some good ideas, but it’s primarily a set-up, and it will be elevated or hung by the quality of the following books. If you’re looking for some new Space Opera then I highly suggest you try Michael Cobley, but if you’ve read that and you’re still hungry then you could certainly do worse than this.

Relaunching remastered masterworks. A ramble.

You’d think that companies would work hard to make information available. That a great big publishing house like Orion, home of the SF imprint Gollancz, would be the obvious place to go to find a decent page promoting their relaunch of the classic SF Masterworks series… but no. Apparently not.

There’s a few amazon lists someone’s made of the original series here.

EDIT: There’s a really good list (with the original covers) on Worlds Without End.

And here’s a simple search on Waterstones.com, too. The book at the top is actually not part of the original series, but when it comes out in June it’s actually a good excuse for me to read an Arthur C. Clarke that I haven’t read before (Childhood’s End). But just scan down the page and you’ll see titles truly deserving of the term ‘masterworks’. I think the series got a little tired as it went on, but the early selections were real gems. Often markedly of their era, but still outstanding reads.

I discovered one of my all time favorite books by reading through this list – Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. A book I often describe as “too good not to lend, but too good to not buy again when it inevitably doesn’t come back”. It’s one of the few books I’ve read more than once as an adult, and one of the few I’ve bought again and again because I have to have a copy. I was planning on using this blog as an excuse to read it again for review… From memory, it is pretty pulpy, but it was one of my first encounters with re-purposing old stories and it does it well.

I was going to blather on about a few of the other titles – pointing out the obvious like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (very different from Bladerunner, both are brilliant in their own ways though) and I am Legend (don’t be put off by the movie), and passing comment on a few of the less obvious too – but it got late here quicker than I expected and, well, I need the sleep.

I wanted to talk about the covers too. The relaunched covers are basically just spectrum-shifted re-colours of the old covers. And some of the old covers weren’t all that great. Done in what I presume was meant to be a retro style fitting of the elder books beneath them. But the problem there is that retro is often a niche market, different people like different aspects of the past, so trying to just do a cover in an old style is tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot. Covers have changed to appeal to a more modern market (in theory), so using an old style cover is taking a step backwards. What you need is a retro style with modern sensibilities, far easier said than done in a market where sometimes modern covers, trying to do nothing but appeal to a modern market, seem to fall far short of the mark.

What I do like are the additions to the series that Gollancz are producing in these sweet little hardbacks. There are some really good covers there. Take a look at Childhood’s End, the cover alone makes me want this book, I saw it months ago and it made me check out the blurb, and every time I see it it keeps reminding me I want to read the book. That’s how hard a cover should be working. The hardback Masterworks are no more expensive than a paperback too. Hunt them down, check them out.

I was just going to briefly mention the Masterworks as a preamble to a couple of reviews, but I guess the reviews will have to wait for another night. The SF Masterworks series is a good one, it’s as good a list as any if you want to check out some early SF (although I don’t think there’s any Asimov in there, I presume due to licensing, and in which case you can be sure there are others missing too). Start at the beginning and work through a few, or just grab one or two which appeal to you, but I really urge you to check the list out in some fashion.

Science Fantasy: when genres collide.

I’ll probably touch on genre blur quite a lot – the spaces between genres, what belongs where… it’s a wholly appropriate subject for a science fiction blog, and for a bookseller. Genres should never be the ‘be all and end all’; they are useful tools, nothing more. A book (or a film, or a game) should never be discounted by a person purely because of the genre they are commonly classified as. And as popular culture shifts, genre classifications must necessarily shift too.

Take Nineteen Eighty Four, for example, without a doubt science fiction, but will you find it in the SF section? No, you’ll find it (usually) amongst the general population, in fiction, or literature. If you’re a sci fi fan though, particularly dark future/ cyberpunk, and you haven’t read it, you really should put it straight to the top of the pile.

So what started me on this riff today?

A few years ago a comics firm, Wildstorm (actually an imprint of DC, who bought them a few years earlier) rebooted their universe. This isn’t an entirely uncommon thing in comics, some creative director decides to tidy up the timeline and modernise a bunch of the characters while they’re at it. (see retcon). As part of this, Grant Morrison (to my mind the best writer in modern comics) took over the writing on the relaunched Authority comic. The original 12 issue run of the Authority, written by Warren Ellis, was one of the best things to happen to modern superhero comics, and no writer on the comic since, despite the great characters, has never been able to recreate that excellence, so I had high hopes for Morrison’s stint.

Except that two issues in it suddenly dried up. Vanished. A new Authority series appeared in it’s place and it was… horrible.

Now, several years later, the Authority: the lost year carries on where Morrison left off, and it’s using his original plotlines and notes, but with a new writer, Keith Giffen. So, is it everything I hoped it would be…?

Well, not exactly. You can see Morrison’s touch in the story, the grand weirdness, the intelligent themes, but it lacks the deft touch of his writing. There is no subtlety, ideas are explained to you several times as if Giffen himself is still trying to get his head around them. It’s still good, and interesting, but it’s not Morrison good.

The most recent storyline is particularly appropriate to my chain of thought here. In an alternate dimension the Authority have become divided. The two sides are that of the Engineer and that of the Doctor.  The Engineer has a fleet of nanobots in her blood which essentially enables her to shapeshift through machine forms, including weaponry. The Doctor is the world’s shaman, the repository of all the world’s tribal magic now that the human tribe is a truly global one. Their world has become divided into science versus magic.

“Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. That’s what it all boiled down to.” – the Doctor.

And it occurred to me that superhero comics sit in this almost unique place between science fiction and fantasy. There are master magicians, there is advanced technology, there are aliens and there are humans with special powers. It’s a space very close to that occupied by urban fantasy, itself very close to paranormal romance (two genres to recently explode themselves). But the superhero genre as a whole is a massive genre, there are hundreds of titles published every month and yet it’s almost non-existent within books, and it has only recently established itself as a big player within films.

And this handily illustrates the usefulness and the restrictions of genre labels. Iron Man is science fiction. Dr. Strange is fantasy (or urban fantasy, really), Blade too. We could go through all the individual superhero comics and divide them by genre, and I don’t think that would be the wrong thing to do, but equally, they clearly all belong together in one genre. Just like the team up comics, like the Avengers or the JLA, or the Authority – the brilliance of which stemmed from the characters all being archetypes Ellis took from all the strata of superhero comics, from all their varied genres. It’s the ultimate meta-comic if you like, in those original twelve issues Ellis was not only writing excellent superhero comics, but he was writing about the genre itself.

Space-time Industries: blogging science fiction.

So what is Space-Time Industries, and where did it come from?

The subtitle says it all. ‘How I learned to stop worrying and love the geek.’ (an abused form of Dr. Strangelove’s subtitle, of course).

How to begin…? I’m a science fiction geek, SF in its many forms: books, films, games, comics… often approaching nerd but never, I think, quite getting there. Now because my job involves more than science fiction, I recently felt I should expand my horizons by reading into different genres. A not entirely unsuccessful venture, but not a fully satisfying one either. As some consequence of the way my brain was programmed as I grew up, when I read a more contemporary story I find the book difficult to pick up each time, despite enjoying it, and I can’t help but think if it was set on a spaceship I would find it more compelling.

It’s not even the science, I’m not a big fan of ‘hard’ SF, I like my plots character-driven (I want people, not engines); I like my alien races artistically and creatively interesting, biology a secondary concern; I like gritty but not without a sense of humour. So it is purely the dressing. Take Toby Litt’s Journey Into Space for example… Toby Litt normally writes a more contemporary breed of fiction, a graduate as he is from the famous UEA creative writing course, but here he takes on the old generation ship premise. It’s a story of relationships and group dynamics, a exploration of human nature, but because it is set on a spaceship it becomes instantly more readable to me. (You should read it too, by the way.)

So this blog is an accompaniment to my resolution to return to my roots. A companion piece, if you like, as I stop trying to be anything else and just enjoy being a geek. This is where I give up on expanding my horizons and return to the grand horizons I know and love; new worlds and old tropes; new heroes and old clichés; new journeys into old space.

So having just finished my first Alexander Mccall Smith, this is where I set it down, pick a new book from the pile of SF titles I have awaiting my hungry brain, brew a cuppa, relax and settle into some science fiction, right? Well, no…

Despite resolutions to the contrary the world has other plans. You see, I work for a large high street book chain and part of what I do is vote on what we call the ‘Science Fiction and Fantasy Bookseller’s Choice’. More on this later, but in short this means that sometimes I get a pile of books to read and vote on, usually in a somewhat limited time frame. So what I actually find myself doing right now, now that my tea is brewed, is settling down with some bourbons and a fantasy novel instead…  Alexey Pehov’s Shadow Prowler. It’s actually pretty decent so far and contains a protagonist with possibly the most inspired name in fantasy… Shadow Harold.