Liberating Earth, A Faction Paradox Collection(0)
In Liberating Earth, rival cousins from the mysterious time-travelling Faction Paradox cult decide our planet should be freed from the human race and placed in better hands. As the cousins ruthlessly compete to create the perfect alternative Earth, history and reality change wildly again and again. Humanity is helpless. Or is it?
SF and fantasy readers and viewers, especially women, are increasingly calling for more work by female writers. Stuart Douglas of Obverse Books has commissioned Liberating Earth in response to that demand.
Editor Kate Orman was the first woman published in the Doctor Who: The New Adventures range of novels, eventually writing and co-writing a total of thirteen Who-related books, as well as publishing original fantasy and science fiction.
Liberating Earth will be printed in hardback and ebook formats in May 2014.
Zenith Lives! by Various Authors, ed. Stuart Douglas. Book reviewComments Off
Reviewed by I O’Reilly
Who the flying passarola is Monsieur Zenith? Not the Rick-Astley look-alike from the comic fandom?
No. Monsieur Zenith is probably the coolest cat that you may never have heard of:
“Upon a couch in a room of black and silver a figure of white marble came to life.
A bell rang; and a Japanese pushed the curtains aside to stand down in front of the couch.
‘You rang, excellency.’
The figure of white marble opened crimson-irised eyes. Instantly his strange exotic charm became apparent; the debonair recklessness of his face; the fact that he was a true albino.
‘Put out some clothes, Oyani.’
‘His excellency will dine at home?’
The eyes of the albino turned towards a yen-hok, the pipe in which opium is smoked.
‘I have dined already; I am going out. I have had sad dreams, Oyani. I need to amuse myself.’ “
- “The Box of Ho Sen,” from Detective Weekly
At a time when Sherlock Holmes was getting a bit old in the tooth for running around waterfalls and James Bond still hadn’t emerged (c.1920-1935), there was private gentleman-adventurer-detective Sexton Blake, and his nemesis was Monsieur Zenith the Albino. Sexton Blake was like Sherlock Holmes but with a boxers build and sensibility. He picked up, dusted down and kicked in the trousers where Sherlock left off.
Monsieur Zenith the albino on the other hand was pure class. He was a world-weary aristocratic-criminal of some vaguely Eastern-European family (in keeping with the vaguely Victorian feelings of the time that the further you went East the more outlandish adventure there was to be had). He outwitted and outfoxed Sexton Blake, and left a trail of mayhem and murder.
These stories contained here are a tribute and a re-imagining of that character Monsieur Zenith from some very big names indeed. We have Michael Moorcock and George Mann, Paul Magrs and Mark Hodder. Look them and you’ll see that just getting shorts from these guys all under one jacket is, in my opinion at least, worth the cover price.
What follows is a collection of stories some long and some short, each of which provide a different take on the classic villain. What I love about the book is that the writers have felt able to take Monsieur Zenith in new directions and impart their own reality to him (George Mann sees some references to a particular time-travelling series of books, whilst Magrs throws the story into a reality-fiction-colliding narrative free-for-all).
Moorcock’s story is one of the longest, and doesn’t altogether satisfy as it paints the secondary derivative characters (Seaton Begg instead of Sexton Blake) into a tale of voodoo cults. However there is a sort of aptness to find Moorcock writing about world-weary albino anti-heroes…
The story that stands out by far is the editors, Stuart Douglas’. He paints a picture of Zenith in the Seventies, wondering whether he really has lost the knack for danger and asking himself if he is a figure left behind by pace of modernity.
All in all this is a collection of stories that will amuse the uninformed, please fans of any sort of pulp-fiction, and delight those who have previously discovered the adventures of Sexton Blake..
The Ninnies by Paul Magrs.Book reviewComments Off
Reviewed by Chris Limb
Alan is fourteen and lives in a flat in Manchester with his heavily pregnant mum. Whilst mum believes that window cleaner dad has simply run off, Alan knows otherwise, having witnessed first hand his father being kidnapped by the mysterious beings known only as the Ninnies. The problem is that no-one aside from his school friend Amy Aziz plus Marlton and Bunty (the two strange old people who live in the flat upstairs) believe him…
This is a middle grade YA novel which, despite the cartoonish illustrations and playground name of the eponymous baddies, visits some very dark places indeed. In Alan the author has captured the thought processes and enthusiasms of a slightly geeky teenage boy perfectly –whilst he may very well feel more than simply friendship for his co-conspirator Amy it’s not something he would ever openly admit to. Besides, they’re both far too busy trying to uncover the Ninnies’ deadly secrets.
The humour and absurdity of parts of the storyline contrast nicely with the underlying eeriness of the premise, and despite the straightforward nature of the narrative there is plenty of mystery here – the origin of the Ninnies is never really explained and it is left to the reader to decide whether they come from outer space, a parallel dimension or a world of dark magic. The Ninnies themselves wouldn’t be out of place in a Stephen King novel, and their plan to enslave humanity by getting everyone addicted to potato based snacks containing disconcerting additives is an audacious one. Even if the resourceful Amy and Alan stop them this time there’s no guarantee that they won’t be back; the Buffy-esque research that the two teenagers undertake in the Esoteric Bookshop reveal that this kind of thing has been going on for centuries.
The playful horror rollercoaster of the main plot is interrupted halfway through by the birth of Alan’s baby sister Squoosh. This experience is well described, proving every bit as life changing and astonishing for our hero as the nocturnal shenanigans he’s recently been undertaking to get to the bottom of the whole conspiracy. Furthermore it gives him a renewed enthusiasm for the mission as he’s got a sister to protect now as well.
If this is a nightmare it’s one from which the reader awakes feeling invigorated and excited as well as scared. If you imagine that the ‘League of Gentlemen’ had written an episode of the ‘Sarah Jane Adventures’, which had then been novelised by Roald Dahl, you might come close to capturing the atmosphere and quality of ‘The Ninnies’.
Hints dropped in the last chapter indicate that this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Amy and Alan; I hope that the next volume of their adventures makes it into print sooner rather than later.
Obverse publish limited edition YA fantasy novel by Paul MagrsComments Off
Obverse Books announces a limited edition hardback release of The Ninnies, a new YA fantasy novel from Paul Magrs, creator of Iris Wildthyme, Brenda and Effie and author of the best-selling AudioGo! Fourth Doctor adventures.
The Ninnies is fully illustrated throughout by award-winning artist Bret Herholz. Only 100 hardback copies will be printed.
“A deliciously dark tale of crunchy crisps, abridged animals and merciless Mancunian monsters. When you read The Ninnies you may laugh or you may cry – but you’ll definitely sleep with the lights on…” – Tommy Donbavand, author of Scream Street
“The Ninnies whisks the reader away into the great dark stretch of some fabulous nightmare, pinned down by Paul Magrs with poetry and precision. Vivid fantasy with the warmest heart, best read by torchlight in the dark.” – Steve Cole, author of Astrosaurs
For full details including how to purchase see the website HERE
New edited anthology and short story collection forthcoming from Johnny MainsComments Off
The anthology Bite Sized Horror 2, edited by Johnny Mains, has been picked up for publication by Hersham Horror and will be published in 2013. This is, of course, the follow-up to Bite Sized Horror from Obverse Books. Bite Sized Horror 2 will feature all new stories by Alison Littlewood, Cate Gardener, Thana Niveau, Lynda E Rucker, Marie O’ Regan and Barbie Wilde.
Also, Frightfully Mild and Cosy Stories For Nervous Types, Johnny Mains’ second collection, will be published by David A. Sutton’s Shadow Publishing in Autumn 2012.
Skaldenland by James Mortimore. Book reviewComments Off
SKALDENLAND by James Mortimore, Obverse Books, h/b, £10.99, http://obversebooks.co.uk/
Reviewed by David Brzeski
This fascinating novel starts out as a classic children’s fantasy, somewhat reminiscent of Alan Garner in style. The book tells the story of two teenage siblings, Chad & Brun, who find a strange music box in a junk shop. The children are young & precocious, & seem intelligent beyond their years.
It’s rather difficult to pin down exactly when the story is set. There’s evidence to suggest the setting is late 80s. The childrens’ father owns a classic 85 Mazzerati, but no one in the book has a mobile phone, or a computer. The general feel, though, is more ’50s, or ’60s.
Brun is working on her novel, a retelling of Norse mythology, with which she has filled several school exercise books. Somehow the music box – the Symphonion – is taking her words & trying to rewrite reality in their image. Snow falls in summer, Pipes freeze, yet no one seems to react in an appropriate manner to such impossible phenomena.
Chad finds himself on a terrifying trip into nightmare, where he risks losing his very identity… or regaining it. He’s scared, angry. Doesn’t know who to trust… Ellyn, the potential girlfriend, a disturbed girl who burned down her father’s shop… Mrs. C., the eccentric old lady across the road, who knows more than she will tell, yet expects him to do as she says. Vincent, an older local lad who fancies Brun & gets on Chad’s nerves. Even his father, Roger & his stepmother, Hjelle Miyake become suspect as the Symphonion exerts it’s influence.
Dragonflies become keys, scarecrows move, giant warriors on horseback & wolves pursue him. Even the very landscape shifts & changes to keep him from escaping his fate. Reality is being changed, but which world is actually the real one? Who is Chad, who is Brun & who is the mysterious Ellyn??
It soon becomes obvious that this isn’t really a childrens’ book at all. It’s complex, frightening & very weird.
The again… maybe it’s a book intended for children in their 40s & 50s, in which case it certainly worked for me!
Bite Sized Horror – Edited by Johnny Mains. Book review(1)
Reviewed by David Brzeski
As Johnny Mains points out in the introduction, this is not a Vampire anthology, just in case anyone believes the word “Bite” in the title is supposed to suggest that.
Rather, it’s a classic horror anthology in the vein of those edited by Mary Danby & Herbert Van Thal back in the ’60s & ’70s.
Editor Johnny Mains is well known for his love for those classic anthologies, so there could be no better choice to revive the form.
Indeed, the first tale, by Reggie Oliver, ‘Brighton Redemption’, would not be at all out of place in an old Pan Book of Horror Stories. Written very much in the style of the period in which the story is set (the 1880s), it’s an engaging variant on the traditional ghost story. Others have compared it to M.R. James. I fancy that I see a little of Henry James in there also.
In ‘The Between’, Paul Kane takes us, along with the seven occupants of a lift, on a very scary plunge into the Twilight Zone. I’ve always enjoyed stories that dump the characters into a nightmarish situation where they have little control & even less hope of surviving. This is a good example & gets my vote for best story of the collection.
In ‘His Pale Blue Eyes’, by David A. Riley, a couple face certain doom, unless their 10 year old daughter is willing to do whatever is necessary to rescue them. I am not a zombie fan as a rule, but Riley focuses on the human survivors, rather than the undead and one has to wonder in the end, just who are the monsters?
Marie O’Regan gives us a variation on an old idea, as a young couple’s car breaks down on a stormy night, miles away from anywhere & they have to take refuge for the night in a creepy old monastery. These situations never end well! Yes, it is a little clichéd, but it’s fun none the less.
Roger, in ‘The Rookery’, by Johnny Mains, is damaged. His youngest child died from meningitis, his marriage did not survive the trauma & his wife is trying to deny him access to his son. The ending is chilling, if inevitable & we are granted a disturbing look inside Roger’s head.
MacCreadle, the protaganist of ‘The Carbon Heart’, by Conrad Williams, is an ex-biker drifting through life. He meets a strange girl & agrees to help her find her father. Set in a Manchester made greyer by ash courtesy of a certain Icelandic volcano, MacCreadle gradually finds himself sucked into weirdness again. The first person rrative style of this story works very well. Think Raymond Chandler writing an old English Ghost story, & you’ll get the idea.
I’d not come across Conrad Williams before, but I will be sure to keep an eye out for more of his work.
So, there we have it. 6 stories, all very different, but combining to form a very satisfying anthology. I think Herbert Van Thal would be pleased.
Outpost Gallifrey to CloseComments Off
One of the largest fantasy communities on the internet, the Doctor Who Forum at Outpost Gallifrey, is to close on July 31. In a statement owner J. Shaun Lyon explained that the decision had been made several months ago, presumably to quell speculation that the recent spat with Obverse Books was to blame.
At the time of writing an astonishing 3,697,624 posts had been made in the forum by its 40,768 members.
The forum’s moderating team have announced plans to create a new community, Gallifrey Base.