The Queen’s Martian Rifles by M.E. Brines. Ebook reviewComments Off
THE QUEEN’S MARTIAN RIFLES by M.E. Brines, self-published, Kindle, $2.99, http://www.mebrines.com/
Reviewed by David Brzeski
This was a very interesting one to read. Had I realised going in that the author’s book contained a fairly heavy Christian, Creationist message, I might not have bothered. Having already started the book, I decided that, since I was quite happy to read horror novels in which Christianity played a great part in rallying the forces of good against the supernatural evil, it would hardly be fair of me to let my personal atheist biases prevent me from giving this book a fair chance. I’m quite glad I did.
M.E. Brines is by no means a bad writer. He creates an interesting steampunk scenario, in which Earth sent colonies to Mars in the late 19th century. It has to be said that, while there are indeed several Earth nations competing for whatever benefits they might glean from this situation, the integration with the primitive Martian population is a lot more diplomatic and respectful than real history suggests would have been likely.
The hero, David McLaughlin, is a likeable character. He joined the Queen’s Martian Rifles regiment, rather than follow his parents wishes to enter the clergy, out of a need to do more good than he could see himself achieving from a pulpit. Refreshingly, he’s not the typical square-jawed, athletic hero, in fact he’s quite “portly”, as the author puts it. He soon finds that the rest of his regiment is in a sad state, having been allowed to fall into slovenly ways, due to their snobbish, drunken officers not doing their job. McLaughlin runs into a lot of class-based prejudice from his superiors. Brines does a reasonable job of arguing against this sort of social bigotry, along with sexism and racism. One suspects that he felt a need to show his reasonable, non-bigoted side, before he attempted to portray the “evidence” for his religious standpoint. McLaughlin is very much the everyman of the book, in that he believes in God, but doesn’t really see any problem with rationalising this with evolution and extraterrestrial life. He represents the reader who Brines possibly hopes to influence with the rationalisation of Creationism that lies at the heart of this story.
The first part of the book starts in the middle and lands our hero and heroine in deep trouble. Part two is a flashback, where McLaughlin muses on his first meeting with the feisty heroine en route to Mars. Lady Rebecca “B” Bryce is a militant suffragette and archeologist, who also happens to be an atheist, who is out to find evidence to prove her Von Danikenesque theories on the extraterrestrial origins of the human race. Brines is a little heavy-handed in the way he depicts her constant assumptions that anything the hero does to help is based on the belief that a mere woman is incapable of doing anything for herself. He is to be commended, however, for not automatically making all the non-believers in the book villains.
The villain of the piece is none other than “the wickedest man in the world”, Aleister Crowley. Sadly, Crowley never really manages to be the major villain he should be, in that he has a few conversations with the other characters, turns up at a sacrifice in a Martian temple, then runs away. To be honest, the book would have survived quite well without Aleister, who was really only there to put forward the pro-Lucifer viewpoint.
There’s a certain amount of religious discussion in this part, which is helped along by the inclusion of a Christian missionary, who plans on converting the indigenous Martians. Brines does a reasonable job of putting forward the beliefs of all sides in a fair manner.
The third part starts out well enough. Brines writes good, exciting action scenes. I found the Christian bent of the book didn’t hinder my enjoyment of a rollicking good, pulpy steampunk yarn too much at all. There are places where the author’s evident enjoyment in the fast-paced action makes him forget the period and McLaughlin starts to sound very modern, almost American in places.
After the battle on Mars is over, it all starts to fall apart a bit. The hero suddenly comes to realise how the evil, Lucifer-worshipping Martians have set into motion the intended destruction of Earth. Frankly their method was a real knockout blow to my suspension of disbelief. One hardly expects steampunk to be a hundred per cent scientifically feasible, but this was as silly as a 1950s Superman comic book. I suppose, on reflection, that is wasn’t any sillier than the ideas found in the proto science fiction tales of the 19th century, but I feel we tend to expect more in the twenty-first century, even when the book is set over a hundred years in the past.
It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that the hero does indeed save the day and the world. The absolute silliest moment in the entire book, is when “B” suddenly accepts all the evidence that there is a Devil, therefore there is a God and the Creationists were right all along. And isn’t this wonderful? And she can’t wait to get home and help spread the word.
The thing is, it’s not the Christian bent of the book that will put people off. We’ve all read many, many books in which the heroes believe in God. I’ve never found that particularly off-putting as a non-believer. After all, I have good friends who believe. The problem for most people, and I include most of the Christian readers here, is in the Creationist concept, that evolution is nonsense and God created the World, including mankind, in just six days.
Still, I did enjoy the book for the most part.
Cyrus Darian And The Technomicon/Cyrus Darian And The Ghastly Horde by Raven Dane. Book review(1)
Reviewed by David Brzeski
Steampunk is huge right now, and these books have the added advantage of being Steampunk/Urban Fantasy crossovers. While they are set in a steampunk Victorian England, Cyrus Darian is an occult practitioner and his companion is a demon lord.
In the first book, various factions are looking for the Technomicon, a magical/technological tome of huge power, power too great for any man to hold. Several of these factions think Darian has it. Others want Darian to get it for them. Darian actually knows nothing about it, but soon decides it would be safer in his hands than anywhere else.
What follows is an amazingly complex story, in which these assorted groups of ne’er do wells try to put one over the others, or indeed kill them, in their race to own the dreaded book.
Raven Dane has an unrivalled talent for weaving multiple groups with individual agendas into a coherent plot.
Darian himself holds no delusions of altruism regarding his own character. He’s out for number one. Thankfully, what turns out to be best for Cyrus Darian is also best for the World.
In ‘Cyrus Darian and the Ghastly Horde’, Darian returns home to discover that the destruction of the Technomicon was achieved just a bit too late and he has a few thousand restless spirits bound to him in eternal servitude. The spell wasn’t completed, so he has no clue how to control them, or even make them go away. The British Government are not best impressed and soon decide that the simplest solution would be the permanent removal of the focus of these spirits’ attention, ie: Darian. Again, there are numerous factions at work, including a government agent who sees the military potential of the restless spirits.
It gets complicated….
Darian and his friends flee to France, where they team up with the daughter of a well-known sub-mariner on a mission to Russia to retrieve a vital piece of magical equpiment.
I’ll write no more on the plot. Read them for yourselves.
Cyrus Darian is a fascinating character. In the first book, he’s very much the reluctant anti-hero, thrust into situations where he, through no fault of his own, finds himself working for the greater good of mankind. We like him. He’s cool and he has a Lord of Hell who dotes on him and a friend with the coolest airship and a dragoncat!… I want a dragoncat!
At some point during the second book in the series, I found myself going off him a bit. I liked some of the supporting cast much more than I liked Cyrus Darian. I realised that Raven Dane had written him so well that I was feeling the same misgivings about Darian as his friends.
The only thing stopping Cyrus Darian from being a true hero is himself. The idea that he might possibly be a good person and a trustworthy friend, who cares about anyone other than himself terrifies him. It’s so obvious in the effort he makes to sabotage his relationships with his companions. When one finds oneself attempting to psychoanalise a fictional character in a book in this way, the author must be doing something right.
There is a lot more to be discovered about Cyrus Darian and his motivations. I can’t wait!
Wizard’s Tower Press to publish ebook editions of the AngeLINK series by Lyda MorehouseComments Off
The AngeLINK series comprises four novels: Archangel Protocol, Fallen Host, Messiah Node and Apocalypse Array. They were originally published by Roc in the USA. Archangel Protocol won the 2002 Shamus Award, which is for detective fiction, and the 2002 Barnes & Noble Maiden Voyage Award for debut SF&F novels. The final book, Apocalypse Array, was the runner up in the Philip K. Dick Award in 2005, beating hotly tipped fellow finalists such as Air by Geoff Ryman and City of Pearl by Karen Traviss.
The books combine religious themes with cyberpunk in a very different story of the End Times. Yes, the Apocalypse is coming, but not all of the heavenly host agrees with God’s plan. After all, Gabriel, who now calls himself Jibril, has converted to Islam, while Uriel is a cross-dressing Buddhist. Michael is trying to do the right thing, but there’s this woman detective in New York that he’s met… Lucifer is trying hard to be evil, but is he less dangerous than the word’s greatest criminal, a brilliant hacker from the slums of Cairo called Mouse?
Morehouse said, “Perhaps it’s deeply ironic to never have had an e-book version of the AngeLINK books previously, but I’m deeply grateful to Cheryl Morgan and Wizard’s Tower Press to finally have the opportunity to get my books into the hands of new and returning readers.”
For Wizard’s Tower Cheryl Morgan said, “I really enjoyed these books when they first came out, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to bring them to a new audience. The series ticks many of my boxes, being science fiction by a woman writer featuring queer characters and ethnic diversity.”
The AngeLINK series will be available through the Wizard’s Tower bookstore on the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and through other online venues.
Wizard’s Tower Press is owned and managed by Cheryl Morgan and based in the UK. Cheryl has won four Hugo awards for her online writing and editing. Cheryl is also a director of San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions Inc, and of the Association for the Recognition of Excellence in SF & F Translation.
Ceaseless Steam: new anthology from Beneath Ceaseless SkiesComments Off
SFScope reports that Beneath Ceaseless Skies, the fantasy ezine specialising in secondary-world fantasy, has released their third ebook anthology: Ceaseless Steam: Steampunk Stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine.
They state: “The eighteen stories in Ceaseless Steam feature a gardensmith crafting fanciful clockworks to enchant his noblewoman love, a restless librarian who yearns to escape a city that bounces up and down in the sky, and a flock of clockwork birds trying to redeem their Jaguar Knight creator. Their authors include Margaret Ronald, Yoon Ha Lee, 2012 Nebula Award finalist Tom Crosshill, and 2009 Campbell Award finalists Aliette de Bodard and Tony Pi.”
Ordering information can be found at the website HERE
Submissions sought for anthology of short stories set in impossible spacesComments Off
Following the launch of their first anthology, a volume of dark fiction entitled Wolf-Girls: Dark Tales of Teeth, Claws and Lycogyny (seventeen new stories of female werewolves), Hic Dragones are seeking submissions for a new anthology of short stories set in impossible spaces. Impossible Spaces … and the Things we Find There will be edited by Hannah Kate.
They state: “From the conceptual impossibilities of China Mièville’s worlds, to the illogicality of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, the retro-futurism of steampunk and the Kafka-esque repetitions and restrictions of dystopia – we love fiction set in places that could not (or should not) be. We’re looking for new and established writers to contribute dark and weird fiction for a new collection of stories set in places that bend the mind.”
They are seeking “edgy, dark and weird fiction. While setting is very important, we’re also looking for compelling characters and original plots. Any interpretation of the theme is welcome – and we have no preconceptions about what ‘place’ and ‘space’ might mean. Any genre considered: dark fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, SF, steampunk, cyberpunk, biopunk, dystopian, slipstream. We’re looking for original and fresh voices that challenge and unsettle.”
The required word count is between 3,000 and 7,000 words, and the submission deadline is Thursday 13 December 2012. Since Hic Dragones is a new press they regret they are unable to pay contributors, but one contributor copy will be supplied. Full submission guidelines can be found HERE
Gollancz acquires three-book fantasy series by Stephen HuntComments Off
Gollancz has acquired a three-book fantasy series by Stephen Hunt. The first novel is titled In Dark Service, while the trilogy is called The Far-Called. The first volume will be published in 2013.
Stephen is the author of six fantasy novels published by HarperCollins Voyager in the UK and Tor in the US, as well as in various translation editions, and runs the SF Crowsnest news and reviews site.
Here is Stephen’s introduction to the world on which this series takes place:
“Plenas has two unique characteristics worth noting, the first – and most significant of which – is that it’s a world on a mind-boggling scale where peddler caravans can take a thousand years to complete a limited circuit of their trade territory, a land where the guild of radio signallers can relay messages between their stations for multiple lifetimes and still never make a clean circumnavigation of the globe.
It is a world where, should a youngster be gripped by wanderlust, they can simply head off and travel with merchant nomads for their entire lifetime, taking in thousands of exotic nations, strange races and mysterious wonders, while still only travelling across a minute fraction of the globe.
The second distinctive facet of Plenas is that the land has no mineral resources worth mining except around the stratovolcanoes dotted across the world, massive shield volcanoes that stand about three times the elevation of Mount Everest above sea level. These vomit out great gobs of ore-bearing rocks into the air for harvesting by sky mines, and this wealth is always jealously hoarded by the empires that rise to pre-eminence around the stratovolcanoes, growing rich with their monopoly over metals, crystals and coals.
Reliance on sustainable resources means that most societies, races and nations on Plenas are throttled somewhere between a Roman and Victorian level of progress, with only the great empires of the stratovolcanoes reaching a higher level of development.”
The deal for World Rights was brokered by the John Jarrold Literary Agency.
Lavie Tidhar signs five-book deal for audio rights to Audible.comComments Off
The deal includes his Bookman Histories steampunk trilogy, The Bookman, Camera Obscura and The Great Game; his supernatural apocalypse novel, The Tel Aviv Dossier (co-written with Nir Yaniv); and his BSFA Award nominated novella Osama.
Full story HERE
Three-book world deal with Headline for UK fantasy novelistComments Off
John Wordsworth, Commissioning Editor at Headline, has concluded a pre-emptive three-book World rights deal for an epic fantasy series by UK author Richard Ford with the agent John Jarrold. The first volume is provisionally titled Steelhaven and introduces a strong cast of characters in a fascinatingly constructed world and city setting.
Richard is a freelance editor and proof-reader who has just had his debut steampunk novel Kultus published by Solaris. “I’ve always loved fantasy that pushes the boundaries; that takes no prisoners and does what you least expect from the genre,” he said. “With Steelhaven I wanted to see what would happen if you took popular fantasy tropes and attacked them with modern concepts from TV and film. What if David Gemmell’s Legend was mixed with HBO’s The Wire? What if you took the characters from a Tarantino movie and stuck them in a fantasy metropolis on the brink of destruction?”
John Jarrold said: “Steelhaven blew me away. The interweaving storylines and varied characters drew me in from the first page, as did the fluid, involving prose and story-telling. I believe we are talking about a major new fantasy talent here, to rank with Joe Abercrombie, Peter V. Brett and others. The immediate enthusiasm from John and his colleagues was wonderful and I’m delighted to conclude the agency’s first deal with Headline.”
“Steelhaven is about as edgy a fantasy as I’ve ever read,” said John Wordsworth. “It feels both modern and classic at the same time. I am absolutely thrilled that Richard is joining Headline and I can’t wait to help unleash this monster upon the unsuspecting public.”
Three-book rights deal with Tor for UK fantasy novelist, David BarnettComments Off
The first volume in this steampunk series is titled Hero of the Empire and introduces a young protagonist, Gideon Smith, who faces perils both natural and supernatural in Victorian England.
David Barnett is an author and award-winning journalist who has worked both in regional newspapers and for national publications such as the Daily Star and the Guardian Online. He is the author of three published novels, Hinterland and Angelglass , both published by Immanion Press, and popCULT! from Pendragon Press. In 2009 Immanion Press brought out a collection comprising a novella and thirteen of Barnett’s short stories, The Janus House and Other Two-Faced Tales.
House of Murky Depths to launch YA imprintComments Off
For almost as long as Murky Depths has been in print, its publishers – The House of Murky Depths – has been considering producing a series of YA or children’s books. Now that they have made the decision to close Murky Depths they are intent on making an impact with the teenage reader and consequently have launched a new YA imprint called Murkee which will publish similar genres to its parent, i.e. science fiction, horror and fantasy. The books will initially be at the lower end of the novella range at around 20k words with a cover price of between £3.99 and £4.99.
The first book will be launched at the SFX Weekender at Pontin’s, Prestatyn Sands Holiday Park, from 2 – 5 February 2012. It is a steampunk story called Queen Rat from the pen of Kim Lakin-Smith. Whereas most steampunk stories feature dirigibles, Lakin-Smith’s story is set in the submersible world of the Free Ocean where 14-year-old Princess Ratiana Clementine Saint John of the submersible Victoriana is to be wed to Prince Simeon of the Aesthetes. Not only are neither of them keen on the match but to add insult to injury they have no option but to fulfil several life-threatening Grand Rites together before the knot can be tied. As their trials unfold we learn more about their world and they learn more about each other, but will they survive?