Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, September 2014: Graham Joyce, Adam Roberts, Infinity Plus, Gwyneth Jones, and more

From the Other Side, September 2014

By Paul Kincaid

[Editor's Note: "From the Other Side" is Paul Kincaid's monthly column on books and news from the other side of the Atlantic.]

September has been a sad month, since it opened with the death of Graham Joyce. You would be hard put to find any photograph of Graham in which he didn’t have a huge grin. It’s a measure of the man: he was charming, delightful, great company and someone who enjoyed life to the full. He was also one of the finest fantasists you could hope to read. His two most recent novels, Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Year of the Ladybird (which has just come out in America under the rather less evocative title The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit) are proof that he was at the very peak of his powers when he died. He will be missed by everyone who values good fantasy.

The Year of the Ladybird The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit

On a happier note, this month’s statutory Adam Roberts mention comes with the publication of his new novel, Bête (Gollancz). (That’s his third book this year, and his critical edition of Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria has just been published as well; does the man never sleep?) Bête begins when animal rights activists insert AI chips in the brains of animals, giving them the power of speech. The result is a black comedy that is being compared to H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau and George Orwell’s Animal Farm in considering the philosophical implications of our relationship with animals and whether speech and self-awareness equates with a soul. Though to my mind a more apposite comparison might be to the scene at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe in Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Marie Lu for The Young Elites at Flyleaf Books, interviewed by Sharon Stogner

This Wednesday (October 8th) Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books welcomes Marie Lu, the bestselling author of the Legend trilogy, for her new young adult novel The Young Elites, out tomorrow from Putnam Juvenile: “Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites. Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all. Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen. Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her. It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

You can learn more about the book from its book trailer, and! of course in this interview by Sharon Stogner, where she talks about NC in the fall, writing in the point of view of a villain-to-be, YA vs. adult fantasy, and graphic novel adaptations.

Interview by Sharon Stogner

Q: Hello, and welcome to NC. You are a long way from home. NC is the second stop on an extensive book tour. Have you ever been to NC? Do you have time to explore any of the cities you visit while on tour, because I’m sure someone here can tell you where to find the best food NC has to offer!

I have been to North Carolina before, but never in autumn—so I’m especially excited to be here right now. The state is absolutely gorgeous! I never get to see any seasons at home in Los Angeles, but here, the leaves are all changing color and fall is in the air!

Q: I did some stalking searching on your Pinterest and Deviant Art pages (my goodness you are a talented artist!) and the images for The Young Elites are hauntingly dark and beautifully sensual. How does the tone of this series compare to your Legend series? Read the rest of this entry »


The Exploding Spaceship reviews The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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Review of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (August 26, 2014, Ecco)

Well, the first thing about this book is that the publishers didn’t market it as a fantasy. It’s classed as a historical novel because it is set in 1680s Amsterdam, The Netherlands. However, the premise of the story is that someone is making tiny copies of Nella’s actual house contents and dolls of her family and people who visit the house, and then sending them to her to fill the doll house she was given as a wedding present. Nella can’t figure out how they are doing it, even when she does determine who. So it is obvious there is a sort of magic or superpowers or something going on here but it is not explained.

The weirdness with the doll house contents is not the main plot of the story. The story is about Nella and the family she has married into. Her husband is not able to be a husband really and his sister still thinks it is her house although Nella is technically the lady of the house. The servants play a big role in the story and as is usual in historicals, the mixing of upstairs and downstairs makes for secrets the entire house tries to hide from outsiders.

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The setting of the house is well done with good descriptions of not just the objects but the mood people feel from the furnishings. The city is also well done: Nella walks around and you get a feel for the city. Winter makes everything feel different because of the ice and lack of easy movement in boats.

Note that although Nella is a young adult, there are some adult sex scenes in this book, some of which have same gender participants. It has a bit of blood and violence and some death. All of this is well done with enough visual to demonstrate the horror of something or show the forbidden love being revealed. The weirdness with the doll house gives the entire book a sort of creepy undertone because real world events are reflected in the parcels Nella receives from the miniaturist.

The book is very well written, particularly for a first novel. Note that the main character and her cabinet house are real but the story is made up. The novel has a definite European flavor to it, and does a good job exploring race, sex and class in a way no American writer could manage unless they had spent a great deal of time traveling. Although we primarily read and review speculative fiction, this book attracted our attention because Angela loves dolls, and like much “general” fiction today has a speculative fiction feel to it as well as the historical aspect. We would love to see what UK writer Jessie Burton would do with a historical based in the UK.


Coming to Town: Kami Garcia and Carrie Ryan for Garcia’s “Unmarked” at Quail Ridge Books, interviewed by Sharon Stogner

On Friday, October 3, Quail Ridge Books [Facebook] welcomes the NY Times bestselling coauthor of Beautiful Creatures, Kami Garcia, for Unmarked, the second novel in her “The Legion” series which began with Unbreakable, where “a supernatural murder leads a young woman to join a secret society, the Legion of the Black Dove.” Joining Garcia for the event is Charlotte author Carrie Ryan, author of the chilling The Forest of Hands and Teeth series. Quoth the bookstore: “Join us as they converse on writing and paranormal lit.  Ages 14+.” Here, Sharon Stogner interviews both Garcia and Ryan about their books, superstitions, writing for young adults, their favorite North Carolina spots, and, of course, Friday’s event.

Unmarked

Interviews by Sharon Stogner

KAMI GARCIA

Q: Hello, Kami and welcome to NC. You currently live in Maryland so I’m guessing you’ve been to or at least passed through NC before. Is there something you would like to do or a place you would like to visit here? Have some yummy eastern BBQ, visit a haunted spot?

My momther’s family is from a small town in North Carolina called Ahoskie. I also have family in Wilson, Greensborough, and Raleigh, so I’ve spent a lot of time here. My mom and stepfather have lived on the Outer Banks since I was in college, and we have more than a few Tarheels in the family. North Carolina BBQ is definitely one of my favorite things, and a few of my favorite places in NC are Wilmington, Chapel Hill, and Asheville. I’m too superstitious to visit any haunted places on purpose, but I’m always up for a trip to Bojangles.

Q: Your newest series is The Legion Novels. Besides plot, how does this series differ from the Beautiful Creatures? Is it darker, more/ less romance or suspense, etc? Read the rest of this entry »


The Exploding Spaceship Eugie Foster Memorial Review of Returning My Sister’s Face

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In Memoriam: a Review of Returning My Sister’s Face, a collection of Far Eastern tales by Eugie Foster

For those who haven’t heard yet, Eugie Foster lost her battle with cancer and its complications today. Instead of flowers, her husband Matthew wants everyone to buy and read her books and tell everyone else how wonderful her fiction was. So to encourage our readers to do that, we review her wonderful anthology of Far Eastern tales published in 2009 by Norilana Books.

The “Kitsune” cover art by Ahyicodae is beautiful enough to draw buyers without even looking at the stories inside. However, Your Humble Reviewers are extremely interested in Asian culture and art (we are martial artists who like Asian art galleries) so the Far Eastern tales would have drawn our attention even if we didn’t know Eugie. We offer info on all the tales in this collection to encourage our readers to go looking for her work. Please retweet, re-post, and link to this column so the wonderful work of Eugie Foster can be discovered by others.

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The first tale in this volume caused a personal discussion with Eugie at a convention and us showing off our phone photos, because she had no idea we were bunny people. We loved her take on the three rabbits chasing motif, “Daughter of Bótù” and we quite agree that people underestimate rabbits. We have been owned by house rabbits since 1994 and think a rabbit warren should be the setting for more fantastical stories. This story is an Asian fairy tale of animal shape changers, humans, and love. It has quite a traditional Chinese feel to it, which is uniquely Eugie, as most other fiction with this feel has been translated, not written in English. Read the rest of this entry »


The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Recent Science Fiction Good Reads: Trial by Fire, Ghosts of Time, and The Savior

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The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Trial by Fire, Ghosts of Time, and The Savior.

Review of Trial by Fire by Charles E. Gannon (July 27, 2014, Baen)

Your Humble Reviewers found this volume to be much more accessible than the previous one, Fire with Fire, with a tighter plot and without such a jarring plot twist. In this book the fledgling Terran Republic is faced with an alien invasion, and that serves to bring the series into much greater focus.

Many of the mysteries left hanging in the first volume are explained in this one, but most were not surprises. The battles are well described with most everything being from an individual’s point of view, with a few larger views thrown in.  The smaller attacks on Caine Riordan as an individual are well written with enough fear and confusion as well as fighting to make them realistic and believable.

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Usually the viewpoint is of one person and this is done well without information creeping into the scenes which the viewpoint person should not really know. Caine’s love life continues to be a driving factor so interpersonal relationships are as believable and just as confused as those of real people. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Jenna Black on The Gifted Dead

When I asked author Jenna Black, whose Nikki Glass books have been published by Pocket Books, Faeriewalker series by St. Martin’s Griffin, Guardians of the Night series and Replica by Tor, and Morgan Kingsley series by Dell, what the hardest part of her latest novel had been, I thought I knew what I was going to get. Black had elected to self-publish the first book of a new contemporary fantasy series, The Gifted Dead, and I’d assumed that making that decision had weighed quite heavily on her. Not so, I found out.

“Deciding to self-publish wasn’t hard at all,” Black wrote me in answer to my question on the subject. “I’d already written the book, and though numerous New York editors went to bat for me, none of their marketing departments was willing to take the risk with a book that is this particular breed of genre-bender. (More editors wanted to buy this book than any of the ones I’ve actually sold!) So, I had plenty of evidence that it was worth publishing, but no NY publisher to put it out. Doing it myself ended up being a no-brainer.”

It is certainly a genre-bender. But the fun in explaining exactly which genres and how lies at the heart of Black’s essay below, though what’s too fun not to share is this teaser, courtesy NY Times bestselling author Lilith Saintcrow: “Game of Thrones meets House of Cards, a terrific read!” (Also, it’s great to be able to share with people that a hundred+ words can be the hardest part of a 100K+ word novel.)

By Jenna Black:

In many ways, The Gifted Dead is the most challenging book I’ve ever written. The scope is broader than any of my other books, with multiple intertwining plot lines, and I had seven point-of-view characters to juggle. But if I’m being perfectly honest, writing the book itself was far from the hardest part. No, that honor falls to writing the back cover blurb.

How can an 130-word blurb be harder than a 130,000-word novel? And yet it was. Read the rest of this entry »


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