Sunday 31 March 2013

British Fantasy Awards 2013: last chance to vote!

If you are a member of the British Fantasy Society (congratulations on your wise choice of association!) or if you attended the glorious celebration of fantasy that was FantasyCon 2012 in Brighton (wasn't the weather good for October?), today is the final day to cast your votes in the British Fantasy Awards (which I'm running again now).

Every vote matters! In every category!

If there is nothing you wish to vote for this year, or if you are not keen on awards in general (because, let's face it, the idea of pitting one book against another in mortal combat is, while fun, not without its ridiculous aspects), I would be grateful even for empty voting forms, just so I know we reached you.

Be strong, be vigilant, be voting!


Monday 25 March 2013

Adam Robots, by Adam Roberts – reviewed by John Greenwood

Adam Robots is a real book - I have it here next to me on the desk in paperback format. Adam Roberts is, as far as one can trust the many internet witnesses to his physical existence, a real writer (although he has been known to use pseudonyms for the several literary parodies he has perpetrated). And despite rumours to the contrary, I am not myself one of Stephen Theaker's pseudonyms. I say this simply to forestall the possibility of meta-fictional regression. In the tradition of Borges, Calvino and Lem, Roberts has included in his first collection of short stories, a meta-review of Denis Bayle: A Life, the fictional account of an imaginary book dealing with the life of a non-existent science-fiction author, from the standpoint of a made-up reviewer Thomas Hodgkin (not to be confused with his namesake, the very real Oxford don and Marxist). So we are putting a stop to that right now.

Monday 18 March 2013

Doctor Who: The Crimson Hand – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Doctor Who: The Crimson Hand by Dan McDaid, Martin Geraghty, Mike Collins and chums (Panini, pb, 258pp) is the long-awaited (especially by those of us who didn’t notice its publication in 2012) follow-up to The Betrothal of Sontar and The Widow’s Curse, finally completing the reprints of the tenth Doctor’s comic strip adventures from Doctor Who Magazine. This volume collects the strips from issues 400 to 420, plus one from 394 and another from an annual. According to the introduction by Russell T Davies, rights issues held up its publication, presumably related to the not-entirely-awful Who comics being produced by IDW over the pond or the graphic novels being produced for younger readers by BBC Books. Whatever it was, the roadblock is gone, and this book has been followed swiftly by the first collection of eleventh Doctor DWM strips, The Child of Time (#421–441), with a seventh Doctor collection forthcoming: Nemesis of the Daleks, featuring the return of Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer! I’m only an occasional purchaser of the source magazine – it’s a terrific, well-written publication, but I’m not quite such a fan of the show that I need to read a magazine devoted to it every four weeks – so these Panini volumes are full of fresh stories for me, all fourteen of them to date instant, unthinking purchases up there with new Nick Cave albums, Jack Vance novels, or Muji to-do-list pads.

Friday 15 March 2013

Mere Anarchy, by Woody Allen – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Mere Anarchy (Ebury Press, ebook, 1816ll) is a collection of Woody Allen’s humour pieces for the New Yorker, some of which have fantastical elements. A slight glitch in the ebook has the annoying effect of indenting all the text to the same extent as the introductory extracts that inspired Allen’s pieces: a New York Times article about Veerappan, a magazine article on technologically enhanced clothing, items in church newsletters – the everyday things that set him thinking.

It’s not a book in which you’ll get every joke, and they can be relentless, but if you catch enough to make them count it can be a funny book; just one that’s best read a chapter at a time. In all honesty, two thirds of the way through I was sick to death of it. I took a break, gave it another chance, and I was in fact thoroughly sick of it! But I plugged away to the end and it was a decent book. Not one I’d outright recommend buying, but give the Kindle preview a try.

Friday 8 March 2013

Warm Bodies – reviewed by Douglas J. Ogurek

Introspective zombies? Hell yeah! R, the zombie protagonist of Warm Bodies (directed by Jonathan Levine), moves his finger in a circular motion and mumbles “more real” (I think it was) to explain to love interest Julie (a human) his preference for vinyl records. In this simple gesture, R captures the message of the zombie apocalypse/romantic comedy crossover Warm Bodies.

In an era of texting and tweeting and so many other technological temptations, this film gives credence to something that has taken a backseat in recent years: the face-to-face, technology-free relationship.

Monday 4 March 2013

9 Tales of Henghis Hapthorn / The Gist Hunter, by Matthew Hughes – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

9 Tales of Henghis Hapthorn (self-published, ebook, 4412ll) collects eight adventures that were not included in the superb trilogy of novels about that character – Majestrum, The Spiral Labyrinth and Hespira, all previously and gushingly reviewed in these pages – and one story that was. He is a detective of the far future, a Sherlock of the Old Earth, whose investigations invariably lead to entertaining banter with his integrator and his outspoken intuition, and direct him to the unavoidable conclusion that the rumours are true: the underlying principle of the universe is on the cusp of changing from science to magic. How can he eliminate the impossible from his investigations when he has seen the impossible happen with his own eyes? The stories interweave with the novels, and include crucial moments in Hapthorn’s life, making them essential (and very pleasurable) reading for his fans.

Friday 1 March 2013

The God Engines by John Scalzi – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

The God Engines by John Scalzi (Subterranean Press, ebook, 1223ll, originally published in 2009) opens with a classic first line: “It was time to whip the god.” That job falls to Captain Ean Tephe. The Righteous is powered by an enslaved god who must be punished if recalcitrant, with a whip whose handle is carved from the bone of a god, whose leather is godskin embedded with “first-made” iron, born in the heart of a star and never buried in the ground of a planet. Wounded gods can be healed with blood of the faithful, and thus each ship bears a complement of priests and acolytes; the book has no mention of engineers. The god worshipped by Tephe and his people long since enslaved his rivals, establishing dominion over this part of the galaxy, but the god powering the Righteous is not unique in his rebellion. The Righteous is thus sent on a mission to a world of people who do not yet worship any god (despite my groans when this world was first mentioned, it isn’t Earth!), whose faith will thus be of the most powerful kind: first-born, freely given. Mission success will gain Tephe a promotion but take him away from his sweetheart; a happy outcome for him seems unlikely.