Category Archives: Books

The future as predicted by science fiction authors

Apart from things like Alternate History, Star Wars, and science fiction written in the past about a date that was the future then, but in the past now, (like 1984,) and a ton of other exceptions, most scifi is set in the future. Sometimes the deep future. I saw this infographic the other day and it is plotted and designed well enough that I thought I would share. It also includes a surprising amount of stuff that I haven’t read.

There are quite a few things that I would include but maybe they are problematic. SPOILERS FOR TONS OF THINGS AHEAD… Obvious inclusions to me would be start with Battlestar Galactica (recent version) or some Stargate related mythology (there are books, so it counts). I would then end with Restaurant at the End of the Universe or even better, Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time (which kind of finishes beyond the end of the Universe). Also, some of Stephen Baxter‘s work ends with intelligences mining the last black holes after the end of stars and in Star Trek, Q has taken people to the extremes of time, although maybe not in books. Now I think about it, James Blish’s Cities in Flight ends with immortal humans checking out the end of the universe. Even Dune isn’t mentioned. But having nerded out on all that, the infographic is interesting.

So having complained a lot, enjoy…

futureevents_giorgialupi_large1

Fastest spaceship in the galaxy

Fastest ship in the Universe

Fastest ship in the Universe

Han Solo claimed the Millennium Falcon could do the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. Which is presumably a speed race with the winner being the spaceship that can go the furthest distance in a specific time, as a parsec is a measurement of distance. But Han Solo lived ages ago. Plus, it is possible that he and the Falcon are fictional.

What about other space going vessels that may or may not be real? Which one of them is the fastest spaceship in the universe? I have literally fallen asleep pondering this.

The good people at Fat Wallet have come up with a handy chart, rating tons of known fiction/non-fiction space ships for speed. The first half are rated by how much G they pull on acceleration. Once the speeds go past that of light (at which point we are talking probable fiction), then they are rated by light seconds.

I should point out I disagree with a few of these. What about when navigators in Dune fold space, or popping into another dimension, or using wormholes? I’m thinking Skylark of Space, Babylon 5, DS9, Stargate (when a shuttle goes through a gate) and many more.

However, the fastest spaceship is unlikely but totally correct – you’ll see what I mean. I found this fun, so thought I would share.

(Thanks Fat Wallet http://www.fatwallet.com/blog/fastest-ship-in-the-universe/)

Fastest-Ship-in-the-Universe_IG

 

2015 British Fantasy Awards Shortlists

This may not be of interest to everyone but I have found that Scifi fans are frequently fantasy fans. I know I am. So if you are looking for something new read, then what better way than a shortlist of the best British Fantasy? (Apart from perhaps a world shortlist.) Without further ado:

Best Anthology

  • The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic 2, ed. Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber (The Alchemy Press)
  • Horror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease, ed. by Joel Lane and Tom Johnstone (Gray Friar Press)
  • Lightspeed: Women Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue, ed. Christie Yant (Lightspeed Magazine)
  • The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, ed. Mark Morris (Spectral Press)
  • Terror Tales of Wales, ed. Paul Finch (Gray Friar Press)

Best Artist

  • Ben Baldwin
  • Vincent Chong
  • Les Edwards
  • Sarah Anne Langton
  • Karla Ortiz
  • Daniele Serra

Best Collection

  • Black Gods Kiss, Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)
  • The Bright Day Is Done, Carole Johnstone (Gray Friar Press)
  • Gifts for the One Who Comes After, Helen Marshall (ChiZine Publications)
  • Nick Nightmare Investigates, Adrian Cole (The Alchemy Press and Airgedlámh Publications)
  • Scruffians! Stories of Better Sodomites, Hal Duncan (Lethe Press)

Best Comic/Graphic Novel

  • Cemetery Girl, Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden and Don Kramer (Jo Fletcher Books)
  • Grandville Noël, Bryan Talbot (Jonathan Cape)
  • Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Seconds, Bryan Lee O’Malley (SelfMadeHero)
  • Through the Woods, Emily Carroll (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
  • The Wicked + The Divine, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (Image Comics)

The Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel

  • Breed, KT Davies (Fox Spirit Books)
  • City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett (Jo Fletcher Books)
  • Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • A Man Lies Dreaming, Lavie Tidhar (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • The Moon King, Neil Williamson (NewCon Press)
  • The Relic Guild, Edward Cox (Gollancz)

Best Film/Television Episode

  • Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Alejandro González Iñárritu (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Black Mirror: White Christmas, Charlie Brooker (Channel 4)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn and Nicole Perlman (Marvel Studios)
  • Interstellar, Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan (Paramount Pictures)
  • Under the Skin, Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer (Film4 et al)

The August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel

  • The End, Gary McMahon (NewCon Press)
  • The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey (Orbit)
  • The Last Plague, Rich Hawkins (Crowded Quarantine Publications)
  • No One Gets Out Alive, Adam Nevill (Macmillan)
  • Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel (Knopf)
  • The Unquiet House, Alison Littlewood (Jo Fletcher Books)

Best Independent Press

  • The Alchemy Press (Peter Coleborn)
  • Fox Spirit Books (Adele Wearing)
  • NewCon Press (Ian Whates)
  • Spectral Press (Simon Marshall-Jones)

Best Magazine/Periodical

  • Black Static, ed. Andy Cox (TTA Press)
  • Holdfast Magazine, ed. Laurel Sills and Lucy Smee (Laurel Sills and Lucy Smee)
  • Interzone, ed. by Andy Cox (TTA Press)
  • Lightspeed, ed. John Joseph Adams (Lightspeed Magazine)
  • Sein und Werden, ed. Rachel Kendall (ISMs Press)

The Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer

  • Edward Cox, for The Relic Guild (Gollancz)
  • Sarah Lotz, for The Three (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Laura Mauro, for “Ptichka” (Horror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease)
  • Den Patrick, for The Boy with the Porcelain Blade (Gollancz)
  • Jen Williams, for The Copper Promise (Headline)

Best Non-Fiction

  • D.F. Lewis Dreamcatcher Real-Time Reviews, D.F. Lewis (D.F. Lewis)
  • Ginger Nuts of Horror, ed. Jim McLeod (Jim McLeod)
  • Letters to Arkham: The Letters of Ramsey Campbell and August Derleth, 1961–1971, ed. S.T. Joshi (PS Publishing)
  • Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions, Hal Duncan (Lethe Press)
  • Sibilant Fricative: Essays & Reviews, Adam Roberts (Steel Quill Books )
  • Touchstones: Essays on the Fantastic, John Howard (The Alchemy Press)
  • You Are the Hero: A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, Jonathan Green (Snowbooks)

Best Novella

  • Cold Turkey, Carole Johnstone (TTA Press)
  • Drive, Mark West (Pendragon Press)
  • Newspaper Heart, Stephen Volk (The Spectral Book of Horror Stories)
  • Water For Drowning, Ray Cluley (This Is Horror)

Best Short Story

  • “A Change of Heart”, Gaie Sebold (Wicked Women)
  • “The Girl on the Suicide Bridge”, J.A. Mains (Beside the Seaside)
  • “Ptichka”, Laura Mauro (Horror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease)
  • “A Woman’s Place”, Emma Newman (Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets)

Syfy and Amblin to make Brave New World TV show

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The Syfy channel and Spielberg’s Amblin Television have just announced that they are going to make a TV show based on Aldous Huxley’s superb Brave New World. I have to admit, I have mixed emotions about this – and most of those emotions are negative.

On the one hand, I can’t help but get excited when a novel I like is being turned into a film or TV show. On the other hand, I have been disappointed the vast majority of the time. I know I recently got fairly excited by the prospect of The Expanse coming to TV, but the books are written so visually that I can almost see the TV show in my head. On the third hand, Brave New World is pretty much a novella and short stories can make great TV/films as they can go with the idea and not be too beholden to the source material. On the fourth – alright, bollocks to the whole ‘hand’ thing – another point is the fact that the best novellas are the length they are because they have a precise story in mind that is longer than a short story but has a definite end. A Brave New World has a definite end.

I’m a huge Orwell fan. Animal Farm and 1984  were perfectly complete stories that were far too long for a short story, but not quite book length.  They were the length they needed to be for the finite tale they told. The same goes for the perfectly written The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. (All of these have actually translated quite well into films as the novella is perfect film length.)

I just don’t think a Brave New World will translate into great TV. They should make it a movie or fixed-length mini-series. I guess we shall see.

The Expanse TV series trailer

TheExpanseLogoThe Expanse books are coming to Syfy and I’m incredibly excited. The trailer looks pretty good and they’re managed to show a lot of the characters without showing much of the action. According to Syfy it’s their most expensive product to date and if you’ve seen Sharknado 2 that’s no small boast. To be fair they are trying to get away from the Sharknado bollocks and make more science fiction so I should be more supportive.

I’ve written about every book in The Expanse series and raved about them but if you haven’t yet, give them a read starting with Leviathan Wakes. Each book feels like it’s a slightly different genre:
Leviathan Wakes – Noir detective / zombies.
Caliban’s War – Political / military
Abbadon’s Gate – Exploration / Arthur Clarke’s Rama
Cibola Burn – A bit like a Western

They are all great though and the recurring characters are awesome. The TV series seems to be just the first book but they have also included a character called Avasarala from the second, who is a brilliant character and is brilliantly cast. In fact the whole cast seems great and I knew the characters just by looking at them, so I that’s a positive sign.

Anyway, that’s enough waffle. Here is The Expanse TV series trailer:

Dune by Frank Herbert

dune_frank_herbertTo my colossal shame I only just got round to reading Frank Herbert’s classic this year. I’ve owned about four copies of the paperback over the years and I finally read it on a kindle. To be fair, the book version is quite a hefty tome and the kindle version isn’t.

A quick summary in case you somehow don’t know the plot of the book or film or TV show or comic or computer games. Set over 10,000 years in the future humanity has spread among the planets and continues to be warlike arsewits to one another. At some point there had been a war with the machines and so nobody uses computers any more. Instead humans have been adapted, bred and trained to be human computers, soldiers, partial psychics, seers and more. One powerful group has been blending the bloodlines to create a mega powerful being called a Kwisatz Haderach . Dune follows the story of a young lad called Paul Atreides (who may or may not be the Kwisatz Haderach) as his family takes of control of the planet Arrakis – also known as Dune.

Arrakis is a pretty special place as it is the only source of the ‘spice melange’ – a drug like substance that expands consciousness and life as well as allowing space travel through the melange addicted Guild Navigators. Chuck in a power balance between the Emperor and the Ducal Houses and there is a whole lot that can go wrong. So when the Atreides are attacked by their enemy, the absolutely psychopathic Harkonnen, things come to a head. Oh, there are also mega hard desert warriors, huge worms, psychic sisterhoods, plots, assassinations and war. It’s pretty awesome.

Dune by Frank Herbert was published in 1965 but frankly, it could have come out yesterday. I agree with many who have described Dune as being to Science Fiction what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy – probably not a great entry point to the genre but once you have read a few things it is a masterpiece that absolutely needs to be read. My quick summary ended being quite long because it is one hell of tale.

If you haven’t gotten round to reading Dune yet – you should! What the hell have you been doing with your time? Highly recommended.

By it on Kindle here:

 

Sand by Hugh Howey

Sand by Hugh Howey

Sand by Hugh Howey

After the success of Wool, Hugh Howey was facing a lot of pressure to come up with something even vaguely as good. With Sand, Howey stuck with the always fun theme of gritty post-apocalypse but reversed the world. As opposed to Wool, the poor bastard survivors of humanity now live on top of the sandy soil and spend a lot of their time trying to reach the old world that lies beneath. Principally by diving through the sand with tanks and a device that hardens the sand around them to form a kind of tunnel thing – it doesn’t matter, they dive ok?

The story in the Sand Omnibus kicks off with the discovery of the legendary buried city of Danvar. Everyone wants in on this and as society is pretty lawless, there are a lot of pirates/bandits/ne’er-do-wells all fighting for a bit of the action. The plot is told from the point of view of a family – two of which are “sand divers”, and the others are all likeable and pretty smart. The characters of each are fleshed out nicely and you really empathise with their situation and this in turn makes the world more believable.

Like with Wool, Sand by Hugh Howey has a great cast of characters, is well written, and has an intriguing premise with lots of word-building and mystery. In my opinion the end felt a tiny bit rushed, but it didn’t really impact on the story itself or create any dissatisfaction. I guess I just wanted a bit more. I liked Sand a lot and have no hesitation in recommending it. Howey is a good writer and I look forward to his next book. Which will presumably be a post-apocalyptic tale set in floating sky-ballon communities as the Earth has been poisoned for some mysterious reason – but a plucky group reckon that we can actually live on the surface and against all odds unearth a huge secret. And so on.

I digress. Conclusion: Sand is great. Read it.

The Uneven Passage of Time

The-Uneven-Passage-of-Time-cover-finalI plugged my superb travel book over at The Word of Ward the other day, so I thought I might as well plug my Science Fiction short story collection here. The Uneven Passage of Time is a small, inexpensive collection of stories that revolve around the theme of time. And the passage through it.

I have a ton of reviews on the UK Amazon site but none on the US Amazon site.

So if any Americans happen to read this (and I know you do – thousands a day in fact) and you haven’t bought The Uneven Passage of Time then give it a go! It’s cheap! Then leave a review! It’s fun! And so on. Here is the blurb:

Time, famously, is relative. In this trio of short stories journalist and fiction writer Jason R. Ward looks at three individuals and their unorthodox journeys through time. Although they deal with travelling through time, they all take place in the present. These entertaining tales blend the themes of psychology and perception with classic science fiction.

Stephen Hawking once sent out dinner invitations to all future time travellers. No one turned up. But what if one had? In ‘A Date to Remember’ a young physicist is convinced he has worked out the secret to building a time travel device. Lacking the resources to construct the machine he sets a time and date for a meeting with his future self.

It is a truism that people remember the big events in life and forget the repetitive. For most people, their year skips by unnoticed, punctuated by birthdays, world events, big personal milestones or traumatic events. As you age life seems to speed up and you find that the years seem to fly past. ‘As Time Goes By’ is the story of Frank Gilbert who is experiencing this to the extreme. His time seems to be accelerating at an abnormal rate. Years of his repetitive life seem to go by in days. Can he break the cycle in time?

The final and longest short story is ‘The Man Who Loved Statues’. Captain Michael Pike is a man who has taken a bit of hammering in life. With nothing much to live for he volunteers for an experiment that is going to attempt to alter his passage through time and put him in stasis. Things don’t go quite according to plan.

#3 Science Fiction Short Stories
#7 Short Stories

So there you go. In case I haven’t linked to it enough, here are some more:

The Circuit: Executor Rising by Rhett C. Bruno

circuit-cover-final-versionFive hundred years after Earth has become a barren, unpleasant wasteland, humanity is scattered throughout the solar system. A religious sect known as the New Earth Tribunal is pretty much in charge and it reigns from New Earth – which is on Mars. There are a few voices of dissent however, most notably from the mining colonies near Ceres. When several Tribune ships are hijacked and their precious cargo of Gravitum are stolen, the Tribune is forced to call in the genius ex-Tribune Cassius Vale. Unfortunately for them, it is Vale who is responsible for the hijackings (along with a double-hard android). The Tribune also has highly trained assassins at their disposal, so they dispatch one of them – a hot female assassin called Sage Volus – to infiltrate the Ceresians and see if she can find anything out. She soon finds herself as part of a crew led by a charismatic ex-mercenary called Talon Rayne.

I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous about reading The Circuit: Executor Rising by Rhett C. Bruno. I always am with new authors that I have never previously heard of. Thankfully, the anxiety was misplaced. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read. If you read a lot of science fiction then there will be nothing all that new but there are still some pretty cool ideas and it is well executed. The story moves at a cracking pace with some great set action pieces. When things kick off, Bruno writes excitingly with plenty of bullets, bloodshed and bad-assery.

The characters in The Circuit: Executor Rising are particularly good in a slightly morally ambiguous kind of way. Cassius Vale and his robot ADIM are the antagonists but they are believable. Vale is an advocate of ‘the ends justify the means’ and he wants to take down the Tribune no matter how many people die. He also has a strange father/son thing going on with ADIM which adds an extra element to the story. Sage Volus is a pretty awesome hot female assassin with a bionic arm. At first she is a bit too religious to be fully likeable but she develops throughout the novel and has her own set of issues. Talon Rayne is immediately likeable even though a slightly murkier past is hinted at. Think the characters of Firefly and you will be pretty close. Likeable-rogue type of fellows.

There are enough fun ideas and well executed settings to make Rhett C Bruno’s book a highly entertaining read. Couple that with a fast paced plot and some great characters and you have thoroughly enjoyable space opera on your hands. I look forward to more in the series.

You can buy The Circuit: Executor Rising by Rhett C. Bruno for your shiny kindle here:

Cibola Burn by James S A Cory review

Cibola Burn by James SA Corey

Cibola Burn by James SA Corey

Cibola Burn (The Expanse Book 4)
by James SA Corey is another addition to The Expanse series. It is also a rollicking good read. I personally didn’t think it quite on par with the first couple of books, but it is still bloody good.

After the events of the previous book, the ring system is now open and a 1000 planets are ready for colonisation. Consequently, some people who have been having a pretty shit time of it rush through and start a colony on one of the planets. Technically they had no right to do so and when a corporate colony ship arrives, things getting unpleasant in a shooting and exploding kind of way. With tensions high between the corporate lot and the colonists, it’s decided that a mediator is needed. So James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are called in. Then things go mental.

As I said earlier – Cibola Burn is a rollicking good read. It is different from the previous three in that it is set almost entirely on the disputed planet of Illus rather than leaping about the solar system. This is both a plus and a minus. The plus is that the story feels a bit more rounded and complete. The minus is that at times things slowed down a bit and there was no chance that the narrative was going to leap to another part of the solar system where something exciting was kicking off. While the story slows down a bit around a third of the way in, it does consequently kick into high gear and then things are brilliant again.

The crew of the Rocinante are back and if you have read the series this far then you will probably like them. There are a few new characters – some are good, one is bad. There is a scientist lady who basically just needs to get laid but then becomes more interesting. Another is a miner/settler who is a great and likeable character despite how he starts the book. A third is a security chief who also changes and develops as things kick off. But is is the bad guy who I felt let things down a bit. He was a bit too cut-out baddie. He doesn’t change in any way at any point. I guess that was just his personality and there are people like that in the real world, but I found his personality a bit annoying and slightly unrealistic.

Don’t get me wrong though, I thoroughly enjoyed Cibola Burn and can’t wait for the next one. The world that the James Corey duo are making gets more interesting with each book and there are intriguing developments with the protomolecule and Miller to make this more than just an ‘episode’.

My review is probably redundant anyway. If you have read books one to three then you are going to read book four. While I found Cibola Burn slightly weaker than the others, it is still a great read.

The Expanse series can be found here!