Category Archives: Books

James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series to be a Syfy TV show

The Expanse series

The Expanse series

Previously on this site I have highly recommended the James S.A. Corey Expanse series. Because it is fucking awesome. So far three of the books are out, with a fourth due this summer. Read my review of the first book here. The two books that follow are just as good, so you really have a treat in store if you haven’t discovered them yet.

Excitingly, Syfy have just confirmed that they are going to be making the Expanse series into a TV show with each book equalling 10 episodes, much like Game of Thrones. I know Syfy makes and produces some awful shite, like the stuff they do with Asylum movies (although they can be fun), but keep in mind that they also made Eureka, Alphas, and, much more importantly – the new version of Battlestar Galactica.

In Corey’s Expanse books no one zips about faster than light so they are all confined to the solar system. The solar system system is still epically massive though, and the series manages to be pretty exciting space opera with fleets of spaceships and exotic moon bases and so on, all while remaining in familiar, realistic surroundings. The Expanse setting is a believable one and consequently everyone lives in cramped, industrial type conditions while floating through the vast expanses of space. In other words, conditions like the ships in Battlestar. (Or Firefly.) So Syfy might do a good job here if you share my optimism that they will be more BSG and a lot less Sharknado.

Also, the writers – James S. A. Corey is actually two talented fellows called Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck – seem to be able to knock out one Expanse book a year (unlike other series I could mention), so this could run for a while. Quite frankly there aren’t enough decent Science Fiction shows on right now and this one is actually going to be in space! Recently I’ve been having to watch Firefly, BSG, Farscape, Stargate and Trek repeats just to get my space scifi fix.

Hopefully that will change. No pressure Syfy….

 

Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan


I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy recently as I am, like thousands of others, writing a fantasy novel. Fantasy was one of my favourite genres throughout my teens (science fiction predictably being another). It was all sparked by a mixture of reading Conan the Barbarian books and comics and also by the fact that I grew up in the 80s and played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. My childhood was awesome.

Apart from A Game of Thrones and Joe Abercrombie I haven’t really read many new fantasy authors as I have been reading a lot more scifi and historical fiction. So after perusing Amazon (sorry bookshops but your fantasy sections are usually lacking), I came across a new author that seemed to have ridiculously good reviews. His name is Anthony Ryan and the book was his debut novel Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven’s Shadow.

Blood Song revolves around a character called Vaelin al Sorna. The book begins with his dad dropping him off at a school that turns out to be the military wing of the Order. These guys are more than just soldiers though – they are the SAS of their particular Kingdom and Vaelin is the best of them.

The first half of Blood Song is basically just Vaelin and his mates at school. Kind of like a violent Harry Potter. It well enough written that you want to keep going with it and by the second half it really starts to pay off. There are a lot of hints that there is more going on. Politically, the King might not be so great and his daughter might also be up to something (as she is hot and therefore suspicious). The Order itself might not be so great ethically and keeps its fair share of secrets. The element of magic is also slowly weaved into the narrative and there are hints of destiny and things going on that I can’t explain without giving too much away.

These added elements make what was feeling a bit of a ‘been there seen that before’ fantasy tale into something a bit deeper. I’m not necessarily saying deep, but by the end I was sufficiently satisfied that interesting things are afoot.

The characters are great and believable with a variety of individual needs and character arcs. The story is well told and written. The fact that the Faith of the Order is one that worships the spirits of the dead and believes that they are being guided and supported by them is an interesting twist because this allows them to justify killing infidels who believe in a deity.

If you like fantasy books you will very probably enjoy Blood Song. Anthony Ryan spins a good yarn which, although at first feels pretty similar and unoriginal slowly evolves into a pretty damn good story. It certainly had me hooked and I have preordered the sequel. Recommended.
Anthony Ryan’s Amazon US page
Anthony Ryan’s Amazon UK link
 

The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

Where to begin? The unique, bizarre, satirical novel, The Dancers at the End of Time is an experience that is hard to categorise or even explain.

Set millions of years in the future, the book opens with the protagonist, Jherek Carnelian, and his mother, The Iron Orchid, discussing the word “virtuous” on a beach of bleached bones on the shore of a crimson sea after just having had sex. So it is immediately established that the world has changed a fair amount. The characters inhabiting the End of Time are a decadent and dissolute bunch who are immortal and possess almost unlimited power. They amuse themselves by holding ever more elaborate parties in incredible settings. At one such party an alien lands and warns them all that the Earth is about to end along with the entire universe. This is pretty tedious news to the denizens of the distant future as the ‘End of it All’ has been prophesied for so long that it, along with space travel generally, is seen as passé and dull. The alien is consequently ignored.

Into this bizarre immoral society comes Mrs Amelia Underwood – a highly moralistic housewife from the 19th century Brockley. Jherek is fascinated by her and decides to fall in love with and limit himself to just having sex with one person. This is a novel and exciting idea to those from the future and, as it turns out, is quite a challenge.

The Dancers at the End of Time has aliens, time travel, robots, godlike beings, parallel universes and more. It is a tale of the last lovers in the universe and an insane discussion on morality. It is also a bit bonkers in a charming and erudite way with a host of characters and situations that seem almost normal when you are reading it, but sound insane when you are trying explain it to others.

It is actually an omnibus of three novels – An Alien Heat, The Hollow Lands, and The End of All Songs. Consequently, it is a tad long. In my humble opinion, however, that is a good thing. The Dancers at the End of Time is essentially a satirical look at the contrast of Victorian morality clashing with the utterly decadent world at the end of time. It is both funny and inventive. Humanity can now do anything, has done everything, and is just struggling to stay entertained. This results in a stagnant amoral species, that is strangely naive and pointless. By the end of the book you no longer see the opening scene as shocking, it is just the way things are.

I really enjoyed The Dancers at the End of Time but it probably isn’t for everyone. Which is a shame. It’s inventive and fun with some great characters. Recommended.

Game of Thrones Season 4: A Foreshadowing

Game of Thrones Season 4

Game of Thrones Season 4

In case you are into Game of Thrones and are up to date with the show, here is a treat to get you salivating about Season 4. If you aren’t up to date, you are probably wasting your life and should keep up with everyone else.

Game of Thrones: A Foreshadowing is basically a 15 minute feature that explains how things are going to be even more violent and epic than the previous three. Which is quite a feat. It is based on A Storm of Swords, which is the second part of the third book. I have read it and it’s bloody brilliant, and there is indeed quite a lot of action and general epic goings on. There is also a new trailer I have included below that, which was just released today. You’re welcome. Enjoy.


Now here is a second trailer that only came out today!

Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust is the final part of the Wool trilogy. Don’t read this without having read Wool and Shift first. Obviously. It’s a trilogy.

Dust follows on from the end of the previous two Wool trilogies – which sounds odd I know but if you have read the books, then you will know what I mean. It is difficult to review as the Wool series is full of mystery and questions and almost everything I could say would require a major spoiler alert.

So let’s just leave this as a quick review by saying that Dust nicely answers all the questions left over from the previous stories and satisfactorily ties up all the characters’ individual narratives. It is also bloody good and damned exciting. Enjoy.

Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift by Hugh Howey is the second book in the Silo series. The first one was Wool. Both are brilliant.

Shift is actually a prequel that establishes how the whole scenario of people living in underground bunkers in a post-apocalyptic world came about. It ends by running parallel with the end of the first book.

Shift has three principal protagonists – Donald, a man who designed the bunkers and ends up in Silo 1; a guy called Mission who is in a bunker that is on the verge of revolution; and Jimmy, who was in Wool.

Donald’s story begins when he is a senator years before any of the madness started. Thanks to cryogenics, his story spans hundreds of years. We get a lot of questions answered during his tale (and the book as a whole) but more questions are then raised.

To be honest, I’m not all that keen on prequels as you effectively know what is going to happen and who is going to live. While this true with Jimmy’s story, his tale of survival is still a great read. Donald’s story is effectively a whole new scenario where anything can happen. There are some great moments in Shift and some amazing surprises and events. So don’t be too concerned about the whole prequel business.

This is the second book of the trilogy and if I was to be a tiny bit negative, it would be to say that it did feel a little bit like book two of a trilogy (but a superb trilogy). If you know what I mean. As I said, Shift doesn’t suffer from the ‘I know what is going to happen’ common to prequels, but it does feel like the pieces are being aligned for the final act. Having said that, the story is satisfying and intriguing and highly enjoyable in it’s own right.

If you have read Wool and are uncertain whether you should continue with the story then worry no more – read Shift and enjoy. As further ecouragement, you have to read this in order to read book three. Which is the best of the lot.

You can buy Shift on kindle here:Shift by Hugh Howey

Sizes of Scifi Spaceships

I’m not sure why I put “Scifi” in the title there. A comparison of our human space vehicles would be frankly pretty sad.

But I found this fantastic. If you are a science fiction fan you will know 70% or more of these ships. I’ve never been into Warhammer but their vessels look awesome. This has all given me a strange hankering to go and watch some early Lexx and the whole of Farscape all over again. I have provided a link as the image is colossal! Enjoy.

size_comparison___science_fiction_spaceships_by_dirkloechel-d6lfgdf.jpg

Thanks to http://dirkloechel.deviantart.com/art/Size-Comparison-Science-Fiction-spaceships-398790051 for this!

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

I’m a huge Vonnegut fan. I’m an even bigger Douglas Adams fan. So when Mrs Scifiward read The Sirens of Titan and asked me why I hadn’t read it if I like Vonnegut, I just replied that I hadn’t quite got round to it as I’d heard it wasn’t one of his best. (Which is a crap reason, I’ll admit.) When she mentioned it was in a similar mood to Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, my interest was finally peaked enough to give it a go. And I’m glad I did.

Here’s the story:

An incredibly rich man called Winston Niles Rumfoord builds his own spaceship and, with his dog Kazak, flies into space. Unfortunately he flies into something called a “chrono-synclastic infundibulum” which converts him and his hound into pure energy. This energy is in the form of a spiral that stretches from the Sun to the star Betelguese. The Earth intersects this spiral every 59 days and consequently Rumfoord and Kazak materialise for 1 hour every couple of months. They also appear on Mars and Titan. While this sucks for Rumfoord, he does have the added bonus of knowing everything that has ever happened and will happen.

Cue the protagonist – one Malachi Constant. Constant is the world’s richest and luckiest man. He is also a massively shallow hedonist. Rumfoord manipulates Constant into an epic journey from the Earth to Mars to the caves of Mercury and finally to the moon Titan. It’s a pretty shitty journey but it changes Constant and helps make the world a better place.

As I had heard The Sirens of Titan isn’t one of Vonnegut’s best books but it is still a bloody good one. Much, much better than I thought would be. It is, as Mrs Scifiward said, reminiscent of Hitchhiker’s – albeit a precursor to it. There are a ton of brilliant ideas and funny asides. The invention of a religion that follows God the Utterly Indifferent is a good example of the sort of humour coupled with heavy doses of nihilism that pervade the novel. The bleak theme that everything is pointless and merely ‘a series of accidents’ is counterbalanced by wit, inventiveness and Vonnegut’s spare but brilliant prose.

If you are a fan of Vonnegut and Adams I would be very surprised if you didn’t enjoy this book as much as I did. I felt kind of bad constantly linking the two until I consulted Wikepedia and found the following quote. With which I shall leave you. To conclude: I thoroughly enjoyed The Sirens of Titan. Now over to Mr Adams.

Sirens of Titan is just one of those books – you read it through the first time and you think it’s very loosely, casually written. You think the fact that everything suddenly makes such good sense at the end is almost accidental. And then you read it a few more times, simultaneously finding out more about writing yourself, and you realize what an absolute tour de force it was, making something as beautifully honed as that appear so casual.”
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Ender’s Game – boycott or not?

Ender’s Game

The new trailer for Ender’s Game is here and it looks bloody epic and brilliant (see bottom of page if you can’t be bothered to read all that follows). Literally three people have asked me about whether I am going to boycott the film because the author of the original books is anti-gay. The answer is no, because that’s dumb. Neither the book nor the film (apparently) have any homophobic messages. The argument is that you will be putting money into Card’s pocket also holds true for all the other poor bastards who worked on the film who aren’t anti-anything. Statistically quite a lot of the people involved in Ender’s Game movie (and the publishing house) will be gay too. Generally, we media types are a liberal mixed bunch who are tolerant and thoroughly nice people. Except for Fox News obviously. Who cares about sexuality when looking at a film that doesn’t even raise the issue?

Also, do people vet everyone involved in every film? Do they boycott films based on books where the author turned out to be a bit racist decades ago? What if they were alive 100 years ago, were anti-semitic, wrote a book that had nothing to do with anti-semitism, then had a change of heart and were no longer anti-semitic. Do you boycott that? Huh? Did you ever read Tintin in the Congo and then boycott the new Tintin films for being a bit stereotypical and racist? Ian Fleming  was quite sexist. Heinlein could be a bit fascist. Arthur C. Clarke could (allegedly) be a bit pedo. Have you thrown out your copy of 2001? I think you would be hard pressed to find a movie that didn’t have a crew member with a slightly or even highly questionable opinions. But you would also be hard pressed to find a film crew that didn’t contain several members of the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community who were simply trying to make a living in the movie business.

As long as the film/book doesn’t contain hateful messages then it’s ok. As long as a book/film isn’t funding a neo-nazi group or the KKK or the Catholic Church or something then I’m alright with it. A ridiculous amount of people are involved in making any film and they will be a mix of all sorts. I will still watch Mad Max 2 with glee even though Mad Mel will be getting some of the cash.

Quite a few high profile members of the gay community agree and are against the boycott of Ender’s Game. This is from the Independent:

‘Although the online campaign has gathered thousands of signatures, some high-profile LGBT figures have called the boycott “misguided”. Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for writing the biopic Milk based on gay rights activist Harvey Milk, said: “Boycotting a movie made by 99 per cent LGBT equality folks in an LGBT equality industry is a waste of our collective energy.”’ (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/enders-game-faces-backlash-over-author-orson-scott-cardsantigay-views-8708373.html)

That’s my view anyway and I’m as tolerant as they come. This is about Science Fiction and storytelling and spaceships exploding. Plus, the trailer for Ender’s Game looks fucking awesome.