Britain’s only comedy book festival is being staged from 7th to 14th November in Camden, North London and offers a truly impressive star-studded line-up which includes Omid Djalili, Terry Jones, Rebecca Front, Jenny Eclair and Francesca Martinez.
The Chortle Comedy Book festival also boasts a live version of the QI podcast No Such Thing As A Fish; some previously unseen material from Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and acclaimed comedy writer John O’Farrell looking back at 25 years of ‘writing stupid jokes’.
The hub will be the London Irish Centre, with some additional events at the nearby Colonel Fawcett pub. Tickets are all priced between £5 and £9 and the full list of events can be found here.
Order your copy here:
The hardest working man in fantasy Sanderson has such huge output that one community has completely reasonably presumed that some of it has been written by bots. It's the only logical explanation for the amount of stuff that Sanderson constantly pumps out. It's either that or he simply never sleeps. “Steelheart”, first novel in his Reckoners series, which was originally published in 2013, finds Sanderson in a slightly different mood than was the case with his massive “The Stormlight Archive”. While each of the two novel in latter cloaked at over 1000 pages, “Steelheart” is a mere 400 pages long and finds Sandeson writing some of his most imaginative and fast paced stuff yet.
To put it bluntly, “Steelheart” is a superhero book – one you would expect to find in DC or Marvel comics. It set in world where superpowers are all too common and as you would expect, there's a twist. World in question is ruled by Epics, supervillans who, using their nefarious powers, manage to take over everything. Epics are led by Steelheart, a creature of almost unimaginable powers. He can fly, fire off blasts of energy at will and he's supposed to be invincible but David, a teenager whose father was killed by Steelheart in fit of rage when he was just 8, knows better. Because of it he decides not to be detracted by rumors. His passion for revenge is far too strong and he has an ace in his sleeve - he has seen the Steelheart bleed during that horrific night. As such, David is a valuable asset for Reckoners, a resistance movement who will stop at nothing to take Epics down. Together with the rest of the crew which include group's leader Jonathan Phaedrus, known as the Prof, Abraham, Cody, Tia and Megan, Reckoners are convinced by David to have a go at Steelheart. In this Reckoners are help by advanced technology which is supposedly derived from Epics and is often indistinguishable from magic. There's a machine that can quickly heal wounds and one that blasts matter to instantly create tunnels. Reckoners' plan to defeat Steelheart is based on subterfuge and smoke and mirrors and by the time you reach the end you'll be treated to many twists and turns as well as to a bombastic finale.
Readers who enjoyed his Mistborn trilogy will recognize many familiar elements in Steelheart. Ultimately it is based on a similar premise - a struggle of few hopeless but brave underdogs against a seemingly invincible foe and their subsequent success against all odds. Sanderson definitely a panache for writing these kind of stories and as far as I'm concerned he does it damn well. His creative and imaginative settings never grow old and this was simply a damn fun ride. Personally, I've enjoyed it much more than I've enjoyed “Words of Radiance” because “Steelheart” punches instantly, without a word too many and personally I'm already looking forward to future installments, first of which, a novella called “Mitosis” just came out from Gollancz.
Review copy provided by Gollancz.
Order Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson here:
When "A Vision of Fire", Gillian Anderson's science fiction literary debut co-written with Jeff Rovin, was announced I've initially thought that someone surely must be making a bad joke. After her recent stint Young Vic's A Streetcar Named Desire and endless string of impressive roles such as The Fall and Great Expectations, last thing I would've expected from her was to go back to her science fiction roots, no least by a book written together with Jeff Rovin who's writing credits include books set in Tom Clancy's Op-Center universe and multiple movie novelizations including Mortal Kombat and Re-Animator. A series of reviews in lead up to its publication weren't encouraging either so, all in all, whole situation wasn't very promising but I was still hoping for the best.
"A Vision of Fire" is opening novel "The Earthend Saga" and follows the story of child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara as becomes embroiled in a strange case of Maanik, daughter of India’s ambassador to the United Nations. All of the sudden, Maanik has started speaking in tongues and is suffering from violent visions. Caitlin's initial diagnosis is that Maanik is suffering from a severe case of PTSD because of recent failed assassination attempt on her father's life. However, soon it transpires that Maanik's case is not unique. All across the world teenagers are suffering from similar outburts and Caitlin begins to notice a strange pattern. And it seems that humans are not the only species suffering from this strange phenomena. Before she realises what's happening, Caitlin is thrown a race against time to uncover the link between these seemingly unconnected incidents. Consequences of failure would be dire both for her patients and the world she lives in. To make things even worse, assassination attempt on Maanik's father Ganak has sparked an international nuclear crisis and it against this backdrop that Caitlin must find a solution.
The unavoidable and unfair question on everyone's lips is how does "A Vision of Fire" compare to Anderson's work on "The X-Files". Luckily, the answer is almost impossible to give - these two works are a completely different kind of fish though fans of latter will find plenty to enjoy here. "A Vision of Fire" is written on global, epic scale which has a potential to grow to even bigger proportion in the future and while both works have a strong female leading characters, Caitlin is just an ordinary mom who accidentally finds herself in larger-than-life situation. And no matter whether you like it or not, there's no denying the fact that "A Vision of Fire" is a very brave novel to put out, especially if you come from Anderson's background. It's definitely not a perfect novel but these few kinks that need to be ironed out hopefully can be sorted out in subsequent installments. Until then you should try to enjoy "A Vision of Fire" for what is it - a thrilling supernatural romp with a dash of psychedelic mysticism and philosophy.
Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.
Order A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson here:
I'm ashamed to say that when “The Island” originally came out I've discarded it as a sugary historical potboiler without opening a single page. I can't exactly remember why as I'm usually addicted to intelligent historical novels but it must have been something to do with chosen cover art and synopsis playing at similarities with Captain Corelli which I really dislike. I've only caught the Hislop bug when eventually I've received a review copy from her American publishers, together with glowing recommendations and so I decieded to give it a go. I haven't looked back since. In fact, her 2012 short story collection "The Last Dance and other stories" is one my most cherished books ever. These short, subdued glimpses into everyday life are worthy of continual rereading.
If you're constant reader of her work you'll know by now about her panache for discovering little known aspects of European history and building a story around them. Her latest novel "The Surprise" doesn't disappoint in that aspect. Set in the summer of 1972 in Famagusta in Cyprus, "The Sunrise" goes straight to the heart of the still ongoing conflict between Greece and Turkey. Back then tensions between these two nations were still on the cusp of an extremely volatile affair that will unfold in 1974 when Famagusta sadly took the brunt of it. Before then this small city was a popular tourist destination and was generally known to be one of the most desirable resorts in the whole Mediterranean. The future held promise for its residents and Famagusta stood as a beacon of hope in stark conflict to the rest of the island which was embroiled in the bloody ethnic unrest. Savvas Papacosta and his wife Aphroditi build "The Sunrise", a luxurious new hotel and their little piece of heaven on earth.
It all changed in 1974 when Greek committed a coup and Turkish forces invaded in return under the guise of protecting the Turkish Cypriot minority. Famagusta was soon under continuous shelling and quickly the city is abandoned by its residents. The idea was that the international forces will soon be involved and before long everything will return to normal. 40 years later this still hasn't happened and the line is sand still stands. The Turkish immigrant moved in parts of the city but vast parts of Famagusta are still abandoned as they were on that fateful night. The story of this ghost city is one of the darkest episodes in recent European history and it is in this abandoned town that Hislop weaves her tale. With everyone gone, two neighboring and conflicting families are left behind - the Georgious and the Özkans. They take refuge in "The Sunrise" where they worked before everything went downhill and feed using scraps found in abandoned shops. As the troops are approaching, amidst all the chaos, an unlikely love is born. One that has a chance to bridge the divide.
Similarly to the rest of her opus, "The Sunrise" is a fictionalized account of everyday lives of small people living through a tumultuous historical event. Set in two parts, before and after invasion, Hislop's characters are confused by what's going on around them. They can't make sense of it and they're often lacking sense of nationality that's powering the conflict. Mostly they just want to live their lives in peace and are more interested in love than war. This is exactly the thing that makes me enjoy Hislop's work so much. She never lets us forget that amid all the ruin there's some beauty to be found. Sure, as a species we're mostly illogical and senseless but there's always some hope left.
"The Sunrise" is an enlightening and touching read which I wholeheartedly recommend.
Review copy provided by Headline.
Order The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop here:
Thanks to a fortunate coincidence, about a month prior to reading Joan Sales' magisterial tome about Spanish Civil War, “Uncertain Glory”, I've read and reviewed "Victus - The Fall of Barcelona", a recent book by another Catalan literary master Albert Sanchez Pinol. Pinol's "Victus" is concentrated on events taking place in 1714 when Catalonia was originally annexed to Spain. Over two hundred years later these events still echo heavily on the psyche on proud Catalans as evident by their continuous fight for independence and I would argue that they also partly form basis for events depicted in "Uncertain Glory", first novel to show the Spanish Civil War from the defeated side. Spanish Civil War, in all its tragedy and sadness was always hard for me to comprehend. However, the more I've read about it, the more it became clear that its origin was a culmination of everything that happened over the past few centuries in combination with a complicated situation resulting with having a relatively small area of space and whole peoples and religions at odds with each other. In circumstances like these nothing is black or white and no one says it more clearly than Sales. His "Uncertain Glory" is entirely based on this moral ambiguity.
And Sales knows what he's talking about. Using his own experiences as an foundation to build a story, Sales was for much of the conflict part of the infamous Durruti Column, anarchist military unit which fought against Franco. Later Sales was posted to the 30th Division and after Aragonese front eventually collapsed capture he was imprisoned and exiles. All this is reflected in a tale of three main protagonists who are divided by conflict but united in their love for the same woman. Opening with experience of Louis Ruscalleda, formed lawyer fighting on Aragon front, it moves on to reveal life in Barcelona through experiences of Trini Milmany, a geologist from an anarchist family. Told with compassion and full of emotions, "Uncertain Glory" is very untypical war novel which is mainly told through letters and using time jumps as a narrative device. Each of the main protagonists in the story is nothing more than a pawn in that huge, unreasonable and often senseless game called war but still ideals never die. There's no conflict as such and its protagonists are more prone to philosophy than to fighting. As such, a reader will definitely benefit from healthy dose of patience and a little historical background will be very welcome as Sales initially keeps his cards close to his chest, only gradually revealing each subsequent layer in his dense tome. It's very easy to get completely overwhelmed.
Originally published in 1956 in a heavily censored form, Sales was never accept the limitations of politics so he continued trying to improve the original text. "Uncertain Glory" published here by MacLehose press is a definite, final version that Sales finished and published in 1971. Reportedly it is wildly different to 1956 version which so far I haven't had pleasure to read. "Uncertain Glory" has already been compared to works by Hemingway and Orwell and I would tend to agree. "Uncertain Glory" is a stunning and magnificent piece of work which has been rightfully restored to its place as one of the finest novels about war ever written.
Review copy provided by MacLehose Press.
Order Uncertain Glory by Joan Sales here:
Some Here Among Us by Peter Walker will be published on February 3, 2015 by Bloomsbury.
Order your copy here:
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman will be published on February 3, 2015 by William Morrow.
Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things—which includes a never-before published American Gods story, “Black Dog,” written exclusively for this volume.
In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.
Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.
A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.
Order your copy here:
It has been way too long since Margaret Atwood published a collection of short fiction. If I'm not mistaken “Stone Mattress: Nine Tales” is first such collection since 2006 when she published "Moral Disorder". As I'm someone who cherishes her short stories even more than I do her novels this was a long wait. Truth be told I did manage to read few of the stories collected here before when they were originally published but having them presented together is a completely different proposition. The thing is that even though these nine stories were written over a relatively long span of time they complement each other perfectly. Each of them, in its own particular way, explores the volatile nature of relationship and the consequences of it going wrong or, very occasionally, right.
"Alphinland", one of the stories which together with "Revenant" which is about poet Gavin Putnam and "Dark Lady" about twins compromises a triptych of loosely thematically connected stories about people who knew each other, revolves around a widowed fantasy writer Constance who's still coming to terms with the loss of her husband. Suddenly she hears a voice of her deceased husband Ewan everywhere and it slowly leads her through life. Creating a escape hatch in her literary creation Constance copes in her own way. "The Freeze-Dried Groom" is about a man who buys a storage space on auction only to get more than he's bargained for while "Lusus Naturae" recounts a tale of woman whose genetic abnormality cause her to be mistaken for a vampire. Incidentally if you enjoy "The Freeze-Dried Groom", Atwood has invited her readers to write a companion story and give their own take on what actually happened. Rather interesting literary experiment which runs until October 31st. Centerpiece of the collection, "Stone Mattress" is about 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite, arctic cruise and a crime done to its main protagonist many years ago while ominous closing tale "Torching the Dusties" is about an older woman suffering from Charles Bonnet syndrome who is struggling accept the nature of her condition and the bizarre events that surround her while a group on younger nasties are preparing to burn old people's home where she's living down.
In "Stone Mattress: Nine Tales" Atwood's literary flame seems to burn brighter than ever before. After the tremendous success of her MaddAddam trilogy I would have excepted her to slow down a bit but in these stories Atwood is better, sharper and more playful than ever. Not to forget, she's at times very very twisted. And while other authors are content with reaping the rewards of their previous work, over 50 books later Atwood keeps on successfully reinventing herself. A wonderful collection which will be enjoyed both by her constant readers and those new to her work.
Review copy provided by Bloomsbury.
Order Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood here: