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The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

THE WATER KNIFE Paolo Bacigalupi

The electrifying new thriller from multi-award winning author of The Windup Girl

NEMESIS GAMESJames S. A. Corey

The exhilarating fifth novel in James S. A. Corey’s New York Times bestselling Expanse space opera series.
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Category: All posts

Meet the author of SPEAK: Louisa Hall

Hi Louisa, and welcome to the Orbit team! Can you tell us a bit about SPEAK?

Sure! SPEAK is the story of five characters who are involved in creating an artificially intelligent doll. After these “babybots” are banned, gathered up, and shipped off to the desert, the children who loved them start to stutter and freeze. SPEAK tells the story of the babybots and their creators, from Alan Turing to a traumatized girl in the near future who gives her bot new language. These and other characters are all racing toward a world populated by lifelike machines, in which it’s difficult to decide who’s actually living, and who has real intelligence.

SPEAK has already been featured in Oprah magazine, raved about by Emily St. John Mandel, chosen by Wired and Huffington Post as one of their big books this summer, and is an IndieNext pick too. How does it feel for the book to be getting this much attention?

It seems to be an auspicious time for creative depictions of artificial intelligence. Just recently, all kinds of interesting books and films involving the topic have come out: Ex Machina, Chappie, Channel Four’s Humans, and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. Technology has radically challenged the ways we understand ourselves as humans: we reveal our secret traumas to artificially intelligent therapists; we relinquish our most personal information to data-mining software; we’re developing robotic soldiers to fight wars in place of humans. Fiction that questions the differences between humans and machines seems particularly important in this historical moment.

At its heart, SPEAK is about the very human need to be listened to, about having a voice, with characters from different times, different places, united by a very singular narrator. How difficult was it to bring this variety of voices to the page?

I actually find it easier to write in many voices than to settle into a single character. I discover so much of my characters in what they don’t see, what they’re unaware of, what they miss about the world around them. Writing in different voices allows me to set up those misunderstandings, and to see characters from new perspectives other than their own.

Some of Alan Turing’s chapters are the most touching and interesting in the book – what sort of research did you do to bring Turing and the other characters to life?

I read five or six biographies of Alan Turing, including Andrew Hodges’ excellent The Enigma, which contains long excerpts from Turing’s letters. That was helpful to me in getting Turing’s voice—his grammar, his diction, etc. The most challenging part of wrapping my head around his character was understanding his theories of computing and mathematics, which were essential to understanding his approach to the world. He couldn’t fully believe in an abstract idea such as the soul unless he’d found a mathematical way to prove its existence, or at least the possibility that it might exist.

Your first novel, the Waterstones Book Club title THE CARRIAGE HOUSE, is a contemporary family drama inspired by your time as a professional squash player. What first got you thinking about artificial intelligence as a subject for your second book?

In THE CARRIAGE HOUSE, I wanted to create a world small enough to control. I limited the novel to a single neighbourhood that was claustrophobic in its self-containment. For my second novel, I wanted to go to the furthest frontiers I could imagine, from religious dissidents in the seventeenth-century to AI inventors in the near future. I wanted to find what was human in foreign situations: robot dolls dying in hangars, a scientist undergoing hormonal manipulation. In the end, most of the book isn’t that far-fetched. Many of the characters are based on real people, and most of the science is closely related to science that already exists. But the book sprang up on the edges of what I understand and what I’ve actually experienced. Sometimes I think that if THE CARRIAGE HOUSE was centripetal, SPEAK is centrifugal. It always seemed to spin a little out of my control.

Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking both recently discussed their anxiety about AI and superintelligent machines. What is turning such giants of the science and technology world against AI, and do you share their concerns?

I tend to be more optimistic about the future of AI, though I realize that Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking are more qualified to make predictions about computers than I am. But their concerns about the future of AI are equally valid when applied to the future of the human race. In reference to autonomous killing machines, for instance, this article asks the following questions: “how will they tell friend from foe? Combatant from civilian? Who will be held accountable?” But the same questions can be asked about human soldiers. Ideally, robots would be able to perform certain tasks better than we can because they won’t be programmed for fear, anger, or vengeance. And because we have those emotions, we’ll be able to perform other tasks better than robots. Of course it’s always possible that some evil empire could program a fleet of maniacal robots, but the same evil empire could also get its hands on nuclear weapons. Our primary anxiety, in my mind, should be less about preventing the development of robots and more about preventing the ascent of unchecked evil empires. That said, I do think it’s worth being hyper-vigilant about the effects AI will have on our economy and the uneven distribution of wealth.

Are there any stories about artificial intelligence that really stand out to you, or inspired you in creating SPEAK?

There are so many recent stories about AI that inspire me. My friend just sent me a story about Aibos, robot dogs that people have adopted as pets. At one point, these robot pets could be repaired if they were damaged, but now they’ve been discontinued. Soon, their replacement parts will be nonexistent. Suddenly the owners of these robot dogs are facing the idea of robot dog mortality. I also recently heard a story about a computer scientist in Wyoming who’s teaching robots how to adjust to injuries by giving them ‘simulated childhoods,’ a period devoted to play in which they learn creative ways of using their bodies. We keep robots as pets; we give our robots childhoods. Stories such as these ones beg so many interesting questions about what it actually means to be living.

SPEAK is released in digital and ANZ export edition this July, with a UK paperback to follow in Feb 2016 – preorder your copy today.

THE PLAYER OF GAMES selected for “A Year of Books”

Here’s some pretty cool news. Mark Zuckerberg has selected THE PLAYER OF GAMES (US | UK | AUS)  for his bookclub!

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If you’d like to join the conversation then head on over to Facebook and join the discussion on Zuckerberg’s page or on the official “Year of Books” fan page.

THE FIRST LAW TRILOGY COMES TO ORBIT!

THE FIRST LAW TRILOGY is being released this September from Orbit! This is the original grim dark trilogy that inspired a new generation of fantasy writers. We envy the readers who have yet to meet the infamous barbarian Logen Ninefingers, the dashing Captain Jezal dan Luthar, the wizard Bayaz and the sinister Inquisitor Glokta for the first time…

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Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

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Ancient secrets will be uncovered. Bloody battles will be won and lost. Bitter enemies will be forgiven — but not before they are hanged.

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The king lies on his deathbed, the peasants revolt, and the nobles scramble to steal his crown. Only the First of the Magi can save the world, but there are risks. There is no risk more terrible, than to break the First Law…

“Bloody and relentless.” – George R. R. Martin

“Delightfully twisted and evil.” – The Guardian

“Heroic fantasy without conventional heroes…Full of cynicism and wit.” – RT Book Reviews

“Bold and authentically original.” – Jeff VanderMeer

“Compelling characters, a complex plot, and style to burn.” – Strange Horizons

“There is a gritty edge to his world and an awareness of the human cost of violence that is very contemporary.” – The Times

“Truly wonderful.” – Forbes

Cover design by Laura Brett

In Case You Missed It: June 2015

Mark Zuckerberg selects THE PLAYER OF GAMES (US | UK | AUS) by Iain M. Banks as his next Book of the Year.

The Evolution of a Space Epic: The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey via Barnes & Noble Scifi & Fantasy blog.

Relive the hilarity and the horror of Phoenix Comic Con’s annual Author Batsu Game hosted by Sam Sykes.

Anthony Ryan participated in an AMA on /r/Fantasy answering a ton of great questions about Blood Song, Tower Lord, and the upcoming Queen of Fire (out in July).

Also on /r/Fantasy, readers discussed who they think will be the next big name in epic fantasy.

New DLC content was released this month for the Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. If you’re a fan of the game then you should definitely check out the novels.

Forbes takes a look at the fantasy genre from a scientific perspective with a shout-out for Brian McClellans’s Powerder Mage novels.

Julius Thomas, Tight End for the Jacksonville Jaguars, gave a shoutout to A DANCE OF BLADES by David Dalglish.

 

NEW ADVENTURE FANTASY ON THE ORBIT LIST!

Jon Skovron - cr Ryan BenyiWe pre-empted a manuscript a few months ago that we read and loved instantly. The reads were unanimous — it was perfect!!  It reminded us of Brent Weeks’s original Night Angel Trilogy, mixed with a drop of Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora and the brilliant characterizations of Brandon Sanderson.   But to be honest, we just fell in love with the characters, HOPE & RED. Red is a thief — and Hope is a trained warrior.  Their meeting — and their adventures will become a legend. . .

So we are over the moon to introduce you to a new author in the adult world, Jon Skovron and his novel, HOPE & RED, which we will be publishing in the summer of 2016.

In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose.

A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance.

A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven after drugs and disease take the lives of his bohemian parents. He is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist.

When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible.

Jim Butcher’s THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS: Cover Launch

Are you as excited about the launch of Jim Butcher’s new series as we are? THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS (UK|ANZ) comes out 29th September, but you can preorder it today!

Filled with swashbuckling adventure, daring airship chases and thrilling swordfights, plus all the magic, wisecracking and dazzling heroics that make the Dresden Files so spectacular, this is not a series to miss. We’re very excited today to release our cover, by the fantastic Chris McGrath.

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher, the no.1 Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera novels, conjures up a new series set in a fantastic world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors . . .

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the leaders of Albion – to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake . . .

Cover Launch: Shades in Shadow by N. K. Jemisin

Coming out next month from Orbit is SHADES IN SHADOW which will feature three short stories by Hugo, Nebula & World Fantasy Award nominated author N. K. Jemisin set in the Inheritance trilogy world.  Salon.com says it all when they call N. K. Jemisin “one of the most celebrated new voices in epic fantasy.”  And John Scalzi says: “One of the most accomplished and exciting fantasy writers to arrive in the last few years.”

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From the shadows of the greater stories, away from the bright light of Sky and wending ’round the sagas of the Arameri, come three quieter tales. A newborn god with an old, old soul struggles to find a reason to live. A powerful demon searches for her father, and answers. And in a prequel to the Inheritance Trilogy, a newly-enslaved Nahadoth forges a dark alliance with a mortal, for survival… and revenge.

Return to the world of THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS (US | UK | AUS) in these three interconnected short tales.

Cover Launch: SKYBORN by David Dalglish

I was fortunate enough to art direct David’s first series, the Shadowdance novels, so when I heard we were ready to work on his next series I was super excited. SKYBORN (US | UK | AUS)  is about the Seraphim, an elite military force protecting a floating island of Weshern. The Seraphim guard the remnants of mankind, defying gravity using ancient wings and mastering powerful elements to wage war in the skies.

The new series has been a different design challenge from the Shadowdance books in that we wanted to convey a different feel for the cover art. In David’s first series, we wanted emphasis on the main character, a ninja-like assassin, and the books’ energetic action. In Skyborn, the characters are a bit more unique in that they have metal wings to fly, wield swords, and wear military uniforms. Ultimately, the new series needed to convey high adventure.

In what I would call serendipitous timing, the work of Tommy Arnold came across my desk as we were discussing the covers. His style just hit the nail on the head for this project. His ability to illustrate characters was spot on. He could also handle textures beautifully: fabrics, metals, flames, etc. And most importantly, his illustrations really pull the viewer in and engage you. It was a no brainer in reaching out to get Tommy on board.

So after settling on what we wanted for the covers, we got Tommy moving. I couldn’t have had more fun designing David’s super fun new series with such a talented artist!

I’m thrilled to present the cover to Skyborn by David Dalglish!

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Skyborn, the first volume of a new series by David Dalglish, will be hitting shelves November 2015.

Cover launch: ANGEL OF STORMS by Trudi Canavan

Last month we released the paperback edition THIEF’S MAGIC, from the No. 1 Sunday Times bestselling author Trudi Canavan. It’s book one in a brand new fantasy series called Millennium’s Rule – and judging from the fantastic reader reviews, it’s going down very well indeed!

We can now unveil the cover for the second book in the Millennium’s Rule series – ANGEL OF STORMS – out this November. We think this is looking stunning – if we do say so ourselves! – and we feel it really captures the sense of adventure and mystery that makes this series so thrilling.

The illustration shows the character Rielle, who is going to be swept away on a breath-taking journey in this book – by the Angel of Storms himself. Meanwhile Tyen, who has become a teacher of mechanical magic, will learn that the formidable ruler of all worlds, long believed to be dead, is back and enforcing his old laws . . .

Whether you’re an existing fan of Trudi Canavan or just a fan of fantasy in general, this series needs to be moved to the top of your to be read pile ASAP! #justsayin

The cover for Angel of Storms by Trudi Canavan, book two of Millennium's rule and sequel to THIEF'S MAGIC

 

Now available for pre-order

SIX WAKES: Thriller in Space — WITH CLONES!

Fans of Mur Lafferty! Fans of Firefly, Sunshine, Leviathan Wakes! Fans of awesome sf with a cool hook! Come hither!  (Or was that yon? Or hither and yon? Its hard to tell on the intrawebs…)

When we first got the proposal for Mur’s new novel, SIX WAKES, the whole team fell in love with the hook: The whole crew is murdered — but when their clones wake up, they know that one of them is the killer. How cool is that? I will answer that question for you — SO COOL!

It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.
 
 At least, Marie Shea iv had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died. That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died: from illness once and from injury once…
 
Maria’s vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Pituitary, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. Apparently Maria wasn’t the only one to die recently…

Mur Lafferty Photo 2 - JR BlackwellMur Lafferty should be a familiar name to most. She is a writer, podcast producer, gamer, geek, and martial artist. She is the host of the award winning podcast I Should Be Writing, and the host of the Angry Robot Books Podcast. She is the winner of the 2013 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. And she is also a writer who has a million awesome ideas ready to leap out of her brain.  We are excited that this is her next big project with Orbit and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

We’ll be publishing in trade paperback next Fall.

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