Category: Orbit US
- - October 17th, 2014
As first lines go, this one’s a killer.
If you’re wondering what the next big thing in epic fantasy might be, then 14th April 2015 is a date you’re going to want to add to your calendar. Just saying.
Look out for an interview with Alex on the blog next month.
Brian Ruckley, author of THE FREE – a rip-roaring tale of action and adventure – talks about magic systems, and why they’re completely unnecessary. Except when they’re not.
While I was doing the interview I did here the other day about my new book THE FREE, I left out a heap of stuff. Because you always have to leave stuff out, right? But there were a couple of topics I’d like to have kicked around a bit more, and here’s one of them: magic systems.
Role-playing games have to have their magic systematised to some degree – defined, constrained, structured, all that – because otherwise the whole thing would get messy fast. But what’s the deal with magic systems in fantasy novels?
The fantasies I loved as a kid did not, as best I can recall, generally define what magic was or how it worked in any detail. In most of those books, magic was an immanent property of the world, or of individuals, or objects. It was just there, inherent in certain people or places or things. A capacity for change that was kind of unspecified, and with inner workings that remained entirely invisible.
Which, I tend to think, is the natural state of magic in fantasy novels. Why would we want to have this stuff explained and circumscribed? The ‘magic’ of magic is in its numinous quality. We don’t need to know the mechanics of it all. That’s not really the sort of awe-inspiring otherliness and wonder we’re after in fantasy. It’s engaging the wrong bit of our brain. Look what happened when Mr. Lucas tried to escape the clutches of fantasy by midi-chlorianising the Force. He gently systematized his magic, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued.
So, naturally, having said all that, I’ve got a bit of a magic system in THE FREE. As you’d expect, I have reasons (excuses?) – aside from the basic one that I’ve got a brain that tends to see, and look for, systems and processes in the world around me generally.
First up, there’s the notion of having your approach to magic fit with the tone of a book. With THE FREE, I was shooting for a fairly hi-octane adventure vibe, with grounded characters making tough choices in psychologically plausible ways. It just felt consistent to have some structure to the magic that both reader and character could grasp and – to some extent – anticipate.
Of course, I decided I could have my cake and eat it too, because I didn’t want to lose the element of surprise and wonder and pyrotechnics that magic can bring. Thus, those who use magic in THE FREE (I call them Clevers) are theoretically capable of doing almost anything. Everything – physical and non-physical, every single aspect of the world – can become a part of magic, and that makes it both immensely powerful and almost infinitely varied. So although there is a sort of rationale for what’s happening and why, it’s not a prescriptive, circumscribing one.
Second up, there’s magic as an engine of plot, story, character. I figured that if I was going to have a magic system, it might as well help me as a writer, so I tried to come up with one that by its nature embodies some tension and conflict and climax. Read the rest of this entry »
- - October 14th, 2014
The master of science fiction returns with a soldier’s-eye view of an interstellar war that has come to our solar system. This is a legendary writer at his very best.
Meet Master Sergeant Michael Venn, Skyrine veteran. The soldiers that are the greatest hope for earth’s survival:
One more tour on the red.
Maybe my last.
They made their presence on Earth known thirteen years ago.
Providing technology and scientific insights far beyond what mankind was capable of, they became indispensable advisors and promised even more gifts that we just couldn’t pass up. We called them Gurus.
It took them a while to drop the other shoe. You can see why, looking back.
It was a very big shoe, completely slathered in crap.
They had been hounded by mortal enemies from sun to sun, planet to planet, and were now stretched thin — and they needed our help.
And so our first bill came due. Skyrines like me were volunteered to pay the price. As always.
These enemies were already inside our solar system and were establishing a beachhead, but not on Earth.
Praise for WAR DOGS:
“Stuffed with adrenaline-pumping action… Bear’s series launch is a tempest of rousing SF adventure with a dash of Peckinpah.”— Publishers Weekly
“Packed with adventure and incident…and conveyed with gritty realism.” — Kirkus
“Excellent military action.” &8212; Library Journal
- - October 14th, 2014
Three things that I love in epic/heroic fantasy: action (preferably involving lots of swords), impossible odds, and genuinely terrifying magic. Oh, and a fast pace: I like stories that hit the ground running and only get faster as they progress.
THE FREE by Brian Ruckley is all of these things. The action is plentiful and extremely well written, the odds of the protagonists’ survival are very long indeed, and the magic is both deeply frightening and very cool at the same time. The novel also starts like a rocket going off, and never slows down.
All of which is extremely pleasing. Yet what I like the most about THE FREE is the sheer humanity (or lack thereof) that Brian has imbued in each and every character. This is a tale about a mercenary company – The Free of the title – and there’s no doubt that they’re hard men and women, no strangers to violence or suffering. But they’re not heartless, steely-eyed killers: they all have their flaws, doubts, and weaknesses. They’re compassionate too, and are bound by the ties that they’ve forged over many years, both on and off the battlefield. Brian’s deft characterisation lends a real emotional depth and resonance to the novel, something that is sometimes lacking in heroic fantasy.
THE FREE is the thrilling story of this extraordinary mercenary company, about what they’ve done – and, perhaps more importantly, about what they’ve failed to do – and how they plan to right past wrongs. There is blood, certainly. There is pain, and there is death. But there is also love, and loyalty, and most of all, hope.
Some bonds cannot be broken.
Praise for THE FREE:
The Free is a blast to read, merging the standard medieval fantasy with Seven Samurai, complete with phenomenal set pieces of warfare and magic’ – Justin Landon, Staffer’s Book Review
‘Mesmerising, magical and human’ – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
‘Wonderfully composed action scenes and a thrilling climax’ – The Bookbag
‘Deliberate pacing, complicated characters and vivid descriptions elevate this far above run-of-the-mill epic fantasy’ – Library Journal (starred review)
‘An engaging mix of action and introspection . . . A gripping read’ – Graeme’s SFF
THE FREE is out now in paperback, ebook and audio editions.
- - October 9th, 2014
It seems like only yesterday that we were getting ready for San Diego Comic-Con. Now it’s New York’s turn and we could not be more excited! Come see us at booth #2218. We’ll have signings, giveaways, and special promotions throughout the weekend. Below is the full schedule of events and panels.
Thursday, October 9th
SIGNING + GIVEAWAY: In-booth signing with Nicole Peeler; 2:00 PM at Booth #2218
Friday, October 10th
PANEL: Playing with Magic with Sam Sykes; 1:15 PM in Room 1A14
SIGNING: Sam Sykes and other panelists; 2:15 PM at Table 19 in the Autographing Area
Saturday, October 11th
SIGNING + GIVEAWAY: In-booth signing with Gail Z. Martin; 11:00 AM at Booth #2218
PANEL: These Are My People/Aliens/Zombies/Vampires/Dragons! with N.K. Jemisin; 12:00 PM in Room 1A18
SIGNING: N.K. Jemisin and other panelists; 1:00 PM at Table 19 in the Autographing Area
PANEL: Not Your Mother’s Fairy Tales with Nicole Peeler; 3:00 PM in Room 1B03
SIGNING: Nicole Peeler and other panelists; 4:00 PM at Table 19 in the Autographing Area
SIGNING + GIVEAWAY: In-booth signing with Andy MacDonald, artist of the graphic novel adaptation of Brent Weeks’s THE WAY OF SHADOWS; 3:00 PM at Booth #2218*
Sunday, October 12th
PANEL: How A Game of Thrones Changed Fantasy…Or Has It? with Gail Z. Martin; 1:15 PM in Room 1A05
SIGNING: Nicole Peeler and other panelists; 2:15 PM at Table 10 in the Autographing Area
*We will be giving away graphic novel samplers of The Way of Shadows at the 3:00 PM signing. The newly released hardcover will be available for purchase from Yen Press at the convention.
- - October 8th, 2014
Next week sees the publication of THE FREE by Brian Ruckley, and marks the return of one of epic fantasy’s prodigal sons.
Brian Ruckley burst upon the fantasy scene back in 2006 with WINTERBIRTH [UK / USA / ANZ], a novel that encapsulated the gritty, visceral style of storytelling that would become so popular in the fantasy genre a few years later.
WINTERBIRTH – along with its sequels, BLOODHEIR [UK / USA / ANZ] and FALL OF THANES [UK / USA / ANZ] – spun an epic tale of ancient feuds, deadly politics and devastating battles. These novels are notable for many qualities, not least their deep characterisation, absorbing worldbuilding and a highly evocative atmosphere.
After his brilliant and bloody tale had concluded, Brian delved into dark historical fantasy with THE EDINBURGH DEAD [UK / USA / ANZ] – a chilling supernatural crime novel set in Victorian-era Edinburgh.
Now, with THE FREE, Brian has returned to his epic fantasy roots and delivered an exhilarating novel full of desperate battles, terrifying magic, and a host of memorable characters.
We sat down with Brian – well, in a digital sense – and asked him about his return to epic fantasy.
Welcome Brian! THE FREE marks your return to writing heroic fantasy, after you dipped your toes into dark historical fantasy with THE EDINBURGH DEAD – how does it feel to be writing in this genre again, and what tempted you to return to it?
It feels pretty good to be swimming in the heroic fantasy sea again. It’s a fun genre that gives you plenty of freedom to let your imagination run loose for a while, plenty of scope to go heavy on the action and the drama. THE EDINBURGH DEAD was always kind of a specific project for me: it’s a dark fantasy, but one very specifically set in my home city and tied to a specific, almost surreally horrible, bit of its real world history that I’ve always been interested in. THE FREE is just what it says in the title: it’s me being free again to do whatever I want, in terms of plot, world, characters, magic. All that good stuff. A couple of reviewers have already described it as ‘a blast to read’ and ‘a lot of fun to read’, which counts as job done to me, and just goes to show that if you’re having fun on the writing side, the readers can often tell.
Your Godless World trilogy was a sprawling fantasy epic in a similar vein to Game of Thrones, with a large cast-list and a healthy dose of political intrigue (not to mention plenty of bloody battles). THE FREE retains the same gritty quality of storytelling, but feels far more reminiscent of David Gemmell or Fritz Lieber, focusing on fewer characters and with an emphasis on fast-paced action. How and why did this stylistic change occur?
There are lots and lots of reasons for the change. Here’s a few, all mixed up. You don’t always get to choose what story idea is at the forefront of your mind, ready to be written. THE FREE was that idea a couple of years back, and it was pretty obvious that it wasn’t a sprawling epic; it just didn’t need thousands of pages to get to the very particular ending that was built in to the idea. I’d be lying if I pretended to be disappointed about that. Sprawling fantasy epics are all well and good – they’re what made me a fan of the genre, after all, back in my younger days – but it’s a pretty demanding and draining business to write one. Anyway, the older I get as a reader the more I find I like my fiction to-the-point, with momentum. It takes slightly different writing muscles than the epic does, and for whatever reason I had a sense that I needed to give those different muscles a work-out.
Also, it’s partly because: movies. But we’ll get to that in the next question. Read the rest of this entry »
- - October 7th, 2014
SABINA KANE IS BACK in a brand new novella from USA TODAY bestselling author Jaye Wells.
In the 1970s, Sabina Kane was a rookie assassin looking for first big kill. But when the day finally comes to prove her skills to the Dominae, she finds herself shadowing Slade Corbin, a more experienced assassin with a huge chip on his shoulder. Together, they must track down a blackmailer who’s threatening to expose the existence of vampires to the world. Will Sabina and Slade be able to find the blackmailer in time, and, more important, will they be able to get through the mission without killing each other?
And in case you haven’t been yet met Sabina, here are stellar some introductions to the Jaye Wells series that started with Red-Headed Stepchild:
“Hold on tight — a gritty new heroine has joined the pantheon of shoot-first, ask-questions-later protagonists.”
— RT Book Reviews on Red-Headed Stepchild
“Fast-paced and fun!” — Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series on Red-Headed Stepchild
“Urban fantasy doesn’t get much better than this. ”
— scifichick.com on Red-Headed Stepchild
“Jaye Wells is the next coming of Laurell K. Hamilton and Kim Harrison.” — Paul Goat Allen, bn.com, on Green-Eyed Demon
“Wells hits the sweet spot in combining wise-ass humor and mind-numbing danger. It’s outstanding!”
— RT Book Reviews Top Pick on Blue-Blooded Vamp
FOOL’S GOLD released today in the U.S. and Canada. It will be available next week in the U.K!
- - October 7th, 2014
ANCILLARY SWORD (US | UK | AUS) the highly anticipated sequel to Ann Leckie’s breakout success ANCILLARY JUSTICE (US | UK | AUS), is released today. Ancillary Justice won every major science fiction award of 2014 and was the only novel every to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke awards.
Not often does a writer debut with a work that makes such an immediate impact and Ann’s second book is everything a fan of the first book could hope for. Broiling civil war, a fraught mission to a vital and dangerous planet, a tangled web of politics and class, and mysterious and powerful forces encroaching on the domain of the empire. Simply put, this is a writer at the peak of her powers.
I’ve been waiting excitedly for the day when I could finally share Ann’s next brilliant novel. If you read Ancillary Justice then chances are you loved it and have been looking forward to Ancillary Sword as well, if you have yet to fall under the spell of Ann and Ancillary Justice, I envy you greatly. Don’t delay.
A little bit more about the novel:
Breq is a soldier who used to be a warship. Once a weapon of conquest controlling thousands of minds, now she has only a single body and serves the emperor.
With a new ship and a troublesome crew, Breq is ordered to go to the only place in the galaxy she would agree to go: to Athoek Station to protect the family of a lieutenant she once knew – a lieutenant she murdered in cold blood.
Praise for Ancillary Sword:
“Breq’s struggle for meaningful justice in a society designed to favor the strong is as engaging as ever. Readers new to the author will be enthralled, and those familiar with the first book will find that the faith it inspired has not been misplaced.” – Publisher’s Weekly
“Leckie proves she’s no mere flash in the pan with this follow-up to her multiaward-winning debut space opera, Ancillary Justice.” – Kirkus
And here is a wonderful 10 out of 10 endorsement from The Book Smugglers!
- - October 3rd, 2014
We recently released THE FALCON THRONE – the new offering from the million-copy bestselling fantasy author Karen Miller. It’s been a real honour working with Karen on this novel – it’s epic, exciting, tragic and genuinely made me gasp out loud at certain points . . . And it’s now a joy to see the fabulous reviews which have been coming in for it, showing how much other people have been enjoying it too. Check out what people are saying below.
Blood, dirt and backstabbing . . . impressively elaborate and detailed . . . this dark world will draw you in – SCIFINOW
‘A truly epic read full of intrigue and betrayal anchored in wonderful characters – some I loved and some I loathed, but all I wanted to know more about. Whether it’s combat, politics or human interaction Karen Miller is on the money. Loved it‘ – John Gwynne
‘Complex and engrossing; fans of George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie should particularly take note’ – PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
It will entrap you and hold you captive, you will look up from its pages to discover you have lost hours – APN NETWORK
‘The sheer scope and genius of this series dazzles . . . stylistically brilliant’ – SPECULATING ON SPECFIC
Excellent writing, amazing characters, intricate woven plotlines, and lots and lots of blood, most of that unfortunately spurting from the wrong people. No elves or dragons, but some of the most in-depth world-building I’ve ever read, and the heroes (and anti-heroes) could shake themselves off the page. This book drew me in with the opening sentence and held me until the end . . . I remain breathless from the read. – LIBRARY THING
Fans of George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan and other such writers of epic fantasy will find much to like here . . . a compelling read – READING LARK
Angus Watson, author of debut epic fantasy AGE OF IRON – the first book in a rip-roaring trilogy of Iron Age warriors fighting off the Roman invasion of Britain, outlines five moments in history which could have gone very differently . . .
We should all be speaking Latin.
Julius Caesar’s first British invasion force in 55BC was the same size as William the Conqueror’s in 1066 – around 10,000 men. It stayed in Britain for just a few weeks. The second one in 54BC was two and a half times the size, but it returned to France after a few months. No Roman legionary set foot in Britain after that for a hundred years.
The accepted historical take of Caesar’s invasions is that the Romans won every battle and returned across the Channel victorious, twice. This version comes entirely from Caesar’s own diary and is clearly absolute bollocks. He didn’t come to Britain with 25,000 soldiers for a summer holiday and he didn’t leave because he was winning too much. He intended to conquer. He should have been able to. His army had overthrown all of France in two years. Something big happened to stop him.
My Orbit trilogy AGE OF IRON is a fictional, fantastical account of how an unlikely gang of Brits united to hand Caesar’s invincible arse to him. Had Caesar’s invasions succeeded, then the Romans would have had Britain for a hundred years longer. The extra resources might have enabled Rome to conquer all of Germany, Arabia and then the rest of the world, and the Roman Empire might never have fallen . . .
This blog post looks at four other events in history that really should have gone the other way, resulting in a completely different world today. Read the rest of this entry »