“It is the greatest gift of my people, that we can bring our dreams to life for other eyes. Fantasy is a tool; like any other tool, it may be used poorly or well. At its best, fantasy reveals truths that cannot be shown any other way.”
– Sören Kristiaan Hansen, aka Deliann Mithondionne, the Changeling Prince (BLADE OF TYSHALLE, book two of the Acts of Caine)
A few years before I was born, an American journalist named Edward R. Murrow hosted a program on the CBS Radio Network called This I Believe. Each episode only lasted five minutes, of which three and a half were given over to an essay by a different contributor, each speaking about the specific personal convictions that they felt gave their lives meaning. In the generally terrifying atmosphere of the early Cold War, this program was the closest the 1950s ever got to a viral video. It was the most listened-to English-language program in history at that time, and it spawned books, and records, and other radio programs – some of which continue to this day.
When the good folk at Orbit decided to pick up my Acts of Caine novels, they asked me to contribute a blog-post-slash-promotional-essay or two for their website. I dislike writing about myself in any kind of biographical sense; if I thought that where I was born, my family, education, hobbies and pets and private life generally were any of your business, I’d write memoirs, not heroic fantasy.
I also have very little interest in commenting on my stories. My comments are the stories. Now – despite my dislike – I’ve done both of these things, and reasonably often, because that’s what people keep telling me I have to do to promote my books. The Good Folk, however, gave me license to write whatever I want.
I want to write about what I believe.
Most of what follows will be about story, because I make stories the same way I breathe: even to pause requires an act of will, and if I ever stop, it’s because I’m dead.
So… This I believe:
Not all honest writing is good, but all good writing is honest.
What’s not said is as important as what is. Often more important. Most of the trick to writing is knowing what to leave out.
It’s easier to make people cry if you’ve already made them laugh. And vice versa.
Whatever a story’s other virtues, if it’s not entertaining you, you’re wasting your time. A story is only great if it’s great for you. Personally.
What any work of art means depends on who you are when you look at it. What you get out of a book depends on what you bring to it. A book is only marks on a page (or pixels on a screen). The story is what happens in your imagination as you scan those marks. Books aren’t deep. Some readers are.
Read the rest of this entry »
- - May 17th, 2013
As an editor, there’s no better feeling than reading a submission that blinds you with its sheer brilliance. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s one of the most exciting things about working in publishing.
Bitter Seeds was one of those submissions. I’d heard some positive murmurings coming out of the US about Ian Tregillis’s debut novel, but began reading the book with no particular expectations – and was left amazed by its vivid prose, bold action sequences and the wonderful depth of its characterisation. Not to mention the underlying plot that regularly crosses into the realms of sheer genius.
Bitter Seeds – and the other two books in the Milkweed Triptych, The Coldest War and Necessary Evil – have something of the chameleon about them, in that their underlying plots are constantly shifting and evolving. Just when you think you might have figured them out, they’ll change direction and completely shatter your expectations (my jaw dropped so many times when reading this trilogy that I attracted more than one strange look from my fellow commuters).
These novels are also chameleonic (totally a word, I looked it up!) in the sense that they weave so many different elements together to form something unique. At heart, the books are adventure stories – Nazi superhumans battling British warlocks – with a dangerously high dosage of action and espionage. Yet these novels are also subtle and extremely intelligent, weaving plots that shock and delight in equal measure, not to mention packing a serious emotional punch when the stakes are at their highest.
There are a host of complex, memorable characters within the pages of these books, such as Raybould Marsh, who must constantly balance his loyalty to his country with his love for his family, and Will Beauclerk, whose powers may end the war but destroy him in the process. Yet most memorable of all is Gretel, a gypsy orphan who wields a manipulative power so great that life itself is just another pawn in her Grand Design – the ultimate outcome of which only she knows.
One thing is for sure: you’ll certainly never see it coming.
Bitter Seeds [UK | ANZ], The Coldest War [UK | ANZ] and Necessary Evil [UK | ANZ] are all available now in paperback and ebook.
Praise for Ian Tregillis and the Milkweed novels:
A confident and thrilling debut” – SFX
“An imaginative tour de force” – KIRKUS
“[An] astonishing, brilliant, pulse-pounding debut trilogy” – CORY DOCTOROW
“Compelling, fascinating and frighteningly convincing” – FANTASY FACTION
“Ian Tregillis is a major new talent . . . I can’t wait to see more” – GEORGE R. R. MARTIN
- - May 2nd, 2013
One of the most highly regarded fantasy series EVER is finally coming to the UK.
Presenting a gritty action fantasy series like no other. Welcome to the world of Caine: Assassin. Hero. Superstar. . .
Several huge names in the fantasy world have been shouting from the rooftops about the sheer brilliance of this series by New York Times bestselling author Matthew Stover. Par exemple:
SCOTT LYNCH says:
‘Oh, you fortunate people. HEROES DIE and BLADE OF TYSHALLE directly informed the writing of THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA . . . I’d dare say they were what taught me how to craft a novel. Matt is criminally underrated, and these books are bog standard for him, which is to say ‘brilliant.’ They’re bold, startling, multi-layered, humane, and laugh-out-loud wonderful at frequent intervals . . .
. . . A gritty, bloody, deeply touching work of genius’
JOHN SCALZI says:
‘A heaping plate of kickass kickassery with a side of kickass sauce . . .
If you are a fan of the meaty, bloody but smart fantasy of which authors like Joe Abercrombie and Richard K. Morgan currently traffic, you really do owe it to yourself to check out the whole Caine series . . . I doubt very seriously you will be disappointed, and if you are, well, I don’t know what to do with you, except maybe wonder if your brain chemistry is off in some unique and disturbing way. But I’m willing to bet your brain is fine and you’re going to eat this stuff up.
So: fans of fantasy, this is my recommendation. Get this one. Get them all’
FELICIA DAY says:
‘Talk about a dark anti-hero. Talk about a cool alt-SF/Fantasy world. Talk about some violent assholes who populate BOTH universes. I mean Hari is one of the biggest badasses I’ve read in a LONG time. Seriously flawed, very nihilistic world/WORLDS really he’s involved in. And yet, his journey is so full of emotion, you root for him every step of the way. This is an Alpha male you can get behind. Damn. Hot damn.
Don’t read if you don’t like profanity, unlikeable characters and awesome fight scenes. :D
THIS WAS FANTASTIC! . . . If you like really really gritty, dark fantasy like George RR Martin, Richard Morgan (Takashi Kovaks books) or ESPECIALLY Joe Abercrombie, you should get this book’
Not convinced yet? What’s wrong with you?!
All four books in the Acts of Caine series – HEROES DIE, BLADE OF TYSHALLE, CAINE BLACK KNIFE and CAINE’S LAW – will be released digitally in the UK & ANZ on 27th May 2013.
Pre-order now for a special introductory price on book one, HEROES DIE.
- - April 30th, 2013
Today week we’re releasing NECESSARY EVIL (UK | ANZ) by Ian Tregillis, the conclusion to the spectacular Milkweed Triptych. The series began with BITTER SEEDS (UK | ANZ) and THE COLDEST WAR (UK | ANZ).
It’s hard to express just how much we are all head-over-heels in love with this series. This time, it’s not just me, Ian’s editor, who’s wanting to tell you how great the books are. The whole Orbit team has been clamouring to tell everyone just how much these books will blow your mind:
James Long, Orbit Editorial Assistant
“The Milkweed Triptych is simply one of the best trilogies I’ve ever read. These books are beautifully written, meticulously plotted and tell an incredible story built around a host of wonderfully-drawn characters. At heart these books tell an exciting adventure story about British warlocks fighting a secret war against Nazi supersoldiers, and are appropriately packed with explosive action sequences. Yet they’re also deeply moving, intelligent novels that will repeatedly shatter your expectations and make you ponder all sorts of questions about the power of love and the nature of evil. Quite simply, they’re brilliant and utterly unmissable.”
Felice Howden, Little, Brown Marketing
“I was initially enamoured by this series from the description: X-Men meets Inglorious Basterds. When I opened the first page to a Nietzsche quote and a scene where one child cunningly engineers the death of another, I knew it was something special. Then I discovered one of the main characters was a prescient German girl; a puppeteer manipulating the others on her choice of path through wars, births, deaths, friendships and hatred; making moves calculated years in advance with unimaginable consequences; throwing stones that rippled through the lives of everyone around her. And I was in love.”
Anne Clarke, Orbit Editorial Director
“I love the way the plot threads around and twists back on itself, just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, both within the books and between them. Every new page gives you another thread to pull. The writing itself is phenomenal, but it’s the characters and the plot – my god, the plot! – that have got me so hooked. I can’t wait to read Necessary Evil and find out how Ian manages to resolve such a tangled web. Ian’s poor protagonists dance like puppets for the unbearably sinister Gretel, but there must be a master plan behind it all. I can’t believe she doesn’t have one – though I do hope poor Raybould foils it and that he finds the redemption he so desperately wants. He deserves a break after all he’s been through!”
Anna Gregson, Orbit Commissioning Editor
“After having devoured the entire Milkweed Triptych at the speed of light, I can only conclude is that Ian Tregillis is an absolute genius. The Milkweed books are simply one of the cleverest, most engrossing series I’ve ever read. I often found myself chuckling out loud in public places at the pure brilliance of the plotting, the devious intellect of the protagonists, and the masterful skill of the author’s turn of phrase… Ian Tregillis takes an idea which is already hugely exciting in a very superhero-comic kind of way (mad warlocks fighting scientifically-enhanced Nazi übermensch), but then delivers the concept with such intelligence, such emotional power and such literary flair that you cannot help but fall head-over-heels for him as a writer.”
If you haven’t started this series yet and want to find out just why we’re going so crazy about it, you can get a taster with a free extract of BITTER SEEDS here.
- - April 26th, 2013
Poster for The Wolverine 3d film – coming in July 2013
I was interested (and I’ll admit it – a little excited) to read this recent article, stating that advances in gene technology could lead to a race of genetically superior human beings by the year 2045. These were apparently the findings of a Ministry of Defence think tank during a two-day summit last summer.
Alright – so sources such as The Sun and The Daily Mail might have sensationalised the think tank’s statements a touch by claiming that in a few years time, people will have Wolverine-style adamantium claws busting out all over the shop, and will be spontaneously whipping up tornadoes left, right and centre à la Storm.
But although a real-life X-men army might not exactly be right round the corner – the underlying gist of the claim could be entirely reasonable: that we’ll likely soon be using genetic technology to enhance the strength of the human body, to eliminate imperfections and to increase stamina.
But as time goes on, who knows what the limitations will be? Who knows if by genetically developing certain parts of the brain, we’ll discover unknown abilities – telekinesis, psychic powers, control over natural elements? One needs to have an open mind, and it might not happen in 30 years time – but it’s not entirely beyond belief.
Neither are the apparent risks and dangers that certain individuals developing those powers would present.
The MoD think tank also claimed that “it is possible that advances in biology, unequally shared across society, could generate genetic inequality”.
But it might not just be within one particular society that inequality is a risk. What happens, in fact, if one nation develops superhumans before another? Will it lead to an “arms race” of human augmentation, the winner of which will become the next superpower?
This is the terrifying and thrilling concept behind the Milkweed trilogy by Ian Tregillis. It starts with BITTER SEEDS (UK | ANZ) and THE COLDEST WAR (UK | ANZ), and concludes with NECESSARY EVIL (UK | ANZ – releasing this coming Tuesday). Read the rest of this entry »
- - April 24th, 2013
One of the coolest things in Orson Scott Card’s novel ENDER’S GAME – and likely one of the most difficult things to film – are the combat scenes that take place in the zero gravity battle room. So just how did they go about filming them for the Ender’s Game movie?
There’s a great exclusive interview here on i09 from Asa Butterfield (star of Hugo and The Boy In the Striped Pajamas), who plays Ender Wiggin himself.
It’s a very cool insight into the challenges of filming a scifi movie, e.g.:
“When you’re in the harnesses to stop yourself from falling at the waist, which is where they’re connected, you have to be tensed up. So keeping actions smooth whilst having your whole body completely tensed is surprisingly difficult. Meanwhile you’re saying your lines . . .”
You don’t get those issues filming a rom-com!
If you’re based in the UK and want to keep up with all the Ender’s Game film news, there is now both an Ender’s Game UK Facebook page and Ender’s Game UK Twitter account (@EndersGameFilm) that you can follow, along with the Ender’s Game Official Tumblr.
And if you’re keen to find out more back story to ENDER’S GAME, and the conflict that spawned the battle school, we’ll soon be publishing two explosive Orson Scott Card books telling of mankind’s first contact with the alien race – EARTH UNAWARE (UK | ANZ) and EARTH AFIRE (UK | ANZ), books 1 and 2 in The First Formic Wars.
Fans of Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Assassini trilogy can’t have failed to notice the numerous quotes from Shakespeare that preface each act. With the release of THE EXILED BLADE [UK | US | ANZ] – the final novel in this wonderfully dark historical fantasy – we thought it was the perfect opportunity to ask Jon to explain this Shakespearan link.
The quotations at the start of novels exist to…
Do what exactly? Provide a fig leaf of respectability? Prove the writer’s heard of Camus or Kierkegaard? Flatter the reader that this is a worthwhile book? I think (I hope), that if used properly they exist like clues in a noir and raise a wry smile from the reader when she puts down the books, and thinks, ‘Ahh. So that’s how it fitted…’ In the course of Tycho’s story I used the following quotes in the following order. There are two per book, for parts one and two. All from Shakespeare and all (but the first) from the plays referenced* in the story…
‘…What a hell of witchcraft lies
In the small orb of one particular tear…’
A Lover’s Complaint
‘May the winds blow till they have waken’d death!’
‘These violent delights have violent ends…’ Romeo & Juliet
‘Now could I drink hot blood, and do such bitter business, as the day would quake to look on it…’
‘There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now ’tis not to come , if it be not to come, it will be now…’
‘This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine…’
Individually they echo what is about to happen in that section, Together they mirror the story arc within The Fallen Blade, The Outcast Blade and The Exiled Blade, as Tycho learns what it means to be human, and those around him discover what it’s like to let a dazzling darkness into their midst. His is a story of redemption, because everything I writes is, in some sense, a story of redemption. It’s also a story about responsibility, and prices we pay to become or remain human.
Shakespeare stole Othello’s story from Giovanni Cinthio, just as he stole Hamlet from Saxo Grammaticus, and Romeo and Juliet from Arthur Brooke or William Painter, who both used it before him. He also happily pillaged much of Boccaccio’s back catalogue. So I have no regret in stealing in my turn. In The Fallen Blade and The Outcast Blade, Lord Atilo is Othello, the Moor of Venice, and Desdaio is the ill-fated Desdemona. And while I agree with the occasional reviewer who felt Desdaio got a raw deal . . . Precedent rather fixed her fate.
Lady Giulietta, who spans all three books, is obviously Juliet from Romeo and . . . While Tycho, mistaken for a Romaioi (Byzantine) noble is her star-crossed lover. Duchess Alexa combines elements of The Tempest’s Prospero; the island (Venice) is hers and A’rial (Arial) is her pet witch. She’s also Queen Gertrude from Hamlet, with steelier nerves and a straighter spine; which casts Prince Alonzo as Hamlet’s step father, and means poor mad Duke Marco is Hamlet himself.
The three tragedies are divided over the three novels; with Romeo and Juliet being the big arc; and Othello and Hamlet being smaller spans sitting inside and swapping half way through the second book. At some point, I hope, the three will be bound as one (as happened with the Arabesks), and the whole arc with its progression from dark into light will be clear. Although stealing from the master has a certain joy. The less joyful part is that his characters fates are predetermined (pace poor Desdaio). And though a writer can afford to play fast and loose with the occasional outcome it has to be occasional.
Obviously enough, the Assassini novels form a love story in which half the characters are insane and their love is unwise (which sounds like life to me). The emotional template is the tragedies and the sensibility broodingly Jacobean – at least I hope so! But I’ve allowed myself and the characters hope. As Prospero says at the end of the Tempest, ‘The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance.’
Tycho is allowed a choice.
* Referenced: fancy word for wholesale stealing of characters, plots, and motifs.
- - March 26th, 2013
In case you haven’t heard (. . . you’ve probably heard . . . ), there’s a film version of Orson Scott Card’s classic science fiction novel ENDER’S GAME coming out soon. It will be released in the UK on 25th October this year.
Very excitingly, a teaser poster has just been unveiled! It’s been posted on the official Ender’s Game film Tumblr.
Since the book almost always pops up in those “top 10 science fiction books of all time” lists, you can imagine how many people are eager to see how director Gavin Hood will present this tale of one boy and his destiny among the stars . . .
Things are at least looking promising, given that it’s starring the likes of Harrison Ford (STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES), Asa Butterfield (HUGO) and Ben Kingsley (SCHINDLER’S LIST, SHUTTER ISLAND and IRON MAN 3).
You should also check out the very cool battle school logos that got posted on io9 recently.
Anticipation is certainly building! So to celebrate the upcoming film release, we’re releasing new editions of all the books in the Ender Saga.
To the left you can see the new edition of ENDER’S GAME (UK | ANZ) we released recently. And please see the new look below for the exceptional and award-winning follow-ups: SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD (UK | ANZ), XENOCIDE (UK | ANZ) and CHILDREN OF THE MIND (UK | ANZ).
These new-look editions will be released on 2nd May this year. Look below to see them in their full glory!
And if you’re a big Ender fan, don’t forget that there’s also an omnibus edition of the parallel story to Ender’s Game, THE SHADOW SAGA (UK | ANZ) available now. Read the rest of this entry »
- - March 15th, 2013
Airships have somehow ended up becoming the ultimate symbol of steampunk fiction. But as much as we love their appearance in established steampunk classics such as Gail Carriger’s fantastic Parasol Protectorate novels, Cherie Priest’s BONESHAKER and Stephen Hunt’s COURT OF THE AIR, I’m making a plea that we remember the humble airship does not have to remain in the domain of steam – and the punkification thereof!
I think it’s really time to claim back the airship for epic fantasy. What got me thinking about this was Terry Brooks’s new Dark Legacy of Shannara series, starting with WARDS OF FAERIE (UK / ANZ) and continuing with the recently released BLOODFIRE QUEST (UK / ANZ).
Airships have been in Terry Brooks’ novels for a while, ever since ILSE WITCH I believe, but it’s in his brand new series The Dark Legacy of Shannara that they’re really coming into their own. I couldn’t help thinking – I really, really want to own one of these airships.
Terry Brooks’ airships are like the suped-up, turbo charged versions of the common airship we’re all so familiar with. They’re powered by the sun – using ambient-light sails, something called diapson crystals and radian draws. Light gets converted into energy, and then this energy is expelled through what’s called the parse tubes. They’ve also got sails to gather extra power from the wind. They can easily fly at 1000 feet, and they’re kickass.
In WARDS OF FAERIE, things only get more exciting on the airship front. You don’t have to have read any previous Terry Brooks novels to enjoy this brand new novel, and you don’t have to know a lot about what’s gone before in airship automobile history to appreciate just how cool Terry’s speed-demon designs are.
To set the scene, there are two twins, Redden and Railing Ohmsford, who are thrill-seekers, risking life and limb racing special modified airships of their own design called Sprints.
Now I’m not into fancy cars, superbikes or private jets, but there’s something about these airships that really gets me salivating . . .
Sprints were one wicked pair of machines . . . Painted black from mast to keel, light sheaths black as well to better absorb the power of the sun, they had long, narrow hulls stripped of everything that might slow them down . . .
The controls were set to either side of a shallow depression that served as a cockpit, all within easy reach of the pilot. The pilot lay on his back with his head slightly elevated, facing forward down the length of his body toward the bow . . . Inside the cockpit, the thrusters and steering levers were manipulated by a combination of hands and feet, the cords that ran from the levers to the sheaths, rudder, and fins drawn so tightly that even the smallest amount of pressure would produce a response in the vessel’s handling . . .
These slender black monsters weren’t designed as transports; they were built to race.
*HUMANA, HUMANA* . . . It would be pretty cool to pull up outside Orbit Towers in one of those.
Now Terry Brooks certainly isn’t the only author to be using airships in a fantasy setting. A number of other authors doing this in books that are just as much fantasy as pure steampunk (Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadow of the Apt books, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and Neil Gailman’s STARDUST come to mind…).
But I think that Terry Brooks really is one of the pioneers making airships truly sexy. If anyone can think of sexier airships then I’d be open to opinions!
But all I’m going to say for now is, to quote an Amazon reviewer, “Hold onto your diapson crystals – Shannara is back!”
- - March 12th, 2013
Everyone remembers their first time.
Mine was back in the mid-1990s. A close friend excitedly showed me a book called THE SWORD OF SHANNARA (UK | ANZ) that his jetsetting pilot father had picked up for him from a bookstore in America. I remember being impressed at its sheer size and being immediately drawn to both the cover (a glowing magic sword, what more could a thirteen-year-old boy want?) and the gorgeous interior illustrations by the brothers Hildebrandt. I forget what gushing eulogy my friend gave about the book, yet it was positive enough for the novel to stick in my mind. Faced with the horrors of a two-week family holiday a short time later, I purchased a copy of THE SWORD OF SHANNARA, thinking it might prove a decent distraction for a fortnight.
It didn’t – because I burned through the novel in two days. I was already a fan of fantasy, having devoured Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and the late Brian Jacques’s much-loved Redwall series, but this was the first time I’d read an adult book – and I was hopelessly smitten. I loved every page, every word. For hours at a time I lost myself in this mythical world, enthralled by the plucky heroes’ dangerous adventure to save the land from darkness. I may not have realised it at the time, but that reading experience was a watershed moment in not just my reading tastes, but my entire life. Read the rest of this entry »