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Descent by Ken MacLeod


Author of 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Award-nominated Intrusion tells a science fiction story for the twenty-first century – what happens when conspiracy theorists meet Big Brother?
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The start of a brand new epic fantasy trilogy from the author of the Stormlord series – full of scheming, spying, action and adventure.
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I have a confession to make — I like characters that are flawed. I like them bitter and acerbic, and as capable of evil as they are of goodness. I particularly like those who are a little…unhinged. Not so much crazy-dangerous as crazy-reckless.

In the Immortal Empire series, I created Xandra Vardan who I think is a delightfully twisted character. I don’t want to go into spoiler territory, so I’ll say only that Xandy is a monster — even amongst the werewolves and vampires that populate her world. She’s a good-hearted person (for the most part). She’s loyal to those she loves and would do anything to protect them. She’s also snarky, petty and sometimes a raving bitch. And sometimes, she’d like to eat your liver — maybe open a vein. It would be entirely too easy for Xandra to kill, and she’s pretty certain she’d like it. In most stories she’d probably be the villain. In Long Live the Queen (and the first two books in the series, God Save the Queen, The Queen is Dead), she’s the hero.

I don’t think I’m alone in this preference for slightly mad characters. There’s a reason why Faith was so popular with Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. She was predictable only in her unpredictability — a wild card. I loved it when Willow went dark, or when Spike and Dru came out to play.

A common mistake amongst authors — new and experienced — is to make our main character(s) so ‘good’ that they lack depth. That depth tends to then go into secondary characters who end up stealing every scene they’re in because they’re much more interesting and complex than the hero. In other cases, it simply doesn’t make sense for the protagonist to be that twisted. Buffy was a little of both. She didn’t have the luxury of being mad. Buffy had to be responsible and strong and righteous. That doesn’t mean she was always good, however. After all, she seem to have a thing for emotionally unstable men… One of my favorite episodes, though, is the one that had you wondering if Buffy really was a vampire slayer, or a poor delusional girl in a mental hospital. Either way, she’s screwed.

The bottom line is that characters need a balance of unpredictability to go with that predictable behavior. Everyone has a code by which they live, but we’re all capable of horrendous things. However, in a protagonist, that balance needs to be really clear — your narrator needs to be at least a little bit reliable. The most fascinating characters are good people capable of terrible things.

Or not so great people capable of great things. A great example of a recent character who made being twisted work is Captain Jack Sparrow. Not the most heroic of men, but when it comes right down to it, he can usually be depended on to do the right thing — or something that will lead to the right thing.

Xandra tries to be a good person, but sometimes she falls short. She’s not really that nice  — she’s selfish and petulant, and sometimes she’s a raving bitch. There were times when I worried for her sanity, and those were the times I loved her most. The monster in her wants blood and violence and maybe a little song and dance to go with it. In the movie Con Air Steve Buscemi’s character Garland Gray is an absolute nutcase — a psychopathic killer who once wore a victim’s head as a hat. He’s twisted. He’s also the most compelling character in the whole movie, and when he walks away in the end, you’re rooting for him even though you know he’s a monster. In fact, if you want a great example of twisted characters, watch ‘Sons of Anarchy’ — almost every one on that show is exactly the sort of character capable of both good and evil. I think Xandra would feel right at home.

In LONG LIVE THE QUEEN (US | UK | AUS) Xandra comes up against a character even more twisted than herself. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Ally was incredibly fun to write. She was also heart-breaking. The more whacked I tried to make her, the more attached I became. My favorite characters in the series are the ones that are monsters and accept it — maybe even like it. At the very least, they make no excuses.

LONG LIVE THE QUEEN is out now! Look for it online and in stores everywhere. If you’re new to this series, check out the first book GOD SAVE THE QUEEN (US | UK | AUS).


Cover Reveal: THE REMAINING by D.J. Molles

We’re thrilled to share the stunning cover art for the first four books in D.J. Molles’ Remaining series, which follows Captain Lee Harden and a group of survivors as they fight to rebuild a devastated America. The eBooks of all four will be available from Orbit starting January 2014, with print additions coming out in successive months starting in May.

In the meantime here is a synopsis of the first book in the series, THE REMAINING….

In a steel-and-lead-encased bunker 20 feet below the basement level of his house, a Special Forces soldier waits for his final orders. On the surface, a plague ravages the planet, infecting over 90% of the populace.

The bacterium burrows through the brain, destroying all signs of humanity and leaving behind little more than base, prehistoric instincts. The infected turn into hyper-aggressive predators, with an insatiable desire to kill and feed.

Soon the soldier will have to open the hatch to his bunker, and step out into this new wasteland, to complete his duty: SURVIVE, RESCUE, REBUILD.

This gritty tale of survival and perseverance will enthrall fans of World War Z and The Walking Dead.

THE REMAINING (US | UK) – Paperback – May 2014, eBook January 2014
THE REMAINING: AFTERMATH  (US | UK) – Paperback – June 2014, eBook January 2014
THE REMAINING: REFUGEES (US | UK) – Paperback – July 2014, eBook January 2014
THE REMAINING: FRACTURED (US | UK)– Paperback – August 2014, eBook January 2014

Molles_TheRemaining-TP Molles_TheRemainingAftermath-TP.jpg

Molles_TheRemainingRefugees-TP.jpg Molles_TheRemainingFractured-TP.jpg

Cover design by Lauren Panepinto.

Goodreads Readers Choice Awards: Semifinal Rounds

The second round of voting for the 2013 Goodreads Choice Awards is officially open! Thanks to you, ANCILLARY JUSTICE, AMERICAN ELSEWHERE, and THE INFERNAL DEVICES: CLOCKWORK PRINCE have been added to the list of nominees via write-in decision. Below are the Orbit books up for a Readers Choice Award.

FantasyVOTE NOW!
A MEMORY OF LIGHT by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (UK | AUS)
THE CROWN TOWER by Michael J Sullivan (US | UK | AUS)
PROMISE OF BLOOD by Brian McClellan (US | UK | AUS)


Paranormal FantasyVOTE NOW!
COLD DAYS by Jim Butcher (UK | AUS)
FROST BURNED by Patricia Briggs (UK | AUS)
HUNTED by Kevin Hearne (UK | AUS)


Science FictionVOTE NOW!
EARTH AFIRE by Orson Scott Card & Aaron Johnson (UK | AUS)
ABADDON’S GATE by James S.A Corey (US | UK | AUS)

EARTH AFIRE Abaddon's Gate Leckie_AncillaryJustice_TP

PARASITE by Mira Grant – Parasite (US | UK | AUS)
AMERICAN ELSEWHERE by Robert Jackson Bennett (US | UK | AUS)

Grant_Parasite-HC Molles_TheRemainingFractured-TP.jpg Bennet_AmericanElsewhere_TP

Debut Goodreads Author - VOTE NOW!
PROMISE OF BLOOD by Brian McClellan (US | UK | AUS)


Graphic Novels & Comics - VOTE NOW!
THE INFERNAL DEVICES: CLOCKWORK PRINCE story by Cassandra Clare, art by Hyekyung Baek (UK | AUS)

Infernal Devices

The second round of voting closes on November 16th so don’t forget to cast your vote before then.

No author events near you this weekend?

You can still watch our online event, “A Night at the Space Opera,” on YouTube! Science fiction authors Daniel Abraham (James S.A. Corey), Ann Leckie, and Rachel Bach were joined by Scientific American associate editor Clara Moskowitz to talk about the genre and humanity’s future in space.

James S.A. Corey is the author of the Expanse series, starting with the Hugo Award nominated LEVIATHAN WAKES (US | UK | ANZ); the most recent book was ABADDON’S GATE (US | UK | ANZ). Look for CIBOLA BURN in June 2014!

Ann Leckie is the author of the debut novel ANCILLARY JUSTICE (US | UK | ANZ). io9 called it “the mind-blowing space opera you’ve been needing,” and NPR Books called it “assured, gripping, and stylish.”

Rachel Bach is the author of FORTUNE’S PAWN (US | UK | ANZ), which came out on Tuesday! Look for the sequel, HONOR’S KNIGHT (US | UK) in February 2014. She is also the author, as Rachel Aaron, of the Eli Monpress epic fantasy series.

Goodreads Readers Choice Awards: Opening Rounds

The first round of voting for the 2013 Goodreads Choice Awards is officially open! Below are the Orbit books we’re thrilled to see still on the list.

FantasyVOTE NOW!
A MEMORY OF LIGHT by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (UK | AUS)
THE CROWN TOWER by Michael J Sullivan (US | UK | AUS)
PROMISE OF BLOOD by Brian McClellan (US | UK | AUS)


Paranormal FantasyVOTE NOW!
COLD DAYS by Jim Butcher (UK | AUS)
FROST BURNED by Patricia Briggs (UK | AUS)
HUNTED by Kevin Hearne (UK | AUS)


Science FictionVOTE NOW!
EARTH AFIRE by Orson Scott Card & Aaron Johnson (UK | AUS)
ABADDON’S GATE by James S.A Corey (US | UK | AUS)

EARTH AFIRE   Abaddon's Gate

PARASITE by Mira Grant – Parasite (US | UK | AUS)

Grant_Parasite-HC   Molles_TheRemainingFractured-TP.jpg

Debut Goodreads Author
PROMISE OF BLOOD by Brian McClellan (US | UK | AUS)


The first round of voting closes on November 9th so don’t forget to cast your vote before then. This is also your only chance to write-in titles for the various categories. Let your voice be heard!

Rachel Aaron

If you look at the early reviews of my new novel, FORTUNE’S PAWN (out now, by the way! [US | UK | AUS]), you’ll find one word repeated over and over again: fun. This word also appeared in reviews of my fantasy series, THE LEGEND OF ELI MONPRESS (written as Rachel Aaron [US | UK | ANZ]), so much so that I was actually joking to my husband that I should call myself “Rachel Aaron, the fun author!”

And you know, I’m okay with that.

Fun is a seriously underrated novel component. There are plenty of serious books that make you cry or think in a different way or show you something beautiful and deep. I strive for all that in my works as well, but never at the cost of a good time. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a cathartic cry as much as the next person, but the books I come back to over and over again are the ones that left me smiling and exhilarated and hungry to read more.

Too often, we say “escapist reading” like it’s something lesser. Like we should be ashamed that we’re enjoying something just because it’s fun. I think that’s absurd. It’s like saying ice cream is lesser because all it does is taste delicious. We need delicious, because life is hard. Bad things happen even to the luckiest of us, and the world can too often be a stressful, dark, unfriendly, unkind place. A good, fun book is like an escape hatch from all that grim reality. It’s a safe space where we can run away and have a good, dramatic, thrilling time, and sometimes, when you really need to a respite, that can feel like a miracle.

Hearing someone had a blast reading my books is the greatest complement I can receive as a writer. I’m proud to be a trusted provider of quality life escape hatches. And while I can’t guarantee my story will change your world forever, I can promise that it’ll be one hell of a ride. So come have fun in my imagination. Let me entertain you. At the very least, you’ll never be bored.

FORTUNE’S PAWN is available now! Check out the first chapter here, and get ready for even more fun this Thursday. Rachel Bach will be joining authors Daniel Abraham (1/2 of the James S. A. Corey writing duo) and Ann Leckie tomorrow for an evening of science fiction, technology, and space opera. RSVP to the Google event today


I’m worried I may just forever paint myself as a hack by revealing this, but Haern the Watcher started off as nothing more than my own personal Drizzt Du’Orden clone. To those who’ve read my self-published book The Cost of Betrayal, where Haern made his first debut, this probably isn’t much of a surprise (nor to any of you who read my last post where I prattled on about how much I adored R.A. Salvatore). I had little of Haern’s backstory down in my head other than a few key highlights. He was meant to be the awesome swordfighter, the amazing dual-wielding blademaster that could take down any foe I needed to die, and who could train the main hero of the book in the art of battle. If I ever put my characters in a situation a bit too insane, I could always count on Haern to do something stupid/awesome to bail them out.

Well…people liked Haern. A lot, in fact. In that first book, he’d already established his fearsome reputation as the one willing to make the hard decisions even if others weren’t. He was brutal, but had a sarcastic sense of humor. Unstoppable in a fight, yet still shy around the girl he loved. Willing to go headfirst into a fight with a demigoddess… all because he tied a ribbon to a baby’s crib as a mark of his love and a promise of his protection. Honestly, there was a lot of me in him, peeking out from behind the badass persona, and that probably is what kept him from becoming a total caricature.

After two more books with Haern stealing the show, I decided to finally delve into Haern’s backstory. I had plenty of stuff to fill in, for the only real bit of his past I had revealed was that of his father, Thren Felhorn, and how Haern had turned against his brutal training and desires to craft him into the perfect assassin.

So with just that single key idea, of Haern as the son of Thren Felhorn, only to secretly rebel against him under a new name, I began writing A DANCE OF CLOAKS (US | UK | AUS). This was my chance, my way to figure out how such a rebellion might take place. Haern became Aaron Felhorn, a shy child growing up in his father’s shadow. His every day is spent preparing for the eventual takeover of his father’s criminal empire. Yet the influence of others, good men and women also entangled in Thren’s web, helped give Aaron a glimpse at something more, of a life where the strong protected the weak instead of preying upon them.

And then came A DANCE OF BLADES (US | UK | AUS) , fulfilling every bit of promise I’d begun with A DANCE OF CLOAKS. After Haern’s five hard years living on the streets of Veldaren, I finally had my chance to show him become the legend he was always meant to be. His mindless revenge and vigilantism would evolve into something greater. The hope that was always an important part of his character could flourish. I’d drag him up from the very gutters he slept in to take control of an entire city.  Yet he’d do it with friends at his side, relationships that would last long into the Shadowdance series and beyond. Suddenly I had a character who sought redemption for his reckless vengeance, who was willing to let go of his hatred and become a better man for his friends, who would risk his life to fulfill the total opposite of the destiny crafted for him by his father, not out of revenge, not out of pride, but simply because it was the right thing to do.

Suddenly I had a character who was no longer a Drizzt clone in my head. Now he was Haern, the Watcher of Veldaren and proud member of the Eschaton Mercenaries, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

Book two of the Shadowdance series, A DANCE OF BLADES, releases today! If you’re new to the series then check out this excerpt from the first book, and here’s the best news — you won’t have to wait long for the next novel once you’ve finished books one and two. A DANCE OF MIRRORS (US | UK | AUS), releases next month!

The Making of a Cover: Final Books (and video!)

Welcome to the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes, play-by-play account of how a cover is born, from the point of view of the Art Department. We’re charting the conception and birth of the Shadowdance series by David Dalglish.

So far we have talked about the first real step of a book, Acquisitionand then what goes into Cover Briefing. Then we let our minds wander and collect inspiration and form Directions for the cover. Then we agreed on a Photographer and Illustrator. We’ve even found our hero, the Cover Model. And we found a Trampoline for him to do stunt work on safely. We decked him out in book-specific Costume & Props. We spent all day at our Photo Shoot. We received the Rough Cuts, and while the illustrator was working, Kirk was developing the Design Roughs. Then we got the Final Retouched Illustrations in and got to the design on the Final Covers. And now, believe it or not, we’re at the end of our little cover art journey, and even though you’ve seen the final book designs in the last post, I give you a treat:

It’s been a pleasure taking you through the cover process for such a fun series. We really put a ton of work into all our covers here at Orbit, and I hope you’ve enjoyed peeking behind the curtain. I don’t think people realize quite how many moving parts, how many stages of work, and how many people make up the cover process. And remember, we’re doing a whole season’s worth of covers at once. Whew.

Thank you to amazing ninja Bryce Bermingham, Photographer Michael Frost and his team, Illustrator Gene Mollica, the team at Hollywood Stunts, our video guys Eric Westpheling and Louis Rebecchi, our prop makers and costume builders and everyone who had a hand in bringing these covers to life. Thanks also to Kirk Benshoff, my co-conspirator in Art Direction & Design. And of course, thanks to David Dalglish, who thought up such a cool concept for us to make a reality.

November Events

This weekend is World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, England, and the Orbit UK crew will be out in force! Good luck to all of the nominees for the World Fantasy Award.

November 1: Mira Grant’s PARASITE tour continues! B&N #2280, 401 NE Northgate Way #1100, Seattle, WA, 7 PM

November 2: Mira Grant’s PARASITE tour continues! B&N #2262, 12000 SE 82nd Avenue, Portland, OR, 2 PM

November 1-3: Marlene Perez at the Vegas Valley Book Festival

November 7: A Night at the Space Opera, a Google Hangout online event with James S.A. Corey, Ann Leckie, and Rachel Bach, 7:30 PM

November 9: Michael J. Sullivan at the Science Fiction Association of Bergen County, 7 PM

November 22: Several Orbit authors will be participating in Barnes & Noble’s “Discovery Friday,” a nationwide event with promotions and events at local stores!

Brent Weeks wins the David Gemmell Award!

We’re thrilled that Brent Weeks has won the David Gemmell Award for Best Fantasy Novel for his book THE BLINDING KNIFE (US | UK | ANZ).

New Orbit US author John Gwynne was also honored with the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Debut for his novel MALICE (US), which will be released in the US in December.

Congratulations, Brent and John!

Cover of Brent Weeks's THE BLINDING KNIFE.    Cover of John Gwynne's MALICE

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