I have enjoyed the Bannon & Clare books thoroughly. From inception to proofs, even when frustrated at the characters’ insistence on doing what they pleased instead of what I thought was proper, I have felt a secret little thrill of joy at each page.
No little of that joy comes from research—a huge canvas map of 1880s London hanging on my office wall, full of notes and dirty from my fingermarks, a shelf groaning under various Victoriana books and assorted notes stuffed in a binder covered with fleur-de-lis, long emails exchanged with various people about pepperbox pistols and gaslamps.
The other half comes from gleefully throwing research out the window and taking off into the wild blue yonder with only a guess and a prayer.
The longer a series goes on, the more choices one initially makes in the first flush of creation become…well, not quite a straitjacket, but foundation specs that need to be honored if a work is to have any internal consistency at all. In other words, you can have utter lunacy on the page, but it must be consistent lunacy.
I am certain there is much madness in any book of mine, but I do try to make it consistent. Part of that consistency is Emma Bannon’s character. She is female in a time and place that doesn’t allow women a great deal of leeway, and navigating through such a sea is a difficult thing. Her talents and business acumen make it both more and less difficult in varying ways, and she is most often the one to “rescue” Clare. That inversion, and the power dynamics between them, is fascinating for me.
Even though Archibald Clare is a mentath and a gentleman, he is not so much a hero as a socially awkward misfit unable to compromise his honour for advantage, and not really caring what the world thinks of him. Emma Bannon cares even less, but is forced to play the social games of a lady as if she did, because it makes things easier for her and those she protects. Neither of them are quite heroes, and I like that the usual “gendered” roles—rescuer and rescued, logic and emotion—for both of them shift and change all through the series.
Another area of consistent madness is the uneasy relationship between magic and Industrial Revolution technology in the series. I hesitated over calling the Bannon & Clare Affairs “steampunk” because to me, that’s an aesthetic, not a genre. I much prefer the term “alt-history,” especially since I know the exact moment their historical timeline diverged from our own less-magical (perhaps?) one.
Above all, though, I set out to tell some ripping good, exciting yarns. I hope I’ve succeeded. I did have plans for what I called “the traveling books”—Bannon & Clare in America, in Russia, in India during the Raj—but alas, those are not to be.
So I hope you enjoy The Riper Affair—and I hope my madness, so to speak, is consistent.
THE RIPPER AFFAIR (US | UK | AUS) is available now! Look for it online and in stores everywhere, and check this sample from the audio book read by Moira Quirk.
I’m very proud to present the cover for a phenomenal new novel we have coming from Ian Tregillis next March.
Ian’s novels have been described as:
‘Addictively brilliant’ i09
‘Eloquent and utterly compelling’ Kirkus
‘Exciting and intense’ Publishers Weekly
And now, The Mechanical (UK | US | ANZ) – in my humble opinion – is going to blow people’s minds.
Part science fiction, part fantasy and part alternate history, this book shows the incredible imagination of an exceptionally skilled author – or “a major new talent” in the words of George R. R. Martin.
It’s a novel that centers on a character called Jax – a mechanical man, or “Clakker”. His kind were created by the Dutch back in the 17th Century to serve their human masters. And an army of mechanical men like him have managed to make The Netherlands the most powerful nation in the world.
But these Clakkers are no more than slaves to human kind. And soon, Jax is going to make a bid for freedom – an act that will rock the world of the Brasswork Throne to its core . . .
It’s a truly stunning book. Intricately crafted, hauntingly atmospheric, and just gripping. You won’t want to miss this one.
My name is Jax.
That is the name granted to me by my human masters.
Today we are proud to release ARCANUM (UK | US | ANZ), a majestic standalone epic fantasy from none other than the Philip K. Dick award-winning Simon Morden.
Having won the prestigious award for his science fiction series starring deliciously sociopathic Russian genius Samuil Petrovitch, Simon has now turned his considerable intellect to fantasy. And what’s resulted is rather mind-blowing . . .
Imagine that long ago, the Roman Empire was crushed by wild spell-casting shamen.
Imagine that a thousand years later, a mighty kingdom has been founded on this formidable power – with magic their tool and their ultimate weapon.
The secret to Carinthia’s dominion is the Order of the Hexmasters, whose magic can power cities, build bridges and exterminate whole armies.
But then imagine taking this power away . . .
When the age of magic dies, the world will be ignited. Some believe that any act, no matter how horrific, is justified to bring the magic back. But some believe that when the magic has gone, the age of science will be born anew.
The twelve-year old Felix will be thrust onto the throne after his father’s demise, the fiery Nikoleta must wield her power carefully as the last remaining hexmaster, and the librarian Thaler believes that salvation lies in the knowledge stored in the great library of Carinthia . . .
Chaos and order, future and past, technology and superstition – all will clash with violence in the magnificent ARCANUM, out today.
‘An enthralling read for aficionados of intelligent, impeccably rendered fantasy’ Kirkus
‘A captivating novel as well as an interesting commentary on fantasy as a genre’ Tor.com
‘A masterful foray into an alternate universe . . . An engrossing rollercoaster of a plot winds up with a solidly satisfying climax that leaves the reader craving more’ Publishers Weekly
If you’re based in the UK and would like to celebrate the release with Simon and get hold of a signed copy, there will be a signing held at the Newcastle branch of Forbidden Planet on Saturday 15th February from 1-2pm.
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 Triptychis 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.
WOLFHOUND CENTURY released today in the US in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats. This brilliant debut by Peter Higgins is definitely one to check out so we’ve gone ahead and posted the first two chapters for you to read.
This alternate Russia shares similarities to the world we knew at the time of Stallin’s rise to power, but wild and mysterious magic has warped and changed the world in new and fantastic ways. “Sentient water, censored artists, mechanical constructs, old-fashioned detective work, and the secret police are all woven together in this rich and fascinating tapestry,” wrote Publishers Weekly in their starred review of the novel and that is only the tip of the iceberg. I encourage you to read this interview with Peter to find out more.
Praise for WOLFHOUND CENTURY:
“It has the suspense of classic spy thrillers, mixed with the strange and the bizarre found in any number of critically-acclaimed fantasists.” – Civilian Reader
“An alternate history that will grab you by the lapels and snap you to attention.” – io9.com
“Very dark, very gritty and very atmospheric. Wolfhound Century is also a book free of genre constraints, allowing for a great original and entertaining read. Top Notch stuff by Peter Higgins.” - The Founding Fields
In exactly one month from today, Peter Higgins’s brilliant debut WOLFHOUND CENTURY will be published here in the US. “Sentient water, censored artists, mechanical constructs, old-fashioned detective work, and the secret police are all woven together in this rich and fascinating tapestry,” wrote Publishers Weekly, and that’s only the beginning of the wonderful praise we’ve received for this novel.
Watch the trailer on our website and pre-order your copy of WOLFHOUND CENTURY today! You can also read the first five chapters on io9 right away.
This week sees the release of THE COLDEST WAR (UK | ANZ) , the second novel in Ian Tregillis’s landmark series, the Milkweed Triptych. The trilogy began with BITTER SEEDS (UK | ANZ) and concludes with the forthcoming NECESSARY EVIL (UK | ANZ).
These novels feature a secret history of Twentieth Century conflicts in which scientifically-enhanced superhumans and dark magic collide. The result is described by Fantasy Faction as ‘oh-so compelling, fascinating and frighteningly convincing’ and by Cory Doctorow as, ‘some of the best – and most exciting – alternate history I’ve read. Bravo.’
It’s possible to draw a few parallels between the themes in the Milkweed novels and Charles Stross’s highly popular Laundry Files (including the recent THE APOCALYPSE CODEX – UK | ANZ) – a series of science fiction spy thrillers featuring Bob Howard, once an IT geek, now a field agent working for a British government agency dealing with occult threats. They’re what SFX calls ‘beautifully handled, believable and well envisioned – a highly enjoyable bit of spy-fi.’
For that reason we were really interested to hear these two exceptionally clever Orbit authors in conversation about their series. The results are below!
Ian: In an afterword to THE ATROCITY ARCHIVES (“Inside the Fear Factory”) you mention that while writing the first Laundry novel you were advised to avoidTim Powers’s novel DECLARE. And that later you were made aware of the Delta Green supplement to The Call of Cthulhu RPG, which again resides in a similar neighborhood.
(After BITTER SEEDS debuted, people assumed I had been influenced by DECLARE, Delta Green, *and* the Laundry novels! But, like you with DECLARE, I wanted to avoid cross-contamination. So I didn’t dive into THE ATROCITY ARCHIVES until after I turned in THE COLDEST WAR, at which point I was 2/3 through the Milkweed trilogy and the story was on a ballistic trajectory.)
But of course even Powers wasn’t the first to marry espionage and the occult –Dennis Wheatley’s novel THEY USED DARK FORCES first appeared in 1964, and Katherine Kurtz‘s LAMMAS NIGHT was published in 1983, as just two examples.
In the above-mentioned afterword, you make a strong case for why it’s natural to blend horror, the occult, and espionage. So is this an idea that’s continually bubbling into the aether to be rediscovered by other writers? Or have we reached the point where we’re having a conversation within an actual subgenre?
Charlie: It is indeed an actual subgenre! Or maybe a sub-subgenre: a corner of that section of urban fantasy that is preoccupied with the interaction between agents of the state and the occult. Read the rest of this entry »
Ian Tregillis’s debut fantasy novel BITTER SEEDS (UK | ANZ) is a sinister reimagining of World War II events. In this supernatural alternate history, British forces use dark magics to hold back an invading army of Nazi superhumans. Orbit’s James Long put some questions to Ian on where he got his ideas from . . .
The premise of Bitter Seeds – Nazi super soldiers versus occult powers conjured up by British Warlocks – is unusual, to say the least! What was the original inspiration behind the story?
A number of years ago, around 2002 or 2003, I read a magazine article about a little-known Allied secret project during the Second World War called Project Habakkuk. Habakkuk was conceived during the height of the Battle of the Atlantic, when German wolf packs were destroying Allied shipping convoys. The idea – and this is one of those wonderful places where truth is so much stranger than fiction – was to build ships out of ice. It sounds mad but it’s actually a rather clever idea! Alas, for various reasons the project never made it past the prototype stage (Maybe because it is just a little bit mad.)
But I couldn’t get that image out of my head, of vast bergships plying the North Atlantic and changing the course of the war. So I began to wonder how the Axis might have responded if Habakkuk had been a success. A few days later, as I was driving to work, the answer hit me out of the blue: obviously, Ian, the Germans would have sent a pyrokinetic spy to sabotage the shipyards . . .