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AGE OF IRON by Angus Watson

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Bloodthirsty druids and battle-hardened Iron Age warriors collide in the first volume of this action-packed historical fantasy trilogy.
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The second terrifying novel in the Parasitology series by New York Times bestselling author Mira Grant!
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Posts Tagged ‘christopher brookmyre’

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Ken MacLeod’s DESCENT is an alien abduction story for the twenty-first century set in Scotland’s near-future, a novel about what happens when conspiracy theorists take on Big Brother. It comes out in paperback this week, and we asked Ken what is is about Scotland that brings him, and other writers, back to it as a science fiction setting again and again.

Two months ago, Scotland was in what Charles Stross called ‘The Scottish Political Singularity’. The referendum made the entire political future so uncertain that even planning a near-future novel set in the UK had become impossible – not least because you couldn’t be sure there would still be a UK to set it in.

My novel Descent, just out in paperback, was written before the result looked close, but I was careful to leave the outcome of the then future referendum open to interpretation. In earlier novels such as The Night Sessions and Intrusion, I’ve also left it up to the reader to decide if the future Scotlands described are independent or not.

Preparing for a recent discussion on ‘Imagining Future Scotlands’ I realised that the majority of my novels are at least partly set in Scotland, or have protagonists whose sometimes far-flung adventures begin in Scotland. And it made me wonder why there haven’t been more. With its sharply varied landscape, turbulent history, and the complex, cross-cutting divisions of national and personal character which Scottish literature has so often explored, Scotland may inspire writers of SF, but as a location it features more often in fantasy.

The result is that there have been many Scottish writers of SF – including Orbit’s very own Michael Cobley, Charles Stross, and the late and much missed Iain M. Banks – but not many SF novels have been set in Scotland. Of those that are, quite a few are written from outside the genre, such as Michel Faber’s Under the Skin. Flying even more cleverly under the genre radar, Christopher Brookmyre has been writing what amounts to an alternate or secret history of contemporary Scotland – some of them, such as Pandaemonium, with SF or fantasy elements – for two decades. And within the genre, there are some well-regarded novels I haven’t read, notably Chris Boyce’s Brainfix. I can’t help feeling I’ve missed stacks of obvious books. If so, I look forward to being corrected in the comments.

Let’s start with straight, unarguable genre SF.

Halting State by Charles Stross is a police procedural set in a near-future independent Scottish republic. Unlike many fictional detectives, the heroine is married, and her wife understands her. The multi-viewpoint second-person narration, though disorienting at first, soon becomes transparent – you could say you get used to it – and apt for a novel set partly in a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. From the opening shots of a bank robbery in virtual reality, the story has you under arrest and briskly frogmarched along.

Time-Slip by Graham Dunstan Martin is a much grimmer vision of a future Scotland. Decades after a nuclear war, the Scottish Kirk has resumed its dour dominance of society. Our sympathy for the hero, a young heretic who founds a new religious movement on his rediscovery of the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, fades as the implications sink in. It’s a thought-through and engaging novel, sadly out of print, but easily available secondhand.

Not quite SF, but set in a (then) future with a deft touch or two of technological extrapolation, the political thriller Scotch on the Rocks is an old-school Tory take on an armed insurrection for Scottish independence. Sex and violence are never far away. Glasgow gangs and Moscow gold play a bit part behind the scenes. Given that it was written by Douglas Hurd and Andrew Osmond, this isn’t surprising. What is surprising is the sharpness of its insight into the issues that drive the independence movement, from cultural alienation through economic decline to nukes on the Clyde. The speeches, give or take the odd detail, could have been delivered this September.

Moving to fantasy, Alasdair Gray’s Lanark is often rightly cited as a landmark in Scottish literature. It was an avowed influence on Iain Banks’s The Bridge, the closest Iain ever came to writing SF set in Scotland. But my own favourite of Gray’s novels is Poor Things, a Scottish revisioning of Frankenstein that confronts the poor creature with the harsh self-confidence of the Victorian age and that age with her outraged innocence.

Michael Scott Rohan’s science-fantasy novel Chase the Morning starts in Scotland – or at least in a port very like Leith – and casts off for worlds unknown on an endless ocean, full of adventure and romance. Its striking image of the Spiral, in which ships magically sail upward beyond the horizon to farther seas in the sky, was inspired by the vista down the Firth of Forth. On some evenings looking down the Firth you can’t tell where the sea ends and the sky begins, or what’s a cloud and what’s an island. Like all good science fiction and fantasy, this novel and its sequels make us see the real world in a different light.

Finally, we shouldn’t forget Scotland’s abiding presence in the wider field: Victor Frankenstein built the mate for his creature on a remote Orkney island; the Mars mission that opens Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land had as its prime contractor the University of Edinburgh; and Star Trek‘s engineer Scotty was born in Linlithgow . . . a few miles from Scotland’s notorious UFO hotspot, Bonnybridge.

February Events

February 8
Mur Lafferty will be appearing at the Southwest Regional Library, Durham, NC, 3 PM

February 13
M.R. Carey will appear at Topping & Company Booksellers, Bath, 8 PM

February 14-16
Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire) is Guest of Honor at Boskone in Boston, MA! Mur Lafferty will also be attending.

February 15
Simon Morden will be signing ARCANUM at Forbidden Planet Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, at 1 PM

February 17
Christopher Brookmyre will be discussing BEDLAM at Primavera Bistro, The Avenue at Newton Mearns, 7:30 PM

February 20
M.R. Carey will appear at Waterstones Liverpool One, Liverpool, at 6 PM

February 21-23
Gail Z. Martin will be attending MystiCon in Roanoke, VA.

Should You Stop Playing Video Games?

Bedlam by Christopher BrookmyreRoss Baker, the star of Christopher Brookmyre’s high-octane science fiction thriller, BEDLAM (UK|ANZ), can’t stop playing computer games. That’s because he’s trapped inside one.

The BEDLAM paperback comes out today, and to celebrate, we’ve teamed up with RedBedlam and Alienware for a fantastic BEDLAM-themed giveaway.

You could win one of six pieces of signed concept art from the upcoming BEDLAM computer game, or the Alienware X51, a gamer’s dream piece of hardware. If you’re based in the UK, head over to Chris’s blog to see the concept art and find out how to enter.

Chris and Orbit have also compiled this handy list, so you know when you’ve played too many computer games:

1. When you spot a CCTV camera, you flinch in case it’s directing a gun turret.

2. You notice a discoloured carpet tile, so you stomp on it in case it’s a pressure pad for opening  a secret area.

3. You are at the supermarket. Someone gets to the last frozen pizza before you. You call them “a camping b*stard”.

4. At work, your boss asks why you’re not getting as good results as your colleague. You explain that this is only because he’s got a lower ping than you.

5. You visit the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Staring up at Michelangelo’s handiwork on the ceiling, you are moved to remark: “Mmm. Nice textures.”

6. You’re watching Match of the Day. Man United notch up another bloody victory. You shout at the telly and accuse them of using bots.

7. Your date turns up wearing a new outfit. You say: “Hey, I dig the new skin.”

8. You’ve heard about a fantastic new novel called BEDLAM, so you know it’s time to put down the controller and pick up a paperback for a while. Now, where’s that save point?

Happy Valentine’s Day from Orbit!

In the spirit of the day, here’s Christopher Brookmyre’s Ode to a Gamer! (We’re still giggling at the last lines.)

An Ode to a Gamer, by Christopher Brookmyre

Christopher Brookmyre’s Game-Changing Moments

BEDLAM by Christopher BrookmyreWe’ve just released BEDLAM, where Ross Baker, an overworked scientist from Scotland, is shocked to wake up inside what seems to be one of his childhood favourite computer games – a mad, violent world where cyborgs fight humans and skies are filled with explosive space battles. How did he get there, and how will he ever escape? Read Christopher Brookmyre’s BEDLAM (UK|ANZ) to find out!

We asked Chris about the moments in his gaming history that shocked him, where he had felt a little like Ross, thrust into a hyper-real world he’d never experienced before, and this is what he had to say . . .

Game-changers: Five era-defining moments in my personal playing history:

JET SET WILLY – Freedom!

Up until this point, the games I played had taken place in environments contained within a single screen, which had to be completed before the player was rewarded with access to the next one. MANIC MINER, adored though it was, had followed this model, meaning that players became grindingly over-familiar with the early levels, traversing them over and over again in their quest to glimpse virgin territory, usually for about three seconds before being killed. MANIC MINER’S legendary sequel allowed the player to roam free, exploring anywhere their split-second timing allowed them to reach. Willy’s mansion consequently felt like a true place rather than a sequence of screens, even if it didn’t quite geometrically add up.

POPULOUSI can haz earthquake?

Half-Life: "When I looked down, spotting that a grenade had been lobbed over and landed at my feet, I realised things were never going to be the same."

Half-Life: “When I looked down, spotting that a grenade had been lobbed over and landed at my feet, I realised things were never going to be the same.”

An early wonder of the Commodore Amiga, POPULOUS effectively created the genre of the ‘god game’. For the first time, instead of navigating an environment, the player could shape it: raising the land, flattening mountains, raining down vulcanism and, of course, being worshipped by your people.

QUAKEPhysics can be fun.

Its story was back-of-a-fag-packet stuff and its visual design was a confused mismatch, but none of that mattered much when you were flying through the air, courtesy of your own splash-damage, blazing death upon your enemies below while you followed the graceful arc of your rocket jump. DOOM gave us a convincing first-person perspective, but QUAKE was the first game to be truly three-dimensional, memorably showcasing its physics early in the game with the low-gravity secret level, Ziggurat Vertigo.

HALF-LIFEWho gave you permission to think?

By the late Nineties, the AI in even the most advanced games meant that enemies seldom bothered following you out of a room. They would wait, patiently and politely, for you to come back and resume hostilities. I recall following the usual protocol the first time I encountered the enemy soldiers in the Black Mesa Complex: quickly ducking behind a stack of crates while I readied myself for an offensive. When I heard a clunk and looked down, spotting that a grenade had been lobbed over and landed at my feet, I realised things were never going to be the same.

DOOM 3Mummy, can I have the lights on?

Contrary to the impressions given by years of moral panic and tabloid hysteria, I’d never thought a video game could be genuinely frightening. My own imagination imbued various games with atmosphere over the years, and I still remember a few well-designed jump-scares in QUAKE 2, but the idea of being terrified by sprites, pixels and polygons was absurd. Then came DOOM 3, with its constant steam-choked darkness, penetrable only by a flashlight which you had to hold instead of a gun. I recall playing the game late at night with the lights off and my headphones on, but not for long. I think there are still stains on the chair.

Doom 3 - "A flashlight? This is meant to be the future, where the frak's my night-vision?"

Doom 3 – “A flashlight? This is meant to be the future, where the frak’s my night-vision?”

BEDLAM is Released: Let the Games Begin . . .

Infamous Scottish crime writer Christopher Brookmyre launches into the world of science fiction today with BEDLAM (UK|ANZ) – a first person shooter of a novel – a thought-provoking, funny look at what it really means to be human in the 21st Century. Want to know more? Here’s what everyone’s saying about it!

“A fascinating, fast-paced but thoughtful blend of science fiction and techno-thriller”Iain M. Banks

“Funny jokes, characters you can empathise with and devastatingly employed swearwords.” Ed Byrne

“It’s warm, funny, excellently violent and highly recommended.  Game on.”  – SCIFI NOW

“Brookmyre hits another high score with this brilliant, fast-paced nightmare.”Charles Stross

 Christopher Brookmyre's BEDLAM

PRISON OR PLAYGROUND?  

Ross Baker is an overworked and underpaid scientist developing medical technology for corporate giants Neurosphere, but he’d rather be playing computer games than dealing with his nightmare boss or slacker co-workers.

One rainy Monday morning he volunteers as a test candidate for the new tech – anything to get out of the office for a few hours. But when he gets out of the scanner he discovers he’s not only escaped the office, but possibly escaped real life for good. He finds himself trapped in Starfire – the violent sci-fi video game he spent his teenage years playing – with no explanation, no back-up and most terrifyingly, no way out.

Would it be your ultimate fantasy to enter the world of a video game? Or would it be your worst nightmare? This is where you find out if you’re in a prison or a playground.

This is BEDLAM.

Read an extract on the Orbit website, check out Chris’s website or follow Chris on twitter at @cbrookmyre. And if you still need more Christopher Brookmyre in your life, keep checking the BEDLAM tag on the blog, as we’ve got some fantastic guestposts lined up this month!

This is BEDLAM

Feast your eyes on this cover for Christopher Brookmyre’s amazing SF novel – BEDLAM! (UK|ANZ) Cover design by Mark Swan and Nico Taylor.

The cover of BEDLAM shows a man falling into a vortex

Would it be your ultimate fantasy to enter the world of a video game? A realm where you can fly space-ships, shoot zombies and slay dragons, yet all of it feels completely real.
Or would it be your worst nightmare? Stuck in an endless state of war and chaos where the pain feels real and from which not even death can offer an escape . . .
This is where you find out if you’re in a prison or a playground.
This is BEDLAM.

Coming February 2013.

“Like the best Science Fiction books, Bedlam utilises an alternative reality to pose deep philosophical questions about the human condition. Like the best Christopher Brookmyre books it also has funny jokes, characters you can empathise with and devastatingly employed swear words . . .” – comedian Ed Byrne

http://www.brookmyre.co.uk/

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