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Philip Palmer’s Breaking Point

Philip has been pretty busy recently, what with checking the proofs for Debatable Space and finishing the first draft of his next book for Orbit — it’s no wonder the strain is starting to tell . . . But seriously, Philip has been doing a huge amount of work in recent months for his new radio play for Radio 4, and you can catch this tonight from 9-10pm.

The play is entitled Breaking Point and is an insightful and powerful exploration into psychological manipulation, and how to ‘break’ people in interrogation. We see the story from an unusual perspective as we follow Jon Starkey, undergoing training to become a British Army interrogator. As the drama unfolds, we see the effects on him and his family as he joins the ‘war against terror’. Philip talks about the play on his blog and you can also find out more on Radio 4’s site.

If you miss the play on Friday, you can listen for a further week after broadcast, courtesy of Radio 4’s ‘listen again’ facility. Philip has also written an interesting piece on the making and recording of the play, an engaging read.

Radio 4 describes its Friday plays as “strong stories that reflect the world: entertaining, emotionally engaging and challenging” and Breaking Point will certainly be all of these things.

A Cultural Matter

Here’s a question: whose next SF novel features spaceships with the following names?

Now We Try It My Way

Experiencing a Significant Gravitas Shortfall

Subtle Shift in Emphasis

Liveware Problem

Don’t Try This At Home

You’ll Clean That Up Before You Leave

Without doubt one of the most highly anticipated SF novels to be published next year, Matter is the new novel from Iain M. Banks, the UK’s bestselling SF author. It’s a Culture novel — the first for 8 years — and Iain has just delivered the final manuscript. And I’ve just read it. And . . . WOW!!! (that’s a technical publishing term). Being a Culture novel, we’ve also got a whole heap of new Culture ship names to look forward to. My favourite today is Don’t Try This At Home. We’re scheduled to publish Matter in the UK and the US in February next year, and here’s a sneak peek of the cover:

Matter Cover

A Devil of a Short List

Mike Carey

Mike Carey
(photo: Charlie Hopkinson)

Much ecstatic piping on the tin whistle (Clarke original, key of D, natch) greeted the news that Mike Carey’s superb debut The Devil You Know, featuring freelance exorcist Felix Castor, has been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society’s August Derleth Award for Best Novel.

The award will be presented at Fantasycon in Nottingham this September, which Mike will be attending — along with fellow Orbit author Terry Brooks, who is one of the Guests of Honour.

You can read an extract of The Devil You Know here.

Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors, and our best wishes to Mike — everyone at Orbit is hoping for a well-deserved win for Felix Castor’s first outing.

Some Heart-y reviews for Glenda Larke

Heart of the Mirage by Glenda LarkeGlenda Larke’s latest book, Heart of the Mirage, has been getting some wonderful reviews of late:

This month’s Starburst gives it a five star rating and says “those looking for a ‘sense-of-wonder’ fix need look no further. Larke doesn’t conform to the cookie-cutter school of fantasy and has a talent for world building and a fondness for unstable landscapes . . . It’s also great fun”.

Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review thinks: “It is nice sometimes to break out of the typical medieval Fantasy City and go somewhere different. Larke accomplishes this by setting her tale in the equivalent of Ancient Rome and the deserts of Africa and decorates the proceedings with some stunning imagery in the process.”

And The Bookbag calls it: “highly enjoyable, this book’s got love, betrayal, skullduggery, espionage, adventure, magic, heartbreak and plenty more besides.”

Interested in taking a peek at the finest (and possibly only) book this year to feature heartbreak and skullduggery? You can check out a sample of the first chapter here, and find the book at all good bookstores and online retailers.

Orbit UK to Distribute Yen Press Manga

We’re delighted to announce that from September 2007, Orbit UK is going to be distributing titles from Yen Press, the new manga line set up by our sister company, Hachette Book Group USA. We’re extremely excited at this development, and are looking forward to the first titles being available next month.

You can find out more about Yen Press, and forthcoming titles, on their website.

You can read the official press release here (you’ll need Acrobat Reader, available free from this link).

A Rave of Reviews

We’ve had a number of excellent reviews for our titles this week:

SFDiplomat enjoys Sean William’s Saturn Returns: “Well-written, exciting and surprisingly smart despite being very accessible, it is genuinely difficult to find fault with.”

The Book Swede seems to have fallen in love with Karen Miller’s The Innocent Mage: “Intriguing, funny, well-written, and worthy of many more praising adverbs . . .With great characters, a world that becomes increasingly easy to visualise and a story that captured my imagination, this book is, well, excellent!”

The Gravel Pit discovers R Scott Bakker’s The Darkness That Comes Before: “I would say that characterisation is certainly one of the strengths of R Scott Bakker as a writer . . . reading this book felt like an intellectual challenge in some ways. One that I really cherished. I have not encountered any pacing problems throughout the novel, the narrative flow is pretty consistent . . . If I take the characterisation, prose, scope and world building and the fact that there is undoubtly still room for some improvement, into consideration I would rate it eight and a half out of ten.”

Finally, Clandestine Critic reviews Mike Carey’s The Devil You Know, described as: “a satisfying and engrossing read, with an interesting character in Felix Castor that makes me want to read more. I look forward to the next book in the series.”

A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy

No, not the Orbit Christmas Party (although . . . ); we’re talking about virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft and Second Life, which seem to be being invaded by a new wave of cyber-crooks. There have been two stories floating about teh Intarwebs recently, involving criminal action in Second Life. Why do we care? Apart from a deeply held concern for our fellow beings, obviously? Because Orbit author Charles Stross anticipated them both. Who says SF can’t predict the future?

In an amazing case of (second) life imitating art, this story circulated a little over a week ago, outlining the theft of $3.2 million Linden Dollars from Second Life. This is scarily close to the central theme of Charlie’s forthcoming Halting State. We don’t publish Halting State until January 2008, but remember Charlie wrote it last year, so it still counts as prophecy! And as if that wasn’t enough Nostradamus-like gazing through the veil of time, we just spotted this on the website of The Australian newspaper. Again, Mr Stross was there first. The advent of virtual terrorism was outlined in this article Charlie wrote for online gaming site Guildcafé last March.

At the risk of taking liberties with Oscar Wilde’s famous wit: to predict one future event can be seen as fortunate, to predict two begins to look like cleverness.

So, if you want to know what the future might look like, read Charles Stross. He can’t do the lottery numbers (we checked) but there are few better authorities on emergent technology and how it might affect our lives.

Winterbirth Review

Winterbirth by Brian RuckleyBrian Ruckley’s debut novel Winterbirth is out in the UK in paperback this month, and we’ve received our first review for that edition from Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review:

[W]hat a story it is! It has everything that a fan of high . . . fantasy could possibly want out of a book. Epic battles, mystical forests and long journeys with a hint of magic (but not too much!) waiting in the wings. I particularly liked the air of ambiguity that Ruckley gives his characters, they all have good reasons for doing what they do and believe that they are right. Faced with such certainty on all sides, the reader really has to think about what side they will support (if any) and this makes me really look forward to the next book and what will happen next. Winterbirth is not without its flaws but if you persevere with it then I think you’ll be in for a treat of a read. I’d say that Brian Ruckley is definitely going to be one to watch out for in the future.

You can read the full review here.

Virtual Convention

Some more convention news, this time from Australia: Conflux 4 takes place in Canberra from 28 September to 1 October. As part of the build up to Conflux 4, there’s a ‘virtual minicon’ taking place on 4-5 August on the convention forums. A number of the guests appearing at the main convention will be chatting online — there’s a full list here. Orbit authors taking part include Glenda Larke, Fiona McIntosh, Karen Miller and Karen Traviss.

Orbit at Alt.Fiction 2008

It’s still quite a long way off, but planning has already started for the Alt.Fiction event in Derby next April.

2007 was Orbit’s first year at the event, and we really enjoyed it: I appeared on a panel with literary agent John Jarrold and John Berlyne of sfrevu.com, Mike Carey did a workshop and a reading, and Iain M Banks rounded off the day in triumphant style with the first public reading from his forthcoming Culture novel, Matter (a covert recording of which turned up on YouTube shortly afterwards!).

After such a great experience, we were keen to return for the 2008 event, and I’m very pleased to say that we’ll be back there next April — so far, Orbit authors attending include Mike Carey, Philip Palmer and Brian Ruckley and Charles Stross. You can follow updates to the Alt.Fiction schedule at organiser Alex Davis’ blog.

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