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A useful graphic guide to all the art referenced in The Last Days of New Paris

1-nTYYIBfQEtBLS5qYsQ2XngI had to share this link. A China Miéville fan has put together a collection of all the Surrealist artwork referenced in the new novella, The Last Days of New Paris. It should definitely help with imagining the manifs roaming the streets of Paris.

The guide is arranged by page number, so you can use it alongside the appendix of artworks included in the book.

Check it out here!

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China Miéville has a non-fiction book about the Russian revolution coming out in 2017

No news on China Miéville’s next novel yet, but here’s something: he has a non-fiction book called October: The Story of the Russian Revolution (Amazon link) coming out in May 2017.

It will be published by Verso Books, who describe themselves as “the largest independent, radical publishing house in the English-speaking world”. There’s already some cover art:

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I’m not sure if this will be high on my reading list even though it’s my favourite author writing it. Well, who knows? I have been meaning to read more history, after all…

If you want to know more about the Russian revolution now, you could always visit the Wikipedia article. Oh, and it looks like the book’s publication is well timed — next year will be the 100th anniversary of the revolution!

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UK and limited-press cover art for The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville

China Miéville’s newest novella, The Last Days of New Paris, is out now from US publisher Del Rey. I’m working my way through it slowly (I don’t have a lot of time for reading lately, but for the latter half of this year I’m hoping to return to my previous pace!) and it’s pretty interesting. I might review it here when I’m done — no promises though.

Anyway, I just wanted to share some cover art for the book that has surfaced recently. First, the UK cover art for the edition to be published early in 2017, by Picador. I have no idea why the UK gets it so much later than the US, when the opposite is usually the case for Miéville (and most British authors). Here’s the cover, anyhow:

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It reproduces an “exquisite corpse” collage by surrealist artist André Breton and some of his contemporaries. I must note that this artwork is included in the US edition anyway, in the front pages of the story (and in black and white). I think it’s alright as a cover artwork, but it may turn some regular fantasy readers off.

The other new cover art is from Subterranean Press’s limited edition, and like several previous China Miéville books they’ve published, it’s illustrated by Vincent Chong:

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Exceedingly creepy. I haven’t got to the portion of the novel this is illustrating yet, but I assume it’s based off another piece of surrealist art. The horror-like tone doesn’t particularly match the tone of the novel, I must say. But it’s still fascinating to look at.

That’s all for now. Perhaps I’ll be back in a while with some book reviews and other content! If you’re still with me during this drought of posts, thanks for your loyalty!

I am an Amateur of Velocipedes 1941 Leonora Carrington 1917-2011 Purchased 2004 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T11910

The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville – new description, first review, and free sample!

I am an Amateur of Velocipedes 1941 by Leonora Carrington 1917-2011The US release of The Last Days of New Paris is coming up in August, although the UK release is strangely not until early 2017. I asked the publisher why this was, and got this answer: “We are indeed publishing at the beginning of 2017. While the UK often publishes alongside American editions, we sometimes work to different schedules. I hope that makes sense.”

Oh well. China Miéville’s dedicated fans will just order it from the US, so it’s Pan Macmillan’s loss. Anyway, there’s been a blitz of information about the book lately! Read ahead to whet your appetite for the new book.

Firstly, a new description of the novel (well, it’s closer to a novella in length) from Subterranean Press:

“In Paris you had to be ready to fight art and the Hellish—not to mention Nazis…”

Multiple-award-winning China Mieville’s extraordinary novel The Last Days of New Paris is a door into the heart of a twentieth century that never was, that always was. The hinges it turns on are surrealism and anti-Fascism and occultism, oiled by vivid prose that startlingly mines art and poetry for its images. The story it opens to reveal combines mystery and adventure, philosophy and revolution.

Here is the American Jack Parsons in 1941 Marseilles, navigating a tangle of competing wartime powers incapable of containing the chaos of wartime Europe. A student of the occult, he encounters fleeing surrealist thinkers, and something extraordinary is born in the cauldron of his imagination.

Here is the resistance fighter Thibaut in 1950 Paris, struggling to survive and fight on in a city haunted by manifs, manifestations from the dreams and nightmares of the century’s most fertile imaginations. These manifs are in conflict with hellspawn called up by Nazi officer-priests.

By turns heartbreaking and breathtaking, this book conjures a world that demands attention, and tests loyalties to concepts as fundamental as reality itself. Here is a tour de force of imagination, here is a crescendo of thought, here, at last, is the exquisite corpse. Here is The Last Days of New Paris, an unmissable new novel by a modern master of the fantasic.

Secondly, the first review of the book is online, from Publishers Weekly as usual. Follow the link for the whole thing. I’m intrigued by the focus on surreal art from the era. It’s bringing up memories of the first university degree I did, in fine arts & media. (If you’re wondering, the artwork accompanying this blog post is the one mentioned in the review, An Amateur of Velocipedes, by the way.)

Thirdly, the US publisher Del Rey is offering a free ebook sampler of its upcoming titles, which includes an excerpt from The Last Days of New Paris. Unfortunately it’s only available to US readers. I’ve tried to download it myself with no luck. If anyone downloads it, let me know what the sample was like, and how long it is.

That’s all for now. I’m sure you’re as excited for the book as I am. Make sure you study up on your art history for August 9th!

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First proper description of Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

planet-crackedAlastair Reynolds’ new novel Revenger arrives in August, and the new plot description is very exciting. I found it on Bookdepository.com. Here’s what it’s all about:

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilisations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.

And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them …

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded with layers of protection – and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future – a tale of space pirates, buried treasure and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism … and of vengeance …

This could end up being my favourite of Reynolds’ universes to date, with its mix of alien ruins, piracy, and a seemingly Firefly-like vibe. I’m dying to read this book.

There’s also, of course, the collection Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds, coming out in June or July (depending on the publisher). Oh and it seems that The Medusa Chronicles (co-written by Reynolds and Stephen Baxter) is out now in the UK. I’ll need to look into ordering it!

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Is This Census-Taker set in Bas-Lag?

this-census-taker-bas-lagIt’s been out for quite a while, but I just recently got around to reading China Miéville’s latest book, the novella This Census-Taker. It was a really quick read, at just 130 pages, and I very much enjoyed it, although I wish it had been longer and explored the setting a bit more.

That, I think, was the only drawback of the book: Miéville revels in describing fantastic worlds — it’s his biggest strength as a writer, in my opinion — so for him to take such a restrained approach with This Census-Taker means that I’m left feeling the tiniest bit deprived. I wish Miéville had expanded the end, and unveiled more and more of this weird world. I wish we could have seen the narrator’s full journey from his childhood to the “present day” from which he tells his story.

Maybe the reason I’m feeling deprived is because I think I started to uncover some clues throughout the story, but they never added up to a satisfying answer. These clues were inserted sparsely in description and dialogue, and they pointed to the unearthliness of the setting. A fanboyish part of me started to think that maybe they were pointing in a particular direction, one that the real fans would recognise. You can probably guess where I’m going with this — I mean, I made it the title of this blog post.

* * * * *

In lieu of a real book review I’m going to talk mostly about the setting of the work. I’m no literary critic, so I couldn’t begin to unpack here the deeper meaning of the work, the potential allegory and metaphor and themes propping up the story. There are probably a hundred reviewers who have already done that, and I plan to find their reviews later and read my way to a better understanding of the novella.

What I really want to do in this post is just nerd out a bit, and examine those clues I talked about. I want to see if I can structure an argument to convince myself, let alone anyone else, of my hunch. I really want to ask the question: is This Census-Taker set in Bas-Lag?

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Checking in with some Alastair Reynolds news

Beyond_the_Aquila_Rift_by_Alastair_Reynolds_tradeI’ll be quick, it’s late here and I’m tired. My new job is good, but it’s quite draining. Tonight I’m bringing you just a few pieces of info about some upcoming work by Alastair Reynolds:

  1. Subterranean Press has an alternate dust-jacket for Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds, for the trade hardcover edition. I personally like Reynolds’ own cover more, but that’s quite a bit pricier.
  2. Reynolds has put a very short excerpt of his upcoming novel Revenger on his blog. I haven’t read it because I want to go into the novel completely fresh! Although, I have noticed a new bit of description on the Amazon UK page that describes the novel like so: “A superb SF adventure set in the rubble of a ruined universe, this is a deep space heist story of kidnap, betrayal, alien artefacts and revenge.” A Reynolds space-opera heist? Yes please.
  3. He’s also revealed that he’s sold two new short works, both set in universes of earlier works: “Belladonna Nights”, set in the House of Suns universe, and the longer (maybe novella-length) “The Iron Tactician”, in the Merlin universe. Both settings are incredible, so these will be a treat.

I hope those tidbits have whetted your appetites. I’ll be back soon with a book review or two, and I have some interesting posts on both Reynolds and China Miéville planned!

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A third China Miéville book for 2016! It’s a picture book!

WorstBreakfast-560x800Hold the goddamn presses! I just stumbled across a third book by China Miéville due to be published this year, on Amazon. But it’s not a novel, it’s a children’s picture book called The Worst Breakfast. I also found the official publisher’s page.

Now don’t get too hyped: it’s only 32 pages long and supposedly aimed at 3-7 year olds — not exactly Miéville’s usual fanbase. But still, more work by our favourite author is always newsworthy. Here’s the slightly odd description:

Two sisters sit down for breakfast, and one remembers a really gross breakfast they once had, and reminds her sister about it. But her little sister doesn’t remember. So then she starts describing all of the really gross things that were in the worst breakfast they ever had, until all they can picture is a table piled sky-high with the weirdest, yuckiest, grossest, slimiest, slickest, stinkiest breakfast two kids can ever have. And then they have a really good breakfast.

The illustrations will be by Zak Smith, previously known for the interestingly-titled body of work Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow. His style seems like it would fit with Miéville’s penchant for urban grittiness — and damn, does that cover look cool!

The book is out on October 4th.

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A new official description of The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville

9780345543998We now have the official description for China Miéville’s upcoming novel The Last Days of New Paris, from the US publishers Random House.

Read it right here:

A thriller of war that never was—of survival in an impossible city—of surreal cataclysm. In The Last Days of New Paris, China Miéville entwines true historical events and people with his daring, uniquely imaginative brand of fiction, reconfiguring history and art into something new.

“Beauty will be convulsive. . . .”

1941. In the chaos of wartime Marseilles, American engineer—and occult disciple—Jack Parsons stumbles onto a clandestine anti-Nazi group, including Surrealist theorist André Breton. In the strange games of the dissident diplomats, exiled revolutionaries, and avant-garde artists, Parsons finds and channels hope. But what he unwittingly unleashes is the power of dreams and nightmares, changing the war and the world forever.

1950. A lone Surrealist fighter, Thibault, walks a new, hallucinogenic Paris, where Nazis and the Résistance are trapped in unending conflict, and the streets are stalked by living images and texts—and by the forces of Hell. To escape the city, he must join forces with Sam, an American photographer intent on recording the ruins, and make common cause with a powerful, enigmatic figure of chance and rebellion: the Exquisite Corpse.

But Sam is being hunted. And new secrets will emerge that will test all their loyalties—to each other, to Paris old and new, and to reality itself.

That just sounds amazing. It could be Miéville’s most political and most complex novel yet, and I’m beyond excited. It’s out on August 9th!

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Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds — first cover art and full contents!

Oh look! Subterranean Press has officially announced this year’s massive career-spanning collection of Alastair Reynolds’ short stories and novellas, titled Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds. It’s a whopper of a book, about 250,000 words (or 768 pages) of quality SF material. It’s automatically a must-buy for me. Let’s break down the details of the announcement, starting with some cover art:

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That striking artwork is, I assume, exclusive to Subterranean Press’s limited edition (the cover for Gollancz’s UK edition is sure to follow soon). I’m not sure off the top of my head whether the image is from a particular story, but I like it a lot. Weirdly, the full title isn’t on the cover, but maybe this is just a draft version.

Next up, let’s look at the contents (which are listed on the book’s purchase page). First, it’s strange that only eighteen stories are listed (plus story notes at the end), considering Gollancz’s original book description said the collection would feature twenty. Also, that description named “Signal to Noise” as one of the included stories, but that story is nowhere to be found in the released table of contents. I’m not sure if this means that Gollancz will include two more stories in their edition (“Signal to Noise” being one of them), or if the final contents have been trimmed down at the eleventh hour. We’ll have to wait until Gollancz reveals the details of their edition to find out. For now, let’s examine the Subterrean Press edition’s table of contents.

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It’s 2016! Here’s some Alastair Reynolds release dates

aquilaHappy new year! Time for a quick update on those Alastair Reynolds release dates for this year. To read more about what’s in store from Reynolds in 2016, check out the round-up I did last year.

First up, on May 19th, is The Medusa Chronicles by Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter. This collaboration should be interesting. I’ll talk more about the original story that it’s based on in the coming weeks, but if you like you can go and read the first five chapters now!

Then, less than a month later on June 16th, we’ll get the “best of” collection, now titled Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds. Hopefully a table of contents will be announced soon, but if you’re interested in what I think will be in it, check out this earlier post.

Finally, on September 15th, there’s a brand new novel called Revenger. It’s not connected to any previous work, and so far all the info the publisher has released is the following:

This is a superb, punchy, action-packed caper from one of the greatest contemporary SG novelists. Fast-paced and accessible, it’s character and story focused and promises to be an incredible SF ride.

Well, cool! Anyway, that’s three great books to look forward to from just one author I love. There’s so much else to look forward to in 2016.

As for my blog this year, I will continue talking about the books I’m reading (I’m running late on wrapping up my 2015 reads, ugh). In the next month or so I’ll get my hands on This Census-Taker by China Miéville, so there might be a review for that. Other than that, I’ll just see how things come. I’m starting an awesome new job in a few weeks so I’ll be pretty busy, but it’s not the kind of job where I’ll have to take work home, so I anticipate plenty of time for reading and blogging.

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We already have the US cover art for The Last Days of New Paris!

That was quick! This new China Miéville novel is supposedly coming out in August next year, but US publisher Random House has already locked in the cover art, which you can see below. They don’t have an official description of the book yet, which usually comes first, but you can read one from a Chinese literary agency in a previous post of mine. Here’s the cover:

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I’m so excited for an alternate-history novel from my favourite author!

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An exclusive new China Miéville short story available right now in StoryBundle

bestiaryStoryBundle currently has a bundle of ebooks curated by weird fiction experts Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, and it includes a new China Miéville short story you can’t get anywhere else digitally!

One of the books in this month’s selection is The Bestiary, that anthology I talked about ages ago. Turns out I got it wrong back then, Miéville is just a contributor, not the book’s illustrator. The book is made up of stories about weird and wonderful creatures, arranged A-Z, with Miéville contributing at the end for an “invisible letter”.

I have no idea what his story is about, or how long it is. But you only need to pay $15 (USD) to unlock every book in that bundle, so you’ll definitely be getting value for money! I should note that the ebook of The Bestiary is, for now, exclusive to this bundle, and that the hardcover is rather pricey to say the least.

It looks like the bundle is available until the end of December (so if you stumble across this post in 2016, you’re out of luck), and as usual with this sort of thing, you can adjust how much money goes to the writers, how much to charity, and how much to StoryBundle themselves.

Check out the bundle page. Clicking out each book cover gives you the description and other info; and for The Bestiary, you can read the book’s introduction. Remember, if you decide to go for the bundle, to spend at least $15 to unlock every book!

If you snap up the bundle, please let me know in the comments here what you thought of the Miéville story! Me, I might have to wait a while, all my money is going towards Christmas presents at the moment.

 

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Limited edition cover art for This Census-Taker

This is better than what we saw yesterday. Check out the nifty limited edition cover art of China Miéville’s new novella, illustrated by Vincent Chong:

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Very cool. I love the damaged photograph look, and the little details — for instance, why is the census taker carrying a gun?

The limited edition of the novella is available through Subterranean Press for $45 USD.

Just a side note: this is my 100th post for this blog! It’s kind of amazing that I’ve reached that milestone. I hope I can continue to bring content about the books and authors I love, well into the future.

EDIT: Okay, this is weird, I just found more artwork for This Census-Taker on Amazon:

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It’s for the US Kindle edition, released in March. It might also be the paperback cover, but I’m not sure. It’s different to everything else released so far, and pretty visually interesting! It’s apparently a draft, so I’m not sure if it will end up being used. I hope it is, though.

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The UK cover art for This Census-Taker is boring

Snore. Picador (the UK literary imprint handling China Miéville’s next book) have chosen to go with the same photograph for the cover of This Census-Taker that Random House did in the US. Check it out below, and compare it to the US cover art.

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At least the typeface is better than the “let’s see what Photoshop’s default fonts are like” look of the US cover.

It’s a real shame that this book breaks the unified look that Crush Creative had been producing for the last five years, in the UK and Commonwealth. That’s what happens when you shift your SF/F author to another imprint, I guess — is it calculated to distance Miéville’s new works from his genre fiction roots? I wonder what will happen for The Last Days of New Paris.

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I may have a bit of a book problem…

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Looks nice, doesn’t it? I wanted to share some photos of the books I just sorted and shelved. I just moved in with my partner, which involved packing and transporting hundreds and hundreds of books, and trying to find room for them in our new place. Sadly though, the shelves pictured represent only about half of my total collection, and I really would rather not have to buy more bookcases.

Using my Goodreads account and some good old fashioned guessing, I would estimate that I have somewhere in the realm of 800 physical books… and I’m not sure this includes things like comics, textbooks, reference books, and so on. My partner has at least half this number himself, so our living room is totally stuffed, and I still have boxes of books I haven’t opened yet — as well as more boxes and shelves at my parents’ places!

cubeshelvesIt’s getting a bit ridiculous, frankly. My reading rate isn’t the greatest. I’m getting through 30 or 40 books a year, and I’m buying a similar number of new books each year. So I know for certain that there are books I’ve bought that I’ll never get around to reading, as well as ones I’ve read that I’m holding onto that I’ll never get the chance to re-read.

It’s time to do a big cull, I think. It’s going to be heartbreaking in some cases, and I’m worried my hoarder tendencies will rear their head when it comes time to sort through them. But I’m making a few goals and rules:

  • First, my short-term or “starter” goal is to donate 50 books to my city’s next big charity book fair, which is in February.
  • Then, I aim to cull at least another hundred by the end of 2016. I’ll offer all the titles up to friends first (a list on Facebook, giving people a month or so to claim books) before I take them to donate. Trying to sell most of these books is more trouble than it’s worth.
  • Easiest to get rid of will be second-hand paperbacks and crappy mass-market books, especially novels. These I can easily find in a library or get on Kindle.
  • Tougher will be newer books, especially ones I’ve bought in hardcover. I’ll have to decide which are really worth keeping around in physical form rather than going the Kindle route. I’ll have to set aside the price factor of some of them — they may have been expensive, but that money is long spent. It’s in the past, I need to let go.
  • I have more than a few duplicates too, from an era when I was terrified I would read a book to pieces and not have a backup copy. You can see multiple copies of some of China Miéville’s books in the second photo, for instance. But there’s no point in keeping these duplicates now that I have every Miéville book on my Kindle. I can get ebook backups for most of my favourites now!
  • Books exempt from my cull: ones by my favourite authors, ones I’ve bought recently that I know I’ll get to soon, collector’s editions, art and reference books, signed books, rare/out-of-print books.
  • Books I buy in the future will, more often than not, be on Kindle. This counts especially for things like novels, which are just straightforward pieces of text. When books have nice layouts and images and so on, that’s when it’s worth getting a physical copy.

I don’t intend to go minimalist, though. I’m still happy to have a good 300-400 books sitting around that I really love. But I need to justify their permanent place in my life. The day I can fit everything I own onto the shelves pictured above, I will be satisfied. (Okay, maybe I’ll treat myself to one more bookcase from Ikea…)

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SFF180’s video review of This Census-Taker

There’s one more review of China Miéville’s new novella that I want to share, this time by the excellent Youtube book reviewer Thomas Wagner, on his channel SFF180. Watch it below, unless you don’t wish to know minor spoilers about the storyline and setting:

There’s also a text version of this review at Wagner’s website.

I’ve read/watched multiple reviews of this novella now but I’m still hazy as to exactly what the shape of the plot is, and whether you really could consider it a genre work at all. It sounds like a very nebulous — even unsatisfying — story, and my excitement is just a little dampened. Still, there’s also the novel The Last Days of New Paris to look forward to next year I suppose.

SFF180 is a really great Youtube channel, by the way (in fact I’ve blogged about it before). Wagner updates regularly, not just with reviews but also with editorial content, news about awards and the like, and weekly “Mailbag” shows which spotlight upcoming titles. You should subscribe to his growing channel; when he reaches 2000 subscribers, he promises to take viewers on a tour of his extensive library!

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The first reviews of This Census-Taker are starting to appear

9d9bbc75b841c351fd8ac64f9f70a3dbI’ll keep it quick: advance copies have been out for a few weeks, and some reviews of the long-awaited new novella by China Miéville are finally trickling onto the net.

A Goodreads user named Mike was the very first, according to my daily googling (yes, I’m that obsessed). Check out his review here! He liked it, calling it “dark” and a “suspenseful tale of a murder that may or may not have happened”. There are some minor spoilers about the setting and SF/F elements of the story, so heads up if you care to stay in the dark about those.

The first professional review is by Kirkus Reviews, which you can read here. They call the novella “brief and dreamlike”, and describe a bit more about the story’s setting, the events that happen, and the narrator. Again, minor spoilers.

I have to admit, as an enormous fan of Miéville’s biggest and most bombastic novels such as The Scar, that this doesn’t sound like it’ll be entirely up my alley. I’ve always preferred stories with strong, clear fantasy worldbuilding over vague, magical-realism-inflected tales. The fact that in the UK the more literature-focused imprint Picador is publishing this, shows that this will be unlike any of Miéville’s other works to date.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Miéville has shown time and time again that he can draw almost any genre from a hat and make it his own. I still look forward to this book!

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Minor China Miéville update, including another description for This Census-Taker

House-on-the-hillA few things to mention today. First, the good people at Subterranean Press have put up a pre-order page for the limited edition of This Census-Taker. It’ll have artwork by Vincent Chong, who has illustrated quite a few of the earlier Subterranean Press limited editions of Miéville’s novels.

There’s also a blog post which mentions the length of the story — around 30,000 words. That’s actually really short! Quite surprising that it’ll be stretched out to almost 200 pages in printed length. Subterranean Press has given us a new description of the plot, too:

A boy ran down a hill path screaming.

This running, screaming boy has witnessed something terrible, something so awful that he cannot even properly articulate it. All he can do is run. His story is investigated, but no evidence is found to support it, and so in the end, he is sent back. Back up that hill path to the site of his terror, to live with the parent who caused it.

The boy tries to escape. He flees to a gang of local children but they can’t help him. The town refuses to see his danger. He is alone.

Then a stranger arrives. A stranger who claims his job is to ask questions, seek truth. Who can, perhaps, offer safety. Or whose offer may be something altogether different, something safety is no part of.

In This Census-Taker, multiple award-winning writer China Miéville offers a story made of secrets and subtle reveals, of tragedy and bravery, of mysteries that shift when they appear to be known. It is a stunning work, full of strangeness and power.

As always, it sounds intriguing, but I’m glad we have a full-length novel to look forward to later in 2016. It’s quite puzzling why such a short novella merited its own release — in hardcover, nonetheless. Couldn’t this novella have been included in Three Moments of an Explosion?

picadorAnyway, talking of that full-length novel (The Last Days of New Paris), here’s a tiny tidbit about it from a German bookseller: it will be about 448 pages, and like Census-Taker, published by Picador, Pan Macmillan’s literary imprint. All of China’s previous books were published by Tor UK (the company’s SF/F imprint), so does this signal a move away from outright, unashamed SF & fantasy works from our favourite author, to a more literary/magical-realist oeuvre? Or is it a marketing decision? I’m all for more literary works (god knows Miéville has the talent!), but I just hope Miéville continues to imbue his books with that fun, genre-soaked playfulness that he always has.

Finally, that upcoming anthology Dead Letters which includes a Miéville collaboration has some cover art now. I won’t bother putting it here, just check out this Tor.com blog post to see.

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Help crowd-fund a short film of China Miéville’s “Familiar”, to be done with practical effects

familiar_art2I’m all for supporting fan projects to do with China Miéville’s works, and this one looks pretty cool. Mythos Films and director Joshua Gates are adapting China’s short story “Familiar” into a short film, and have turned to Kickstarter to get funding for their practical effects. Here’s the link to the project’s Kickstarter page.

I’m very much in favour of the recent movement to bring back practical effects in a big way (see, for instance, the crowd-funded horror film Harbinger Down, as well as the myriad practical effects going into the new Star Wars film). It’s getting to be a rare art-form these days, but there’s just something about well-made practical effects that shine over CGI. You just need to compare John Carpenter’s incredible The Thing to its recent, forgettable CGI prequel to see what I mean.

The director of this short film feels the same way:

The Familiar was never meant to be shot with digital effects. It must be brought to life with real tools, real parts. It must live. It must breathe! […] Each component will be hand crafted with love and rendered using the latest in animatronics and puppetry.

That’s awesome. “Familiar” is a gross, body-horror-esque dark fantasy story, and this approach to film-making is going to serve it well.

familiarSo far on the campaign page there’s a creepy trailer, which captures the tone of the original story, as well as some concept art. I’m sure there will be more updates as the campaign goes on. It ends on November 16, and I wish them all the best with the fundraising!

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New trailer and clip from SyFy’s The Magicians adaptation

magicians_wallCheck out the brand new trailer and 3-minute clip from the upcoming TV adaptation of one of my absolute favourite fantasy novels, The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

I’ve blogged a few times in the past about this project, but I’ve decided I won’t be bringing exhaustive coverage or analysis in the future — I just don’t have the time. I will continue to make quick posts like this for things like trailer releases, and my thoughts on the show when it finally airs in January next year.

Anyway, this new footage looks amazing, and I am totally thrilled for the series to begin!

Edit: And here’s the 1-hour long panel about the show at New York Comic Con.

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Update on The Best of Alastair Reynolds — including the first description

minlaFans of SF short stories pay attention: Amazon UK now has a description for the upcoming collection The Best of Alastair Reynolds! It’s for the Gollancz version, but I assume the contents will be the same as the Subterranean Press version, which supposedly will be arriving sooner. Still no word on the release date — as I reported previously, different Amazon catalogues have different years listed (2016 or 2017). Anyway, here’s the description:

With an introduction by noted SF critic Jonathan Strahan, this collection of twenty short stories, novellettes and novellas includes MINLA’S FLOWERS, SIGNAL TO NOISE, TROIKA, and seven previous uncollected stories, including TRAUMA POD, THE WATER THIEF and IN BABELSBERG.

Alastair Reynolds has won the Sidewise Award and been nominated for The Hugo Awards for his short fiction. One of the most thought-provoking and accomplished short-fiction writers of our time, this collection is a delight for all SF readers.

There’s also a short review quote from The Times, but I can’t find the actual review in question. It’s probably one they were asked by the publisher to provide in advance.

So, let’s examine the description. Twenty stories is a good number, but it looks like there will be a good deal of overlap with Reynolds’ previous collections. That’s to be expected, because this is a career highlights package, but only seven uncollected stories is a shame considering Reynolds has been very prolific since his last collection in 2011. (Actually, they don’t list the novella “Troika” with the other uncollected stories there, so I’m not sure if it’s actually meant to say eight uncollected stories…)

Of the six stories listed, I’ve only read “Minla’s Flowers” and “Signal to Noise”, both of which are in Zima Blue — check out my review of that book to see what I thought of them! “Minla’s Flowers” is good, but it’s really better read alongside its companion stories “Hideaway” and “Merlin’s Gun” (also found in Zima Blue). It’s also good to see “The Water Thief” included, because if I recall correctly, it’s part of the Poseidon’s Children universe.

Now, as for the rest of this collection’s contents, let me talk about what stories I hope get included.

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Some bits and pieces about Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet — and its sequel!

22733729I loved The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers so much that I’m now “reading” it a second time. I put that in inverted commas because I’m actually listening to the audiobook this time, via my brand spanking new Audible account. It’s a pretty good version — not the best narration I’ve heard in an audiobook, but still fun to listen to. From what I’ve heard so far, Kizzy’s voice is done the best.

I just wanted to share a few bits of information I’ve gleaned by following Chambers’ twitter and blog. Firstly, Chambers is working on a sequel — I am so happy about this! The universe is such a great one and it deserves to be explored more. The sequel even has a title already, which Chambers revealed by uploading a photo of her notebook:

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Love the title! The relative length of these titles is just one of many things that helps this book stand out in the SF field, I think. Here’s hoping A Closed and Common Orbit reaches bookshelves soon; and may there be many more long-titled books from Chambers after that.

Secondly, other fans of the first book will be eager to read a series of blog posts Chambers has made on her early notes and writing process for The Long Way. Here’s part one and two. There are sketches, diagrams of the ship, lists, and all sorts of cool stuff, including a few hints about the next book. I really like Chambers’ personal sketch of what Sissix looks like, although I must admit I pictured Aandrisks having lizard-like snouts, not flat faces! Also, Chambers mentions in the first post that she watched Contact countless times on VHS as a kid. Well, me too! Ah, what an amazing movie… (I think it was probably amongst my top 5 most watched VHS tapes, alongside Jurassic Park, Starship Troopers, Goldeneye and Independence Day.)

I wish more authors would peel back the layers and share some of the “making-of” process like this. It’s absolutely fascinating to me. I’m the kind of person who watches every special feature on the DVDs and Blu-rays for movies I love, and this is just like that, but for a book. It’s especially interesting to see the work that goes into planning a novel, as I hope to one day write my own science fiction.

If you’re still on the fence about reading Chambers’ novel, check out my review of the book (it’s one of the most joyous SF books I’ve ever read) or watch this cool little video Chambers did where she introduces her work:

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Review: A Darkling Sea by James L Cambias

DarklingPresenting another SF novel review! I just tore through 2014’s A Darkling Sea by James L Cambias in a handful of days, and very much enjoyed it. Here’s an Amazon link if you want to read the blurb, or other reviews, otherwise read on to find out what I thought of it!

This standalone alien contact novel is a fast-moving and fun read. It takes place on an icy moon called Ilmatar (which is very much like Europa) in a far off star-system, where a gruesome first contact accident leads to a multi-species diplomatic incident.

I can’t help but think of this as Vernor-Vinge-lite, in a good way. In half the page-count of a sprawling novel like A Deepness in the Sky or A Fire Upon the Deep, Cambias tells a story similar to both (but far less complex) about human and alien interaction on a distant planet. However, instead of orbiting above the alien planet like in Deepness, the humans in this novel are in undersea scientific habitats like those in Michael Crichton’s Sphere and other novels with a similar setting. There, the humans are conducting research on the biota of Ilmatar, while being careful not to overstep interplanetary contact laws. Policing those laws are another alien race, the Sholen, who act as the main antagonists in the novel, but who aren’t necessarily the “baddies”. The narrative is told from the perspective of all three races, and I found I sympathised with all the main characters equally.

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Cover art for The Medusa Chronicles by Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter

I just wanted to share the cover art for the upcoming Reynolds/Baxter collaboration The Medusa Chronicles (out February next year), which was revealed by Gollancz in the last 24 hours. For more info about the book itself, check my post about what 2016 has in store for Alastair Reynolds fans.

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It’s not bad, but there are some weird composition choices. Why not just have Jupiter itself in the background, instead of a fuzzy, transparent patch of Jupiter’s clouds? And why do the ship’s searchlights cast beams through vacuum? It’s a bit weird, but I’m just excited for the book itself so I don’t really care what the cover looks like.

Oh, and I’m still working on that review & recap of Arthur C Clarke’s original novella. Watch this space.