collections

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:

The_Best_of_Alastair_Reynolds

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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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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Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories by China Miéville — My thoughts on every story (Part 3)

threemoments_storybystory3AKA: The post with the actual book review in it! Skip to the bottom if you just want to read that.

I’ve polished off the final 9 stories of Three Moments of an Explosion sooner than I thought I would. The creativity on display throughout this collection has kept me coming back for more. So now it’s time of the final part of my story-by-story thoughts, and at the end of the post, my overall review of the collection. Be sure you’ve read parts one and two before you delve into these last stories!

Read on for short descriptions and thoughts about each individual story. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil any endings. (NB: page counts are for the UK hardback edition)

“Keep”

(39 pages) This lengthy story concerns a curious kind of apocalypse: circular moats begin to appear spontaneously around people who stay still too long. Even stranger, there are reports of sounds from within the moats. It makes for gripping reading, following the crumble of civilisation due to the moats. There may also be a metaphor somewhere in there about the human need to distance oneself from others. Once again though, Miéville chooses to end the tale on a premature climax, favouring a poignant-but-perplexing final image over an actual resolution. It’s beginning to become a problem with stories in this book.

“A Second Slice Manifesto”

(4 pages) This is an exceptionally clever little piece, which describes a strange new art movement just plausible enough to exist. Artists take existing paintings and produce new works that act as “slices” through the scene: producing anatomical cross-sections of the people therein, in the manner of CT scans (search for such scans in Google Images and you’ll immediately know what I mean). Not satisfied, Miéville takes this concept and adds a really creepy twist. I won’t be able to look at certain paintings in the same way again.

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Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories by China Miéville — My thoughts on every story (Part 2)

threemoments_storybystory2And now here’s the second part of my story-by-story thoughts on Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories! If you haven’t yet, read part one first.

For this post I’m tackling the next 9 stories of the book, which will just leave 9 more for the final part of this series. I hope people are getting some enjoyment out of reading my thoughts while they wait for the official release of this book! Or, perhaps people are coming here after they’ve read the book themselves, to see what other people thought.

Read on for short descriptions and thoughts about each individual story. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil any endings. (NB: page counts are for the UK hardback edition)

“Säcken”

(31 pages) Jesus christ. A terrifying horror story, up there with the creepiest work by Laird Barron, with notes of Koji Suzuki’s Ring as well. Two women go on a retreat to a lake-house in rural Germany, where a piece of local history comes back to haunt one of the women. It’s shit-your-pants scary! I still feel uneasy just thinking about it. This story is probably the most horrific thing Miéville has ever written — the slow build-up of dread, the imagery, everything is crafted to make sure you don’t sleep after you read it.

“Syllabus”

(3 pages) A much needed bit of humour following the last story, this is an absurdist work which takes the form of the outline for a three-week university course. There’s no real point beyond a playful poke at academia and a bunch of jokes strung together, including some funny riffs on time travel, alien visitation, and government privatisation.

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Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories by China Miéville — My thoughts on every story (Part 1)

threemoments_storybystory1Presenting the first part of my story-by-story thoughts on China Miéville’s brand new collection, Three Moments of an Explosion!

This post will focus on the first 10 stories of the collection. Check back soon for two more posts, covering the rest of the stories in the book. There are 28 stories in total, making this a very meaty collection!

At the end of the third post I’ll give an overall verdict about the book, and which stories I liked the best. After that, I may go back and revisit Miéville’s first collection, Looking for Jake. And there are a handful of uncollected stories I could always track down and review as well!

Read on for short descriptions and thoughts about each individual story. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil any endings. (NB: page counts are for the UK hardback edition)

“Three Moments of an Explosion”

(2 pages) This is a cool little piece of flash fiction using three speculative fiction ideas to explore the relatively mundane scenario of a building demolition. I like the way Miéville combines satirical SF in the vein of his earlier short story “‘Tis the Season”, with interesting counterculture, oddball physics, and supernatural elements. A crazy idea that shows off the author’s incredible mind. As for why the story is used as the title of the entire collection — who knows? It’s just a cool, evocative title I guess.

“Polynia”

(21 pages) That “icebergs over London” story which most Miéville fans have probably read online by now. A simple weird fiction premise, mixed with some elegiac musings on climate change, that Miéville does a lot with. It’s fantastically written, told from an interesting perspective (a pre-teen hooligan), has beautiful imagery, and it creeps me out just thinking about it. While it ends without explaining very much, preserving the weirdness makes the story all the more indelible in my mind.

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It arrived today!

fxWsMeUThis is just a short post I had to make because I can’t contain my excitement. Three Moments arrived today! I ordered it from Book Depository, which shipped copies early for whatever reason, and today it was on my doorstep! That makes it more than two weeks early. I couldn’t be happier.

My plan is to post three story-by-story impressions posts as I read the collection. The first post will cover the first 10 stories, while the second and third will cover 9 more stories each. Length-wise it works out, as each group of stories divided that way runs about 145 pages. At the end of the third post I’ll give my overall impressions about the book as well.

Before I begin though, here’s some info about the book from the table of contents, which might be of interest to Miéville fans who are chomping at the bit for their copy to arrive. All of the info below is based on the UK hardcover edition, published by Pan Macmillan.

  • Exact book length: 431 pages.
  • Longest stories: “In the Slopes” and “Keep”, each 39 pages.
  • Shortest stories: “Three Moments of an Explosion” and “Four Final Orpheuses”, each 2 pages.
  • Number of stories shorter than 10 pages: 11
  • Number of stories longer than 20 pages: 8
  • Average story length: 15.4 pages
  • Finally, there’s a dedication, some acknowledgements, and an epigraph at the start of the book; but there aren’t any notes on the stories included throughout, or at the end.

The full list of stories in the collection can be found here. Now, time to start reading!

The limited edition cover art for Three Moments of an Explosion is stunning

Check out the absolutely gorgeous and haunting cover art by the one and only Dave McKean, for Subterranean Press’s limited edition of Three Moments of an Explosion:

Three_Moments_of_an_Explosion_by_China_Mieville

That’s just… beyond words. Too bad it’s completely sold out. I’ve never wanted a limited edition of a Miéville book so much before!

Am I the only one getting a slight Stanley Donwood vibe from it as well?

(In one more bit of Miéville news, Kirkus Reviews has their review of the new collection up now. It’s a hugely positive review and it gives some info on a handful of the new stories!)

Three Tidbits of an Explosion

threemomentsJust a few tidbits about the steadily approaching new collection from China Miéville, Three Moments of an Explosion:

  • Publisher’s Weekly has a good, short review! Check it out for some tantalising descriptions of some of the new stories. “In the Slopes” sounds absolutely fascinating.
  • The Scrying Orb has a longer review, which praises the book for its heftiness, variety, black humour, and writing style. However, they say that some of the stories feel a bit samey, and some lack resolution to their weird mysteries. Nonetheless, I remain as excited as always!
  • The always excellent Subterranean Press is doing a limited edition version of the collection with cover art by the one and only Dave McKean! Pre-order it here. I’d be doing so myself if money wasn’t so tight right now.

And now I’ll get back to reading Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Reynolds, which I got the other day. I might put up a review of it in a couple of weeks, along with some of the other books I’ve read recently. Oh, and I suppose I should also be doing something about that money situation…

Contents and US cover art for Three Moments of an Explosion!

3-Moments-comps-31Barnes and Noble had the exclusive reveal today of the US cover art and the FULL CONTENTS LIST of the new China Miéville collection! Maybe my blog will get an exclusive like that one day… But let’s freak out over all the new info!

Okay, so it’s not the most inspiring of cover art. In fact it’s downright dull. But I’ve never liked the US covers of China’s books compared to the excellent UK work by Crush Creative. Their cover for the new book is exciting and evocative. So putting the crummy US cover art aside, here’s the full story list, with never-before-published stories bearing an asterisk:

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A second jacket description for Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories

cmThe jacket description for the US edition of China Miéville’s new collection, Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories, is now up on the publisher’s website. It’s different to the UK description, and reveals a little more about the upcoming book!

The fiction of multiple award–winning author China Miéville is powered by intelligence and imagination. Like George Saunders, Karen Russell, and David Mitchell, he pulls from a variety of genres with equal facility, employing the fantastic not to escape from reality but instead to interrogate it in provocative, unexpected ways.

London awakes one morning to find itself besieged by a sky full of floating icebergs. Destroyed oil rigs, mysteriously reborn, clamber from the sea and onto the land, driven by an obscure but violent purpose. An anatomy student cuts open a cadaver to discover impossibly intricate designs carved into a corpse’s bones—designs clearly present from birth, bearing mute testimony to . . . what?

Of such concepts and unforgettable images are made the twenty-eight stories in this collection—many published here for the first time. By turns speculative, satirical, and heart-wrenching, fresh in form and language, and featuring a cast of damaged yet hopeful seekers who come face-to-face with the deep weirdness of the world—and at times the deeper weirdness of themselves—Three Moments of an Explosion is a fitting showcase for one of our most original voices.

The stories mentioned in the second paragraph are, in order, “Polynia”, “Covehithe”, and “The Design”. Nothing new or revelatory there. But the third paragraph contains the most exciting news: this book will have 28 stories! That’s immense. It’s twice as many as China’s first collection, Looking For Jake, had. If the previous reports that only seven of the stories would be previously published ones are true, then that’s 21 never-before-seen stories. Clearly Miéville has been busy in the three-year wait since Railsea! This seems like it will be a very meaty collection, and I am totally stoked.

Now, as for the matter of new Bas-Lag content… We’ve now seen the official marketing descriptions written by both publishers, and there’s no mention of Bas-Lag. Considering the popularity of those books, I would assume that if there was a new story set in that world, then it would be fairly prominent in the description. It would be big news! Alas, I think that now we can pretty much count it out.

But there’s still so much to celebrate with 28 stories coming our way this July (or August in the US)!

New jacket description for Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories

threemomentsToday on Amazon.co.uk I found the final jacket description for China Miéville’s new short story collection, Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories:

A highly anticipated collection of short fiction listed in the Guardian’s ‘Essential Literary Calendar’ for 2015 from one of the most exciting and original authors writing today.

The multi-award-winning China Miéville has been called ‘the equal of David Mitchell or Zadie Smith’ (Scotland on Sunday), whose ‘inventiveness and precision is awesome’ (Independent), and who writes with ‘an imagination of immense power’ (Guardian). In this extraordinary series of stories, defying definitions and literary stereotyping, he once again proves why he ‘is one of the most interesting and promising writers to appear in the last few years in any genre’ (Carlos Ruiz Zafon).

In these stories, glistening icebergs float above urban horizons; a burning stag runs wild through the city; the ruins of industry emerge unsteadily from the sea; and the abandoned generations in a decayed space-elevator look not up at the stars but down at the Earth. Ranging from portraits of childhood to chilling ghost stories, from dystopian visions to poignant evocations of uncanny love, with beautiful prose and melancholy wit, this breath-taking collection poses searching questions of what it is to be human in an unquiet world. It is a humane and unsentimental investigation of our society, our world, and ourselves.

There’s a bit to dissect there, so let’s dig on in! (more…)

Cover art for China Miéville’s new collection

A quick post to say that the cover art for China Miéville’s new collection, Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories, has been released on the UK Tor blog! Feast your eyes on it:

threemoments

Love it! It fits so perfectly with the current design of his back catalogue. The antlers are most likely a reference to the story “The Estate”, so that’ll probably be in the contents. Other stories almost certain to be included (according to the Tor blog post) are “Covehithe”, “Polynia”, and “The Rope is the World”. Check out my thoughts on what other stories will be included here.

I cannot wait to add this to my book shelf!

 

Another 2015 China Miéville project: The Bestiary

As well as June’s short story collection, 2015 will bring another book project involving China Miéville! This one is an anthology called The Bestiary, edited by Ann VanderMeer, and it seems as though China will be illustrating the book, according to the product’s byline on the Amazon page.

However, the product description also makes it sound like China will have some written material in the book. Here’s what the description says:

A modern bestiary of made-up fantastical creatures organized from A to Z, along with an ampersand and an invisible letter, featuring some of the best and most respected fantasists from around the world, including Karen Lord, Dexter Palmer, Brian Evenson, China Mieville, Felix Gilman, Catherynne M. Valente, Rikki Ducornet, and Karin Lowachee.

Now, way back in 2011, Jeff VanderMeer posted on his blog that he and Ann had been working on the anthology, but the table of contents listed there doesn’t include China Miéville.

Some possibilities might be… China has replaced another author who dropped out; he’s the anonymous author writing for the “invisible letter”; he’s writing some kind of foreword or introduction; one of the authors listed there is a pseudonym (unlikely); or he simply will just be the book’s illustrator, without any written contribution.

Wait until August next year to find out!

The next Alastair Reynolds short story collection? Possible contents

reyn

Alastair Reynolds has a huge number of short stories, many of which have been collected in a handful of volumes. His UK publisher, Gollancz, has three collections of his short work, and a fourth was published by NESFA Press. Counting the latest editions of these works, the four volumes contain a total of 39 short stories and novellas. I won’t list the contents here, because they’re easy to find on Wikipedia and other websites, but the collections so far are:

  1. Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days (2003) – 2 Revelation Space novellas
  2. Galactic North (2006) – 8 Revelation Space short stories and novellas
  3. Zima Blue and Other Stories (2009) – 14 short stories and novellas
  4. Deep Navigation (2011) – 15 short stories and novellas (one set in the Revelation Space universe)

(NB: years given are for the latest edition; links go to my reviews of the collections)

What does this leave uncollected, and what might a future collection of Reynolds short fiction be like?

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The new China Miéville short story collection, out in June 2015

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FINAL UPDATE MARCH 12TH, 2015: Full contents list and US cover!! Okay you can stop reading this post now, it’s all old speculation!

UPDATE MARCH 9TH, 2015: The book will contain 28 stories!

UPDATE FEBRUARY 5TH, 2015: Jacket description

UPDATE JANUARY 4TH, 2015: Cover art!

(2014 updates below)

UPDATE NOVEMBER 5TH: The title of the collection is Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories! Here’s the Amazon UK page.

UPDATE OCTOBER 22ND: According to Pan Macmillan’s Spring 2015 catalogue, the collection will contain “seven previously published short stories and multiple brand new, never-before-seen short stories”. Interesting… Also, the publication date is given as June 4th.

UPDATE JULY 1ST: Finally we have confirmation! The UK Tor blog has stated that the collection will be out in June 2015. What a long wait it will have been since Railsea by then!

UPDATE FEBRUARY 27TH: The date has moved again to November 20th. Keep an eye on the “Lead Titles Order Form 2014” file in the left column of this page for further updates.

UPDATE JANUARY 30TH: The latest .xls order form on Pan Macmillan’s website has pushed the release date back to November 6th, 2014. No title listed yet.

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* * * * *

Okay, so neither a title or cover have been released yet. But numerous sources indicate that China Miéville’s next book will be coming out in June this year and it will be a new short story collection.

The collection first popped up on Amazon last year as the imaginatively titled “China Miéville Short Stories”, before disappearing again. As a fanatic who searches Amazon.com and .co.uk practically daily for new Miéville titles (as well as his US and UK publishers’ websites), I was thrilled and immediately saved the ISBN.

That ISBN is 9780230770188, and googling it today gives mostly a bunch of automatically generated pages from other online booksellers, with numerous placeholder titles including the newly popped-up “China Miéville Novella”. The other noteworthy google result is an excel spreadsheet on Pan Macmillan’s (his UK publisher) website. The spreadsheet seems to be an order form for booksellers, and it also lists “China Miéville Short Stories” coming out on June 5th 2014. The date of revision for this file seems to be November 5th 2013, so as of that time, June 2014 was still the planned month of release.

So what could be the contents of a new short story collection? Well I was surprised when I sat down to find out how much China has published in short form since his last collection, Looking for Jake.

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Story-by-story thoughts: Deep Navigation by Alastair Reynolds

dnNot really a proper review for this one, but you still get my thoughts on each & every story!

A nice collection for the Reynolds completionist, which includes a bunch of very good stories, and a bunch of okay ones. Not exactly as required-reading as Zima Blue and Other Stories was, but this collection has its share of must-reads.

One thing missing was notes from Reynolds himself after each story, which Zima Blue (and, I think, Galactic North) had. That would have made this collection just a little sweeter.

STORY-BY-STORY THOUGHTS

NB: Asterisks (*) before titles indicate the stories I thought were best of the lot.

Nunivak Snowflakes – Messages from the future sent in rains of fish; intelligent spacetime inhabiting the mechanical arm of a Inupiat teenager; a lone Canadian spy trying to keep ahead of several world superpowers. This is a wonderfully weird story, a wholly unique idea, and the first piece Reynolds ever published (at the age of 24!). Great start to this collection.

Monkey Suit – A nice little piece, with a sci-fi spin on the idea of the unfinished business of the recently departed. It doesn’t really add much to the Revelation Space universe though, so I was a tad disappointed.

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Review & story-by-story thoughts: Zima Blue by Alastair Reynolds

zb(Feel free to skip the review text and go straight to my story-by-story thoughts)

A while back I was toying with the silly notion that an author’s short story collection is a bit like an album, and that the stories within are individual songs: varying in length, style and quality. While reading the collection Zima Blue by my favourite SF author Alastair Reynolds, I started to think about a concept album based on the collection, with songs having the same titles and coming in the same order as they are in the book, with each song reflecting somewhat the tone and content of each story. Yeah I know, what a wank. I couldn’t shake the idea though.

So I was thinking about what kind of album Zima Blue would sound like, and — maybe because they’re my favourite band, and their otherworldly lyrics and production have earned them the label “space-rock” — I thought it might end up a bit like a Muse album: bombastic, spacey, dark, catchy. And British. As I read each story I tried to think what kind of song it would be.

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