Tag Archives: science fiction

Your Next Favourite Series is…

Trainee Superhero! It’s like a funnier Ender’s Game, but in better outfits. It’s like a gender-balanced Avengers, but with more realism. It’s a superhero tale, but utterly original. My favourite thing about it is the names: The trainer’s superhero name is ‘Past Prime’!

Here’s the blurb of Book One (which seems to currently be free to you Kindle folk):

traineeI was five when the alien saucers first attacked Earth.
They tore up mountains and cities for reasons that we still don’t understand, killing millions of innocents. There was nothing our military could do to break the aliens’ shields, and we thought it was the end for Earth. The superheroes saved us, fighting back using technology stolen from the saucers. The superheroes are the thin shield that stands between humanity and Armageddon, but it’s dangerous work and many of the brave souls who fly out do not return.
I was chosen to be a superhero when I was seventeen. It’s not everything I had expected: my heroes hate me, my trainers want me dead and my team are misfits and rebels with dark pasts.
But none of that matters. I may only be a trainee superhero, but this my chance to get my revenge.
Earth needs me, so I’m going to end this year in a cape or a coffin.

Book Two is out as well and I’m waiting eagerly for the next installment. Download it and enjoy!

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A Clockwork Everything: Has Steampunk Gone Mainstream?

steam

Read the full version here.

Indulge me for a moment, my dear fellows, for of late I have been editing steampunk fiction. This is an undeniable pleasure as I revel in Dickensian English expression, and I have a penchant for flying machines and sky pirates.

Steampunk came to be in the glorious decade of the 1980s with an esoteric community of Victoriana-inspired science and fantasy fanaticists. It is oft characterised by a blending of Victorian styles and methods of invention with modern or fantastical science: steam-powered or clockwork everything. Steampunk has grown from a small cosplaying subculture into a popular literary genre and its imagery is pervading mainstream media.

e9f01Take Doctor Who: The new title sequence is filled with cogs and Victorian London is regularly visited, including encounters with automatons. The Orient Express episode certainly puts it high on steam credentials, but some purists argue it’s all steam and not enough punk.

Also on the telly, there was an episode of Castle wherein Nathan Fillion (who should be in all things always) wore the Dr. Grimmelore Superior Replacement Arm – and looked fabulous, as he would in anything.

nathan

Most people would agree that the film Wild, Wild West is steampunk. Most people would also agree it’s terrible, but that’s beside the point. It’s set in the correct time period and features mad scientists, extraordinary adventures and rather impressive clockwork nemeses. But which film managed to get steampunk added to the dictionary? To find out, click here.

The full version of this article was written for and appears on the Momentum Books blog. To continue reading click here,

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The Humans by Matt Haig

The HumansFirst things first, is everyone familiar with the term defamiliarization? Let’s dip in to the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms to remind ourselves: defamiliarization – the distinctive effect achieved by literary works in disrupting our habitual perception of the world, enabling us to ‘see’ things afresh. 

The Humans is a concerted exercise in defamiliarization. The protagonist is an alien sent to Earth to take the place, and form, of a Cambridge maths professor who has discovered  a proof that is too much for human minds. The alien’s mission is to kill everyone that the professor has told. Despite the sound of it, this is far more family and psychological drama than science fiction novel. From an initial revulsion, the alien grows to understand the complexities and ironies of human life, and (rather too predictably for my taste) learns to love. 

The novel is at its best when it tackles issues of human nature with a wry self-awareness, for example, in the defamiliarization of humans: ‘The Things They Do To Make Themselves Happy That Actually Make Them Miserable…shopping, watching TV…writing semi-autobiographical novels.’ I liked the supporting players more than the main cast: the dog, Newton, is exemplar of characterization done right.

It is well written, though I did begin to skim some of the description-heavy sections that seemed less related to the plot. Quotations were beautifully used to introduce chapters and set tone.

Generally, if you like the idea of the familiar being made strange again, I would highly recommend A Martian Sends A Postcard Home by Craig Raine:

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings 
and some are treasured for their markings– 

they cause the eyes to melt 
or the body to shriek without pain. 

I have never seen one fly, but 
sometimes they perch on the hand. 

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight 
and rests its soft machine on the ground: 

then the world is dim and bookish 
like engravings under tissue paper. 

Rain is when the earth is television. 
It has the properites of making colours darker. 

Model T is a room with the lock inside — 
a key is turned to free the world 

for movement, so quick there is a film 
to watch for anything missed. 

But time is tied to the wrist 
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience. 

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps, 
that snores when you pick it up. 

If the ghost cries, they carry it 
to their lips and soothe it to sleep 

with sounds. And yet, they wake it up 
deliberately, by tickling with a finger. 

Only the young are allowed to suffer 
openly. Adults go to a punishment room 

with water but nothing to eat. 
They lock the door and suffer the noises 

alone. No one is exempt 
and everyone’s pain has a different smell. 

At night, when all the colours die, 
they hide in pairs 

and read about themselves — 
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

Thank you NetGalley and Canongate Books for the review copy. Have you read it? Leave me a comment!

If you enjoyed this review, please like and share!

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Flow, My Tears, the Policeman Said

Minority Report, Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly: Philip K. Dick’s brilliant imagination has been the inspiration for some excellent films; up until last week I had only seen these screen interpretations, but had never actually read any of his books. I know now how much I was missing out on. The poetic title drew me to it. ‘Flow, My Tears, the Policeman Said’ is the intriguingly constructed story of genetically engineered superstar Jason Taverner who lives an ideal life of beauty, fame and fortune but wakes up one day to find that he is unknown, with no official identity. In a dystopian police state this is a dangerous position to be in.

 The characters are flawed and complex, the narration spends just enough time inside Jason’s thoughts to draw the reader deeply into his situation. The futuristic technological details of the dark world the novel is set in are cleverly inter-twined with familiar humanity and universal angst. Aspects are explained subtly and ambiguities illuminated as the story progresses; the reader is never patronised with over-explanation. It is political and evocative. The intelligent writing and shocking reveals made me think of Victorian gothic horror; the imagery and occasional violence evoke 1970s sci-fi films and the depth of emotion, the recurring stanzas of 16th Century poetry and its sense of loss remind me of a sad song that I used to love. Even though it was written in 1974, it feels contemporary, concerning and powerful.

Have you read any Philip K. Dick? Which of his do you recommend I go for next? Are there any similar authors I should read?

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