Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Broken Wheel by David Wingrove. Book review

The Broken Wheel (Chung Kuo Book 7) by David Wingrove. Corvus £14.99

Reviewed by John Howard

David Wingrove’s vast novel Chung Kuo originally appeared in eight volumes between 1989 and 1997. Now Wingrove has ‘recast’ the entire series, spreading out it across twenty volumes, with the addition of completely new material in two prequel volumes and two more planned at the end. The Broken Wheel was part of the original book three, The White Mountain.

In this instalment the action takes place over a short period of time: the summer and autumn of 2207. The continent-spanning multi-levelled world city-state of Chung Kuo is barely holding together. Discontent is still seething in the frequently violent lower levels, and in the higher levels divisions are widening within the ruling Seven. It seems likely that everything, after many close calls, is about to fall apart at last.

In The Broken Wheel – a powerful symbol and one several times referred to and made use of – the old order begins to give way to the new, with the younger members of the ruling establishment and their opponents having the opportunity to start to wield real power, whether behind the scenes or entirely overtly. The old T’ang (ruler) of City Europe dies, and his young son Li Yuan succeeds him, determined to restore stability once and for all, and at any cost. The untried ruler has achieved great – if not almost absolute – power, but will have to exercise it in the context of great responsibility.

One of Li’s first acts is to promote the ambitious Hans Ebert to the trusted position of General, but we know Ebert is playing more than one game. Terrorist attacks continue to plague and destabilise Chung Kuo as the Ping Tao (Levellers) are cleaned up, only to be replaced by another group, the Yu, whose manipulator dreams of nothing less than liberating humanity and restoring its stolen inheritance through the complete physical destruction of Chung Kuo and all it stands for.

Other wild (or perhaps not so wild) cards are played as the webs of intrigue and counter-intrigue are woven and rewoven. As in a dance, remembered names resurface, stay awhile, and fade away again, at least for now. Howard DeVore, arch-enemy of the Seven, remains as implacable as ever, as he survives a major setback. The secret research undertaken by Kim Ward, the boy genius from the Clay – the ruined former surface of the earth now hidden beneath the City in utter darkness – gains new impetus, and for the first time a shadowy organisation calling itself the Sons of Benjamin Franklin makes an appearance. The former New World and the legacy of the vanished American Empire of sixty-nine states seems about to call attention to itself.

With yet more hints of other, larger and potentially catastrophic (depending on the point of view) designs behind the scenes on the part of all sides, David Wingrove’s breathlessly heady mix of scheming and strategy, high politics and low life, beauty and brutality, trust and betrayal that is the world of Chung Kuo leaves the reader wanting more, and waiting with impatience to plunge in all over again the next time. 

Dodger's Guide to London by Terry Pratchett

  • Ladies and Gents, Sir Jack Dodger brings you a most excellent Guide to London!
  • Did you know . . . ?
  • If a Victorian couldn’t afford a sweep, they might drop a goose down their chimney to clean it!
  • A nobby lady’s unmentionables could weigh up to 40lbs!
  • Parliament had to be suspended during the Great Stink of 1858!

From the wretches of the rookeries to the fancy coves at Buckingham Palace, Dodger will show you every dirty inch of London.”

All this is in Terry Pratchett’s Dodger’s Guide to London, published on 21 November – just in time for Christmas – by Doubleday (£12.99).

The Alchemy Press: new website

The Alchemy Press has migrated from its blog page to a new website. 
For news of all Alchemy Press books visit:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pulp Heroes volume 2 edited by Mike Chinn

The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes 2 edited by Mike Chinn (The Alchemy Press £10.99) comes out at the end of the month with a launch at the World Fantasy Convention.

Following the success of The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes, here is another helping of stories to stir your adventurous heart: stories in the tradition of the pulp heroes, of Doc Savage and The Green Hornet, of The Shadow and The Bat. Heroes and heroines and villainous villains. 

Fourteen exciting stories by Mike Resnick, Adrian Cole, William Meikle, Anne Nicholls, Bryn Fortey, Chico Kidd, Pauline E Dungate, Marion Pitman, Robert William Iveniuk, Stuart Young, Ian Hunter, Andrew Coulthard, Martin Gately and Arch Whitehouse.

Urban Mythic edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber

The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber (The Alchemy Press £10.99) is launched at the World Fantasy Convention later this month.

There is magic out there on the street and the Mythic are alive and well and creating chaos in a city near you.

Fourteen authors bring you tales of wonder and horror, with ancient curses and modern charms, strange things in the Underground, murder and redemption, corporate cults and stalwart guardians, lost travellers and wandering gods, fortune tellers and urban wizards, dragons, fae and unspeakable beasts.

With stories from: James Brogden, Joyce Chng, Zen Cho, Graham Edwards, Jaine Fenn, Christopher Golden, Kate Griffin, Alison Littlewood, Anne Nicholls, Jonathan Oliver, Mike Resnick, Gaie Sebold, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Ian Whates.

Astrologica edited by Allen Ashley

What's your star sign? Is our fate pre-determined by the constellations and the position of the planets? Can astrology really present an alternative vision to the apparent certainties of science, politics, religion and celebrity culture? Or should its claims of determinism, fate, fortune and personality profiling perhaps be taken with a large pinch of salt?

Here are fourteen brand new astrologically themed stories to delight and enthral, spanning the range of science fiction, fantasy and horror, with stories by Doug Blakeslee, Mark David Campbell, Storm Constantine, Adam Craig, Megan Kerr, Joel Lane, Bob Lock, Jet McDonald, David McGroarty, Ralph Robert Moore, Christine Morgan, David Turnbull, Neil Williamson and Stuart Young.

What is the secret of the white bull and his labyrinthine ranch? Why should you never trust gifts you win at a funfair? And why are twins always apparently at war with each other? Read on and find out...

Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac edited by Allen Ashley is official launched at the World Fantasy Convention later this month (The Alchemy Press £10.99).

Rags & Bones edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt

Rags & Bones, edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt, is out in a week or so (Headline £12.99):

“There are some stories that will always be told, tales as timeless as they are gripping. There are some authors who can tell any story.

In Rags & Bones, award-winning and best-selling authors retell classic fairy tales and twisted tales in the way that only they can. With magic and love, they bring these stories - whether much loved or overlooked - back to life.

Read ‘Sleeping Beauty’ as only Neil Gaiman can tell it. See ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ through the eyes of Kami Garcia. And learn of Rudyard Kipling's ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ from the inimitable Garth Nix.”

This fine-looking anthology includes twelve stories in all. In addition to the afore mentioned writers, you get tales from Gene Wolfe, Kelley Armstrong and Holly Black amongst others. Add to this a number of beautiful drawings by Charles Vess, you have superb value for money for this hardcover book.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

Coming out in a few weeks: The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar (Hodder & Stoughton £18.99). Thgis book has been eagerly anticipated, so not long to wait now.

“They’d never meant to be heroes. For seventy years they guarded the British Empire. Oblivion and Fogg, inseparable friends, bound together by a shared fate. Until one night in Berlin, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and a secret that tore them apart.

But there must always be an account … and the past has a habit of catching up to the present. Now, recalled to the Retirement Bureau from which no one can retire, Fogg and Oblivion must face up to a past of terrible war and unacknowledged heroism – a life of dusty corridors and secret rooms, of furtive meetings and blood-stained fields – to answer one last, impossible question: What makes a hero?"

The James Ellroy quote calls it a "phantasmagoric reconfiguring" of the 20th century.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Doctor Who: The Vault by Marcus Hearn

Doctor Who: The Vault by Marcus Hearn (BBC Books £30), with a foreword by Steven Moffat, is full of pages depicting the “treasures” from the first fifty years of the good Doctor.

“Drawing on unseen and iconic material from the BBC archive and private collectors, The Vault is an unforgettable journey through 50 years of Doctor Who, via carefully selected photographs, props, costumes designs, production memos, letters, scripts and more.

This is the full and official story of Doctor Who, from the first pre-production memos in 1963 to the most recent props created for the 2013 series, including interviews with key contributors and scores of prop photos, design sketches and behind the scenes stills from every decade of the show's production. Taking you year by year through the world's longest running science fiction series, Marcus Hearn explores the show's groundbreaking innovations as well as its impact on popular culture through books and comics, magazines and toys, merchandise and ephemera.”

Glancing through the book brought back many memories of me, as a child, watching the early episodes – indeed, I remember watching episode one’s first ever broadcast. I don’t profess to be a Doctor Who geek and so I found this book fascinating, with a lot of material I wasn’t aware of. However, for the serious Who fan I suspect that there is little new – but nevertheless, whatever your knowledge on the subject, this volume would make a smashing Christmas gift.

Prayer by Philip Kerr

Prayer is the latest from Philip Kerr, out on Quercus (£18.99).

“Special Agent Gil Martins investigates domestic terrorism for the Houston FBI. He is a religious man who is close to losing his faith; the very nature of his job has led him to question the existence of a God who could allow the things that Gil sees every day.

But Gil’s wife Ruth doesn’t see things the same way and his crisis of faith provokes a fracture in their marriage. Gil’s world is breaking apart.

At the same time, Gil starts to investigate a series of unexplained deaths that bring this crisis of faith into uncomfortable focus. When Esther, a disturbed woman, informs Gil that these men have been killed by prayer, Gil questions her sanity. But as the evidence mounts up that there might be something in what she says, his new-found atheism is severely challenged, more so as he finds his own life is next on the line.”

Thieves’ Quarry by D.B. Jackson

Thieves’ Quarry by D.B. Jackson, follow-up to Thieftaker, is available from Tor ($25.99).

“Ethan Kaille isn’t the likeliest hero. A former sailor with a troubled past, Ethan is a thieftaker, using conjuring skills to hunt down those who steal from the good citizens of Boston. And while chasing down miscreants in 1768 makes his life a perilous one, the simmering political tensions between loyalists like himself and rabble-rousing revolutionaries like Samuel Adams and others of his ilk are perhaps even more dangerous to his health.

When one hundred sailors of King George III's Royal Navy are mysteriously killed on a ship in Boston Harbor, Ethan is thrust into dire peril. For he — and not Boston’s premier thieftaker, Sephira Pryce — is asked to find the truth behind their deaths. City Sheriff Edmund Greenleaf suspects conjuring was used in the dastardly crime, and even Pryce knows that Ethan is better equipped to contend with matters of what most of Boston considers dark arts. But even Ethan is daunted by magic powerful enough to fell so many in a single stroke.

When he starts to investigate, he realizes that the mass murderer will stop at nothing to evade capture. And making his task more difficult is the British fleet's occupation of the city after the colonials' violent protests after the seizure of John Hancock's ship. Kaille will need all his own magic, street smarts, and a bit of luck to keep this Boston massacre from giving the hotheads of Colonial Boston an excuse for inciting a riot — or worse.”

Kinslayer by Jay Kristof

Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff is now available (Tor £18.99).

“A SHATTERED EMPIRE: Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

A DARK LEGACY: Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches.

A GATHERING STORM: Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat. The ghosts of a blood-stained past.”

The Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding

The Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding, a Ketty Jay novel, is out this month (Gollancz £12.99).

“All good things come to an end. And this is it: the last stand of the Ketty Jay and her intrepid crew. They've been shot down, set up, double-crossed and ripped off. They've stolen priceless treasures, destroyed a ten-thousand-year-old Azryx city and sort-of-accidentally blew up the son of the Archduke. Now they've gone and started a civil war. This time, they're really in trouble. 

As Vardia descends into chaos, Captain Frey is doing his best to keep his crew out of it. He's got his mind on other things, not least the fate of Trinica Dracken. But wars have a way of dragging people in, and sooner or later they're going to have to pick a side. It's a choice they'll be staking their lives on. Cities fall and daemons rise. Old secrets are uncovered and new threats revealed. When the smoke clears, who will be left standing?”

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Raven’s Shadow by Elspeth Cooper

The Raven’s Shadow by Elspeth Cooper is available from Gollancz (£14.99).

“Sometimes those with the greatest potential must withstand the hardest blows. Fate, it seems, has nothing kind in store for Gair. First his lover and now his mentor have been killed – the first by the dangerous, ambitious Savin, the second in a revolutionary uprising. Alone, and with even his magical abilities betraying him, he has only one goal left: revenge. 

Far to the north, if Teia has one goal it is survival. Attempting to cross a high mountain pass in the teeth of winter is an act of desperation, but the message she carries cannot wait for spring. An invasion force is gathering behind her, and only an ancient order of knights can hold them back. The danger is real, there are enemies in the shadows, and time is running out.”

Angel City by Jon Steele

Angel City by Jon Steele is out now from Bantam (£18.99).

“Jay Harper, one of the last 'angels' on Planet Earth, is hunting down the half-breeds and goons who infected Paradise with evil. Intercepting a plot to turn half of Paris into a dead zone, Harper ends up on the wrong side of the law and finds himself a wanted man. That doesn't stop his commander, Inspector Gobet of the Swiss Police, from sending him back to Paris on a recon mission ... a mission that uncovers a truth buried in the Book of Enoch. 

Katherine Taylor and her two year old son Max are living in a small town in the American Northwest. It's a quiet life. She runs a candle shop and spends her afternoons drinking herbal teas, imagining a crooked little man in the belfry of Lausanne Cathedral, a man who believed Lausanne was a hideout for lost angels. And there was someone else, someone she can't quite remember ... as if he was there, and not there at the same time.

A man with a disfigured face emerges from the shadows. His name is Astruc. He's obsessed with the immortal souls of men. Like a voice crying in the wilderness, he warns the time of The Prophecy is at hand ... a prophecy that calls for the sacrifice of the child born of light...”

Dragon Queen by Stephen Deas

Now available: Dragon Queen by Stephen Deas (Gollancz £16.99).

“In the years before the Dragons laid waste to man's empire, the fearsome monsters were used for war and as gifts of surpassing wealth to buy favour in the constant political battles that tore at the kingdoms. Notorious in these battles was the Dragon Queen. And now she is a prisoner. But no-one is more dangerous than when caged...”

Dragon Queen is a companion volume to the Memory of Flames trilogy.

Harvest by William Horwood

William Horwood’s Harvest, a Hyddenworld novel is published later this month (Pan £8.99).

“It is August, time of the first harvest, traditional time of plenty. But at the farthest reaches of the Hyddenworld, in sea-bound Englalond, disaster looms. A blight in the land is growing, marked by quakes and increasingly unnatural blizzards. Judith is tasked with healing the land, but this burden is almost unbearable. Lonely and lovelorn, she threatens to reap a terrible harvest of her own.

Yet a trio of hydden travellers hold out hope – for both the land and the war threatening the hydden people. For Jack and Katherine, Judith’s parents, the shadow of the hydden Empire’s army looms large. They must muster allies or it will mean disaster for the city of Brum. And only Bedwyn Stort, Brum’s famed scrivener, has the courage to unravel a secret that could heal their world. The lost gem of Autumn must be found and Stort must risk death to seek it. Only his love for Judith will give him the will to endure – and bring her the gem she needs to tame the wild earth.”

A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett

Coming next week: A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett (Corgi £7.99).

“In the four decades since his first book appeared in print, Terry Pratchett has become one of the world's best-selling and best-loved authors. Here for the first time are his short stories and other short form fiction collected into one volume. A Blink of the Screen charts the course of Pratchett's long writing career: from his schooldays through to his first writing job on the Bucks Free Press; to the origins of his debut novel, The Carpet People; and on again to the dizzy mastery of the phenomenally successful Discworld series.

Here are characters both familiar and yet to be discovered; abandoned worlds and others still expanding; adventure, chickens, death, disco and, actually, some quite disturbing ideas about Christmas, all of it shot through with his inimitable brand of humour. 

With an introduction by Booker Prize-winning author A.S. Byatt, colour illustrations by the late Josh Kirby and drawings by the author himself.”

Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn

Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn is out now (Del Rey £16.99).

“Long ago the gods chose a great hero to act as their agent in the mortal world and to stand against the demonic spawn of Chaos. The gods gifted their champion, Daemron, with three magical Talismans: a sword, a ring, and a crown. But the awesome power at his command corrupted Daemron, turning him from saviour to destroyer. Filled with pride, he dared to challenge the gods themselves. Siding with the Chaos spawn, Daemron waged a titanic battle against the Immortals. In the end, Daemron was defeated, the Talismans were lost, and Chaos was sealed off behind the Legacy — a magical barrier the gods sacrificed themselves to create. 

Now the Legacy is fading. On the other side, the banished Daemron stirs. And across the scattered corners of the land, four children are born of suffering and strife, each touched by one aspect of Daemron himself — wizard, warrior, prophet, king. Bound by a connection deeper than blood, the Children of Fire will either restore the Legacy or bring it crashing down, freeing Daemron to wreak his vengeance upon the mortal world.”

The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander (Ebury £12.99) hits the bookshops shortly.

Krakow, 1585: Summoned by the King of Poland to help save his dying niece, Edward Kelley and his master, alchemist and scholar Dr John Dee, discover a dark secret at the heart of The Countess Bathory’s malady. But perhaps the cure will prove more terrifying than the alternative...

England, 2013: Jackdaw Hammond lives in the shadows, a practitioner and purveyor of occult materials. But when she learns of a young woman found dead on a train, her body covered in arcane symbols, there’s no escaping the attention of police consultant Felix Guichard. Together they must solve a mystery centuries in the making, or die trying…”

Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz

Deeply Odd is the sixth Odd Thomas thriller from Dean Koontz (Harper £7.99).

“Our reluctant hero is drawn once more into a strange encounter with the lingering dead.

Later that morning, when I walked downtown to buy blue jeans and a few pairs of socks, I met a guy who offered to neuter me with a .45 pistol.

In a sinister encounter with a rogue truck driver, Odd – who has the gift of seeing the dead and the soon-to-be dead – has a disturbing vision of the slaughter of three innocent children.

Across California, into Nevada and back again, Odd embarks on a road chase to prevent the tragedy. But he is to discover that he is not up against a single twisted sociopath but a mysterious network of evil men and women whose resources appear supernatural.”

The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston

Coming in December: The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston (Corsair £7.99).

“In the spring of 1628, young Bess Hawksmith watches her mother's body swing limp from the Hanging Tree. She knows that only one man can save her from the same fate – Gideon Masters, the Warlock. She knows, too, that his help comes at a steep price.

In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life for herself. She has spent the centuries in solitude, moving from place to place, surviving plagues, wars and the heartbreak that comes with immortality. Her loneliness comes to an abrupt end when she is befriended by a teenage girl called Tegan. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth opens her heart to Tegan and begins teaching her the ways of the Hedge Witch. But Gideon is still hunting her. He will stop at nothing, determined even after centuries to claim her soul. And now, Bess is not fighting to save herself alone: now, she must protect the girl she has grown to love like a daughter.”

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson is now available from Gollancz (£12.99).

"Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. 

Nobody fights the Epics ... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.”

Knight of Shadows by Toby Venables

Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows by Toby Venables is published by Abaddon (£7.99)

“England, 1191. Richard Lionheart has left the realm bankrupt and leaderless in his quest for glory. Only Prince John seems willing to fight back the tide of chaos threatening England – embodied by the traitorous ‘Hood.’ But John has a secret weapon: Guy of Gisburne, outcast, mercenary, and now knight. His first mission: to intercept the jewel-encrusted skull of John the Baptist, sent by the Templars to Philip, King of France. Gisburne’s quest takes him, his world-weary squire Galfrid in tow, from the Tower of London to the hectic Crusader port of Marseilles – and into increasingly bloody encounters with the ‘White Devil’: the fanatical Templar de Mercheval.”

The Eidolon by Libby McGugan

The Eidolon by Libby McGugan is available early next month from Solaris (£7.99).

“When physicist Robert Strong loses his job at the Dark Matter research lab and his relationship falls apart, he returns home to Scotland. Then the dead start appearing to him, and Robert begins to question his own sanity.

Vincent Amos, an enigmatic businessman, arrives and recruits Robert to sabotage CERN’S Large Hadron Collider, convincing him the next step in the collider’s research will bring about disaster. Everything Robert once understood about reality, and the boundaries between life and death, is about to change forever. And the biggest change will be to Robert himself...”