Friday, 28 June 2013

Book Review | Lupus Rex by John Carter Cash

The crow king is dead, and in the field below all the creatures tremble as the Murder gathers to choose a new king from the rival sons Sintus, Milus and Nascus. 

When the crows drive everyone from the field to keep the reckoning secret, the quail Ysil, Cormo and Harlequin believe they must simply follow their elders to safety. But when the crows turn against each other, the forest becomes full of danger.

In the confusion the last wolf, Asmod, shucks off his isolation and begins to raise an army to claim the kingdom for his own. As hidden truths are brought to light and enormous sacrifices are made, Ysil and his friends must make an epic journey and an unthinkable alliance if the lesser animals are to survive.


In the animal kingdom, order is everything.

Absent order, chaos would surely consume the many and various creatures who live in and around Murder's Field, for instance. Imagine the madness of the grain harvest without someone to make sure the quails wait their turn! Consider those small souls who would go hungry because of the gluttony of others!

Luckily, that's where the crow king comes in. For generations — ever since the war of the wolves — he and his black-feathered forefathers have upheld a system of sharing, and to a certain extent caring. Under his watchful eye, an order of sorts is imposed. Rabbits, badgers, rats and mice alike are all subject to his commands from on high, in an ornate nest in a great tree at the centre of this field.

But now, the crow king is dead.

And at the outset of Lupus Rex, there is a very real reckoning ahead...

The order states that the crowning of a new king — by way of the reckoning aforementioned — must not be observed by any other animal. The penalty for observing this invite-only rite is death, no less, so when the process begins, the other creatures who call Murder's Field home venture through the woods to give the crows their privacy.

Later that same day, Monroth and Ysil — a pair of plucky young quail in constant competition for the heart of Harlequin — imperil everyone else by sneaking back to watch the sacred ceremony in secret. When their absence is discovered, a band of older animals is dispatched to bring them back before their mischief paves the way for their unmaking. Reunited and rightly chided, they find themselves with no choice but to wait out the rest of the Reckoning.

Or rather, that's the plan. But the Reckoning goes wrong: rather than surrendering to the rook's rule, one of the overlooked heirs to the crow king's bone throne rebels. Finding himself overmatched, if only momentarily, Sintus makes for the forest with his most loyal followers, promising to return with an entire army.

And with that, the ancient order collapses. Chaos takes the reins, and soon, a bloody battle ensues, in the aftermath of which the petrified quail are caught. Exiled after a tragic sacrifice and a mighty bribe, they set out in search of a fabled bird of prey who could turn the tide of the coming conflict, because as Cotur Ada insists, "The wolf will come [...] and its order will be one of blood and darkness. The crows will be its servants, and in the end, all animals — crows, quails, rabbits, every one — its prey. I beg you hear me. The wolf will come if the hawk does not return."

So begins Lupus Rex, the endearing debut of a new genre fiction imprint — Rebellion's Ravenstone  — and indeed an author, namely John Carter Cash. The only son of Johnny and June Carter Cash, John Carter Cash is a singer and a songwriter in his own right, and the producer of other artists' award-winning records in the interim. He's had a number of picture books for children published in the past, but Lupus Rex is his first novel proper — and like Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box, it should be judged as such, as opposed to the next phase of some magnetic genetic legacy.

That said, it's fantastic. Delightful and insightful. Almost as good as The Animals of Farthing Wood, if markedly darker. Cash is unafraid to kill off his most charming characters — indisputably brutally too. At points, heads roll and gizzards are liberally spilled, such that Lupus Rex sometimes feels like grimdark anthropomorphic fantasy; picture Joe Abercrombie with added animals. Yet though there is no dearth of death — and though this sense of peril is ever-present — Lupus Rex is largely a light ride.

And, admittedly, quite slight. It's so short that I read it in a single night. So short, in fact, that the abundance of set-up Cash imparts early on seems in service of a greater quest than the abbreviated adventure the exiled animals eventually go on. Another chapter or three in the company of these quails and their lone rabbit companion would have been a great way to develop more substantial characters. As is, they're sweet but somewhat simple creatures.

Another niggle: it can be hard to tell all the damned animals apart. Sulari counts "twenty-nine quail, fifty-five mice, twenty-two rabbits, fourteen squirrels, five badgers, and one slow, grumbling golden rat [...] And I the only hare." That's not to mention the crow kingdom, or the legendary outliers who come to Murder's Field for the climactic clash. If the truth be told, this was a touch too much for me; I can only imagine how challenging the younger readers Lupus Rex is actually aimed at are likely to find it.

Aside these issues, Lupus Rex is lovely. Atypically thrilling and lyrically written. In places, John Carter Cash's prose is truly beautifully put, whilst his depiction of the animal kingdom is particularly magnificent. The concept of the order is a wonderful one, and the resolution of this thread proves massively satisfying.

Certainly it is small, and short of perfectly formed, but Lupus Rex is still a darling of a debut, at the end of the day. A fine way, I dare say, to kickstart the career of a promising new novelist in addition to an exciting new imprint specialising in speculative fiction for children of all ages — up to and including us oldyins!


Lupus Rex
by John Carter Cash

UK & US Publication: June 2013, Ravenstone

Recommended and Related Reading

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Book Review | Theatre of the Gods by M. Suddain

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Or get the Kindle edition

This is the story of M. Francisco Fabrigas, philosopher, heretical physicist, and perhaps the greatest human explorer of all ages, who took a shipful of children on a frightening voyage through dimensions filled with deadly surprises, assisted by a teenaged Captain, a brave deaf boy, a cunning blind girl, and a sultry botanist, all the while pursued by the Pope of the universe and a well-dressed mesmerist.

Dark plots, cannibal cults, demonic creatures, madness, mayhem, murderous jungles, the birth of creation, the death of time, and a creature called the Sweety: all this and more waits beyond the veil of reality.


Sitting down to review Theatre of the Gods this morning, I tried four or five introductions on for size before settling on this artless admission. In one, I wondered about the worth of first impressions; in another, I took to task the formula so much contemporary science fiction follows. I attempted academia; I had a stab at something snappy.

Nothing seemed quite right.

Hours had passed before I realised my mistake, which is to say there is no right way to start discussing Matt Sudain's debut; no single question I could ask, or statement make, which would somehow inform all that follows... because Theatre of the Gods is like nothing else I have ever read.

Large parts of it are certainly reminiscent of novels by an array of other genre authors: I'd name Nick Harkaway, but also Adam Roberts, Ned Beauman, Felix J. Palma and K. J. Parker. At points, Suddain put me in mind of Mark Z. Danielewski, even. So no, it's not entirely original. Call it a composite, or literary patchwork, perhaps. Yet it's stitched together with such vision and ambition that it feels completely unique.

Theatre of the Gods is sure to confound its critics, and divide its readership equally: though some will love it, a number are entirely likely to loathe the thing. I'd sympathise with either reaction. To address the false starts we began with, I'll say it makes a fantastic first impression, after which it follows no formula I've ever heard of. It's very, very clever, and incredibly memorable.

That there's something different about this book is evident from the outset. The copyright page is laid out in the shape of a five-pointed star; a pentagram, presumably. A list of illustrations follow, alongside a puzzling note that they're missing from this edition — the only edition that exists, unless you include the original "hyper-dimensional text [which] would have featured [...] borders, miniatures and ornamental scrolling type typical of illuminated manuscripts of its time" ( in addition to this absent artwork.

Fore and aft of this metafictional madness, a publisher's note pre-empts a few words from the pen of the so-called author, a Mr. V. V. S. Volcannon. At length, Volcannon insists his only role was to record the confessions of M. Francisco Fabrigas, "explorer, philosopher, heretical physicist, mystic, transmariner, cosmic flâneur," (p.x) though another voice has already informed us that the chronicler in question was blacklisted and forced into exile following the first professed publication of Theatre of the Gods.

The novel's authorship is in question, then, such that it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Suddain is no more or less invented than Fabrigas and Volcannon. I go too far, perhaps, yet it's hard to imagine that Theatre of the Gods is anyone's debut; it's so astute and assured that the mind positively boggles.

That said, it's almost impenetrable. And it doesn't get a great deal easier from here:
"The story of M. Francisco Fabrigas and the Great Crossing is a strange and wonderful tale and I've done my best to present it as it was told to me by the old master. I have spent an ungodly amount of time fleshing out his confessions, following the path of the Necronaut and its crew of misfits, speaking to eyewitnesses, hunting down fragments of journals and news stories, checking and rechecking every detail, and compiling a meticulous account of this historic human voyage through the Omnicosmos. For what it's worth, I believe the old man really did undertake an expedition to the next universe, aided by a handsome deaf boy and beautiful and cunning blind girl. He failed, of course, and the children died horribly. But I hope you enjoy this story anyway. For as I said earlier, practically every word is true, others less so, and some, like these, are not true at all." (p.xiv)
I'm sorry, say what?

And as to plot... let's just not. Suffice it to say there's an awful lot. Tellingly, the author regularly interjects to offer sympathetic summaries of the story so far. This excerpt abbreviates the first 50 pages:
"Oh, I know, I know, I know, this is all hellishly confusing. A man arrives in a space-saucer and claims to have travelled from another universe — a universe identical to this one — except that he has already left to travel to the next universe. He is thrown into prison for cosmic heresy, later freed on a trumped-up exoneration based largely on a dream about a starfish and a giant clam. Ah! It is infinitely confounding. Black is up, left is white, and nothing is as it seems. I would not blame you in the slightest if you went off to read that lovely romance book your husband bought you for your name day: Captain A'Rod's Crimson Whip. [But] do hang tight. In time it all becomes clearer, I promise." (p.62)
To a certain extent, it does indeed. Nevertheless, Theatre of the Gods is an inescapably complex novel. The thread at its centre is straightforward enough — a mad scientist and his cadre of last-chance companions explore another universe in a repurposed pirate galleon — but layer upon layer of complication make it difficult to unpick. There are secondary perspectives aplenty; frequent flashes backwards, forwards and in various other directions as well. Additional enigmatic narratives arise whenever the core story threatens to come together.

Little wonder that readers are regularly reminded that "if at any time you feel afraid and need a moment to recover, you can turn to [...] your Little Page of Calmness," (pp.255-256) which has kittens and things.

Don't say I didn't warn you!

You must be wondering if all this is a touch too much. Well, far be it from me to answer a simple question simply. That would hardly be in the spirit of Theatre of the Gods, so instead I'll assert that it is... and it isn't. The infinite obstacles discussed above make this novel, as much as they may break it for some.

Your only choice is to swallow the whole thing, hook, line and sinker. If you can't do that, don't bother. If you can? Then Matt Sudain's your man.

In short, Theatre of the Gods is a mad bastard of a book, set to the tune of a raving loon. It's a steampunk space opera like no other. An antidote to the repetition common in contemporary science fiction which makes an unforgettable first impression, and the feeling that you're reading — nay, experiencing — something singular persists until the vast narrative's last flabbergasting gasp.

It says so much about Matt Sudain's daring debut that I still can't begin to tell you whether I loved it or loathed it. One or the other, though. Or, I suppose, a little of both. I won't, however, ever forget it... unless I can find a way to read it for the first time a second time. Ask me again then!


Theatre of the Gods
by M. Suddain

UK Publication: July 2013, Blacklist Publishing

Buy this book from / The Book Depository

Or get the Kindle edition

Recommended and Related Reading

Monday, 24 June 2013

You Tell Me | RIP, Reader

One week from today, as part of their second annual spring cleaning, Google will retire their ubiquitous Reader.

I've known about this for months, and I still don't have a clue what I'm going to do!

Here's why Google are "sunsetting" the service:
We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go. We’re sad too.  
There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.
Not for Google Reader users. Of which there must be more than a few; more than a few million, I'd imagine. Evidently that's a significantly smaller a number than it once was — and what does that say about blogs, I wonder? — but be that as it may, Google are set to stamp out something some of us, yours truly included, use every damn day.

First and foremost, Google Reader helps me keep track of all the blogs I follow, which I see now number in the hundreds. I also use it each week to organise the news stories I plan to talk about over the course of the British Genre Fiction Focus. I've never given Google a penny for the service, but I would have been well and truly willing to.

If they'd only asked! But Google don't do that, do they? And it's not like they need my pennies anyway.

Time, I think, to look on the bright side. To find a better alternative, because whether or not Google agrees, I need something to help me keep up to speed with all the shenanigans that happen when I'm otherwise occupied. And maybe this mystery service will be better than the nearly dearly departed product — which, let's face it, is at best pretty basic.

That's where you folks come in, fingers crossed, because I simply don't know where to start looking for a replacement feed reader. So please, you tell me!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Book Review | Lexicon by Max Barry

Two years ago, something terrible was unleashed in an Australian mining town called Broken Hill. Thousands died.

Few people know what really happened.

Emily Ruff is one of them. She belongs to an elite organisation of 'poets': masters of manipulation who use language to warp others to their will. She was one of their most promising recruits until she made a catastrophic mistake: she fell in love.

Wil Parke knows the truth too, only he doesn't remember it. And he doesn't know why he's immune to the poets' powers. But he knows he needs to run.

As their stories converge, the past is revealed, and the race is on for a deadly weapon: a word. 

Because the poets know that words can kill...


True fact: words have impact.

As readers, I doubt either you or I would dispute that, yet in the lexicon of Lexicon, the power of applied language is rather more dramatic than we might be inclined to imagine. Indeed, the right word could change the world. How, then, does one determine which phrases will prove most persuasive?

Furthermore, if there are right words, must there not also be wrong ones?

Unravelling these riddles seems simple to begin with. All we need is a meme. A few friendly questions followed by a couple that catch you off guard. For example, are you a cat person or a dog person? What's your favourite colour? Do you love your family? Why did you do it?

Answer honestly, or not. In any event you reveal a great deal about your particular personality, which is all the knowledge a so-called "poet" needs to build a profile of your psychographic segment. As Emily Ruff explains to a love interest come experiment early on in Lexicon:
"A word is a recipe. A recipe for a particular neurochemical reaction. When I say ball, your brain converts the word into meaning, and that's a physical action. You can see it happening on an EEG. What we're doing [...] is dropping recipes into people's brains to cause a neurochemical reaction to knock out the filters. Tie them up just long enough to slip an instruction past. And you can do that by speaking a string of words crafted for the person's psychographic segment. Probably words that were crafted decades ago and have been strengthened ever since. And it's a string of words because the brain has layers of defenses, and for the instruction to get through, they all have to be disabled at once." (p.105)
Poets, then, wield words like weapons, and in Max Barry's searing new novel, that's exactly what they are, because the right sequence of sounds can unlock a person, essentially. Render someone open to suggestion. Tell them to do a thing and they will, without question.

Well, vartix velkor mannik wissick! I bid you, read this book.

Of course there's more to Lexicon than cerebral theory. Alternating chapters, two absorbing central characters—Wil Parke and Emily, aforementioned—put Barry's abstract into practice. On the streets of San Francisco, the latter makes her meagre ends meet by performing close-up magic, mostly games of Monte, on unsuspecting passers-by. The less attention she gets the better, so it's a mixed blessing when she attracts the interest of a recruiter for a very unusual school.
"You went to school [...] and you found it didn't suit you very well. They wanted to teach you things you didn't care about. Dates and math and trivia about dead presidents. They didn't teach persuasion. Your ability to persuade people is the single most important determinant of your quality of life, and they didn't cover that at all. Well, we do. And we're looking for students with natural aptitude." (p.29)
Initially, Emily is suspicious, but with nothing to lose, and everything, potentially, to gain, she's sent to be tested at an academy in DC, where—over a period of years—she's taught how to be a poet. How to persuade, which she's fantastic at, naturally, in addition to various ways to safeguard against invasion. Foremost amongst these defences is the premise that poets should keep themselves to themselves, revealing as little of their specific personality as possible; the ideal state is that of a blank slate.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Emily has particular difficulty with this. She's been through it, as we've seen, and she doesn't like to be told what to do—especially now that she knows poets can force her. So she breaks a few rules, behaves rather badly, and eventually, inevitably, Emily's transgressions get her expelled from the academy. She's summarily dispatched to a tiny mining town in Australia to wait however long as it takes for further instructions to follow, but though Broken Rock seems a hateful place—hellishly hot, in short—in time she comes to love it... especially when she meets Harry, a paramedic.

Emily is certainly the starring character of Max Barry's newest narrative, but instead of starting with the show-stopper, Lexicon begins—and ends—with Wil. Wil, who thought he had a loving girlfriend, once upon a time, as well a life he liked and a bright future worth fighting for.

But now? Now he doesn't know what to think. He's abducted at the outset by rogue poets, and informed that the life he remembers is a lie. "He could feel memories scratching at the underside of his mind, just out of reach. But he didn't have time for that," (p.303) largely because that's when the shooting starts.

As it transpires, a woman known as Virginia Woolf wants Wil dead. Incredibly, however, his kidnapper protects him. In the aftermath of this frenetic firefight, the first pieces of the puzzle click cleverly into place. If Eliot is to be believed, then Wil was someone else, once, and if he can only remember that person, he could be the key to stopping the otherwise unstoppable: a powerful poet who years ago unleashed something called a bareword in a remote town in the Australian outback, killing thousands of people in the process.

Add to that, this:
"In every case, the appearance of a bareword is followed by a Babel event, in which rulers are overthrown and a common tongue abandoned. In modern terms, it would be like losing English. Imagine the sum total of our organisation's work, gone. Our entire lexicon wiped out." (pp.310-311)
Lexicon is simply gripping from the get-go, when poor Wil wakes up with a needle embedded in his unsuspecting eyeball, wondering what in the world has happened to him and why. We find out right alongside him, and the resulting revelations are as surprising as they are exciting. Astutely, the author allows us to revel in the thought that we're ever a step ahead, though this is rarely the case... which is great! It makes Barry's latest a game readers are guaranteed to win, because it's fantastic fun to play, and at the end of the day, the solution is elegant and vastly satisfying.

Structure figures into Lexicon's success in a fairly major way. Though it quickly becomes clear that they take place some time apart, the two discrete tales the text tells seem to unfold simultaneously as we see it, informing and influencing one another in a fascinating fashion. Don't get me wrong: it's no Memento, nonetheless it's neat—if occasionally frustrating—to watch Emily learn as Wil forgets and vice versa, all while our own horde of knowledge grows.

Not that much of anything is certain in this blistering literary thriller. Lexicon twists and turns like a lost language, creating tension and expectations, systematically suggesting and then severing connections. Excepting a protracted flashback before the finale, the pace very rarely relents; the action is imaginative and exceptionally well handled; our grasp of the poets and the rest of the premise arises intuitively, without once feeling forced; meanwhile an appealing sense of humour sets off the story's darker moments readily.

Max Barry has been an author worth watching since the publication of his first novel in 1999, but by weaving the incisive satire of Jennifer Government into a rather more manageable narrative, by way of better-developed characters and a far smarter sense of structure, I believe he's hit on something special here. It's really no surprise that Matthew Vaughn of Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class fame has bought the rights to maybe produce the movie; Lexicon has all the makings of a fine film.

For the very moment, though, consider making do with a phenomenal novel.


by Max Barry

UK Publication: June 2013, Mulholland Books
US Publication: April 2013, Reagan Arthur Books

Buy this book from /
IndieBound / The Book Depository

Or get the Kindle edition

Recommended and Related Reading

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Press Release Your Luck | Continuing The Dark Crystal

"You could be the author of a new novel set in the world of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal!"

So says the banner of Penguin Books' new project: The Dark Crystal Author Quest.

Which is what, exactly? Well, almost exactly what it says in the header: a quest for an author to write a novel set in Jim Henson's fan-favourite universe.

Note that the publishers are looking for a prequel to the movie as opposed to a sequel, as some sites have erroneously reported.

In any event, roll the press release:
"The world of The Dark Crystal is a world unlike any we have ever known. Under the triple suns, the skies roil with cloud formations not seen in our skies. Seedpods spiral up and rocks scuttle off. It is a world where the wise and noble urSkeks have been split into two imperfect races, Skeksis and urRu; and the Gelfling Clans, the species most like our own, go about their lives not knowing what their future holds. This is a world waiting to be explored and expanded upon with new stories, new quests. 
"At The Jim Henson Company, we continue to be enthralled with the possibilities of this world and invite you to join us in our obsession. We have set up a portal to share what we know, a new website with all of the information about this place and these creatures: We invite you to use the resources, character descriptions, locations, and history on this site to join us in imagining the next Dark Crystal story."
And here are the gory details 
"From October 1st, 2013 to December 31st, 2013, The Jim Henson Company and Grosset & Dunlap of the Penguin Young Readers Group will be accepting writing submissions to find the author for a new novel set in the world of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. This author search is open to all professional and aspiring professional writers. 
"This new Dark Crystal novel will be a prequel story set at the time of the Gelfling Gathering, between the Second Great Conjunction and the creation of the Wall of Destiny. We will be placing all known lore from this era on, the definitive home of The Dark Crystal. There you will find all the knowledge available for you to shape and build your story—and all we ask is that you share your stories with us."
Me, I wonder why they haven't simply solicited an actual author to compose a proper prequel. Surely The Dark Crystal canon is deserving of established talent rather than being farmed out to fandom.

Then again, I can be awfully old fashioned...

That said, I can't imagine many established talents would put up with the shady small print:
Each entry will be the sole property of the Sponsors. By competing in the Contest and/or accepting a prize, each entrant (including the prize winner) grants to Sponsors the right to edit, adapt, publish, copy, display, reproduce and otherwise use their entry in connection with this Contest and in any other way, in any and all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the world, in perpetuity, including publication on Further, each entrant (including the prize winner) grants to Sponsors the right to use each entry and the winner’s name, likeness, and biographical information in advertising, trade and promotional materials, without notice, review or approval, or further compensation or permission, except as set forth herein, and except where prohibited by law. Sponsors are not obligated to use, publish, display or reproduce any entry.
All for $10k — with no prospect of royalties — which is not, in all honesty, a whole lot. Don't sign your souls away so easily, readers!

Overall, though, this is exciting news, no? Not because of the Author Quest itself — at least, not from my personal perspective — but because it suggests renewed interest in one of my all-time favourite fantasy films.

Could this move be indicative of The Jim Henson Company's intentions to make a new movie?

Could this be a potential test of our appetite for The Dark Crystal 2? Yes!

Oh, let it be true...

Monday, 17 June 2013

Book Review | Reviver by Seth Patrick

Jonah Miller is a Reviver, able to temporarily revive the dead so they can say goodbye to their loved ones — or tell the police who killed them.

Jonah works in a department of forensics created specifically for Revivers, and he’s one of the best in the business. For every high-profile corpse pushing daisies, it’s Jonah’s job to find justice for them. But while reviving the victim of a brutal murder, he encounters a terrifying presence. Something is on the other side watching. Waiting. His superiors tell him it's only in his mind, a product of stress. Jonah isn't so certain.

Then Daniel Harker, the first journalist to bring revival to public attention, is murdered. Jonah finds himself getting dragged into the hunt for answers. Working with Harker's daughter Annabel, he becomes determined to find those responsible and bring them to justice. Soon they uncover long-hidden truths that call into doubt everything Jonah stands for, and reveal a sinister force that threatens us all.


If, for a time, we could talk to the dead, what would we say to said?

Jonah Miller, duty reviver for the Forensic Revival Service, asks the dearly departed how they died, in an effort to find out why, and by whose hands. Understand that his subjects have all met a hellish end, mostly through means cruel and unusual, and their posthumous testimony, however hard to extract, could make all the difference if and when their killers are caught.

Though Jonah and his co-workers are out for justice, in the better-paid private sector, other revivers act as mediums between the living and the lost... albeit for the right price. Mercenary as this practice often is, at the end of the day, what wouldn't we give for the opportunity to whisper sweet nothings or simply say goodbye to our much-missed loved ones?

On the other hand, what would we be taking away?

The truth is, even now, no-one knows. Though people have come to accept the practice of this dark art—largely thanks to the sensitive way the journalist Jonathan Harker dealt with its initial discovery—much about the process remains mysterious. And with no easy answers forthcoming in the years since the landmark first revival, funding for further study has all but dried up. Yet there are a few still looking into the possible consequences, such as Dr. Stephanie Graves, who specialises in remnants.

From the get-go we know that "hearing the dead bear witness to their own demise was never pleasant." (p.1) Headaches and nausea are to be expected, but poor overworked Jonah soon starts suffering from more serious side-effects. In short order he's hearing voices that are not there, seeing things that simply cannot be, and experiencing the leftover memories of people he has revived.

But being a reviver is all that Jonah has—in fact it's all he has had since the horrendous death of his mother—so he plays down the various complications. He makes a token trip to see an in-house shrink, then gets back to work as if nothing untoward had happened. However, he can't keep up the act after he's called in to revive the bloated, blackened corpse of the aforementioned Jonathan Harker, who in his last days had been investigating a group of particularly militant Afterlifers.

As you can imagine, there has been some resistance to the idea of ghost whispering, and the Afterlifers represent this perspective:

"What hostility remained gradually coalesced into a protest group called the Afterlifers, well-funded from an easy collaboration of disparate religious interests who saw revival as desecration, an unacceptable disturbance of the dead. But loud as they were, they found their calls for moratorium ignored. Direct action from more extreme members brought public disapproval. Their message of outright objection to revival took a back seat, replaced by more successful calls for greater control, rights for the dead, and a system insuring revivers were licensed." (p.15)

Still, there are those who disapprove of the process. Those who are prepared to use violence on revivers, never mind all the good they indubitably do. Jonathan Harker's killing is just the first suggestion of their elaborate plans, and given his involvement—not to mention the remnants of the murdered journalist with him still—Jonah is quickly drawn into this conspiracy. Soon, he and Harker's daughter Annabel find themselves racing against time to expose a chilling plot before the Afterlifers are able to realise the rest of their threats.

In the main, Reviver is a legitimately gripping conspiracy thriller, but the author—a Northern Ireland man who develops video games for Sega in his day job—also incorporates elements of horror into his first novel, as well as a healthy helping of crime fiction. Individually, neither of these aspects are especially impressive—though both have their moments near the beginning of the book—but presented together, like slight yet satisfying starters before a main meal, they complement the core story cannily, helping to make Seth Patrick's debut distinct.

Just as well, I warrant, because parts of Reviver would be by-the-numbers otherwise. Its elevator pitch is interesting, but not dissimilar to a number of others made in recent memory, and though Patrick's execution of his premise is perfectly acceptable, it is too pedestrian to pull one through the occasional doldrums. The narrative unfolds much as you might expect, with scant few surprises that have not been telegraphed earlier.

Additionally, there's quite a bit about Reviver which seems... not clumsy, but indecently convenient. Various relationships simply don't feel real, particularly as regards the one-dimensional women who pretty much flit in and out of existence relative to Jonah's indiscriminate interests. The only character to really come off is our anxious protagonist's pal Never Geary, who plays a charmingly maternal role and offers light relief in the interim.

Last but not least—before this becomes a laundry list of drawbacks, which Reviver definitely doesn’t deserve—expect a whole lot of explaining, including one mad scientist who elaborates, at alarming length, on his dastardly masterplan. On the whole, Patrick tells substantially more than he shows over the course of the story... but I’d argue that this is equally suggestive of his debut's strengths.

You see, it really is very direct; refreshingly so if you're in the right frame of mind for a few evenings of fast-paced fun. Reviver is a no-nonsense novel which values thrills over chills and holds banter in higher regard than character, but credit where it's due: the reading experience is resolutely thrilling, and the chatter, especially where Never’s concerned, is certainly snappy.

The high and mighty might be inclined to describe this as a dearth of depth—and it is, there's no getting away from that—but what Reviver lacks in terms of texture and density the author makes up for with an excellent sense of immediacy and quantities of unbridled excitement. In sum, though Seth Patrick has next to no use for poetry in his prose—an issue emblematic of many of his debut’s minor missteps—Reviver is a timely reminder that stories need not be beautiful to be good. This first novel has small problems aplenty, then, but these don’t detract from the fact that I really enjoyed reading it... and there's value in that, I think.


by Seth Patrick

UK Publication: June 2013, Tor
US Publication: June 2013, Thomas Dunne

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Friday, 14 June 2013

Book Review | The Lowest Heaven, ed. by Anne C. Perry & Jared Shurin

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The Lowest Heaven is a new anthology of contemporary science fiction published in partnership to coincide with "Visions of the Universe," a major exhibition of space imagery at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

Each story in The Lowest Heaven is themed around a body in the Solar System, from the Sun to Halley's Comet. The stories are illustrated with photographs and artwork selected from the archives of the Royal Observatory, while the book's cover and overall design are the work of award-winning South African illustrator Joey Hi-Fi.



The final frontier?

For now, that searching question stands an unfortunate fact. We want to know more, of course, but there is no clear need for the revelations we may or may not gain from our desired endeavours, or none that we can easily see.

And so we wait, painfully aware that — even if the Powers That Be see reason — we are lamentably unlikely to see a man on Mars in our lifetimes.

Maybe our children will. I want that for them.

But neither you nor I nor they, in their day, will find out what awaits on the other side of the interstellar space NASA's Voyager probe is on track to chart; the odds are simply not in our favour, I'm afraid. But we can wonder, can't we? We can imagine. We can read and write and damn it, we can dream.

So for the foreseeable, space may indeed be the final frontier in fact, but fiction, by its very definition, need not be held back by what is. Instead, its pioneers ask: what if? And occasionally, incredibly, what if is what is.

Come to that, science fiction and science fact go way back. Speaking of space, here's Dr. Marek Kukula, public astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, introducing The Lowest Heaven, a truly awesome anthology published in conjunction with the opening of the aforementioned Observatory's "Visions of the Universe" exhibition:
"By setting human stories within that immense canvas writers can help us to see ourselves as part of the wider cosmos, and perhaps give us an inkling of what that might actually mean. No wonder that many of today’s professional astronomers can trace their interest, at least in part, to an early encounter with science fiction. 
"The connection between science fact and science fiction has never been more pervasive than it is today. The visual language of astronomy is everywhere in contemporary science fiction, from book covers to the backdrops of films and television shows. Vistas from the Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Cassini probe have inspired the scenery for Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who, and with their enormous popularity these shows and movies bring astronomical imagery to a much wider audience. Artistic license even allows them to ignore the fact that that the original images have been enhanced and manipulated, and rarely show the Universe as it would appear to human eyes. 
"The connection works both ways. As yesterday's science fiction becomes today’s science fact it can sometimes seem as though we live in a science fictional universe. Above our heads, Arthur C. Clarke's geostationary satellites encircle the equator, while the imprints of human boots still mark the surface of the moon."
This back and forth between the actual and the fantastic underpins The Lowest Heaven's exploration of space, both as we know it and as we can only imagine it. To wit, each of the seventeen stories presented by Pandemonium's Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin over the course of this extraordinary ensemble is illustrated by a fitting image from the historical collection of the Royal Museums Greenwich.

Take the first fiction, for instance. 'Golden Apples' by Sophia McDougall — an alt-history author most known for revising the Roman Empire of yesteryear into a present-day dystopia — is a bittersweet, surreal story about a couple who feed their dying daughter with solid sunlight stolen from a local laboratory. Like the hand-painted magic lantern slide of sunspots dating from the late 1800s which accompanies it, 'Golden Apples' incorporates slivers of science into a fantastical canvas to tremendous effect.

The second short, 'A Map of Mercury' by Alastair Reynolds, comes complete with a photograph of a ghostly glove puppet: a surprising image, initially, but its unsettling elements speak to the stark art at the heart of this disconcerting dialogue between man and machine. Similarly, an equatorial cross-section of the earth and its atmosphere appends 'The Krakatoan' by Maria Dahvana Headley — a strange tale about a boy who visits a volcano in defiance of his absent father — while Archie Black's unspeakably bleak 'Ashen Light' is illustrated by an early negative of the Transit of Venus, which exposes the night as one of life's white lies.

Short of systematically showing how each of The Lowest Heaven's various visions relates to the accompanying artwork, suffice it to say that the plates are excellently selected, striking and suggestive. Most of the subsequent stories are equally inspiring, and though others are hard to parse — especially Adam Roberts' chronicle of a voyage 'From World to World Again, By Way of the Moon, 1726' — even these reveal feeling, and accumulate meaning.
"They came at last, after the dust had settled; and in truth it sifted but slowly to the ground; for weight on the Moon is less than on our world. For it is the efficacy of the various worlds to cast their charm upon men in divers ways; such that to stand upon 1 planet is to be made from stone, and upon another into cork. It is accordingly a different matter entire to stand upon the Moon as it is upon the Earth; in the former place the substance of that world causeth the body to become buoyant almost to the current of floating into the ayr; yet to return again to Earth is to become heavy again, with a sense of sinkage of body and spirit both."
Indeed, it is Roberts' long short which brings the core focus of The Lowest Heaven home. Whilst wondering what may have happened if humanity had tomorrow's technology at a point in the past, specifically during the golden age of exploration, the author of last year's fantastic Jack Glass hits on an idea that this anthology features frequently: the tragedy of the "boldness, and purpose, and hunger to travel to places that are new to [us having] departed out of the breasts of humankind."

The thought is voiced again in the next narrative, 'WWBD' — which is to say 'What Would Bradbury Do?' — by The Curve of the Earth's Simon Morden, who reminds readers that though "we can send all the robots we like, it takes humanity to put the soul into exploration." Later, in 'Only Human,' World Fantasy Award winner Lavie Tidhar wonders about "what could have been, and of what didn't," before concluding that "to do that is, after all, only human" too.

Truth be told, I'm loathe to talk about very many more of these stories. To touch on the sparkling Saturn Trees of Kaaron Warren's addiction allegory, the misunderstood beauty of 'The Grand Tour' James Smythe gives us, or the inhuman horror of Kameron Hurley's self-replicating spaceship. These are a few of The Lowest Heaven's finest fictions, but better, certainly, that I let you mine its many treasures in your own time.

There can be no questioning the value of this artful anthology: it's as inspiring as it is inspired. But The Lowest Heaven is also a timely and ultimately touching reminder of what we stand to lose by turning inwards as opposed to venturing again into the unknown. Granted, the universe is vast — and vastly dangerous, I dare say — but consider the wonders we stand to discover; the places, the races!

We cannot grasp what awaits us out there, but it behoves us, surely, to find out. So let us go once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close the wall up with our dead dreams.


The Lowest Heaven
edited by Anne C. Perry & Jared Shurin

UK Publication: June 2013, Jurassic London

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Wednesday, 12 June 2013

In Tribute | Goodbye, Iain Banks

According to his former widow-in-waiting, Iain Banks passed away “without pain” in the early hours of Sunday morning, just two months after publicly announcing his own impending death in early April. At that time, he admitted it was extremely unlikely he’d live beyond a year, but we all hoped he’d have that long at least.

I still can’t get my head around how sudden it seemed. We knew what was coming, of course, but as I write, I’m realising that hasn’t made his passing any easier to deal with.

What has softened the blow, if only a little, is knowing that I’m not alone in feeling sick to my stomach with sorrow. Touching tributes have been rolling in ever since Adele’s message. They’ve come from a truly huge range of folks, all of whom profess to have been affected by the irreplaceable author and his thirty-odd awesome novels.

So today, rather than documenting the details of his untimely death, I want to take this opportunity to highlight a few of these outpourings of emotion. Who knows... maybe, just maybe, they’ll help you feel a bit better too.

Let’s begin with Neil Gaiman:
I should be blogging about The Ocean at the End of the Lane, because it comes out in 9 days and the reviews and articles are starting, and right this minute I should be doing the writing I have to finish before I hit the road. 
But I just learned that Iain Banks is dead, and I’m alone in this house, and I cope with things by writing about them. 
I met Iain in late 1983 or early 1984. It was a Macmillan/Futura Books presentation to their sales force, and to a handful of journalists. I was one of the journalists. Editor Richard Evans told me that he was proud that they had found The Wasp Factory on the slush pile—it was an unsolicited manuscript. Iain was almost 30, and he got up and told stories about writing books, and sending them in to publishers, and how they came back, and how this one didn’t come back. “You ask me what’s The Wasp Factory about?” he said. “It’s about 180 pages.” He was brilliant and funny and smart. 
He fitted right in. He was one of us, whatever that meant. He wrote really good books: The Wasp Factory, Walking on Glass and The Bridge all existed on the uneasy intersection of SF, fantasy and mainstream literature (after those three he started drawing clearer distinctions between his SF and his mainstream work, not least by becoming Iain M. Banks in his SF). His work was mordant, surreal, and fiercely intelligent. In person, he was funny and cheerful and always easy to talk to. He became a convention bar friend, because we saw each other at conventions, and we would settle down in the bar and catch up. 
(A true story: In 1987 I was at a small party at the Brighton WorldCon in the wee hours, at which it was discovered that some jewellery belonging to the sleeping owner of the suite had been stolen. The police were called. A few minutes after the police arrived, so did Iain, on the balcony of the Metropole hotel: he’d been climbing the building from the outside. The police had to be persuaded that this was a respectable author who liked climbing things from the outside and not an inept cat burglar returning to the scene of his crime.)
We all deal with death differently, I guess. Me? I like to remember the lives of those we’ve lost, and Gaiman’s story managed to make me smile, which I haven’t done in a while.

Charles Stross was next in line to pay tribute to the great Scot:
One of the giants of 20th and 21st century Scottish literature has left the building. 
I can’t really claim to be a friend; my relationship with Iain was somewhere between one of the faceless hordes seen at SF conventions, and “guy I run into at the pub occasionally.” However, I’ve known Iain and chatted with him at times since, I think, 1989 or 1990 or thereabouts. And, after getting over my initial awe of the giant of letters, subsequently discovered that he was a giant in other ways: big-hearted, kind, affable, humorous, angry at injustice. 
There is probably no point in my writing an obituary. The newspapers are all over the generalities [...] and if I had anything more intimate to add I wouldn’t care to do so in public, out of respect for his family and friends. 
However, I’d like to pause for a moment and reflect on my personal sense of loss. Iain’s more conventional literary works were generally delightful, edgy and fully engaged with the world in which he set them: his palpable outrage at inequity and iniquity shone through the page. But in his science fiction he achieved something more: something, I think, that the genre rarely manages to do. He was intensely political, and he infused his science fiction with a conviction that a future was possible in which people could live better—he brought to the task an angry, compassionate, humane voice that single-handedly drowned out the privileged nerd chorus of the technocrat/libertarian fringe and in doing so managed to write a far-future space operatic universe that sane human beings would actually want to live in (if only it existed).
In my admittedly limited experience with The Culture, which I’ve been reading on and off (but mostly on) ever since the late author first fessed up to feeling Very Poorly, Stross is spot on in his conception of the series as something singular. I’ve read a silly amount of science fiction, and there’s just not a whole lot like Consider Phlebas and its exemplary successors.

And The Culture isn’t just unique, it’s also incredible. Masterfully imagined and simply brilliantly written. I can hardly wait to start reading Use of Weapons. But the awful knowledge that there will come a point where the sequence simply stops has hit me like a tonne of bricks.

Beginning with the first lines of a fan letter he was in the process of writing, Nick Harkaway reflected on that very thought on his blog:
Dear Mr. Banks, 
I would like to say, very simply, that I could not have contemplated writing the books I have written and the ones I am writing in my head if I did not have you out there in front of me. I just wouldn’t have thought anyone would pay attention. 
Because that is true. He made a revolving door between genre and non-genre before ever I left school. In the 80s, for God’s sake, when that ridiculous essay about how all science fiction was essentially for sweaty-palmed teenage boys was doing the rounds. 
And from what I hear, pretty much everyone who met him liked him, too.
The author of Angelmaker went on to talk about some of what we’ve lost in light of Banks’ passing:
No more Culture stories. No more Affront, no more smug, infuriating, misguided, altruistic, brilliant Minds engaged in slyly funny banter. No more hair’s breadth escapes. No more savage, disturbing images. No more ethical conundrums or brain-stretching sociological what-ifs. No more guy behind Crow Road, behind the appalling Wasp Factory. God knows how many other writers owe Banks a tip of the cap, how many TV shows and movies and books would simply not exist, or would never have been published, without his gravity acting on the rubber sheet of narrative space. 
There are a couple of his books I never got to. They’re upstairs. But now I somehow feel I should pace myself. 
Well. Sod it. Farewell, Mr. Banks. And I wish it wasn’t.
So say we all, sir.

In addition to these reminiscent missives, there was no shortage of shorter tributes from a small army of fellow Scots authors. Despite the early hour, Irvine Welsh tweeted that he was "off out to the pub to toast one of [his] all-time literary heroes with a malt,” a most excellent sentiment shared by Val McDermid:
Iain Banks, RIP. Grateful for what he left us, angry for what he’ll miss and we’ll miss. And now I’m going to pour the best dram in the house and raise a toast to Iain Banks for all the hours of delight and provoked thought.
Talking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme a little later, Ian Rankin of Rebus renown considered the magnificent man’s character:
He didn’t take things too seriously, and in a way I’m happy that he refused to take death too seriously—he could still joke about it. I think we all thought he would have a bit longer than he got. 
What made him a great writer was that he was childlike; he had a curiosity about the world. He was restless, he wanted to transmit that in his work, and he treated cancer with a certain amount of levity, the same that made him a great writer. You never knew what you were going to get, every book was different.
But the last tribute I want to take in before saying goodbye to Iain Banks one final time comes from his British publisher, oddly enough. Pay attention to the last sentence of Little, Brown’s statement especially:
It is with enormous sadness that Little, Brown announces the death of Iain Banks. Banks has been one of the country’s best loved novelists for both his mainstream and science fiction books since the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. After his own recent announcement of his cancer Iain Banks was hugely moved by the public support for him via his website. Just three weeks ago he was presented with finished copies of his last novel, The Quarry, and enjoyed celebration parties with old friends and fans across the publishing world.
That, I think, touches on what we have to take heart in during this terrible time. How Iain Banks lived—and he did live—rather than how he died.

Not to mention how his life and his life’s work touched the lives of others. Others including the writers whose reflections we’ve heard today, but not just them. Not by any stretch of the imagination that was so characteristic of Iain Banks. Indeed, more than ten thousand of his readers have left messages on his guestbook, and I would urge you to do so too. As Adele says, “he absolutely loved them,” and honestly, I’d rather think about love than loss today.

On the other hand, we have to say goodbye. We might not want to—I know I don’t—but we have to. So.

Goodbye, Iain Banks. There’s no one like you now, and there never was. Nor, I warrant, will there ever be.

You’ll be missed, mister.

You already are.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Status Update | On Belgium and Banks

Home again, home again... but I'm afraid I didn't bring my jiggedy-jig.

Don't get me wrong, I have a bloody lovely time on holiday — Antwerp was brilliant, the beer was as well, and sometimes I forget what a wonderful thing it is to read for pleasure — but the bad news about Iain Banks' passing broke the day after I got back, almost immediately after I'd finished The Player of Games, and it pretty much knocked me for six.

Kept me busy yesterday as well. In the afternoon, I wrote a long tribute to the dearly departed author for — you can read it here right now, but I'm hoping to share it with you all on The Speculative Scotsman tomorrow — then in the evening I had a couple of classes to teach, during which I discussed a particularly fantastic chapter from The Wasp Factory with couple of the older kids I tutor.

For what it's worth, they seemed to enjoy it. And if just one of them went home and ordered a copy, my work here is done.

Or has it just begun?

In any event, I'm going to hold off on publishing the special something I mentioned before I went back to Belgium. Dragons are awesome, obviously, but I need to be happy to introduce this thing with the unbridled delight it deserves, and I'm just not now.

Completely missed E3 as well, which is complete unlike me. I'm still hoping to stay unspoiled, the better to watch a press conference or four later today or tomorrow, but let's face it: this is the internet.

Actually, now that I mention it, this is the internet — fancy that! — so you tell me: what should I watch? Any events I can afford to ignore? Or were they all a wash?

Friday, 7 June 2013

Book Review | Joyland by Stephen King

College student Devin Jones took the summer job at Joyland hoping to forget the girl who broke his heart. But he wound up facing something far more terrible: the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and dark truths about life — and what comes after — that would change his world forever.

A riveting story about love and loss, about growing up and growing old — and about those who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time — Joyland is Stephen King at the peak of his storytelling powers. With all the emotional impact of King masterpieces such as The Green Mile and The Shawshank RedemptionJoyland is at once a mystery, a horror story, and a bittersweet coming-of-age novel, one that will leave even the most hard-boiled reader profoundly moved.


After a lamentably uneventful 2012, Stephen King kicks off what looks to be an unusually huge year for fans of the master of modern pop horror with a small but perfectly formed mystery novel. Joyland is the second story King has written for Hard Case Crime, and like The Colorado Kid — which SyFy has since adapted into a reasonably successful TV series that deals with the weird and the wonderful on a weekly basis — it comes complete with throwback cover art by Hard Case mainstay Glen Orbik and a fantastic, nostalgic narrative.

Joyland takes the form of a tale told by an old man looking back on the last year of his youth:
1973 was the year of the OPEC oil embargo, the year Richard Nixon announced he was not a crook, the year Edward G. Robinson and Noel Coward died. It was Devin Jones's lost year. I was a twenty-one year-old virgin with literary aspirations. I possessed three pairs of bluejeans, four pairs of Jockey shorts, a clunker Ford (with a good radio), occasional suicidal ideations, and a broken heart. 
Sweet, huh? (pp.12-13)
Devin — or Dev to his friends, who flit in and out of the fiction like memories lost and found again — Dev, then, is in the process of the processing the loss of his first love, a heartbreaker called Wendy Keegan who leaves our young man hanging when she sashays on down to a job in Boston. At first, Dev doesn't know what to do without her, so when the prospect of employment at a nearby amusement park quite literally lands on his lap, he takes the opportunity by the horns, looking to lose himself in something all-consuming.

Joyland is absolutely that. But Dev's star turn as a Happy Hound will eat up much more than all the time and energy he suddenly has on his hands: to tell the truth, it will consume his youth.

King's many admirers will be pleased to hear Joyland showcases the author of The Shining and this year's never-mind-how-needful sequel, Doctor Sleep, at the top of his game. It's rather more reminiscent of Duma Key and Different Seasons than the aforementioned classic, and more interested, in the main, in natural characters than supernatural factors, but be that as it may, Joyland bears its fair share of thrills and chills.

So sit back. Relax. Make yourself a plate of something, perhaps.
"And I'll tell you the sad story of the Joyland ghost while you eat, if you want to hear it." 
"Is it really a ghost story?" 
"I've never been in that damn funhouse, so I don't know for sure. But it's a murder story. That much I am sure of." (p.35)
Dev hasn't been at Joyland for long when he first hears tell of this spectre. Supposedly, she's the ghost of a girl who was murdered by her as-yet-unidentified boyfriend halfway through the Horror House.

That this homicide happened years back is a tragic fact; that something remains of poor Linda Gray to this day is probably just local legend. Dev becomes taken with the tale in any case. He begins by looking into the circumstances of the slaying — one of a number done by a serial killer with an apparent fondness for fairs. Then, when a friend of Dev's says he sees her, and another makes a dangerous breakthrough, his investigation steps up a gear.

This aspect of the narrative unfolds slowly — in fact, it's only towards the end that said thread takes front and centre — but there's more than enough going on in the interim to retain the reader's interest. Early on, Dev meets Annie and Mike, a single mother and her sickly son, who suffers from Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy, and I dare say this pair play a more meaningful role in Joyland's story than the so-called ghost of Linda Gray. In what is far and away the novel's most emotional moment, Dev takes it upon himself to show Mike the time of his life. And when he finally rises into the sky, "up where the air is rare," (p.229) I had myself a bit of a cry.

A murderer is unmasked come the climax, and there is, admittedly, a slight speculative edge to the entire affair, but Joyland is no horror novel, nor is the "hard-boiled crime fiction" this imprint traffics in a particularly fitting description. What we have here is a coming of age tale, primarily; a beautiful book, warm and honest, about a boy becoming a man, and his tempered transformation really does pack a punch.

In the exceedingly unlikely event that Stephen King is only remembered for one thing, I warrant it will be his talent for crafting characters, which I'd assert is especially evident in this text. In Mike and Annie, not to mention Tom and Erin, Lane and Fred and Eddie — and it wouldn't do to forget dear Dev himself — King conjures living, breathing people out of thin air, often in the space of a few paltry pages.

Here, however, his sense of setting is also on top form. Joyland is a magnificent place to spend a weekend immersed in, and the surrounding area is nearly as well realised. Here's how the old-timer who owns the amusement park puts its purpose:
"This is a badly broken world, full of wars and cruelty and senseless tragedy. Every human being who inhabits it is served his or her portion of unhappiness and wakeful nights. Those of you who don't already know that will come to know it. Give such sad but undeniable facts of the human condition, you have been given a priceless gift this summer: you are here to sell fun. In exchange for the hard-earned dollars of your customers, you will parcel out happiness. Children will go home and dream of what they saw here and what they did here." (p.59)
Know that King's business, at least in this instance, is not dissimilar.

In short, Joyland is a joy. A gem whatever its genre. And I would be remiss not to note that it bodes very well indeed for Doctor Sleep, which must be the most significant novel the stalwart wordsmith has written since the finale of The Dark Tower saga. If the further adventures of Danny Torrance measure up against the high standard set by this more modest effort, King's constant readers can look forward to another real treat this year.


by Stephen King

UK & US Publication: July 2013, Hard Case Crime

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