The Geomancer


Wishing on a Rising Star

Alexis Glynn Latner's debut novel, Hurricane Moon, is now listing as being in stock on Amazon, and should be in stores in a few weeks. We've also recently uploaded the first three chapters online, where you can read them there or download as a PDF.

Meanwhile, I see that the website of Rice University, where alum Alexis serves as Fondren Library Circulation Assistant, has uploaded an article on her exciting debut. As she tells journalist Jessica Stark, "My highest aspiration is that one of my stories inspires someone to think about the universe differently. That kind of thinking can bring hope; hope that can help someone get through a bad night."


MythMaking Down Under

Sean Williams, author of The Hanging Mountainsand some 20 other novels (!), is podcast on episode 33 of StageCast, talking about everything from space opera and fantasy epics, to creating myths for Australia, to writing for children vs. adults. The podcast is available from both iTunes and as a direct download from the site.


Brasyl is a Landmark

"Where other writers spend their whole lives creating fantastic imaginary worlds that have their own languages, calendars and social strata," says Ryun Patterson of Bookgasm, "McDonald has dived headfirst into a culture that’s every bit as fantastic and also awesomely real."

Speaking of the Quill-nominated Brasyl, Patterson says that Ian McDonald writes,"as if he were raised on the beaches of Rio. Food, language, attitudes – everything comes off as authentic," then goes on to proclaim the importance within this lush setting of the story itself. "While science-fiction classics of the past have explored what it means to be alien or what it means to be intelligent, Brasyl is a landmark in that [it] unravels what it means to be quantum, and what might necessarily follow if quantum theory holds true. In addition, there are sweet car chases, acres of suspense, huge tracts of conspiracy, knives that cut through anything, epic battles, fight scenes worthy of Yuen Woo-Ping, and plenty of hot sex. Really, what are you waiting for?"

Good question.


Clear Your Calendar: Recommends Brasyl

Andrew Leonard has just put forward Ian McDonald's Brasylin's List of Summer Reading Recommendations. Andrew says, "If you liked River of Gods,which performed a similar mash-up of SF tropes with full cultural immersion in India, you will delight in Brasyl. And if you're a science fiction fan who has never read any Ian McDonald, well, then, clear your calendar." He goes on to talk about the way that "an age of globalization" has inspired science fiction writers to investigate new-to-them territories in the here and now, concluding, "A similar wave swept through SF in the 1980s, when Japan's emergent cultural and economic power suddenly became reflected in scores of science fiction novels. But McDonald has more fun than most of the Japanophiles did. I always wanted to visit the future. But after Brasyl, I want to book a ticket to São Paulo also."


A Quality of Real Genius: Vandermeer and McDonald

"Most stories start with an image--I'm a visual writer, I need to see [it] in memory or imagination before I can translate it into words," says Ian McDonald, in an interview with author, anthologist, and blogger Jeff Vandermeer, posted on the new Amazon Bookstore's Blog. "For Brasyl,the image was people picking over a giant trash heap of e-waste--twin peaks of grey beige a glittering cap of discarded I-pods. Then the what-iffery began: we're pretty aware of the toxic fall-out of conventional garbage, but what kind of existential pollution might you get from quantum computers?"

McDonald goes on to talk about the genesis of all three of Brasyl's intertwined narratives, the amount of research that goes into one of his epic works, and a little about his next work, The Dervish House. Of McDonald himself, Jeff Vandermeer says, "
Saying Ian McDonald might be the world’s best SF writer seems a little inaccurate to me although many readers think this is true. The fact is, McDonald deserves to be going up against most of the world’s top fiction writers, period. He has proven over a distinguished and varied career that he is a formidable stylist, yes, but in everything he writes, he also demonstrates flexibility, vision, and mastery of good old fashioned storytelling."

Meanwhile, Jeff's own work is well-worth checking out, as is his newly-revamped website, Ecstatic Days.


Houston, Can You Read Me?

Pyr authors Chris Roberson and Alexis Glynn Latner will both be in attendance this coming weekend at ApolloCon 2007, held in Houston, Texas June 22-24th.

Both of Chris' books, Here, There & Everywhere and Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, will be on hand in the dealers room through the wonderful Edge Books. Also on hand via Edge will be Bright of the Sky, Fast Forward 1, and Brasyl.

Sadly, Alexis's debut novel, Hurricane Moon, won't be back from the printers in time for ApolloCon, but later this summer, you'll have three more chances to catch Alexis and the book together at Conestoga in Tulsa, Oklahoma (July 20-22), the North American Science Fiction Convention in St. Louis (August 2-5), and ArmadilloCon in Austin (August 10-11).

But stop Alexis and say hello at ApolloCon anyway. Authors need love same as anyone.


Set Sail for Adventure

Publishers Weekly gave a nice review to Chris Roberson's Set the Seas on Fire. This isn't one of ours, being out from Solaris Books, but is a sort of prequel to the Pyr novel, Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, as it features Hieronymus Bonaventure before he finds his way to the counter earth of our novel. So, as to the prequel, PW says:

Roberson adds a pulpy twist to Napoleonic-era naval adventure as the crew of a damaged English frigate finds both paradise and hell on a pair of uncharted Pacific islands. First Lt. Hieronymus Bonaventure, last seen in Paragaea (2006), serves gamely aboard the HMS Fortitude, but longs for something more exciting than harrying galleons across the South Pacific for an aging captain dreaming of padding his retirement stash. When the Fortitude is badly damaged and blown into 'mare incognita,' the 'unknown sea,' the crew manages to reach a tropical island where the natives are friendly and the ship can be repaired. An attack by bat-winged creatures foreshadows the danger awaiting on the forbidden island of “first volcano,” where Bonaventure leads his men when his native lover, Pelani, is kidnapped. Roberson delivers a fairly standard but well-crafted adventure story for most of the book before delving into the supernatural. The novel is a good bet for adventure fans who want more than your average Horatio Hornblower clone."

Meanwhile, another Paragaea has cropped up on the radar:

“…does a wonderful job of catching the feel of one of Burroughs’s Mars novels, albeit with some very well-conceived gender variations. As a special bonus, he promises that the marvels of Paragaea, which in Burroughs’s work would have been pseudo-scientific double talk, are explainable using contemporary science. It is a genuinely fun adventure novel.” -Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)-Voyages, Blue Ridge Summit, PA, Feb 2007

Books You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

First, a huge congratulations to our frequent cover artist John Picacio, who in one weekend garners an International Horror Guild nomination in the Art category for his Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio, and a win in the Best Artist category of the Locus Awards. John is one of the top illustrators working in SF&F now, as his string of Hugo, WFC and IHG award nominations attest. And I can say, I knew him when...

Second, over on Kay Kenyon's livejournal, our author tells the story of one baker who was overly concerned about copyright infringement when it comes to cake baking. The baker's concern was laudable, though as Kay points out the cake in question didn't survive long enough to pose any serious threat to Stephan Martiniere's original illustration. And I'm sure that Stephan would be happy to know that his excellent artwork for Bright of the Sky was so directly and intimately appreciated by this audience.


Crooked Timber on Brasyl: "What more could you be looking for?"

Crooked Timber offers up some interesting thoughts on Ian McDonald's Brasyl stating that it is "open to question whether the book is trying to present an authentic vision of what Brazil past, current and future might look like," and further argues " that the book is best categorized as a utopian novel, albeit one that is remarkably sneaky and indirect."

I quite enjoyed this analysis, and look forward to the forthcoming promised longer piece. For now, Crooked Timber concludes:

"I suspect that one of the reasons why McDonald wanted to write about Brazil is because it poses questions about the globalization of culture and economics so starkly. The result is that the book has a political resonance that’s very different from the mainstream of American and UK SF. Cory Doctorow likes Brasyl enormously, and I’m not even slightly surprised. Brasyl’s argument has a lot in common with what I’ve described as BoingBoing socialism. On the one hand, Brasyl shows the downside of William Gibson’s famous dictum that 'the street finds its own uses for things.' On the other, it turns the phrase into a positive political manifesto. It’s also very well (at times beautifully) written and tells a great story while it’s at it. What more could you be looking for?"


Trolls Play With Conventions, River Flows On

One of our very first offerings, Charles Coleman Finlay's The Prodigal Troll gets a new review on SF Crowsnest from reviewer Tomas L. Martin. Martin, who admits a bias towards science fiction over fantasy, admits, "This is a good book because it plays a little with genre conventions. The societies are slightly different to what you'd expect and the fight scenes involving a small rebellious tribe are reminiscent of a fantasy Vietnam amongst the trees. The main character and the knight at the beginning are well drawn. Finlay writes with an extremely enjoyable style and this is one of those books that flies by quickly. The trolls are fun and poignant in equal turns..."

Meanwhile, Magill Book Reviews reviews Ian McDonald's River of Gods: “…McDonald skillfully weaves the characters’ narratives into a cohesive whole, providing a thought-provoking look at a possible future world in which non-Western influences play just as large a role as their Western counterparts.”

And, while we're talking about Ian McDonald, we're thrilled to report that his latest, Brasyl, ranked # 5 on the bestselling hardcover list at San Francisco-based independent genre bookstore Borderlands Books for May 2007!

Incidentally, all three of the above works - The Prodigal Troll, River of Gods and Brasyl, are available from Borderlands right now. And as you all know buying from independents is guaranteed good for your karma.


Brasyl: a Mind-Boggling Doozy

Elizabeth Vail reviews Ian McDonald's Brasyl for Green Man Review. She calls the novel, "a dazzling, if somewhat warped, story involving three separate but somehow connected narratives that evolve across three different timelines," and goes on to say that, "With all these ideas, and the steamy neon tropical setting of Brazil, Ian McDonald builds up to a mind-boggling doozy of a multiworld theory... McDonald gives us a Brazil that is enormous but close, filthy but pure, glossily artificial while true to itself."

She concludes that Brasyl is "a thought-provoking science fiction novel with an evocative sense of setting and textured language. "

A Mass of D'Ammassa

On his website Critical Mass, author and former Science Fiction Chronicle reviewer Don D'Ammassa reviews Alexis Glynn Latner's debut novel, Hurricane Moon, which will be coming out in just a few weeks.

"I've been reading short stories by Latner for about ten years now, almost all of them in Analog, and have found her to be a reliable source of interesting and accessible stories of hard science fiction. At long last we have a chance to read her at novel length, and it was worth the wait, although I hope we don't have to wait as long for her next. It's an old fashioned space adventure, but with more contemporary sensibilities and healthy doses of intelligent and not too abstruse science... Extremely well written, tightly plotted, full of that old fashioned sense of wonder about the universe. I hope to see much more from this author in the future."

Meanwhile, I've found a host of Pyr reviews that I mostly missed in his 2006 archive. Don says that the reviews "were written for Science Fiction Chronicle, but most were never used." So let's look at some of them here!

Fast Forward 1, edited by Yours Truly:

"Lou Anders has put together a collection of twenty original stories, designed to be the first in an ongoing series along the lines of Terry Carr’s Universe series or Damon Knight’s Orbit collections, although the emphasis appears to be on hard SF. There are stories by some of the best known writers in that sub-genre – Stephen Baxter, Larry Niven, Ken Macleod – as well as representatives of the more literary end of the spectrum – Gene Wolfe, Paul Di Filippo, Pamela Sargent. Non-theme anthologies are almost always more readable than specialized ones and this is no exception, very high quality throughout and enough variation to reward almost any reader’s taste."

Sagramanda (A Novel of Near-Future India) by Alan Dean Foster:

Near future India is the setting for this surprisingly low key novel, surprising because there are a lot of violent things happening in it. The central plot is the theft by a scientist of a revolutionary new, but undescribed, discovery which he is trying to sell to a competitor... Nicely understated, and a depressing and unfortunately not entirely inaccurate portrayal of the future of much of the urban world, and not just India."

Starship: Pirate by Mike Resnick:

"Resnick combines space opera, a touch of military, more than a touch of humor, and his usual talent for creating larger than life characters in this new series. Consistently good fun from beginning to end."

Mappa Mundi by Justina Robson:

"This one might well have been packaged as a contemporary thriller rather than SF, and it’s a good one regardless of your mind set while you’re reading it."

Infoquake by David Louis Edelman:

"A debut novel and the first in a trilogy, set in a future when multi-national corporations have become virtual governments... Lots of interesting speculation and a plausible and interesting plot. I found the prose a bit awkward from time to time but not so much that it significantly interfered with my enjoyment of the story."

Paragaea: A Planetary Romance by Chris Roberson:

"The cover blurbs compare this to Edgar Rice Burroughs and Leigh Brackett, and with some justification.... a bit difficult to take seriously at times, but if you just let go and enjoy the ride, Roberson conducts a pretty rousing tour of his universe."

New Dreams for Old by Mike Resnick:

"I am so used to thinking of Mike Resnick as primarily a novelist that it came as a surprise to read through the table of contents of this new collection and discover how many of them I remembered. And how many of them have appeared on Hugo and Nebula ballots. Although a few have been previously collected, most appear in book form for the first time... Some are funny, some are dead serious. All are nifty. This is a big, representative, and above all very satisfying selection of his short fiction."

Resolution: Book III of the Nulapeiron Sequence by John Meaney:

"The final volume of the Nulapeiron trilogy concludes this sequence set in a future so remote and different that it is sometimes difficult to identify with the characters and situations. Technology and mental powers have advanced to the point where they are indistinguishable from magic....You'll have to suspend your disbelief pretty radically for this one, but if you can get yourself into the story, you'll have a wild and exciting ride ahead of you."

The Destiny Mask by Martin Sketchley:

"Pyr Books has been reprinting quite a few British and Australian novels which had not previously appeared in the US, including this, the second in a series. The setting is an interstellar empire and the plot is one familiar to readers even outside the genre, the rivalry between two twins, separated as babies and ignorant of each other's existence, who become pivotal players in a battle between rebels and a repressive interplanetary dictatorship. I liked this one considerably better than its predecessor, The Affinity Trap. The characters are more realistic and the plot tighter and more involving."

The Liberty Gun
by Martin Sketchley

"I had a mixed reaction to the first two novels in the Structure series, but the third is a much more satisfying space adventure that mixes time travel, aliens, military SF, and general intrigue. ...the situation is considerably more complicated than any of the characters realize. It takes a while to get into the story, but once you’re there, you won’t want out."

Genetopia by Keith Brooke:

"Pyr has reprinted several British SF novels that have not previously been available in the US, including this one from 1999. Brooke should have been discovered earlier because he has definite talent... Many of the things Flint encounters are fascinating ideas, but after a while it becomes just a parade of wonders and readers may find themselves impatient to get to the destination."

Note: Genetopia is an original novel, first published by Pyr. Don is apparently confusing it with a previously published short story of the same name. Meanwhile, with this profusion of Pyr reviews, Don has put my own personal archive of our books' reviews over the 500 mark. And while I'm sure I have missed some somewhere, I'm happy to report that out of some 503 reviews I've tracked since we launched - appearing everywhere from tiny websites I'd never previously heard of to huge venues like the Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly - I've only logged 27 negative ones! Which is nice.

Keeping It Fun

Justina Robson is interviewed on Sci Fi Wire by John Joseph Adams. They talk about her novel, Keeping It Real, and the forthcoming sequel, Selling Out.

"I decided I needed a different kind of challenge and set out to write the most preposterous story I could think of, at a rate of 3,000 words per day. I didn't let myself overthink anything: I had a law I had to stick to, which was that whatever came out of my mind first had to go on the page."


Memorable, Big-Picture Entertainment

Ian McDonald's Quill-nominated masterpiece, Brasyl, has just been reviewed in the June 1, 2007 issue of Entertainment Weekly:

Packing his pages with local color and big-picture speculation, McDonald conjures three equally vivid worlds. Grade: B+”

Meanwhile, Blogcritics Magazine reviewer Tim Gebhart has this to say:

"McDonald's last novel, River of Gods, portrayed Indian society in 2047. It earned nominations for both the 2005 Hugo Award and the 2005 Arthur C. Clarke Award, given for the best science fiction novel published in the United Kingdom. Not only should his deft touch and vision of multiverses earn Brasyl those nominations again, no one should be surprised if it earns him the awards themselves."

Meanwhile, Mike Resnick's New Dreams for Old is reviewed on SF Crowsnest by Sue Davies:

“This collection of stories proved to be…memorable…Even now looking at the titles makes me recall the hook of many of them. Each story has a specially written introduction with Mike Resnick's thoughts on the origin of the story and some reasons for it... The lighter tales are more than compensated for by the deeply thought out ones that brought a lump to my throat…All of the stories have a point to make and they do not waste words in saying them. Some of them are moving and other simply make you stop and think. I enjoyed them very much."

And, in a different slant on "preaching to the converted," Gardner Dozois' anthology from our debut season, Galileo's Children: Tales Of Science VS. Superstition, is reviewed in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Vol. 58, No. 2, June 2006:

“These stories by eminent authors are collected by a former editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction…the approach implies a negative slant toward religion, but the encounters are sophisticated and provocative… [and they] also offer insights into the meaning of religion in people’s lives. They provide an overview of secular perspectives on religion and are useful for entertainment, self-examination, social relevance, or apologetics…these tales are examples of top-quality storytelling.”