I had this as an advanced reader’s copy through Net Galley, and I went into it knowing nothing of the author or the plot. I don’t know, however, that much prior information would have helped me with the first couple of chapters. Meloy dumps us into a netherworld where the planet Mars takes the place of the moon, and characters I sensed were the good guys kept to their side of the street while a pub across the way served as a passageway for very bad things to enter their world. The next chapter involved a farm house bothered by a zombiefied relative who ate hot stew with his bare hands, had to be led away on the tines of a pitchfork, and set on fire in a field.
It took me several pages into the next sequence to realize that Meloy was settling down to his plot. A housing estate somewhere in the UK, with its boarded up shops, council flats, graffiti-covered walls, and threats of violence suggested a dystopian, post-apocalyptic setting, but no, this is just a miserable place to live. Meloy can really pack in the information. With the background of a mass shooting at a day care center, he introduces us to a feckless estate patrolman, an alcoholic hanging onto some sense of dignity, and a social worker whose cases have begun to either kill themselves or others. And there are monsters, hideous creatures that can possess the weak and pursue those who might be a threat to them.
Meloy has worked as a psychiatric nurse, and this section grounded in the world of the housing estate, with his hero Phil Travena dealing with suicidal and homicidal clients, a weaselly new boss brought in to “tighten the ship,” drunks and a growing sense that these monsters may not be hallucinations sets the action in both a very real and very creepy world. Once we are part of the pitched battle between good and evil, things take on the more predictable cast that such battles usually entail. But Meloy continues to create inventive situations, engaging characters, and grand set pieces. His monsters are spectacular creations that wear their debt to Lovecraft lightly. The talking animals are a problem, but that could be my inherent resistance to talking animals.
Much of the plot involves the impending birth of Chloe, a child whose existence is crucial to victory over the dark forces. In one of Meloy’s most successful narrative devices, we get to know Chloe as an adult character, stranded in a dangerous world as she waits to be born. There are also a man and his son who start as characters in a children’s book who become major players in the battle.
At times I felt that Meloy’s story needed a larger canvas than he provides, but when I weighed that against his ability to wrap things up as quickly as he did, I decided he made the right choice. He ties things up well. That illogical zombie scene from the first pages even makes sense by the time the story is over. And although he doesn’t end with cliffhangers, Meloy could easily return to this world for further novels.
Elena clutched the gyroscope and stared Brian down. I couldn’t think of any scientific explanation for what Brian had just done. A gyroscope stays upright because of its angular momentum. Ideally, it would never fall, since the torque that gravity supplies is not sufficient to offset its gyroscopic inertia. In real life, however, friction gradually erodes the rotation, causing it to precess more and more, until finally the rotation degrades and gravity takes hold.
This left one of two options. Either Brian had managed to eliminate any appreciable friction from our tabletop–not to mention air resistance–or he had a way to inject more energy into the system without touching the gyroscope, thus overcoming the effects of the friction. I couldn’t think of any way he could do either of those things.
“Okay, I give up,” I said. “How did you do it?”
Brian looked grave. “They showed me. The quantum intelligences.”
“I see. The little fairies are spinning the gyroscope?” I tried not to let the cynicism creep into my voice, but it was hard.
“Of course not,” he snapped. “It’s ground state energy. The energy of a single particle’s spin. It never stops. It’s an infinite source of power.”
I hesitated, finding it hard to believe, but at the same time hard to discount the evidence of the gyroscope. “So you took a feature of the quantum world and made it apply in the larger world,” I said.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Brian said quietly. “Gonna change the world.”
“If it were real, that would be a technology worth trillions of dollars,” I said. “Is that why you’re here? Are there people chasing you, trying to get this from you?”
“They’re chasing me,” he said, “but they’re not people.”
I threw up my hands. “You’d better start talking sense.”
“One more example, then,” he said. He reached under the table, and suddenly there was a Glock 46 in his hand, the barrel pointing at Elena.
I was on my feet in an instant, my chair toppling over behind me. I held my hands up, palms out. “Put it down,” I said. “Brian, listen to me.”
Elena stared into the gun’s barrel, motionless, hardly breathing. “Don’t do this,” she whispered.
“It won’t hurt you,” Brian said. “The bullet will just diffract around you.”
“You’re talking crazy,” I said. “Look at me.” He didn’t move. “Look at me!” I shouted. He looked. “It’s a bullet, not an electron,” I said. “If you pull the trigger, it will kill her. You don’t want that.”
He stood. “You won’t believe me unless I show you.”
I started to ease around the edge of the table toward him. “I do believe you,” I said. “Let’s just sit down, and you can tell us all about it.”
“No, you don’t. You call them fairies and make fun of me. But they’re real, Jacob. I’m not going to hurt anybody. I just want to prove it to you.”
“Point the gun somewhere else, then,” I said. “Point it at me.”
“It won’t hurt her,” he said, and pulled the trigger.
Dover Books has begun a new series of reprints called Doomsday Classics. Not the cheeriest series, perhaps, but they are pulling together a group of titles from the past 150 years that promises to combine academic interest with popular appeal for a broader science fiction readership. So far they have brought back into print Darkness and Dawn, a trilogy of novels from 1914 by George Allen England. England is largely forgotten today, but at the turn of the 20th century he was considered the American H.G. Wells. Also already on the shelves is Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague (1912). Coming up is Robertson Jeffries After London, a piece of Victorian science fiction new to me. Japan Sinks (1995) by Sakyo Komatsu is major work of Asian science fiction currently out-of-print in English.
Their July 2015 release is The Night of the Long Knives, a disappointing effort by Fritz Leiber. Leiber wrote it as a short novel for the January 1960 issue of Amazing Science Fiction Stories, and it reads like a truncated version of what could have been a better, longer novel. Leiber sets up a convincing if by now familiar post-apocalyptic world, but the plot, such as it is, gets talked to death before it has a chance to take advantage of what Leiber is building on.
He opens with a scene familiar from classic Hollywood westerns, replacing the desert Southwest with an irradiated wasteland in the central United States. Two strangers warily approach one another, not sure if the next moments will bring bloodshed or comradeship. Actually, since this is a man and a woman, the option is bloodshed or sex, but even taking option number two will not discount resorting quickly to option number one. A propensity for murder has become second nature to those who wander the Deathlands. Leiber never satisfactorily explains why this is, but since he has created a first person narrator, such analysis would not be an option. Things just are the way they are.
The man and woman go for option number two, and the best part of the novel is their silent, methodical self-disarmaments, neither one willing to remove a weapon or an article of clothing until he or she is certain the other is making a similar concession. They also don’t speak, talking not being an accepted Deathland first-date behavior. And in this bleak, poisoned world beauty criteria have changed. The man –whose name, by the way, turns out to be Ray, the woman is Alice – is self-conscious about his eggshell baldness, but he is attracted to Alice’s radiation scars. One that traces a line from her eyebrow, across her forehead, and into her hairline provides “just the fillip” needed to make her beautiful. (Nice to think that after an atomic war the term “fillip” may make a comeback.)
This opening encounter takes up almost a third of the narrative, but things fall apart once it is over. Ray and Alice murder a handsome and to them offensively healthy man who shows up in a flying machine. They meet an old geezer they call Pop. He’s a scrounger, possibly too cracked to be dangerous. The trio flies off in the dead man’s aircraft that is preprogrammed to take them to the edges of the civilized zones where yet another war is in progress. There is little action and much boring talk. When the ship returns them to the Deathlands location they started from, they find the dying woman their civilized victim had come to save. There is more talk and the story winds down.
Leiber’s novel is a mess starting with the title. Evoking the series of assassinations that secured Hitler’s rise to power brings nothing to the narrative. The one other component that sparks any real interest is Pop’s proselytizing for his newfound commitment to stop wholesale murder. He has found a group of like-thinking ex-murderers who get together informally to help one another fight the urge when it comes on them. The loosely organized band is setting up meetings across the Deathlands. Right now it is just men, but they are thinking they should admit women. They joke about calling themselves Murderers Anonymous.
Leiber was an alcoholic who sought treatment several times. Among the Leiber papers held by the University of Indiana, there are several folders dated 1960 that contain Alcoholics Anonymous material. I don’t know how obvious or coded the AA references in The Night of the Long Knives would have been to readers of Amazing Science Fiction when the novel was published, nor what Leiber hoped to accomplish with their inclusion His recovery process must have been weighing heavily on his mind at the time, but Pop’s enthusiasm and Ray’s and Alices’s cautious curiosity about what he has to offer becomes just another loose end in the hodge-podge of the novel.
I place The Night of the Long Knives among the Leiber works for completists only.
(This review is based on an advance ebook provided by Net Galley.)
I so wish I had seen this last month! It would have been perfect for our Month of Horrors series and it looks totally bad ass. Check out the wicked-cool illustrations by Santiago Caruso. They are the stuff of nightmares. And Joe-freakin’-you-had-me-at-Bubba-Hotep-Lansdale is the author! You want to get your creep on in style? THIS is the way to do it. The leather slipcase and cover for Black Labyrinth Book I: The Walls of the Castle by Tom Piccirilli is just beautiful and you can expect more of the same for book 2.
Now here’s the bad news. As it is, there are only 3 days left for this Kickstarter campaign so if you want in you have to act now. Chris Morey, owner and publisher of Dark Regions Press and creator of the Black Labyrinth imprint and his team are really close to funding so you could be the person to put them over the top. If not you, then perhaps someone you know would be interested so help us spread the word.
OK, whatever you think of the steampunk sub-genre you have to admit this lamp is freakin’ awesome. And if you are a steampunk fan what better accessory to have in your home?
This lamp comes from Machine Age Lamps and they have a plethora of options for you to choose from including custom lamps built to your specifications. Each sculptural lamp is one of a kind, signed and numbered and all the gauges and gears are real antiques. Beautiful. I’ve spent a good half hour lusting over these lamps and thought you might like to see them too.
Of course, once you get your funky-awesome new lamp you’ll want something to read under it. Here is a selection of steampunk books for you to enjoy. With everything from vampires to cowboys to Victorian spies to dragons, and even a Dyson sphere for good measure, there is something here for just about everyone.
What steampunk books have you read? Do you have any recommendations for the uninitiated?
I think it’s about time we gave away some more books! Thankfully, Touchstone agrees with me and they have provided us with 5 autographed copies of Tom King’s new book A Once Crowded Sky to give away to you. For your chance to win, all you have to do is re-tweet our tweet, share our FB post, or leave a comment below! Do all three and triple your chances. The contest is open to all and will last until next Wednesday when we’ll draw 5 names from the hat.
Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, publishes commercial & literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, biography/memoir, diet & fitness, sports & entertainment, and more.
The superheroes of Arcadia City fight a wonderful war, and play a wonderful game, forever saving yet another day. However, after sacrificing both their powers and Ultimate, the greatest hero of them all, to defeat the latest apocalypse, these comic book characters are transformed from the marvelous into the mundane.
After too many battles won and too many friends lost, The Soldier of Freedom was fine letting all that glory go. But when a new threat blasts through his city, Soldier, as ever, accepts his duty and reenlists in this next war. Without his once amazing abilities, he’s forced to seek the help of the one man who walked away, the sole hero who refused to make the sacrifice- PenUltimate, the sidekick of Ultimate, who through his own rejection of the game has become the most powerful man in the world, the only one left who might still, once again, save the day.
The Stephanie Saulter free books re-tweet contest closed on Monday but work and life kept us from announcing the winners until now. We had, in all, 47 entries – thanks everyone for participating. After copying all names into a spreadsheet and assigning each one a number, we used a random number generator to select our five winners. For the record, the numbers we generated were 10, 16, 21, 27 and 39.
Congrats to our winners:
If you are one of our prize winners please send your mailing address to us at “info [at] worldswithoutend [dot] com” so we can get your autographed books in the mail right away.
Thanks to the good people at Jo Fletcher Books we have 5 autographed copies of Stephanie Saulter’s debut book Gemsigns to give away. For your chance to win all you have to do is re-tweet our tweet, share our FB post, or leave a comment below! Do all three and triple your chances. The contest is open to all and will last until next Monday when we’ll draw 5 names from the hat.
Jo Fletcher Books, an imprint of Quercus Publishing, is a specialist science fiction, fantasy and horror imprint in the UK with plans to come stateside. Jo Fletcher’s own personal tastes in fiction have always been wonderfully eclectic and JFB is dedicated to being as broad a church as possible, hopefully publishing something for everyone. WWEnd has the complete JFB catalog in our database so check out the selection on the JFB publisher page.
For years the human race was under attack from a deadly Syndrome, but when a cure was found – in the form of genetically engineered human beings, Gems – the line between survival and ethics was radically altered.
Now the Gems are fighting for their freedom, from the oppression of the companies which created them, and against the Norms, who have always seen them as slaves. The conference at which Dr Eli Walker has been commissioned to present his findings on the Gems is the key to that freedom.
But with the Gemtech companies fighting to keep the Gems enslaved, and the horrifying godgangs determined to rid the earth of these ‘unholy’ creations, the Gems are up against forces that might just be too powerful to oppose.
From the publisher:
Gemsigns is a fast-paced and exciting story, full of engaging, memorable characters. It’s old-fashioned storytelling in that there is a clear sense of what is at stake, who is on which side, and that the threat is huge and horrifying; but it’s unusual and quite modern in that it leaves it up to the reader to decide what they think is the right answer to the central moral question. There are characters you will probably like but not necessarily agree with, and characters you might find appalling, but think are actually in the right. And the ending is a real shocker – almost no one who’s read it sees what’s coming. Will you?
For those of you participating in the Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge, Mz. Saulter would be an excellent choice for a new author since this is her first book or even to satisfy the 1 random author requirement. I’m looking forward to seeing some reviews for this one. Good luck to all!
Edit: We just added an excerpt for Gensigns so you can get a little taste.
Last week we posted a dozen new books to the SF Masterworks list and now we’re back again with some new Fantasy Masterworks! Gollancz has re-started the series with 6 new books for your reading pleasure. But more than just new books they’ve totally re-designed the cover art for the new additions into something very clean and iconic. The new look is a complete departure from the previous books in the series but they’re coming out of the gate with some strong titles so I don’t think anyone will mind all that much. I would have preferred something that relates to the old design a bit more, like the relationship between the old and new SF series artwork, but these really are quite beautiful.
So what do you think of the new titles and the new design? Are you as excited as I am that they’ve resurrected the series? I always thought they stopped too short at just 50 titles.
WWEnd monitors Amazon’s Daily Deals, and if we see a good deal on SF/F/H books, we usually tweet it. Sometimes, we see one that is so good, it’s blog worthy. Today’s UK deal is one of those. If you live in the United Kingdom, you can get any of five Ben Bova novels for £0.99 each.
Four of these books are part of the Grand Tour series. They’re pretty much random volumes, so it’s a good thing they were meant to be read in no particular order. Here they are:
The fifth book, Voyagers III, is part of the Voyagers series, which probably will require reading the first two books.