Posts Tagged ‘Abaddon’

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Maniacle and manic; those were my overriding thoughts after reading El Sombra. It’s no surprise as the author, Al Ewing, is known for his comic book writing and this novel, set in a steampunk alternative reality, had many of the same visceral, action packed set pieces along with a healthy dose of vile villains waiting to be extinguished in exceptional style.

In the shared world sandbox of Paz Britannia, Ewing takes the idea of steampunk and runs with it. Basing his story in a small Mexican town that has been overrun by ruthlessly evil Nazis, El Sombra is a tale of absolute vengeance. By that, I mean total and completely insane levels of retribution. The eponymous protagonist was once some sort of emo poet and general laughing stock while his brother was the exact opposite; handsome, charming, brave and liked. Opening at the brother’s wedding, the novel quickly finds its stride as Nazis murder the bride and groom while emo-boy blubbers and then runs away.

As a catalyst it’s result is impressive. Emo becomes El Sombra; a fierce, desert hardened, sword wielding mix between ninja and berserker. After nine years in the wilderness he returns to his village and wreaks havoc. The Nazi force are undertaking all kinds of experiments, mainly turning the populace into mindless automatons. El Sombra is a one man army and so begins his bloody, violent journey toward retribution.

El Sombra is a blend of self-reflexive pulp fiction, alternative history, steampunk and comic book violence. It’s glorious in its unrelenting, unadulterated, uncensored imagination. Flying Nazis, a steampunk powered Hitler, gore galore and a hero of epic proportions. It’s mental but in a good way.

Review copy
Published by Abaddon

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If you’ve ever read any of Gavin G. Smith’s work before, you’ll understand why his latest offering jumped to the top of the reading pile. First, I’m going to give you the blurb that hooked me and then try to review the book without giving too much away..

1987, THE HEIGHT OF THE COLD WAR. For Captain Vadim Scorlenski and the rest of the 15th Spetsnaz Brigade, being scrambled to unfamiliar territory at no notice, without a brief or proper equipment, is more or less expected; but even by his standards, their mission to one of the United States’ busiest cities stinks…

World War III was over in a matter of hours, and Vadim and most of his squad are dead, but not done. What’s happened to them, and to millions of civilians around the world, goes beyond any war crime; and Vadim and his team – Skull, Mongol, Farm Boy, Princess, Gulag, the Fräulein and New Boy – won’t rest until they’ve seen justice done.

Reading the synopsis reminded me of all those 1980s survivalist/post-apocalyptic pulp novels I read as a kid. I’m not going to lie, it excited me and the opening gambit certainly lived up to expectations. Gavin G. Smith knows his way around the fast paced, ballet of violence that an action novel requires. Special Purposes: First Strike Weapon is wild. Adrenaline fuelled fire fights against gut wrenching odds are packed into a story that manages to remain grounded and considered despite the full-bore craziness of a post-apocalyptic background.

The squad led by the protagonist Vadim are a fantastic cast and the banter and comraderie is brilliantly wrought. The fact that Smith is able to include some moral philosophising amongst the blood bath battles is impressive, adding yet another layer. It’s the best of survivalist pulp fiction added to a strong plot and exceptional writing.

Special Purposes: First Strike Weapon is pure, unapologetic, full-throttle, action packed awesomeness. Beginning to end, the atmospheric ride is an absolute firestorm. There’s so much more to say but I don’t want to spoil anything too much. Safe to say, Vadim and his squad end up as both enemy and protector in a world gone mad. Plus, there’s the all out slaughter of a group of racist, neo-nazi, war re-enactors which is just the icing on a brutal cake of an exceptional book. Obviously, the author had too much fun and I hope, somehow, he revisits this world again.

Review copy
Published by Abaddon Books

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Nik Abnett, author of the excellent Savant was kind enough to answer some questions about her latest novel.

Savant is a unique book – could you explain a little about how it came to be?

NIK: I’d had in mind for a long time to write a book about unconditional love; the sort of constant you find between parents and their children. I didn’t want to write something righteous or proselytising, though, and that’s part of the reason I thought that the SF medium would best suit the theme. Then, I happened to start reading a novel by a friend of mine. I’d bought the book, and got it signed, but when I came to read it, it simply wasn’t my cup of tea. I realised that a lot of contemporary SF leaves me a little cold; much of it seems to be so busy and action-based, and I wanted to read something quieter. It dawned on me that I wanted to write something quieter, too. SF/F is a brilliant medium for all kinds of ideas, because the scope is so endless. Of course, in the end, and in development, the book became about all kinds of things, but it began with that nugget, and I extrapolated as I went along. The original theme may not be transparent in the finished novel, but it’s the kernel from which everything began. In essence, it came to be, because I wanted to write something that I’d enjoy reading.

The setting struck me as retro-sci-fi (like some of those great 1970’s movies) – what was the thinking behind this kind of worldbuilding?

NIK: I’m a child of the seventies, and some of my favourite SF still comes from that period. As children, we are at our most receptive and least inhibited, and I think the stories we read or watch often have the biggest impact on us during that developmental period. I’m not sure I thought about the world-building in isolation. I begin a novel with only a theme to work with, so plot, action and world-building are all a product of the process of writing the book. Much of the world came as an organic response to the characters and situation. Perhaps it’s partly due to the fact that I was at school during the seventies and early eighties, and this novel is set in a college environment. Perhaps it was inevitable that the world-building might, in some small way, reflect my own experiences of that kind of institutionalisation… I could speculate endlessly.

Using a savant, Tobe, as one of your main characters is an interesting choice – especially considering his relationship to Metoo – how challenging was that to write and what inspired that choice?

NIK: It’s always interesting to try to represent characters that are in some way ‘other’. Every time a male author writes a female character, or a woman writer a male character, the same thing applies. I’m not a soldier, a monster, an alien, a man or a child, either, I’m a writer, but it would soon become very dull to write about writers and writing. We give little thought to how otherness is represented until it falls within the spectrum of people who are otherwise very like us. We take much for granted. Readers are less likely to take human others for granted, because we all have a social interest in their welfare, and, sometimes, a fascination with their conditions.

I guess the choice of writing Tobe and Metoo was about the line between the intellectual and the emotional. These two characters are simply at either ends of this spectrum of human experience. Some are more intellectual than emotional, and some the other way around. Tobe and Metoo both represent extreme personalities in their different ways. Was it challenging to write? I guess no more challenging than any kind of ‘other’, and the relationship between these two characters helped enormously. When I was in any doubt, I gave Metoo an emotional, but measured response, while Tobe tended to the intellectual, but irrational. Once I got the rhythm, these two were great fun to write.

Your novel also considers the notion of a political state (a very controlling one); what was the idea behind ‘Service’?

NIK: Initially, Service was simply a mechanism to give Tobe routines; order was key to his welfare. Of course, during the writing of the book, it became much more than that. Tobe’s disintegration into chaos is at the heart of this novel, and it had to be massively dangerous in order to set-up Metoo as his opposite, and for her to fulfil her role. What is more dangerous to the individual than the interference of the state?

I toyed a lot with the idea of the State as a controlling factor in my characters’ lives. Everything, as they say, is political. All of our lives are determined by the political decisions and machinations of our leaders, elected or otherwise. Service made the State not only visibly controlling, but it also gave the State a number of faces and personalities.

In contrast to that idea of total control (and spiralling paranoia) is a sense of empathy both from Metoo and certain members of ‘service’ which produces an interesting dichotomy – was that your first intention?

NIK: This was always going to be a novel about people, and essentially character driven. For that to be the case, I think characters always have to be empathic, or at the very least sympathetic. It’s possible to put any amount of data into a computer and come up with an answer, but that answer will never take personalities into account. For Service to feel real, and for the State to have any genuine impact on the story, it all had to be represented by fallible, feeling characters.

I was also enamoured with the action in Savant – the work stations and surveillance of ‘service’; compared to something like Fiefdom, how hard was it to create that kind of tension and atmosphere?

NIK: The tension was all there in my head, once I’d worked out what the novel was going to try to do. Getting that tension onto the page takes a certain amount of disciple to ensure a good build-up. There are a few simple tricks to that in the writing. Repetition is important, and rhythm. A good example can be found in Ravel’s Bolero with its repeated phrasing and increasing tempo. I think it’s also useful to be quite declarative on the page, matter-of-fact; obfuscation pulls focus. The other thing is pacing. Often, writers want to go faster, take shortcuts as the tension builds. I think it’s more useful to add detail, to slow things down, from time to time, to keep the reader hanging, so that the denouement is reached naturally and the story isn’t all over in a rush.

There’s a fantastic positivity and humanity at the heart of Savant – what can we expect from next?

NIK: Thanks. I’m glad you think so… I thought so too. I’ve actually begun writing a companion piece to Savant, working title Seekers. It’s set in space on the other side of the shield, so there’s a chance to find out what the threat to the Earth might actually have been. I didn’t tackle space, spacecraft or aliens in Savant, so it’s a chance to do something about that, although, don’t hold your breath for a more convention shooty-death-kill-in-space experience.

You can find Nik at –

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/nicola.vincentabnett
on Twitter: @N_VincentAbnett and @VincentAbnett (with Dan Abnett)
and on my blog: http://www.nicolavincent-abnett.com

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The Shield is Earth’s only defence. Rendering the planet invisible from space, it keeps humanity safe – and hidden. The exceptional minds of the Actives maintain the shield; without them, the Shield cannot function.

When an Active called Tobe finds himself caught in a probability loop, the Shield is compromised. Soon, Tobe’s malady spreads among the Active. Earth becomes vulnerable for the first time in a generation.

Tobe’s assistant, Metoo, is only interested in his wellbeing. Earth security’s paramount concern is the preservation of the Shield. As Metoo strives to prevent Tobe’s masters from undermining his fragile equilibrium, humanity is left dangerously exposed…

Savant is an extraordinary book, wonderfully written. It’s unique (and quite possibly one of the best novels I’ve read this year). It’s sci-fi at its most human whilst it’s concern is the human condition dealt with in such a sci-fi setting that it’s almost an enigma. It’s thoughtful and thought provoking.

The setting is slowly sketched out in small ways – there’s no major info dump, no big exposition. We are just there, watching and learning about this future Earth and it’s strange new culture. Academies cater to great minds and, in turn, each ‘master’ is served by companions, assistants and students. Some of these intellectuals are so brilliant that their very being helps to power a shield which protects the planet. However, none of the greater questions are ever really answered.

What we have is a very personal drama, played out on scale that, on one hand, affects the global community whilst, on the other, concerns only Tobe and Metoo. The ‘action’ for what it is, is based within an incident room type setting and suffers no less for it. CCTV-esque operators monitor minds and are themselves observed within a system called ‘Service’. Tobe’s digression into the maths of probability sets off a series of chain reactions within Service, forcing beaurocratic decisions and machinations to react in ever greater yet decreasing ways.

It’s thrilling and intriguing to read. These individuals caught in a system, and a system caught up in its own methodology all trying to deal with a problem that is really like a ghost in the machine. It’s a curious and charming world Nik Abnett has created, and the story of the relationship between Metoo and Tobe is delicately woven. The interaction between the global network of Service and the individual produces a brilliant dichotomy on which to base their narrative.

Savant is a hard book to pin down (and put down). It’s like some of the great sci-fi movies of the 1970’s with their weirdly retro-futuristic settings and their considered approach to the genre. At its heart is a simple story but, in itself, it’s a complex journey into the human mind.

Review copy
Published by Solaris Books

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Author Yoon Ha Lee was kind enough to answer some quick questions about her book Ninefox Gambit, some of the ideas behind her story and what we can expect next.

Could you give a brief introduction to who you are and to your novel Ninefox Gambit?

I’m a Korean-American writer living in Louisiana with my family and a very lazy cat. I got my B.A. in mathematics from Cornell University, although I’m not always sure my math professors would approve of what I’m doing with my degree!

Ninefox Gambit is about a disgraced captain, Kel Cheris, who teams up with an undead general, Shuos Jedao, to retake a fallen star fortress.
The good news: Jedao is a brilliant tactician and he may be the only one who can help her. The bad news: he’s also a mass murderer, and Cheris has to keep him from going rogue–if he doesn’t kill her first.

I found the symbols used in the book to be unique – could you explain a little on the inspiration for the ideas of moths (as space ships) and the signifiers of fox, raven and others?

I came up with the voidmoths because I wanted the spaceships to be biotech. Although the heroine doesn’t realize this, they’re actually enslaved cyborged spacefaring aliens. I went with “moth” because they’re creatures that can fly and it was a nice, succinct, one-syllable word. (Contrast, for instance, having space flamingos. Too many syllables! Also, very pink.)

The idea of a ‘calendrical’ technology was equally intriguing – can you expand on the ideas of math in the story?

The origins of the idea came from a couple places. First, I read a book by Marcia Ascher on ethnomathematics called Mathematics Elsewhere. It talked about different cultures’ calendar systems. For example, the Trobriand Islanders rely on the biological clock of marine annelids to set their calendar. I thought a lot about how the simplest act of scheduling relies on a mutually understood timekeeping system and cultural norms about being on time (or not).

Calendrical warfare came partly from the notion that dates come to hold particular significance in a given culture. I didn’t read Peter Watson’s War on the Mind: The Military Uses and Abuses of Psychology until after I’d written Ninefox Gambit, but it shows that the idea of exploiting other cultures’ special celebration dates in warfare for extra psychological effect is not a new idea.

Finally, I got the idea that different calendars induce different magical systems from vector calculus in college. It’s been a long time, but I was fascinated by gradients and vector fields, so I had this idea that at each point in space-time, you would have an associated set of laws of magic based on what calendar was dominant at that point.

The social landscape within the hexarchate is an interesting mix – what inspired the blend of ‘houses’ and hierarchical autocracy?

The hexarchate was always going to be a horrible police state because I wanted my characters to have something to rebel against. The houses, or factions, were inspired primarily by Alderac Entertainment Group’s Legend of the Five Rings (L5R), a roleplaying game and collectible card game (soon to be relaunched as a Living Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games) that I played for years.

L5R takes place in a fantasy samurai setting with zombies and dragons, and it has clans with different specialties, from the Crane, who dominate the courts with their artisans and duelists, to the Lion, who are honorable warriors with a strong connection to their ancestors. I loved the way that the clans gave people an immediate way to connect to the setting. Admittedly, I’m not sure anyone is going to identify with the hexarchate’s factions, because they’re pretty evil!

There’s a lot of political intrigue within Ninefox Gambit but also suggestions of a much larger universe – will we see more outside of the hexarchate?

Not much, unfortunately. We only really see glimpses of the world outside the hexarchate, mainly because there was so much plot already I ran out of space to do more than hint at anything else.

The ‘servitors’ also seem to be more than they appear – if it’s not a spoiler – will their importance become clearer in the next books?

Yes! They have important roles in the next two books, even if most of the characters don’t realize what’s going on.

Lastly, when is the next book available and where else can we find your work?

According to Rebellion’s website, the next book, Raven Stratagem, is due out in June 2017.

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I’m oddly fascinated by the idea of shared world fiction and the authors who end up working as “hired guns” for these franchises. Una McCormack, who has written for Star Trek and Doctor Who and is no stranger to these settings, is now about to embark on a visit into Eric Brown’s sci-fi series Weird Space.

Check out the blurb below for McCormack’s debut under the Abaddon banner..

Weird Space: The Baba Yaga
By Eric Brown and Una McCormack

What would you sacrifice for your family?
What would you sacrifice for peace?

Delia Walker has lost her job, her love, and the life she knew. What she’ll find in its place may be the future of us all.

The growing threat of the dimension-invading Weird has driven the Expansion government to outright paranoia. Mandatory telepathic testing is introduced, and the colony Braun’s World – following reports of a new Weird portal opening – is destroyed from orbit, at an unimaginable cost in lives.

Delia Walker, a senior analyst in the Expansion’s intelligence bureau and a holdout of the pragmatic old guard, protests the oppressive new policies and is drummed out. Sure there’s a better way, she charters the decrepit freighter the Baba Yaga and heads into the lawless “Satan’s Reach,” following rumours of a world where humans and the Weird live peacefully side by side.

Hunted by the Bureau, Walker, her pilot Yershov, and Fait – a Vetch child stowaway, fleeing slavery – will uncover secrets about both the Weird and the Expansion; secrets that could prevent a catastrophic war…

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Last year Abaddon Books and Chuck Wendig released a new set of gods into the world with the start of the shared world Gods & Monsters. Now the series will return with a new standalone sequel from Stephen Blackmoore: Gods & Monsters: Mythbreaker.

Since he was a child Louie “Fitz” Fitzsimmons suffered strange, violent and vivid hallucinations. As an adult he self-medicates in a sea of opiates, half-forgotten hook-ups and a career mismanaging the books of notorious Hollywood gangster Blake Kaplan. He’s not what you would called pious, so it’s as much of a surprise to Fitz as anyone to discover the truth behind his mysterious blackouts:

Fitz is an oracle to the gods.

In fact he’s the last sane oracle – all things relative – left, which might go some way to explaining why he suddenly finds himself pursued by a pissed off angel and a stream of new and old gods…

As Fitz will tell you, “as holy powers go, this one sucks.”

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Edited by Ian Whates and now in it’s third (and a half) iteration, Solaris Rising 3 once again brings forth a veritable feast of short sci-fi stories from a number of great authors, some more well known than others.

First up, I read Cat Sparks Dark Harvest after Mr Whates described it as military sci-fi with a difference. A slice of brutal life for grunts, stuck on an alien world, fighting things they don’t understand, Sparks captures the overlapping banter of soldiers perfectly. Hints and ideas are wonderfully woven to create a view of the world as the group of mercenaries encounter terrifying super-soldiers and the even weirder ‘nuns’.

The transition in perspective from the human soldiers, eager to escape the planet and just as eager to destroy everything that moves, to the nuns is a sharp, revealing contrast. Sparks has seemingly delivered a brief glimpse into a fully fledged world that visually and conceptually offers up a lot.

Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s When We Harvested The Nacre-Rice is a haunting, dream-like story touched by elegant prose and a melodious rhythm. As two worlds engage in a conflict using only cyber attacks against the augmented senses of their respective enemies, turning days into chaotic storms of illogical madness, the protagonist of the story, Pahayal saves a stranger from drowning. In turns, that stranger’s true purpose and nature is revealed. The mental warfare escalates to physical aggression and the true cost of the conflict is uncovered.

Sriduangkaew’s worlds are wonderfully evolved re-imaginings and the strained yet deeply personal relationship between Pahayal and the stranger is intriguing. Sensitively written and superbly creative, this is a great opening story for an anthology championing new voices in science fiction.

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Christopher Fowler’s next novel, to be released in October, is set against the evocative backdrop of rural Southern Spain. Nyctophobia is a poignantly beautiful ghost story that explores what it truly means to be haunted.

Building upon one of humanity’s most primal fears – fear of the dark – Nyctophobia is a devastating and original tale for fans of horror and literary fiction alike, presented beautifully through Fowler’s iconic cinematic style


Isolated and beautiful, Hyperion House is a house of eerie symmetry; uniquely designed to ensure that one half remains always in the light and one half always in the dark.

When new owner Callie Shaw begins to uncover the house’s strange history she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the shrouded servant’s quarters at the back of the house, increasingly convinced that someone is living a half-life among the darkness there…

Solaris and Abaddon have recently been producing some great anthologies of late and Autumn 2014 will see them print three more collections. Check out the blurbs below.

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Following its critically well-received and continuingly popular predecessors Solaris Rising 1, 1.5 and 2, Ian Whates returns to curate this latest collection of cutting edge SF short stories in Solaris Rising 3.

With an exciting line up of authors that continues Solaris Books trademark of mixing bestselling, award winning and emerging authors to break new ground in SF publishing, Solaris Rising 3 is a beautiful executed SF anthology that resonates far beyond the known boundaries of the universe

Solaris Rising 3 pushes the boundaries of current SF publishing and hammers home, story after story, Whates’ mission statement to prove that SF is the most exciting and inspiring of all the fiction genres; offering the poignant reflection of humanity – often funny, often dark and always surprising – that sits at the heart of all great fiction writing, and stretching it across time and space.

With contributions from Ken Liu, Rachel Swirsky, Gareth L. Powell, Aliette de Bodard, Tony Ballantyne and many, many more, Solaris Rising 3 is a diverse collection of ground-breaking stories that will be essential reading for SF fans everywhere.

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From under the mirror balls of Studio 54 to the heart of a bloody Wizard war, this is Holmes and Watson as you’ve never, ever seen them before. In Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets Abaddon Books editor David Moore has brought together the finest celebrated and new talent in SF and Fantasy writing to create a new generation of Holmes stories that will confound everything you ever thought you knew about Doyle’s most famous characters.

Featuring witch trials, fanfiction and a host of grisly murders Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets is a contemporary look at the world of Sherlock Holmes that will go far beyond just delighting fans of the books, television shows and films, and provide a challenging new world for genre lovers to explore

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Award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan takes up the mantle once again for the latest edition of Fearsome Magics: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy – the new generation of the acclaimed fantasy anthology series from Solaris Books.

With the incredibly warm public and critical reception of his SF based anthologies Reach for Infinity and Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 8, alongside two Hugo nominations (including Best Short Form Editor), 2014 really has been the year of Jonathan Strahan, and it looks set to continue with his final Solaris anthology release of the year: Fearsome Magics: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy.

Continuing the legacy of George Mann’s original Solaris Book of New Fantasy series with finesse, Strahan’s latest Fearsome Magics collection brings together some of the brightest and best names in fantasy writing and allows their imagination to run riot in an out-pouring of awe, wonder and – of course – magic.

From the creeping corridors of ‘Dream London Hospital’ (Ballantyne) to the omniscient tower of ‘The Safe House’ (Parker) and across into the archaic rural of ‘The Changeling’ (Bradley), Fearsome Magics paints a vivid tapestry of the fantastical worlds that sit just outside our reality; one in which mathematics and magic are interchangeable and where the wildest dreams of our imagination are realised.

Fearsome Magics: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy includes new short stories from Tony Ballantyne, Genevieve Valentine, Justina Robson, Robert Shearman, and many more