Posts Tagged ‘Nik Vincent’

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Clearly I’m having a short story bonanza at the moment but my recent reading choices have been perfect. Short and sharp is great when you have little spare time but still want for the enjoyment of reading.

Die by Lavie Tidhar fits the bill of short and very sharp effectively. Extremely so. I read it on the recommendation of editor Jonathan Oliver’s introduction and it’s a stunning story. The writing is sparse but all that space allows the imagination to run wild. A twist on Russian Roulette, there is little detail to the whys and where of it all but what is there manages to touch at ideas of cruelty and horror but also the depths of humanity.

Lavie Tidhar has produced a brilliant take on the game motif. I wanted to fill this review with expletives and exclamations and too many punctuation marks; it’s that hard hitting.

The Stranger Cards by Nik Vincent is another inventive take on the idea of game. Her story has the feel of a horror as the creeping, unrelenting truth of the situation crawls into the consciousness of the protagonist. A lawyer sent to meet a death row inmate due to be executed for a series of murders. A child’s game played on an old deck of cards.

For those clever with numbers, patterns are laid out but it becomes clear that the game the serial killer taught the lawyer is oh-so-very-sinister. A fantastic and atmospheric tale that reminded me of that horror writing great Stephen King, Stranger Cards manages a lot in with a little and does it brilliantly.

Review copy
Published by Solaris

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I was very lucky to get to ask authors Nik Vincent and Dan Abnett a few questions about their latest book, Fiefdom. Scroll down a few posts and you can check out my review or, even better, grab the book and read it!

For those yet to read Fiefdom, could you give a brief explanation of the book?

Dan: A hundred years after Kingdom, the Aux tribes of Berlin survive in the old railway tunnels below the city. They scrap among themselves and tell the legends of their warrior forefathers and of Them. Evelyn War knows something that the others do not. She knows that the legends are real, that the mini-ice age is coming to an end and that Them are about to return.

Fiefdom is based on a comic book, what was it like moving the story from that medium into the novel?

Nik: I was a huge fan of Dan’s comic. It was spare, lyrical and beautifully realised in Richard Elson’s artwork. I also always believed there was a lot of room to reinvent it for long-form fiction. I liked the idea of taking that very limited language base and incorporating it into a long narrative. There were a lot of ideas and themes that could be expanded on. I also thought it would be interesting to leave the comic where it was so that strand of the story could develop organically. I really wanted to begin again in a new time and location with new characters, using the comic as the legend that is the root of this new incarnation.

How satisfying was it to extrapolate Fiefdom from the comic and what were the key moments you wanted to hit with the story of the Zoo Pack?

Dan: It was hugely satisfying to begin again and to take nothing for granted. Everything that the characters know in the comic book about their lives and their enemy, about their purpose is lost to legend at the beginning of Fiefdom. Everything has to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Nik: Balance was always the key. Balance between readers of Kingdom and new readers. Balance between characters imported from the comic book and reintroduced as legends in Fiefdom and the novel’s own protagonists. Balance between the very different landscapes of the comic and the novel. Ultimately, of course, the key moments were the revelations, whether they came in the forms of the legends or in the action. And Them… Always Them.

Could you explain a little what the process is like writing as a part of a team – how it happened and how it works?

Nik: It’s rare for Dan to work with another writer. His collaborative work is generally about other things, and then he completes the writing chores. Both of us write words on the page. Of course, we’ve known each other for over thirty years, and we share a writing room, whether we’re working on the same project or doing our own things.

Dan: We begin by working on ideas together. We assemble them into a plot, and break down chapters. Nik invariably starts the writing, and then we play tag. We work on each other’s words, and add more of our own, or ask each other to rewrite. Seamlessness is the key. We aim for something that works as a whole, so that it becomes hard to see where one of us has broken off and the other taken over.

Nik: I tend to do more research and I always do final edits. Dan tends to write more action sequences. That wasn’t necessarily the case with this novel. We generally buoy each other along. Enthusiasm, whether it is on the part of the reader or the writer makes the work easier. I tend to agonise more than Dan, but when he likes what I’m doing, the confidence boost keeps me going at times when it might seem simpler for Dan to step in and take over.

I’ve described Fiefdom as pulp fiction at its best – what was the motivation for the story?

Nik: Kingdom was one of my favourites of Dan’s comic books from the moment he told me about the idea for it. I’ve loved it from the beginning. There wasn’t much chance I’d ever write the comic, so I’ve been advocating for this novel for some time. When Abaddon Books started to talk about the possibility of writing a Kingdom novel I jumped at the chance. We like to work together when we can, and Dan was onboard very quickly.

The way that the ‘pack’ was slowly revealed to be hybrid warriors was, I
thought, brilliantly executed – how difficult was it coming from the comic
visual style to be so restrained with certain details whilst still conveying
such a rich world?

Dan: It was actually quite an organic process. I feel as if the Aux are old friends, but re-locating them in time and place gave me the opportunity to re-think their existence and give them new motivations. That made it much easier to think of them from the reader’s viewpoint and get to know them alongside the readership.

Nik: I think it helps that I really liked these characters. There’s a genuine innocence about them, and a very real threat to their existence that they don’t fully comprehend, despite having the historic tools for that understanding.

There’s lots of clever (almost tongue in cheek) elements to the story from the
names of the characters to the notion of hearers and ‘his master’s voice’ – what were the inspiration for those ideas?

Nik: Honestly, that was a mixed curse. Dan began it all in Kingdom. The character names were tricky, because there were very many more named characters in the novel than there are ever likely to be in a comic. We also wanted to switch from movie star names to names from Art and Literature, because we were switching hemispheres, moving to Europe. The names also had to resonate. We both have English degrees, but I also studied Fine Art, which came in very useful. There’s considerable weight behind many of those choices. Ezra Pound, for example, doesn’t just give us the meanings of ‘pound’ as in ‘to beat’ or ‘an enclosure where dogs are housed’; Ezra Pound was also a Nazi sympathiser, and this story is set in Berlin, so there’s that connection, too.

Hearers came directly out of Dan using Masters in Kingdom. Did I mention that a lot of this process is organic?

The setting was fantastic – what made you choose Berlin?

Dan: We wanted to send the Aux underground. Originally we were going to use the Channel Tunnel, but it soon became clear that a more complex underground system would better suit our needs. London was too obvious, but we wanted to use Europe. We were riffing on World War II themes at the time, and Paris was too complete. Berlin was bombed extensively, and, of course partitioned after the war. It is a fascinating city with a long and enduring history, and, of course, it has the underground railway that we were looking for.

Nik: The more I researched the city, the more obvious it became that it was the perfect choice.

There’s clearly a great background to Fiefdom, will we get to see more of that history or can we expect to see more of the world post-Gene the Hackman next?

Dan: We’re hoping that there will be more Kingdom and more Fiefdom. We’d certainly love the opportunity to revisit both incarnations of this particular universe.

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Based on the best selling comic book Kingdom created by Dan Abnett and artist Richard Elson, Fiefdom returns to that world with an original story set one hundred years after the 2000 AD series. I’ve only read one of Abnett’s novels before (a battered second hand copy of a Black Library book bought at a boot sale) but the man is a prolific and touted writer. That, and the fact that I was caught with only this in ebook format available to read on my phone, made for an easy and very enjoyable choice. Check out the blurb.

Evelyn War is a Believer. She knows that in the Old Time, long before the Time of Ice, the Masters fought a war with Them. But in the frozen
ruins of Berlin, Them have not been seen for many
years and now the Aux fight among themselves
and say all that was just stories.
But the ice is melting and the whistling call of Them can be heard in the tunnels of the U-Bahn once more. She knows that the stories are not just lessons in the ways of war. Them were real.

Though Fiefdom is based on a comic book, it reads like a stand alone novel (and even, hopefully, the start of a series). The authors cleverly set the scene and introduce some important factors without any clumsy info dumps. Set in a post-apocalypse Berlin, the novel centres around the ‘Zoo pack’ and Evelyn War whose recently deceased father was a ‘Hearer’ of the Masters voice.

It quickly becomes clear that the pack is a group of dog-human hybrid warriors descended from a long line of soldiers, engineered and bred by humans to fight a terrible enemy. Using the idea of fire-side stories and legends to explain their histories and continue their teachings, it seems that these warriors have lost their connection to the Masters. Living in old, underground train tunnels, the dog warriors have formed packs with tribal territories. However, history is set to repeat itself. The frozen wastelands above ground are thawing and the ice age is coming to an end, and with it the emergence an old and fearsome enemy.

In a way, Fiefdom is pulp fiction at its absolute best. It’s a fast, high energy story full of conflict and explosive action. The plot is a straight shot whilst the characters and the setting are superb. The authors use a narrative trick that, though slight, imbues the soldiers with a canine-human hybrid quality and the tribal idea of the pack, with its Alpha males, hierarchies and territories truly paints a picture. As the threat of the ‘Them’ turns from myth to reality and the tunnels cease to be safe, the book hits an unstoppable pace. I literally didn’t put the novel down until I’d consumed it whole.

The authors’ inventiveness with their characters is brilliant and the action is highly visual. To be honest, if I’d been told ‘hybrid dog soldiers battle giant insects in the underground ruins of Berlin’s train system’ I would have been sold on the book. But, it’s so much more. Yes, there’s gore and frantic battles but there is also a number of deft touches that hints at a greater story and a very creative setting. It’s like a howl in the night; explosive and immediate but hinting at something more impressive and solid at its source.

Review copy
Published by Abaddon