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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Stephen Hunt


What with writing my fourth fantasy novel for
HarperCollins, holding down the day job, family duties and keeping going, most the genre reading fun seemed to me to be occurring on the watch of everyone else but me, but that being say, I still managed to squeeze some quality reads into last year.

Here's the novels that made the cut at Hunt Towers...

1)The Dreaming Void” by
Peter F. Hamilton. The Federation-level prosperity of the wealthy Intersolar Commonwealth is unsettled by a giant black hole at the centre of the galaxy (not a natural singularity. Inside there is another universe where the laws of physics are much changed from ours). Outside the singularity, Inigo dreams of a paradise inside the Void and attracts a religion of billions who want to set out on a dangerous pilgrimage inside the black hole. Other races are concerned the pilgrimage will cause the Void to expand, swallowing the galaxy, and go to war to stop it.

A genetically engineered weapon of a chap called Aaron—who put me in mind of a cyperpunk Jason Bourne—is trying to locate the messiah and halt the war before it starts, while inside the Void a young teenager called Edeard is coming of age and honing his genetic shaping and telepathy talents.

This novel is slow and complex, but there's a richness to it that kept me going. I'm addicted to these door-stopper sized science fiction tales...

2)Matter” by
Iain M Banks. Not so long as “The Dreaming Void” but equally as detailed. Set on a massive shellworld abandoned by a missing ancient race of aliens, this latest Culture novel blends fantasy with SF, with much of the tale being set inside the shellworld in the 18th-century technology eighth Level of Sursamen. The shellworld is a Big Dumb Object in the same vein as a ringworld, with many floors, each containing their own alien environments.

In Bank's latest novel, the feckless playboy prince Ferbin sees his father the king being murdered on the battlefield by the monarch's right-hand man and commander of the royal army, and the young prince has to flee for his life as the treacherous General tries to assassinate him too.

Luckily for our Ferbin, the prince's sister Djan Seriy Anaplian is an agent of Special Circumstances, and as she investigates her father's death back in the primitive world she grew up in, she realises that there's various species all jostling for power on the shellworld: the Morthanveld, the Nariscene and the Oct.

Matter” has a very bloody ending, just a little too quick, but one that will keep fans of movies like The Wild Bunch satisfied.

3)Making Money” by
Terry Pratchett. This novel centres in on El Tel's reformed con-man Moist von Lipwig, who previously appeared in “Going Postal” as the reluctantly blackmailed new chief of the post office. How can you beat that? Why, high finance of course.

Making Money” was written and published before the credit crunch kicked our collective economic heads in, and I wonder if having to sort out a seriously messed up finance system seems quite so funny now that we're all paying for the masters of the universe's bonus years.

In this story, city dictator of Ankh-Morpork, Vetinari, gives von Lipwig the thankless and dangerous job of updating the city's financial system from the gold standard to a paper currency. And naturally, enemies come out of the woodwork as he tries to create a new order. Much hilarity and satire results. In retrospect, this sadly might be seen as the highpoint of Terry's career.

4)House of Suns” by
Alastair Reynolds. Now this is space opera as space opera, echoing Dune, which is still one of my favourite SF novels of all time! Purslane and Campion are two immortal clones from a far-future space-faring gypsy tribe (called the House of Flowers), who have left Earth to travel the galaxy. They've been jumping between the stars for millions of years in suspended animation and are about to meet up with their fellow clones for a regular catch-up when they realise that their genetic line has been purged from the universe and someone wants the two of them dead too.

They go on the run trying to work out what the shadowy House of Suns is, and why it requires their clone line removed from the universe. There's some nice robot life forms in the book too (which are integral to the story), which many of my readers have e-mailed me about, speculating that they might have been inspired by the steammen of my own novels. Perish the thought.

Cool droids and space gypsies with the power to create supernova dams and blast planets to dust. What's not to like?


After attaining a BA in Marketing, Stephen Hunt pursued a career in publishing, which included employment by various newspapers and magazines. Stephen now writes part-time while working for an investment banking house. His bibliography includes several short stories, the out-of-print novel “For the Crown and the Dragon”—winner of the WH Smith New Talent Award—and his Jackelian novels: “The Court of the Air” (Reviewed
HERE), “The Kingdom Beyond the Waves” (Reviewed HERE) and the upcoming “The Rise of the Iron Moon” which will be published in the UK on February 9, 2009 via Voyager. The U.S. release of “The Kingdom Beyond the Waves” will be published by Tor Books on July 21, 2009. Stephen is also the founder of the fan-run science fiction & fantasy website SF Crowsnest. For more information, please visit the author’s Official Website.

NOTE: For more author responses, please visit Fantasy Book Critic's 2008 Review/2009 Preview index


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