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Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Cirque Du Freak" Book One in theThe Darren Shan Saga by Darren Shan (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)


Visit Darren Shan's Official Website Here
Enter the Cirque Du Freak Contest Here


Introduction: My local book store has has a display with all 12 books out ever since the movie trailers have hit the air waves. I was interested to see what all the fuss was about and I figured this was as good of time as any to check out the books.

Summary: Darren Shan has grown up in a world where "freak" shows have been banned due to the horrible conditions that the acts used to have to deal with. Although freak shows are illegal it is rumored that there is an underground freak show that travels around and performs every so often. If you are lucky enough you can get a secret poster that allows you to buy tickets to this event.

Darren's friend is one of those lucky people that by chance came across a poster advertising the "Cirque Du Freak". As a group the friends band together and pull together enough money to afford two tickets to this exclusive show.

While at the show Darren and his friend, Steve become enthralled with all the acts, which include the snake boy, a bearded lady, and a very poisonous spider known as Madam Octa who is controlled by a mysterious man named Mr. Crepsley. Something is very strange about Mr. Crepsley and Steve swears he's seen him somewhere else in which he wishes to confront him after the show.

Meanwhile, Darren has formed an obsession with Mr. Crepsley's pet spider and is forming ways in his head on how he can gain such a rare spider so that he can show off in front of his friends. The only solution to getting this rare spider is by stealing Mr. Crepsley's.

Who would have thought that by visiting an illegal freak show could change Darren's life so drastically?

Cirque Du Freak is the first of twelve books in the Darren Shan Saga. It is also the first book in the Vampire Blood Trilogy which is part of that twelve book set.

Analysis: Cirque Du Freak is filled with all those "horrors" that complete a decent YA read. Many readers will fondly remember the "Goosebumps" series by R. L. Stine. This series is a step up from Goosebumps, with a bit more graphic content and older characters.

The thing that I found out very quickly about Cirque Du Freak is that it's much more then about an illegal freak show. Instead that is just the event that gets the plot line going. Although sadly, in this book just when the events start rolling the book ends in an almost "to be continued" like fashion. This left me with an almost incomplete sense, I wanted to know more about what happens to Darren and how he is going to cope in the world. While it does leave off at an appropriate time, readers should expect all their questions to be answered.

One of the "flaws" that were present within this book were the characters. A lot of the characters came across as flat or uninteresting. Although the last one-fourth of the book really picked up the character of Darren. Part of the reason for this type of characterization could be that this was one of Darren Shan's first books published, so every author is allowed a little leeway to grow and change overtime. There is a definite change in the last few chapters and from reading some of Shan's later works the characters have improved so don't expect a miracle walking into the first book.

I did really enjoy Shan's portrayal of vampires in this book. So many vampires in YA books lately have been romantic and sparkly. They are almost like the teddy bears of the undead lately. Shan takes a different approach and brings them back to the scary, evil, not nice people that these creatures are supposed to be.

Another item to remember is that this is a YA horror book, so what adult readers might come to expect as horrifying and scary won't be present in here. However it's a step up from the talking dummies that appeared in Goosebumps, I have to admit the piano hand cutting did scare me when I was younger.

In the end this is a great series especially for boys because it has all those elements that I'm sure they are looking for in books. The chapters aren't overly long, so when reading and wanting to take a break you aren't glued for lengthy amounts of times. I'll anxiously go and devour the next book in the series! If you aren't going in expecting an adult horror book you just might be surprised with the experience that you'll have!
Friday, October 30, 2009

“The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” by Jesse Bullington (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Jesse Bullington Website
Order “The Sad Tale of the Brothers GrossbartHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read Reviews HERE
Read A Dribble With Ink’s Interview with Jesse Bullington HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jesse Bullington is a folklore and outdoor enthusiast who holds a bachelor's degree in History and English Literature from Florida State University. “The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” is the author’s debut novel.

PLOT SUMMARY: In the plague-wracked and devil-haunted darkness of Medieval Europe, an elite few enjoy opulent lives while the majority eke out a miserable existence in abject poverty. Hungry creatures stalk the deep woods and desolate mountains, and both sea and sky teem with unspeakable horrors. For those ill-fated masses not born into wealth, life is but a vicious trial to be endured before the end of days.

Hegel and Manfried Grossbart couldn't give a toss. Being of low birth means little, after all, when the riches of the mighty wait just inside the next crypt. The grave-robbing twins know enough about crusading to realise that if one is to make a living from the dead, what better destination than the fabled tomb-cities of Egypt? But the Brothers Grossbart are about to discover that all legends have their truths, and worse fates than death await those who would take the red road of villainy...

FORMAT/INFO: ARC stands at 453 pages divided over thirty-one titled chapters, a Preface and a Bibliography. Extras include an interview with the author Jesse Bullington and an excerpt from K.J. Parker’sThe Company”. Narration is in the third person, mainly via the Grossbart twins Hegel and Manfried, but the cast of characters also includes Heinrich, Captain Alexius Barousse, the Arab Al-Gassur, Rodrigo, Ennio, Father Martyn, Nicolete, etc. “The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” is self-contained.

November 5, 2009/November 16, 2009 marks the UK/North American Trade Paperback publication of “The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” via Orbit Books. Cover art provided by Istvan Orosz.

ANALYSIS: First things first. If you are easily offended, have a weak stomach, or can’t stand foul language, graphic violence, sadistic behavior, deplorable protagonists and the like, then Jesse Bullington’sThe Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” is not for you. On the other hand, if you possess a strong constitution, like to try out new things, and are not afraid to embrace your dark side, then “The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” can offer a rewarding reading experience.

Of course, to fully appreciate what “The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” has to offer, it’s important to first understand what kind of book Jesse Bullington has written. At its simplest, “The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” is the diabolical story of twin brothers who corrupt the lives of everyone they come into contact with on their incredible journey from Europe to ‘Gyptland’ in search of tombs and treasure. Look past the book’s vulgar exterior however, and you’ll find a much more complex beast made up of many different layers including folklore (witches, demons, sirens) interwoven into history (the Black Plague, crusades), superstition versus theology, fiction trope subversions and satire, and a wicked sense of humor. The end result is a novel that is very hard to classify, embracing everything from folklore, historical fiction and black comedy to pulp fiction and outright horror. For me, “The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” is what would happen if the Brothers Grimm, Clive Barker, Chuck Palahniuk and Warren Ellis all came together and wrote a novel...

Character-wise, “The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” revolves around Hegel and Manfried Grossbart, two of the most vicious and appalling protagonists I’ve ever set eyes on. Crude, selfish, and nasty, the Brothers Grossbart are characters that filled me with disgust and who I would root against at every opportunity. Yet for all that I disliked Hegel and Manfried Grossbart, at the same time I found the twins to be quite fascinating thanks to Jesse’s wild imagination and detailed rendering. In particular, I loved each brother’s quirky traits (Hegel’s dislike for four-legged beasts, etc), their preverted sense of holiness, their theological & philosophical debates, and their lingo:

So monsters, in our experience, is part man and part beast, although the possibility exists they might be parts a other things all mixed together, like a basilisk. Part chicken and part dragon.”
That ain’t no basalisk, that’s a damn cockatrice.”
A what?!Manfried laughed at his brother’s ignorance.
A cockatrice. Basilisk’s just a lizard, cept it poisons wells and such,” said Hegel.
That’s a scorpion! Although you’s half right—basilisk’ll kill you quick, but by turnin its eyes on you.
What!?Hegel shook his head. “Now I know you’s making up lies cause any man a learnin’ll tell you straight a scorpion ain’t no reptile, it’s a worm."
What worms you seen what have eyes and arms, huh?
Sides from you?

Negatively, the plot in “The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” is embarssingly simple with the ending easy to map out, but I was reminded of the old adage, “it's the journey that matters, not the destination.” While definitely true in this case, I was still underwhelmed by the brothers’ final comeuppance. Other issues I had include the novel only having two stories-within-stories in it—Nicolete and Father Martyn’s tales are highlights of the book and really show off the author’s writing prowess—and Jesse’s tendency to jump from one POV to another in the middle of the narrative, sometimes from one paragraph to the next. I got used to this after awhile, but there are moments when this transition is jarring and causes some confusion, especially when he uses every character in the book as a POV, no matter how minor a role they might play.

Apart from these minor complaints and the fact that “The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” will only appeal to a certain kind of audience, Jesse Bullington’s debut is a very impressive novel—one that will get a lot of attention, deservedly so I might add, and promises a bright future for the author...
Thursday, October 29, 2009

Interview with Hank Schwaeble (Interview by Mihir Wanchoo)


Visit Hank Schwaeble's Official Website Here
Visit Hank Schwaeble's Blog Here

Fantasy Book Critic was lucky enough to be able to interview Hank Schwaeble. Hank's debut horror novel, Damnable was released by Jove imprint, a division of Penguin/Putnum Publishers, in September 2009. Look for a review of Damnable next week here at Fantasy Book Critic.

Thanks go out to Hank Schwaeble for taking the time to interview with us here at Fantasy Book Critic.

*************************************************************************************

Thank you very much for agreeing to participate in the interview. To start with could you tell us a bit more about yourself other than what is given in the author bio and how you came to be a writer?

I always had an interest in writing, from the time I was very young. I can remember reading novels as a child and thinking, I can do this. But when I got to college, I realized there was a lot more to it than having a facile command of the English language. Someone once said the best advice for an aspiring writer is to go live an interesting life. That's what I tried to do. It took me a little longer to get back to it than I would have predicted, but I always knew I would.

You have published a few short stories earlier before Damnable. Could you share with us your experiences of getting published and about how those differ (if they differ?) with the longer novel version?

Short stories are a different animal. I enjoy writing them, but the market for them is weak. You mail a story off and wait to hear back. Sometimes, the wait is long. Too long, I decided, for my personality. When you're not a name-brand writer, you have to wonder whether your submission is even being read, or getting fair treatment when it is. With a novel, if you want to be published with a major New York house you have to have an agent. Period. So with a novel submission you're getting some professional guidance, and you tend to get more feedback, more promptly.

What is your daily writing schedule like? And which kind of school of writing do you prefer [Outlining or free-writing]?

When I'm on my regimen, I set a five hundred-word minimum per day and try to stick to it. I usually get more, but anything over five hundred I consider gravy.

When it comes to outlining, it's not the most natural thing for me, but it is important to have structure. Organic writing is what most writers, certainly most beginning writers, gravitate toward, but the result tends to lack the focus of outlined writing. There's a certain wandering, desultory quality to the progression of an un-outlined novel I can usually spot.

I tend to outline sparingly, setting out plot points ahead of time that I call milestones. That leaves me with enough freedom to let my characters be spontaneous, but keeps me moving toward my ultimate destination without getting lost along the way.

What do you do when you are not writing or reading books? What are your other hobbies?

I enjoy playing guitar. I also like to keep in shape.

What books have recently impressed you the most? What are you currently reading? What titles are you most looking forward to?

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazel was a really fun dash to the finish line. Dope by Sara Gran was an outstanding piece of noir I always recommend. A Twisted Ladder by Rhodi Hawk is a wonderful work of supernatural southern gothic , but I'm a bit biased. I just started Patient Zero by Jonathan Mayberry. I always look forward to the next Lee Child novel, and the next Dennis Lehane novel, as well as anything by David Liss.

How would you classify Damnable in terms of genre andhow would you convince a new reader to give your book a try?

I would describe Damnable as a hard-boiled supernatural thriller, one that mixes elements of horror, mystery, suspense and noir. Some parts of it may be a bit graphic for the squeamish, but I would say if you like no-holds-barred action and a twisting storyline, there's a good chance you'll enjoy it.

Who are your literary idols & which books are your favourites amongst the many genres that you read in?

Growing up, I always loved reading Edgar Allan Poe in school, and was, of course, a big fan of Stephen King from the time I was about ten. I have to name Ayn Rand and Herman Melville for the powerful themes explored in their works. There really are too many books I love for me to list favorites, but Lee Child's Reacher novels are always ones I look forward to, and I enjoy reading Andrew Klavan.

You have previously won a Bram Stoker award in collaboration with Gary Braunbeck for the anthology “Five strokes to Midnight”. Can you recall your experience when it was announced and also tell us a bit about your stories set in the anthology?

I was thrilled when I realized we won a Stoker for Five Strokes to Midnight. The concept for the anthology was multiple stories from five authors, each author with his or her own theme. My theme was Demons, and I had three stories in the book. I think those stories are a lot of fun, my favorite being, “Midnight Bogey Blues.”

Where did you find the inspiration for Damnable, and for that matter for your short stories as well (i.e.: nature, events, people, etc.)?

Writing is less inspiration than it is perspiration. I usually find something to hook my imagination, like a scene or a premise or a plot point, then I work to tease out the details. With Damnable, I sat down to write an opening scene that came to mind, and became intrigued with the notion of a protagonist who assumed he was going to hell discovering that he may be the only chance everyone else had of not joining him there.

What specifically was your intention behind writing this book & what research did you undertake while writing about it?

I researched a lot of different things as the need arose, but some of my most involved research involved the underground tunnel systems in New York. While I didn't include a lot of the research in the book, I am proud to say that what I wrote about the tunnels is completely plausible. My intention was to write a realistic, gritty horror/thriller that readers wouldn't want to put down.

What can we expect in the future from you now? Will you be writing a sequel to Damnable?

Yes, I've been asked for a sequel to Damnable, tentatively titled Diabolical. I'm finishing up my second novel right now, a straight thriller titled The Suicide Tourist. The plan is to write both regular thrillers and supernatural thrillers, alternating between the two.

Your blog has quite a title “These boots are made for violence”, how did you come up with it & is there any quirky meaning/story hidden behind it?

My web designers couldn't get over my boots in the pictures I submitted. They insisted I try to work a reference to them into the title of my blog, so I did. The ironic thing is, I grabbed those boots as I was heading out the door to the shoot, as an afterthought. Now that's all anybody seems to notice when they go to my site. (For a detailed & literary answer hop onto over here )

Your main character Jake Hatcher is an engrossing character who fits the description of Rick’s Bar characters as given by David Gemmell “When authors talk of great characters, what they really mean is easy. Some characters are tough to write. The author has to constantly stop and work out what they will say or do. With the great characters, this problem disappears. Their dialogue flows instantly, their actions likewise. A friend of mine calls them "Ricks Bar characters," from the film Casablanca. Some characters you have to build, like a sculptor carving them from rock. Others just walk out of Rick's bar fully formed and needing no work at all.” Was this the case for you or was the creation of Jake Hatcher a struggle through the trenches?

I'm glad you found him interesting. I have to say, he was pretty easy. Surprisingly so! Once I formed the idea of him in my head, the notion of who he was and where he came from (which didn't take too long), he was relatively simple to write. I understood his motivations instinctively, and never had a problem with his dialogue. The toughest part was settling on a name. Names are extremely important, especially for main characters.

You have a rather similar background as Jake with the difference being you were in the Air force & also involved with DOD activities, how much of your background has seeped into your main character’s history?

A lot of my experience with interrogations went into the representation of Jake Hatcher's skill set. But while I was a special agent in a law enforcement/counterintelligence capacity, Hatcher was a Special Forces operator who was trained to be a field interrogation specialist. This was a combat vet who'd seen a lot of action, and left a lot of himself in third-world hellholes. My military time was quite tame in comparison.

I rather liked the John Steinbeck bit encapsulated in your story, was this intentional on your part or just coincidental?

It was intentional.

In closing, is there anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your book?

While good fiction is often thought-provoking, my primary goal was to tell an entertaining story with intriguing characters. I think I explore some significant themes in the book, but in the end I hope people who read it are simply happy they spent some enjoyable hours in an interesting world I created for them. If I make them ponder some deeper issues for having read it, that’s good for both of us.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"The Stolen Moon of Londor" Book One of the White Shadow Saga by A. P. Stephens (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)


Visit A.P Stephens official website Here
Listen to a part of The Stolen Moon of Londor Here
Order The Stolen Moon of Londor Here

Introduction: When I got the review request for The Stolen Moon of Londor I have to admit that my slight obsession for books that deal with elves, wizards and dwarves kicked in. Always up for helping out a small press published author I was excited to see what happened.

Summary: For the past couple of years the races of humans, dwarves, and elves have lived in peace in the land of Londor. Until one fateful night when one of Londor's moons, like a lot of fantasy worlds Londor has two lunar moons, disappears. The disappearance of one of the moons is very detrimental to the citizens of Londor, as a lot of their magic and well being are directly linked to nature and the moons. Without the moon magic starts to fail and illness spreads. Another aspect of the missing moons is that the time of peace seems to be breaking as every other nation seems to think their neighbor had a hand in the disappearance.

A small band of mercenaries has been hired by one of the kings to find out who has stolen this moon and to essentially place it back where it belongs. This group includes a human, Seth, and his side kick dwarf, Lorn, a mysterious half masked man, Malander, and oddly dressed elf who is known for his sword fighting skills and goes by Gildan. Before the four can set out properly from the city, they are ambushed by 3 northern elves who demand to be a part of the groups search for the moon.

Now the group of 7 head out in search, where they eventually meet up with the once believed dead wizard, Randor. Randor helps in directing the search group into the right direction and has a lot of resources that can help in finding out what happened to cause the moon to disappear and who might be responsible.

The path to searching for the answers is filled with many obstacles from werewolves, fighting elves, and a band of mysterious evil monks. All of which stand in the way of what could save Londor from a possible tragic ending.

Overview: The Stolen Moon of Londor is the basic fantasy quest novel. Readers are presented with a group of mish-mashed characters who have nothing in common but alas must band together to solve a particular problem that no one else in the world could solve. In order to solve this problem the characters must travel all over the land to find answers and fight their way to the ultimate end.

While the complete package of the novel may sound a little unoriginal. The Stolen Moon of Londor, has a small element that drew me in as a reader and kept me reading. As with all novels there are a few problems that might prevent other readers from enjoying this novel.

One of the main problems that I encountered was with the characters. Although one would think that with 9 characters there would be one particular character that a reader could bond with. Unfortunately for myself that wasn't the case. Stephens takes the impossible task of trying to build up all 9 characters in such a short span of time. At times it felt that there were so many characters that were trying to be thrown at the readers that it got a little overwhelming. Every single one of the characters had a mysterious past that wasn't revealed right away, and occasionally there were side stories or events that appeared irrelevant to the story but were slipped in to build a characters background.

Taking 9 main characters, with 9 separate backgrounds and trying to develop their flaws and strengths proved to be an impossible feat. Along with the main characters, there is also the story line being built, and the occasional bad guy, such as the main leader of the werewolf clan, and the Oracle, that also have backgrounds and history that needed to be presented. With so much going on with the characters one would think that there be a lot going on. Sadly, it appears that a lot of characters got overlooked or not developed properly due to the fact that there are so many in this book. Occasionally a character that felt like he could use more would act very one sided or predictable.

I feel as though the characters in The Stolen Moon of Londor are going to be one of those ones that readers have to grow to love (or hate as with the bad guys). Not everything can be developed as a character and readers need to grow with them. I'm hoping that this is the case for this book, because near the end some characters were really catching my eye.

The second weakness would be that of the history of Londor. A possible explanation of the past of Londor maybe in an appendix of sorts would have been helpful. Stephens brings details into the novel and then expands on them a few chapters later, making for a slightly confusing read. While not so confusing that I was completely lost, I did get the occasional feeling that I missed something about a past war or a detail along the way. This may be a complete oversight on my part.

Taking the character issue out, there are many strengths to A.P. Stephens writing that does sets this novel apart from the others that I have read. First was the plot line, a stolen moon. This idea really was unique, while more fantasy quest novels have a stolen relic of some sorts, this novel had the idea that a magical power went and stole a moon right out of the sky. While there isn't much explanation in this novel, as it's the first of a trilogy, readers do get a slight glimpse into who is responsible and why they would want to take this moon. I'd really like to see this part of the novel taken and expanded upon in the future, as it is one of the appeals of the novel.

Another strength of Stephens novel is that of his fighting/battle like scenes. While many authors tend to go overboard with descriptions of the fighting, Stephens takes a step back and describes all fighting very thoroughly. There aren't too many details but there are enough to make the reader envision what is going on and see the fight happen right in front of their eyes.

There are fantasy series that start out slow and in the end turn out great. On the other hand there are fantasy series that start out with a bang and fizzle out over time. I see The White Shadow Saga as the first type of series. There is so much potential for not only characters, but story wise. Stephens knows how to pack a punch in his novel while keeping the story to a manageable page length, something not everyone strives for now a days. I'd like to see where he may take the characters in future novels, and obviously something drew me into the writing as I really want to see what type of magic can steal a moon like that and what type of person would do such a thing!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Short Question and Answer with Shilpa Agarwal



To compliment Fantasy Book Critic's Blog Tour of Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal, Mihir Wanchoo had a few questions that he wished to ask Shilpa.

Fantasy Book Critic would like to thank Shilpa Agarwal for taking the time to answer these questions.

Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Haunting Bombay Here.

*********************************************************************************

Your background and childhood, I read that you were born in Bombay & then relocated to the US so how did it affect your thinking process & thereby the story as well?

I was born in Bombay and grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was a quiet, studious child and felt pulled by two worlds. At school, I had to fit into the western world which wasn’t always welcoming or accepting of differences. At home, we were part of a larger Indian community and we used to gather at social or cultural events. I never truly felt at home in either world, and perhaps because of this I became interested in the twin concepts of belonging and crossing – whether east and west, centers and peripheries, or that between the unknowable realm of the living and the dead.


The setting of this novel, 1960s Bombay & the surrealism associated with the story, what made you fixate on it & the genesis/aim of the story.

At the moment of India’s Independence in 1947, Prime Minister Nehru said, “We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.” I wanted to set my novel thirteen years after this moment, as the nation moved into its adolescence. The Mittal family’s bungalow is a microcosm of the Indian nation. Who belongs in this bungalow? Who has voice? And who is excluded or silenced?

What would happen, I wondered, if we could hear the voice of the child who drowned or the child’s ayah (nursemaid) who was sent away after she was blamed for the death? Their versions of how/why the child drowned haunted me, and my story took a turn into the supernatural. My protagonist’s struggle to hear the voice of the dead child and the missing ayah is a journey to finding Truth itself.

As far as the supernatural, I was always interested in the unknown world and intrigued by stories that brought in this mysterious, unexplainable element. I did not write a ghost story in the traditional sense but a literary ghost story as the ghosts are metaphors for the dispossessed, those who have little or no power in a family, community, or nation. Haunting Bombay is about how a family’s unspeakable past continues to haunt their present-day lives.


"Under the Amoral Bridge" by Gary A. Ballard (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)



Visit Gary A. Ballard's Blog Here
Order
Under the Amoral Bridge from CreateSpace Here
Order Under the Amoral Bridge Ebook from Smashwords Here
Visit Under The Amoral Bridge's Amazon page Here


Author and Book Information:

Under the Amoral Bridge is Gary A. Ballard's debut novel. Under the Amoral Bridge was first published in a serialized format on Ballard's blog. It is currently a self-published paperback and stands at 162 pages with a bonus short story. Gary Ballard has used his background in web designing and created the cover for the book. This is the first book in the Bridge Chronicles.


Overview and Analysis:

I had read about Under the Amoral Bridge online and after reading the first chapter, I liked the writing enough to give the novel a try. In the end I'm very pleased with my experience with this book, and am happy that I gave this novel a try.

Under the Amoral Bridge is a cyberpunk novel set in Los Angeles in the year 2028. As dystopian futures go, this one has the best that technology has to offer and showcases the worst of humanity. The novel is set in a world where technology has made the world an easy place to live in and anyone can get their heart's desires, the moral and the amoral ones, at their fingertips. For the former, can be gotten from any of the corporate entity, as in this world the federal government has collapsed due to financial reasons (a pretty grim reminder for the future based on current recession-like situations). The current set up is run by corporation's who brought the city and state governments and are now running everything in a business like manner.

For the amoral requests, there are few options in town. The only way to get these requests is to be in touch with the go-to guy, Artemis Bridge, known as "Bridge". He always knows someone who can get you what you want, be it physically or mental, or both. It doesn't matter to him what the request as long as you pay, he'll fix you up.

The story takes off when readers are introduced to Artemis doing his usual setup with a customer. As the deal proceeds and appears to be completed successfully, a previous customer of Bridge's appears. This customer had a bad experience with a hacker set up by Bridge and wants retribution. Artemis is saved at the last minute from a deadly beating by the cops and picks himself up and continues on. A major event happens to Bridge as he is entrusted with a disk and a responsibility of sorts that he never bargained for. The people who orchestrated this event want this disk back, at any means necessary. Bridge recruits the help of friends and acquaintances to figure out what is on the disk that has been sent to him and the purpose behind him being the recipient.

Artemis Bridge, our central character and the main fix in the story. He is the main protagonist of this tale as readers experience the whole story through his eyes. He is the classic anti-hero, in that he isn't easy to like, has questionable morals and is willing to bend them to survive in the world. I'm sure this has been done before in other novels and most certainly will be done in the future as well. However in this setting it works, as readers will partly disregard the character traits and learn to appreciate that Artemis is doing what he knows best how to do; survive. He might not like what he's doing but yet he still continues to do it.

In the trade paperback there is also a short story called Feeding Autonomy which is set nearly 9 months before the events of Under the Amoral Bridge. This story gives readers a nice slice of the life and work of Artemis. In doing so this shows what makes Artemis such a conflicting and engrossing character to read about!

The book is a very fast paced novel as the events happen over a period of less than 48 hours. This creates a very quick read with plenty of action for readers. Gary A. Ballard's writing is very smooth and makes for an easy read. Of course there are a couple character cliches, namely a cynical anti-hero protagonist with a wise very strong sidekick. However due to the author's ability readers don't really focus on these character traits and instead just go with the flow of the story and enjoy the novel.

Ballard does a complete and thorough job of world building. It is inserted within the story without bulking up the novel to much. There are a few major info dumps done within the novel, but these are skillfully placed between conversations and flashbacks and do not obstruct the storyline or flow of the novel.

More details about the world can be found on Gary A. Ballard's blog and can be a fun, interesting read for those that are interested in the novel and want to learn more. There is the history of Los Angeles in the year 2028 as well as information about certain events that happen within the novel are given a greater more detailed explanation. Visit the blog information page here.

In the end, I was thoroughly impressed by Gary A. Ballard's debut effort. Even though the novel was only a 155 pages long it packs within those pages a complete and compact story which makes for a fast and delectable read. Readers should go in without any assumptions of self published works, as this story will definitely surprise you. Think of Under the Amoral Bridge as a nice sports car, smooth and compact, and gives you your money's worth in thrills.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Visit Shilpa Agarwal's Website here
Visit the Official website for "Haunting Bombay" Here

Book and Author Information:

Haunting Bombay is Shilpa Agarwal’s debut novel. It is published by SOHO press in Hardcover format and stands at 362 pages. It is divided into 3 titled parts, further divided into a titled prologue, 38 chapters likewise & an epilogue.

Haunting Bombay has won the First Words Literary Prize for South Asian writers. Shilpa Agarwals was born in Bombay and relocated to Los Angeles. She completed her undergraduate studies at Duke University, specializing in Asian and African literature and Women's Studies. She later pursued her interest in post-colonial literature as a doctoral student at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has also taught at both UCLA and UCSB which included a course on South Asian diaspora.

OVERVIEW & ANALYSIS:

The title, Haunting Bombay is was first caught my attention and brought me to reading this book. After reading the summary of the novel I might as well have drawn a bulls eye on my forehead as this was a book made for me. I was born and brought up in Bombay (now called Mumbai) so I’m always excited about any book featuring my hometown and since this was touted as a literary ghost story I was hooked on reading this book. Having heard that the story takes place in the 1960s era of Bombay which I have heard so much from my parents and relatives about, I was looking to see if the author could portray this time frame in what I had envisioned it.

The story begins with a prologue set in the year 1947. Alandmark year for any person in the subcontinent as it was a year of both great happiness and tragedy. The big happy event was that India gained its freedom from the British. At the same time the tragedy was that India had then became divided at the same time. The events in the prologue paint a very dark and foreboding picture describing a young girl and the tribulations of her life.

The story then shifts forward by 13 years and readers are introduced to a teenage inquisitive girl called Pinky Mittal, presumably the protagonist of the story. Pinky goes to wake her cousins up one day and makes a startling discovery about one of her cousins. It is from this opening chapter that Pinky's anguish from her discovery leads her to do something that has been forbidden to anyone in her family. She unlocks a certain door which is supposed to remain closed and locked at all times. No reason has ever been given as to why this is so. However, after opening the door up Pinky unleashes a spirit in the house, a spirit that has remained hidden in the locked room for a long time. Now that it's out it wants to seek knowledge of its failed existence.

There are many characters presented throughout the story. Most of them either play some major or minor role to the storyline. To get a better idea of the characters in the story I've listed some of them with a small description:

Pinky Mittal, the teenage cousin who is brought from her father during the partition by her grandmother due to the certain tragic events.

Maji Mittal, Grandmother and Matriarchal head of the Mittal family who presides over the family Bungalow and family matters. She is the one who bought Pinky home and loves her the most.

Savita Mittal, wife to Jaginder Mittal and Pinky’s aunt by relation, mother to three boys and who is always stuck in a power play with Maji for control over family matters

Jaginder Mittal, Son of Maji, Husband to Savita. He leads a quiet and orderly life. Due to certain events his marriage and life are slowly being destroyed.

Nimesh Mittal, eldest son of Jaginder & Savita. He is quite the bookworm and often dreams of going off to London to visit the people he reads about in books and gain the intellectual knowledge he so desperately craves.

Parvati and Kuntal, maids of the Mittal household who have come in from Bengal and have made the Mittal house their workplace and residence. Parvati is the sharp and steel-willed one who is married to the Cook Kanj and adores Kuntal as a younger sibling and takes care of her due to her docile nature.

Kanj, cook in the Mittal household, master chef and husband to Parvati. A quiet man with a talent for cooking and loves Parvati.

Gulu, driver of the Mittal family. A braggart by nature. He has survived the streets of Bombay by scrapping odds and ends together. However he knows a lot more then most people would believe.

There are many other minor characters such as Dheer & Tufan, the younger twin brothers of Nimish, Lovely Lawate, the beautiful neighbor of the Mittals and all her family as well.

Haunting Bombay does starts out at a rather slow pace as Shilpa Agarwal introduces the setting and the characters. Both very important aspects to the novel and important to readers. However within the span of 4 to 5 chapters things start to pick up once the ghost is set loose in the house and starts affecting the various occupants.

The characters are the real highlight of the book, as each one has their own thoughts and way of life. This sets up the readers to become involved in a lot more complex world beyond the story.

The joy-de-verve of this tale, however is that of the setting; the 60s era in Bombay. Shilpa Agarwal has done a marvelous job in recreating the world of Bombay through her words, portraying all its nuances and flaws that were present in that time frame. Is is all there in a heady mix that will wrap the reader right up in that world. Shilpa Agarwal has also done a fantastic job of equating the mystical world with the mundane life. In this Bombay era, ghosts are present and so are black magic wielding Tantriks (warlocks for lack of a better term). This effect permeates throughout the story as readers are introduced to a variety of characters whose interactions with each other often create more issues then it solves.

Shilpa Agarwal's writing is captivating and elegant. A fantastic job is done of typing in Indian mythology within this tale via vignettes and conservatory tales between the characters. Also as a former resident of Bombay I found the descriptions of the area and residents a sheer pleasure to read, and any Desi reader will find it easy to picture the areas in which they are so familiar with. For any non-Desi readers this book is a tremendous eye opener into Indian mentalities and cultural diaspora. Be it dazzling or lackluster it is all here, laid out for the reader to read and form their own opinions on some of the situations.

Hunting Bombay was a real pleasure to read all the way through to the end. It was fascinating to see what the outcome of the story was in the end. Kudos to Shilpa Agarwal for recreating such an enigmatic Bombay within this book. This is a must read for any Indian who has lived through this or even those that have only heard about this time frame from their relatives. For those that aren't as familiar with the Bombay area this novel is a dive right into what some of the lives, thoughts and prejudices of a family in India are. It also gives an outsider a good look at the human nature and cultural aspect of India.

In the end, this book was a huge surprise for myself. It is easily one of the best books of the year and with such a fascinating freshman effort I yearn to see what Shilpa's imagination will churn up next.



Sunday, October 25, 2009

Capsule Reviews for books about Vampires, and other Mythical Creatures (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

It appears a lot of field guide like books have hit the shelves in recent months. Whether it's a book on vampires, werewolves or other such odd creatures. Some of the guide books can have the greatest pictures drawn by some of the greatest illustrators and some guide books can completely miss what is being offered.

This capsule review will cover 2 guidebooks: A Practical Guide to Vampires by Lisa Trutkoff Trumbauer and An Illustraded Guide to Mythical Creatures Illustrations by David West and Text by Anita Ganeri. The third book in the capsule review is a fun little vampire book called The Vampire is Just Not That Into You by Vlad Mezrich.


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A Practical Guide to Vampires by Lisa Trutkoff Trumbauer

The title of this book is pretty self explanatory, it's a guide for vampire lovers. While it may sound similar to another guide that I reviewed last week, this guide is geared more for children. With so many books and movies out there about vampires it's hard to keep kids away. A Practical Guide to Vampires is a great way to encourage children to keep loving vampires and learn more without having anything overly violent or "bad" in their reading.

The first thing that stands out in this book is the pictures and artistry of all the illustrations. Everything is very colorful and detailed. There are maps to a vampire hideout, an illustration of the anatomy of a vampire, and pictures of how a vampire may dress. These are just some of the examples of what readers will find inside and when it comes down to it the pictures are what makes this book.


On the guide front, there isn't much in here that vampire lovers won't already know, which is why I would say it's great for kids. The information provided covered anything anyone could want to know about vampires but presents it in a fun way.


For any fan of vampires or for younger readers this book makes for a great addition to the collection of books.


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An Illustrated Guide to Mythical Creatures Illustrations by David West Text by Anita Ganeri

An Illustrated Guide to Mythical Creatures is one of the first guide books that I've come across that uses 3D computer generated art to illustrate the book. The majority of guide books that I've seen have used hand drawn pictures, using the computer imaging is a unique take on the creatures.

While I found the information in this guide book to be pretty universal in how it described creatures such as Shape-shifters, Trolls,
Ogres, Giants and some of the other creatures. It was the illustrations that really changed the book.

Some of the illustrations seemed to work as a 3d computer generated art work, such as when a creature was standing alone on the page and really had no huge picture. However I was a little disappointed in the huge
drawings that were presented in the book. Maybe it was just my misunderstanding of computer animated art, but some of the pictures came across as just not working out right. The picture I had in my head of these mystical creatures was captured but some of the pictures just seemed too computer-like for my taste, as some of the pictures appeared blocky and not to be natural.

While this guide book makes a great companion reading to anyone interested in looking further into these creatures, it might not be for everyone. The use of computer imaging brought a
uniqueness to the book but at the same time it might be the draw back to some readers.

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The Vampire is Just Not That Into You by Vlad Mezrich

What would it be like to date a vampire? This book pretty much covers anything you'd need to know if you were to have the luck (or misfortune) to find yourself dating a vampire.

This little book is packed filled with fun informational dating how to's. From how to deal with dating a much older man (as we know vampires can live hundreds of years), what a vampire might look for in a girl, and how to decode a vampires dating profile online.

Inside this "dating" book are graphs, and quizzes into how to know if that vampire is the special someone. It's almost like a teen girls Cosmo for vampire dating.

I loved this book, in a quirky fun loving way. When I was a teen I loved little books like this that were out of the ordinary. However vampires weren't popular when I was in high school, so sadly nothing like this crossed my path. Although many years later I loved going through and taking some of quizzes and seeing what the results were.

The drawback to this book is that it is very much a modern day book, in that in 5 years it might be out of date. It contains a lot of information on texting, emailing, and profile reading. As technology changes this book may be out of date, although it's fun to read in the present day.

The Vampire is Just Not That Into is one of those fun little books that readers alike can just take and have fun with.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another Limited Time Giveaway of "Her Fearful Symmetry" by Audrey Niffenegger


Back in October Regal Literary gave away 13 copies of Her Fearful Symmetry in a facebook contest. If you weren't one of the lucky winners of that contest Regal Literary is at it again this time offering 25 hardback copies and 10 limited edition ARCs to those that enter!

From the publisist email:

We’re at it again! Regal Literary has 25 hardcover and 10 Advanced Reader’s Copies of Her Fearful Symmetry ready to go to the book’s Facebook fans. All you have to do is become a fan of Her Fearful Symmetry on Facebook, send an e-mail to hfs@regal-literary.com with the subject “Facebook Special Offer – I’m a fan!” by November 13, and we’ll enter you into the lottery.

The Her Fearful Symmetry Facebook page features video interviews with Audrey, links to reviews, a list of Audrey’s appearances and much more about Audrey’s new book.


http://www.tinyurl.com/facebookhfs

Hurry up and join the page today—

And don’t forget to e-mail hfs@regal-literary.com and let us know you’re a fan!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Interview with Alison Sinclair (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Mihir Wanchoo was able to interview Alison Sinclair regarding her release of her latest book Darkborn (read FBC's review of it here). Alison Sinclair is also the author of Legacies, Blueheart, Cavalcade and Throne Price. Fantasy Book Critic would like to thank Alison Sinclair for taking the time to answer a few questions for its readers. FBC would also like to thank Sarah Ash for helping us get in touch with Alison.


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1] Could you please give us a short introduction about yourself and the type of books you write!


I’ve been classified as a literary SF writer, and I’d say I’m of a fairly traditional literary bent – definitely a SF writer at the core, but one influenced by mainstream literary writing and drama, particularly the modernist writers of the early decades of last century, when writers were exploring new ideas drawn from the scientific and political movements of the time and finding new forms in which to express them, and the SF of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, when writers added to the golden age emphasis on science and technology the concerns with their impact on the individual and society.

Those concerns and influences spill over into my fantasy, but the fantasy is also tapping even older literary roots, from the my early adolescence in Scotland where I received an education based in the nineteenth century arts tradition, and from a late-awakening interest in history. I didn’t distinguish myself in history at school, and it wasn’t until the century I was born in became history that I abruptly started to take an interest in it again, and notice where official history differed from the experience of living through those times.

Recently I read a comment by Eleanor Arnason, that prompted a definite click:

Science fiction deals with the effect of science and technology on people. Fantasy deals with the things that have been devalued in industrial society: emotion, intuition, personal loyalty, the sense that human beings are part of the natural world. Both are ways to analyze the changes caused by industrialization, to understand what has been lost and what has been gained (quoted in Pamela Sargent (ed), Women of Wonder: The Classic Years; from “On Writing Science Fiction” in Denise du Pont (ed), Women of Vision.)

In my ‘other life’, I am presently studying for a MSc in Epidemiology at McGill University, in Montreal. That comes after a career in the physical and biological sciences that has included research in molecular and structural biology, a degree in medicine and a brief stint in medical residency, and work as a clinical researcher and writer in the pharmaceutical industry.

2] What books have you written up till now and can you tell us a bit about each of them?

My first published novel was Legacies (1995), but the world of the Burdanians had been with me in some form or other for a long time – my version of the child’s imaginary country was a planet. The writing of the novel in its mature form took me about five years, because I was learning on the job (not to mention finishing off a PhD and doing a postdoc plus other activities at the time). Its core is a very twentieth century question: how does a people reconcile itself with a history of atrocity, in this case the planetary catastrophe caused by the space-explorer’s star-drive?

Blueheart (1996) was the second – I wanted to write a book set on a water world, because I had a fascination with the sea, and I was working in molecular biology at the time, so I wanted to explore the practicalities and ethics of human genetic engineering as well as terraforming. The third point of origin was Rache Scole Blueheart, wanting to do a different character than the volatile Burdanians. Then I started with the discovery of the body floating in the ocean, the body of a woman who did not legally exist, and the plot – and Rache’s life certainties – began to unwind from there.

Cavalcade (1998) was the third, a response to the X-files and all the alien abduction mania in the media at that time – the start point was ‘what if the aliens asked for volunteers, who would go, and why?’ I wrote it thinking it would be a first contact story, but it turned out to be a story about human relationships, politics and ideals in an alien environment, about emigration, and about the baggage one takes with one.

Throne Price (2001) was a co-written novel, part of a longer story that my co-author, Lynda Williams, and I developed over quite some years. I’ve since bowed out of the project, but Lynda is well on into what will eventually be a 10 novel sequence.

I have three unpublished science fiction novels looking for a home. One is a stand-alone that was sparked by a lecture in medical school about cultural misunderstandings between physician and patient, which got me wondering what a physician from a very different tradition would look like. The other two are from a series of medical science fiction that got started because I wanted to do a story with medicine and starships, which cross-pollinated with epidemiology, worldbuilding, ethics and politics.

Given the change in the market, my agent kept nudging me to attempt a fantasy novel, and after sustained ‘but I don’t have the background!’ foot-dragging, I admitted just how much fantasy I had read and absorbed over a lifetime, and that I did have an idea, which got me writing Darkborn and its sequels.

3] What drove you towards writing and what is it about speculative fiction that you find so enticing?

Considering that I wrote my first ‘novel’ when I was eight (called “Shipwrecked on an Island”), it’s hard to tell what exactly got me started writing. I discovered science well before I discovered science fiction (around age 14), but as soon as I discovered science fiction I started to write it.

I think I found speculative fiction so enticing in part because one is not confined, as a reader or a writer, to the limits of one’s own gender, class, and culture. Anything goes; everything that is normal, natural and appropriate is open to question. While I’ve told the story of how I discovered SF at the age of 14 before, it’s probably no accident that I battened on to it at that time, which is when social expectations of a girl really start to bear down, and that it was the SF&F produced and influenced by the British New Wave and American and British feminist and civil rights movements.

SF&F both shaped and reflects my interests: the interest in science and technology, definitely, and in its practitioners and proponents, but also the interaction between science and society and how they shape each other, how some ideas of science are incorporated into the culture and others are marginalized, how science (and knowledge in general) becomes part of human self-definition and human narrative and how it can be an instrument both of liberation and oppression.

4] Which authors that you have read and are your favorites, would you recommend to your fans especially in the fantasy/sci-fi genre?

That list could get very long and is subject to change without notice. At present my ‘pounce on with glad cries list includes’ (from within the genre)... Lois McMaster Bujold: for just about everything, but particularly for the humanism and the technical mastery and the way all the details come together. Ursula Le Guin, for similar reasons. Kim Stanley Robinson, for his take on science and scientists, and the documentary detail in his novels. Barbara Hambly, who writes a fantasy grounded in history, and history with elements of the magical. Julie Czerneda, for the biology, and the aliens, particularly her “Species Imperative” series. CJ Cherryh, who does the human-alien interface and the difficulties in translation so well. Ken McLeod, for the distinct flavour of his speculative politics. Marie Jacober, a friend who writes across genres but always on the tensions between love, politics and power.

This is by no means complete.

My entire haul from the recent Montreal Worldcon consisted of books from Canadian small presses. When I started writing, the distinctive Canadian voice and literature was very much a mainstream literary tradition, with minimal markets for SF&F within Canada. Quite a change over the last 30 or so years. I’m a member of SF Canada (Click here to visit the SF Canada site), whose 140-plus membership by no means includes everyone who is working in SF&F in Canada.

5] It's been close to 15 years since your first book was published, how do see your journey from the publication of "Legacies" up till now? Any special story to be shared about your first publication?

I’ve told the story of Legacies’ publication in an article I wrote for Focus, the writer’s magazine of the British Science Fiction magazine, in 1997 (View the full article online here). I quote myself here:

“The second publisher I sent [Legacies, then titled Homecoming] to was Random Century. In November it returned. I stoically peeled open the envelope as I trudged up the stairs, expecting the usual thank-you-for-letting-us-see-sorry-it-does-not-meet-our-needs. Instead, there was a personal letter to me from the editor, Deborah Beale. She was very interested in my writing, thought I had talent, but I was not there yet technically. There were two main flaws. I tended to overwrite. And I hadn't really learned to plot, and on that account, my characterization seemed a little picaresque. She had a few suggestions for what I might do, and she wanted to meet me next time I was down in London.

... I showed up at the Random Century offices in a suit, with garment bag on shoulder. Deborah appeared in miniskirt and leather jacket. In a crowded restaurant she wanted me to tell her the story of HOMECOMING. I tried. The noise and the effort wore me out; I begged off half way. Which was her point - I did not have a clear idea of the story. She was encouraging, nevertheless. She got maybe 500 submissions a year. Of those, she found about 8 authors she wanted to work with. I was one of the eight.

Back I went to my garret and my novel, taking Deborah's words of advice and what gleanings I could find about plotting from my reading, and started revising “Homecoming”. A year's work followed, in which I confronted the fact that I had not really reached the ending; I had merely pooped out two thirds of the way in. I wrote nine more long chapters. Just after Christmas, 1992, I bundled up some 600 pages ... and committed them to the tender offices of the GPO ...

In the interim, unknown to me, Deborah had signed on as SF editor for the embryonic Orion. That was my second piece of pure dumb luck - she had a blank slate to fill. In March, at work, I got a phone call. Deborah: "I've read your novel, I like it very much ..." I could hear a "but" coming in the tone of her voice, and braced myself to take it stoically. "And," she said, "we'd like to offer you a contract." I went into high orbit and didn't come down for a week.

There was a but. She wanted a rewrite. In August, I got the first installment of the editorial notes, and a few weeks later, the second. They came to forty pages, covering the first two thirds of the manuscript. The remaining third returned decorated with yellow post-its ...”

Back in 1995, breaking in was supposed to be the hard part. I didn’t realize that staying in would prove even harder. But if I had any temptation to regard disruptions in publishing induced by changes in the book distribution system, new technologies and economic upheavals, as something extraordinary (not to mention feel sorry for myself on that account), such a temptation would have been dispelled by listening to someone like Robert Silverberg describe the ups and downs of his career, as he did in a panel at the recent Worldcon. An introduction to a book of short stories by women writers of the Fin-de-Si├Ęcle (edited by Elaine Showalter) included the following sentence, “With changes in the economics of publishing in the 1890s, the traditional three volume novel disappeared.” At the same time, the periodicals market opened up, so writers who would have been writing novels wrote short stories instead, to that form’s great gain. As the sage said, the only thing constant is change. Whatever the frustrations in one’s daily life, change is always good study for a speculative fiction writer, particularly change that comes from an unexpected direction, and has unexpected consequences and revenge effects.

6] How has your background in Medicine & Anatomy helped you design the worlds which you created? Specifically in the world of the Imogene-affected, what are the basic anatomical differences between the Light & Darkborn?

I came to the conclusion a while back that a technical background was both a tremendous help and something of a hindrance, in that it gives me the tools for research and the understanding of mechanism, but occasionally makes me have to work harder to get around a constraint that I recognize. Worldbuilding, and imaginative bio- and system engineering is part of what makes this genre such fun – the constant interplay in the development of the story between the physical and biological assumptions, the psychology and sociology that comes out of them, and the explanations and narratives that the imagined culture develops out of its experiences.

Regarding the Darkborn trilogy, both the Darkborn and Lightborn are human-appearing. The Lightborn are anatomically normal. The Darkborn have eyes but lack optical tracts and that part of the brain that would normally be given to processing sight is given over to processing sound. They can hear much higher frequencies than we can.

7] All your previous novels had strong SF backgrounds however deal with problems arisen from technological & human perspectives? What do you wish to explore via the questions in your books.

The themes that seem to run all the way through are: The obligations of living things towards each other. How people (and aliens, and starships, and anything with an opinion on a matter) might live together without surrendering their traditions, history and convictions. How we express our physical nature, how physical nature and biology constrains us, how we resist that, the truths and untruths we realize and tell about ourselves. The use of knowledge (scientific and magical) as a tool for exploration and liberation, and the danger of its misuse. The ethics of knowledge and power.

8] What was the specific idea which lead to the genesis of the Darkborn and the remaining books?

I was reading a fantasy novel where the whole light=good, dark=evil motif was prominent to the point of being irksome (given the cumulative exposure from the genre). So I began flipping it around in my mind. First thought was to make the ‘dark’ people the heroes, though the way it has worked out, the Lightborn aren’t exactly the villains, and even the Shadowborn have their own reasons for being as they are. The second thought was to make the split between light and dark literal. The first image was of a man and a woman on either side of a wall, who became Balthasar and Floria. As to the late nineteenth century feel of the Darkborn culture, I suspect it came out of the compost that nurtured the trilogy, the fantasy and adventure fiction set in that era that I read as an adolescent and since.

9] What can you reveal about the remaining two books in the series? In the 1st book you curiously gave a very vague description of the Shadowborn, what can you tell us about them?

The second novel (Lightborn, due out June 2010) has a lot to do with the Lightborn, who also suffer the machinations of Shadowborn, and who – for reasons that the story reveals – know even less about them than the Darkborn. It carries on Telmaine’s story, as she tries to fulfill Balthasar and Ishmael’s charge to her of protecting Vladimer and the archduke while at the same time continuing to conceal her magic. Needless to say, the outcome is disaster.

Who and what the Shadowborn are and why they are out to cause mayhem is the matter of the third book (Shadowborn, due out May/June 2011), where Ishmael learns the purpose of the Call and the reason his life has been so dangerous of late, and Balthasar discovers how his family is connected to the Shadowborn.

10] In your book the Darkborn have no vision however perceive the world by the ability to “Sonn” how would you describe this ability and what organ does this sense arise from?[Eyes, Ears = sight, sound]

Sonar gave me the rough idea – there’s a fascinating book called Sensory Exotica by Howard C. Hughes, published by MIT Press in 1999, with sections on sonar, electroreception, biological compasses and chemical communication. I’ve taken appreciable liberties, one being giving some Darkborn the ability – with a lot of practice – use sonn passively.

11] You have always created exotic and well detailed worlds in all your previous books. What is it about world-building that makes you create such vastly different yet fully realized worlds?

An early and enduring fascination with natural history and with the great diversity of working life and working systems. I get to do the research that underlies them; I get to tweak them; I get to work out the consequences of my tweaks; and I get to invent characters who belong (or not) in those worlds, and create stories around them.

Thinking through and then dramatizing the consequences of living in darkness, perceiving through sonn, and having, absolutely, to avoid sunlight, was sometimes quite a challenge. While writing the Darkborn, I had to describe everything in terms of shape, hardness and texture, lose my entire colour vocabulary and all allusions to things at a distance, and abandon all the language of interaction that involved looks and glances. Writing the Lightborn, I got to put all these things back in, but had to be obsessive about lights and shadows, and making sure that everyone had enough light.

12] On the cover of Darkborn, a beautiful woman is shown wearing gloves, is this Telmaine? Why does she have eyes if she is a Darkborn?

I like the cover very much – the elegant clothes, the gloves, the composed and slightly wary expression, the dark hair: it’s Telmaine. But yes, she is clearly ‘looking’, and though Darkborn do have eyes, they are blind, so that was my one quibble. But it was the publisher’s say.

13] All novels of yours have a theme of conflict amongst two groups which served as a lynchpin for the story, should we consider this as a hallmark of your writing & what would you say about this?

Western culture is full of binary oppositions, starting from the good/evil paradigm of the dominant religions. We think in binaries. Much of standard conflict in storytelling is set up in terms of two sides in opposition, with a third element that appears to perturb any established dynamic.

For me, there’s a personal element – we moved to Canada for the first time when I was seven, and from then on, I became a child of two cultures. Television had not yet had its leveling influence, and the manners and mores of Britain and Canada were quite distinct, especially from the perspective of a child trying to learn the social rules. Canada was preoccupied with its own two solitudes, the political and cultural struggles between its English and its French heritage. In addition, I’ve spent my life between CP Snow’s two countries of arts and science, and as a woman in science, at times felt something of an immigrant to a strange land. So the clash of two cultures, and the experience of negotiating that clash, is something that is written on my psyche.

14] What are your plans for the future? As a writer, what still challenges you and what do you want to accomplish?

I’ve the usual long list of possible projects in my notebooks, from lablit (term for the realistic presentation of scientific endeavour), to space opera. Some of those have been incubating for decades. Although what does get written will likely depend on what is most likely to find a market – and I can’t even say “in these strange times”, because I’m well aware they’re no stranger than any other! If I were granted a year out, I’d use it to explore new technologies of storytelling – hypertext, interactive, mixed media, and see if I had any stories to tell that belonged in these forms. No matter the modulations of market, fashion, and form, storytelling still seems to find its way out.

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