SF & Fantasy
The short lists are in for the 2009 Aurealis Awards, recognising Australia’s best Science Fiction and Fantasy writing. It’s been another strong year for Australian SF & Fantasy and the number of new authors in this year’s list is good news for the future. The Winners will be announced on the 23rd January.
Many reviewers have already pegged this book as the biggest fantasy release of 2010. That’s a big claim only days into the New Year but it’s not hard to see why this is book is getting so much hype. From its opening lines we are drawn into an intense, almost urgent atmosphere as Hoffman cleverly hints at the depths and layers of the story to come. This is a world where nothing and no one can be trusted, where words can have great power but little meaning and where cynicism and dark humour are essential to survival.
Let me just put this out there straight up: I would knock down my own Grandmother if she stood between me and a new Jasper Fforde novel. There are few authors I idolise as much as Jasper Fforde, the man who brought us, Jurisfiction, the Chronoguard, full body-contact croquet and the ingenious Footnoterphone! Imagine, then, my hand-trembling excitement as I explored a world utterly different from that of the Thursday Next series, a vision of the future I guarantee you’ve never even dreamt about before, and yet still so unmistakeably Ffordeian.
The follow up to one of my favourite debut novels from 2009, The Poison Throne – the first book in The Moorehawke Trilogy. The series is light fantasy, with a strong historical fiction feel – the action takes place in a medieval kingdom in an era very reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition. The world building in the series is quite economic, however, and The Poison Throne was a book that took place entirely within a single castle and its grounds. Its strength was the intense, claustrophobic drama that built up within the royal court as the young Wynter, or Lady Moorehawke, and her ailing father attempt to find out why their enlightened kingdom has fallen into superstitious tyranny in their five year absence.
You have never seen the Peter Pan story like this. Surprised by the underlying darkness of J.M Barrie’s original Peter Pan stories, Brom was struck by this line in particular:
The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two.
What happens when the Brother’s Grimm team up with Quentin Tarantino and Irvine Welsh? Diabolical carnage of the most grotesque and disturbing kind – but funny too, right, in a sick kind of way? Welcome to the imagination of Jesse Bullington.
This is a welcome return to the classic sagas of King’s early career with powerful human drama, a sprawling cast and constant action, all choreographed by a master storyteller. It’s a book that’s been over 25 years in the making, mixing beautifully some themes and ideas that have been simmering away in King’s potent subconscious mind with current world events and even some very entertaining pop-culture references.
NZ born author Juliet Marillier has achieved a huge international audience with her elegant historical fantasy novels. Like some of her previous series, Heart’s Blood takes inspiration from a traditional fairy tale. In this case it’s Beauty and the Beast – and no, you can forget that saccharine sweet Disney version, this is a story with a lot more guts to it.
Jack Vance wrote the Tales of the Dying Earth series over a period of 34 years from 1950-1984. It is still regarded as one of the most distinctive and influential creations in the fantasy genre and the Cugel volumes in particular are still as fresh and entertaining as ever. Set in the far far future, Vance imagines an Earth populated by humans capable of both powerful magic and impressive technology. Yet this advanced society lives with the inescapable knowledge that our Sun is in rapid decline and will soon die, dooming all life on Earth with it.
Gail Carriger describes her first novel as “urbane fantasy” – an apt description for this paranormal Victorian comedy of manners.
What is it about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series that has managed to keep such a large audience enthralled for so many years? Since the release of The Eye of the World back in January 1990 legions of fans have doggedly followed the fortunes of that original group of heroes who set out from Two Rivers, even as the series grew and grew to encompass the fates of many more players.
Launched earlier this year by Harper Collins in the UK and Australia, Angry Robot is a new publishing imprint where “[the] mission, quite simply, is to publish the best in brand new genre fiction – SF, F and WTF?!” Essentially, Angry Robot is all about the new wave of SF and Fantasy, whether it be subversive new takes on traditional tropes, crossover fiction, or something entirely, even bizarrely original. What makes me excited about the whole venture is that Harper Collins already has a dedicated SF & Fantasy Imprint in their stable: Voyager is perhaps the biggest specialist SF and Fantasy publisher in the world, home to many of the genres’ most successful authors. For Harper to launch a new dedicated SF & F imprint suggests they are looking to do something new.
Fantasy writing is flourishing in Australia these days. Led by established authors such as Garth Nix, Kate Forsythe and Isobel Carmody, the quality of Aussie fantasy just keeps getting better and better. With so much good local fantasy available, I wanted to take some time to highlight some of the best recent releases.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s name is synonymous with the term “future history”, which is used to describe those highly detailed sagas that tend to damage the social lives of hard SF junkies such as yours truly. Galileo’s Dream certainly has elements of future history within it (and I will get to them soon) but first and foremost, it is a sensitively fictionalised biography of one of the pillars of modern science.
Simply one of the most impressive novels of the year, in any genre.
Le Guin is the undisputed queen of science fiction and fantasy. Her early works (notably the Hainish Cycle and the Earthsea novels) helped establish science fiction and fantasy as a true literary mode, capable of exploring deeper human truths and sociological trends. She cleared a path for female authors in traditionally male dominated genres and did it all with graceful, meaningful and eminently readable storytelling.
40 years in the future, a plague has destroyed human’s ability to conceive females. In the Australian desert the roving bands of outstationers have cut ties with the Colony government, living out a merciless, womanless future in the outback.
Johannes Cabal, scientific genius and renowned intellectual snob, did a deal with the devil. He sold his soul for the ability to control the dead. Unfortunately Johannes soon realises that there’s little point being a necromancer without possession of his own soul. But the devil seemed like a sporting fellow — perhaps they could come to some arrangement.
One never knows exactly what you are going to get when you pick up a new novel from the genre-breaking China Miéville. His surreal urban stories have defied easy categorisation into straight SF or Fantasy, spawning the entirely distinct sub-genre of “new weird” in his ongoing rebellion against Tolkien-style fantasy. But more than this, Miéville is always looking to experiment with other literary genres and The City & The City is his homage to the classic police procedural.
Cloud & Ashes is an incredible achievement, a work rich with word play and potent symbolism. Whether you delight in unravelling multi-layered meanings in a text or if you simply enjoy the floating sensation of allowing richly figurative language to wash over you and carry you along, Cloud & Ashes is a book you will turn back to again and again.
Expectations for this book are extremely high but Patrick Ness has succeeded in producing a thrilling yet extremely subtle dystopian novel that is, if possible, even more relentless on the reader. Where Book 1 focussed very much on the various implications and reactions to a world where men’s thoughts are not their own, The Ask & The Answer delves deeper into the gender divisions created by the fact that women are immune to the language germ. This means that women’s thoughts are private, breeding distrust and unease among the men. As all out war descends the Noise provides complicated layers of honesty and dishonesty that makes it hard to distinguish truth from propaganda. The love story between Todd and Viola is beautifully pure but heartbreakingly precarious under the extreme pressure of their situation.