Yearly Archives: 2011

RAILSEA by China Mieville

Via The Wertzone:

From China Miéville, New York Times bestselling author of Un Lun Dun, a thrilling new young adult novel that reimagines Moby-Dick in an unforgettable and fascinatingly imagined setting.

Sham Yes ap Soorap, young doctor’s assistant, is in search of life’s purpose aboard a diesel locomotive on the hunt for the great elusive moldywarpe, Mocker-Jack. But on an old train wreck at the outskirts of the world, Sham discovers an astonishing secret that changes everything: evidence of an impossible journey. A journey left unfinished…which Sham takes it on himself to complete. It’s a decision that might cost him his life.

Sounds fun. Mieville’s adult novels often weigh me down with their complexity and self-indulgence. I’m glad to see him returning to YA. Now, where’d I put my copy of Un Lun Dun?

NIGHTS OF VILLJAMUR by Mark Charan Newton (German Edition) The Book of Transformations by Mark Charan Newton

Has any one had as high a book release:cover art ratio as Mark Charan Newton over the past two or three years? Seems like every couple of months I’m posting new covers for his novels! This time around it’s the (beautiful) cover for the German edition of Nights of Villjamur and the upcoming UK paperback cover for The Book of Transformations. We all know how I feel about hooded dudes on the covers of Fantasy novels, but I think it works fairly well this time around; it’s simple, the typography is good and it’s a mile better than the ninja girl that almost graced the cover of the hardback. The cover for the German edition of Nights of Villjamur is probably my favourite of all of Mark’s covers (though the Great Wall of China does seem to stick out like a sore thumb.)

All in all, good covers.



By Ian McDonald
Pages: 296 pages
Publisher: Pyr Books
Release Date: 06/12/11
ISBN: 1616145412


Ian McDonald, the many times award-nominated author of The Dervish House and Brasyl, has always been on my bucket list. I love near-future Science Fiction. I love speculative works set in cultures foreign to me. I love slim stand-alone novels. McDonald hits on all of these fronts and every time he releases a novel it seems to do a fair round of the awards circuit. Yet, I’d never read any of his work. Part of my hesitancy, I think, was due to McDonald’s reputation for writing labyrinthine, intertwining plots featuring dense prose and asking the reader to work for the story. It takes dedication to read fiction in that manner and, well, I’m often lazy. But when McDonald announced that his next novel, Planesrunner, the first volume in the Everness series, would be a world-hopping Young Adult (YA) novel set in an alternate London full of airships and sky pirates, I knew I finally had an opportunity to give his work a fair shake. And I’m bloody glad I did.

The prose in Planesrunner was simpler than I expected, likely due to the YA audience, but also doesn’t speak down to its younger readers, weaving some wonderful imagery and thoughtful themes through the narrative. Like all literature, the best YA respects its readers and Planesrunner embraces that mentality. In a recent interview, McDonald touches on the nature of YA literature:

I’ve never really called it YA, because it’s targeted at a younger age-group — I believe it’s Middle Grade, in the hair-splitting terminologies of this kind of writing. I had many reasons, all of them honest. Most of all, it was the story that could only be told with these characters, in this way. It was a story I wanted to tell this way, for this age-group. I’d done some research. Boys read pretty damn voraciously until they’re thirteen, then a lot fall off for various reasons — games, peer pressure, too cool for that kind of thing, lack of stuff to read… At the same time, the BBC did some research into who watches Doctor Who — and by that, I mean ‘appointment to view’ — who decides to turn the telly on and watch it, and they found it was fourteen year-old boys. So I thought, can I do something that gives the same eyekicks and the same level of complexity — it’s only adults who whine about plots being difficult because they lack the mental agility and ability to concentrate and be absorbed that kids have — as Doctor Who, in book form. But aim it at that age-gap: 13 year-old boys — not forgetting the girls as well. Make it’s smart, stretch imaginations a little, make it SF because there’s an awful lot of fantasy out there. Make it different and fresh — no, not another dystopia. Introduce the idea of learning how scientists think and look at the world — because it’s very different from what we think.

It’s clear that McDonald put a lot of effort into what really makes an appealing novel for younger readers, and in the process peels back the layers to examine what makes YA so much more enjoyable than a lot of ‘adult’ fiction. Most interesting is the idea that younger readers have an improved mental agility that allows them to jump around the story, absorbing different ideas, concepts and plot strings without needing the constant infodumps and explanations that bog down so much of adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. When a reader trusts the author, as McDonald suggests that younger readers are more capable of doing as compared to older readers, the author is freed up to concentrate on a fun, exciting story that’s able to develop its themes and characters rather than hand-holding its reader through a new world. Often you’re left just having to accept that things fall easily into place for Everett, the titular protagonist, but the reward is McDonald being free to throw him into some sticky situations without the reader losing their sense of reality.
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In a pure labour of love, io9 has compiled a table detailing the magic systems in nearly all of Fantasy’s most popular series and worlds.

From the blog post:

Magic is mysterious and ancient, and its workings are often beyond the understanding of mere mortals. But that doesn’t mean that magic doesn’t have rules.

Every fantasy saga has its own rules for magic, and its own explanations for how the magical arts work. Where does magic come from? Who can use magic, and how? Do regular muggles know magic exists? We dug through 50 or so of our favorite fantasy sagas, and compiled a complete list of the rules of magic in each of them.

And an excerpt:

io9's Epic 'Rules of Magic'

It’s fun to wander through all of these various world (especially the ones I haven’t visited in years) and compare and contrast all the imaginative ways that the genre’s authors have embraced the idea of otherworldly power. Looking more closely, though, it’s strange that Wheel of Time, known for having one of the most complex and nuanced magic systems in Fantasy has such a short entry, and the description of Brooks’ magic system in Shannara is flat-out wrong (the four elements? What?) Still a fun (and impressive) collection.

Paint Splatter Superheroes by Arian Noveir

Everybody has a favourite superhero. Whether you love the vulnerability of Batman, Superman’s struggle with what it means to be human, or Spider-Man’s fight for Mary Jane, it’s easy to connect with these super-powered humans (well, human in most cases!) and recognize that despite their superhuman abilities, they’re as damaged and vulnerable as the rest of us.

And that’s what makes these paint splatter portraits (which are actually produced digitally) by artist Arian Noveir so wonderful; not only do they look great, but they manage to capture that unguarded side that so many superheroes possess. They’re a beautiful, subversive look at the traditional hero-figure.

Paint Splatter Superheroes by Arian Noveir

More of Noveir’s art (including some more superheroes and a wonderful nod to Freddie Mercury of Queen) can be found on his DeviantArt Gallery page.

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