by Sandy Auden
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Alastair Reynolds' latest SF novel is available now form Gollancz publishers. Continuing his epic approach to story-telling, House of Suns revolves around Abigail Gentian. Six million years ago, she fractured herself into a thousand male and female clones: the shatterlings. Sent out into the galaxy, these shatterlings have stood aloof as they document the rise and fall of countless human empires. They meet every two hundred thousand years, to exchange news and memories of their travels with their siblings.
Campion and Purslane are not only late for their thirty-second reunion, but they have brought along Hesperus, an amnesiac golden robot for a guest. But the wayward shatterlings get more than the scolding they expect: they face the discovery that someone has a very serious grudge against the Gentian line, and there is a very real possibility of traitors in their midst…
Reynolds has created a richly textured background to his House of Suns story. "It's more about creating a sense of implied history, than actually having it all worked out and written down somewhere," explained Reynolds. "I'm not one for creating enormous files full of background material. But I do think that the sense of history is vital, at least for the type of SF I'm interested in. One of the points about House of Suns was there's far too much history for any one person to hold in their head, so it was more a case of hinting at this vast layered structure, letting the reader fill in the gaps."
Keeping things in your head -- memory -- has turned up before in Reynolds' novels and in House of Suns we find Hesperus, who has forgotten a few key points in his own past. "It's a rich seam for any novelist to mine, irrespective of genre. Memory and identity are the things that make us human. What science fiction allows is for the writer to come at these themes from a technological perspective -- we can play with ideas about memory erasure, memory alteration and suppression, which are simply not open to writers of realistic fiction -- yet.
"With Hesperus, I liked the idea of him being ambiguous as a character -- he's this enormously powerful and potentially dangerous being, and because he can't remember why he was sent into the human space, it's hard for the other characters to trust him completely."
Reynolds blends this micro-perspective of individual characters very successfully with the macro-perspective -- the fate of planets, the disappearance of entire galaxies, the eradication of whole species. "It's the natural territory of space opera, I think. If worlds and civilisations aren't at stake, it isn't space operatic enough. I think a lot of space opera fails for precisely that reason -- the focus is too parochial, the stakes insufficiently high. In one of his reviews John Clute once referred, if I'm remembering correctly, to a book failing due to the 'the mismanagement of the rhetoric of scale'.
"Space opera that works, I think, manages the rhetoric of scale successfully. The downside, of course, is that there's a danger of the individual vanishing out of sight completely. The task of bridging that gap -- finding a hinge point so that personal actions can still have significant outcomes within the terms of a space operatic storyline -- is one of the main challenges, especially if you can do it in a way that isn't pulpish or trite."
The author still has lots more ideas to share in the future too, although he's being a bit secretive about one of them at
this stage of the game. "I've just completed a long novella about the aftermath of a Russian cosmonaut's encounter with
an alien artefact -- that'll appear in Godlike Machines, edited by Jonathan Strahan, from the Science Fiction Book
Club. And I'm gearing up to begin work on the new book, about which I'll say as little as I can..."
New Collection from author Tony Richards
Tony Richards' Passport to Purgatory collection of short stories is out now from Gray Friar Press.
The publisher said: "In Tony Richards' world, horror exists everywhere: from the snow-covered landscape of Ontario to the dank back alleys of Hong Kong; from the dilapidated suburbs of London to the quixotic streets of Paris: from the sun-soaked bays of Jamaica to the rain-slashed cities of Japan.
"Terror will travel with you as you embark on a whirlwind tour of the globe; it will be at first an amiable companion; but as you roam the places you visit, it will gradually start to reveal itself … and you'll soon begin to realise that the terror may be in you, after all. Have you applied yet? Here is your Passport to Purgatory: please enjoy the journey; after all, it may be your last."
Passport to Purgatory includes fifteen tales and an introduction by John Pelan.
Elastic Press launch Science Fiction Collections
This month, Elastic Press is releasing two SF collections by Gareth L Powell and Chris Beckett.
Andrew Hook, head honcho at Elastic Press, said, "Gareth L Powell's The Last Reef features artwork by newcomer Eran Cantrell and an introduction by Jetse de Vries.
"It's Powell's first collection of short stories and is stuffed with mind-bending ideas and unforgettable characters. Ranging from the day after tomorrow to the far-flung future, these fifteen stories are perfect for anyone with a craving for intelligent and thought-provoking adventure.
"From noir-ish cops to disaffected space pilots, blind photographers and low-life hackers, everyone here is struggling to find a little peace amid the tumult of the future.
"The second collection, The Turing Test, is by Chris Beckett; again featuring artwork by Eran Cantrell, and an introduction by Alastair Reynolds.
"The fourteen stories, among other things, contain robots, alien planets, genetic manipulation and virtual reality, but their centre focuses on individuals rather than technology, and they deal with love and loneliness, authenticity and illusion, and what it really means to be human."
PS Publishing Launching Top Titles at Fantasycon in September
Independent genre publisher PS Publishing is launching some great titles at this year's Fantasycon event in the UK.
For Fantasy fans James Barclay (known for his sword and sorcery novels about mercenary gang The Raven) has novella Vault of Deeds being launched; and for Malazan fans there's Steven Erickson's new novella Revolvo.
Mark Samuels' Glyphotech is PS's fourth title in their Showcase series of short story volumes. Jason Van Hollander will be providing cover art for this little gem and Ramsey Campbell is handling the introduction duties.
PS will also be releasing some classic Ray Bradbury titles over the next year. The Day It Rained Forever is in the final design stages and the top 100 copies of the deluxe edition will include a special PS edition of the author's A Medicine for Melancholy.
PS have also secured a three-book Bradbury set: Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Hallowe'en Tree
and The October Country. They're hoping to bring it out for Christmas so now you know what to put on your list to Santa.
Trapped Ashes horror movie released on DVD
Classic horror anthology movie Trapped Ashes was released on DVD on July 15th 2008. Trapped Ashes' scriptwriter and co-producer, Dennis Bartok dropped us a line to spread the word:
"This will definitely be the most comprehensive DVD of the film released anywhere in the world so mucho thanks to Lions Gate for going the extra mile to include a lot of additional material here, including the full-length cuts of Monte Hellman's and Ken Russell's episodes, deleted scenes and alternate takes, behind-the-scenes interviews, commentary and more."
Gollanz Publishers Release Book Trailer for Eve: The Empyrean Age
Gollanz Publishers are expanding their marketing strategies and have released a trailer to promote Tony
Gonzales' Eve: The Empyrean Age, one of the first ever crossover novels to tie in directly with a massive
multi-player game. Launched in 2003, EVE-Online has over 200,000 active players worldwide.
Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic interviewer/reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; and a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and SF Site. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. For background information, visit www.sandyauden.co.uk.
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