science fiction

Book launch: Grave Touched ~ Erin Zarro

Today I’m joined by indie author Erin Zarro to celebrate the launch of her second urban fantasy/science fiction novel, Grave Touched, which is the sequel to Fey Touched; both are published by Turtleduck Press.

Grave Touched is officially launched Friday 1 May 2015.


BLURB
Grave Touched ~ Erin Zarro

gravetouchedFey Touched – humans, genetically engineered for immortality and flight, tasked with protecting the rest of the world from rogue Fey…

Grave Touched – dead souls in search of living bodies to possess, especially those who’ve had a brush with death…

When Fey Touched Hunter Emily wakes up in a hospital, she doesn’t know that she was in fact dead. Nor does she know that her lover, Nick, broke all kinds of rules to bring her back. But the grave touched do.

Fey Touched Healer Asha does know that her mate, Joe, saved her when her abilities nearly killed her. And she knows the voices in her head are the grave touched trying to stake their claim. Asha needs Joe’s help again, but unfortunately she’s the only one who believes the grave touched exist.

The grave touched are plotting to take over the corporeal world, and they’re gaining strength. Only Emily and Asha stand in their way – and both are about to be possessed.

Grave Touched.

Buy via Amazon Kindle: Grave Touched | Fey Touched (book 1 – currently just 99c)


Here’s Erin to discuss her new book…

What was the inspiration behind Grave Touched and its predecessor Fey Touched?

The inspiration for the Fey Touched series was a question I posed to myself: what if the Fey were based in science, not myth? I thought of genetic engineering to make an immortal, better human and how scientists would need to somehow replicate the human soul (or mana, as it is called in the books) and that they wouldn’t be able to…and this is where the idea of rogue Fey came about.

Rogue Fey take mana from humans who are not donors (and children), which is illegal in the FT world. They would need a police-type organization and that’s where the Fey Touched Hunters came in. They were given some of the enhanced genes of the Fey, but have souls, an immortal lifespan, and wings.

I liked the idea of playing with science and juxtaposing it with myth. Fey in myth have wings, but my Hunters have avian DNA. The Fey in the FT world have blue skin and can create illusions using mana around them. They are similar to Fey of myth, but not exactly. I wanted to give it a scientific base and spin it into something unique.

Grave Touched also came about as a question: what if the afterlife was a hellish existence with no corporeal form? And what would these poor souls do to end their torment? That became the basis of the grave touched, restless dead who possess the living for bodies and sensation. I also wanted to play with the idea of ghosts in sci-fi, which is a bit different from what I’ve read out there. I’m a firm believer in ghosts and the afterlife, and it seemed like a neat thing to explore in GT.

What kind of experience can readers expect from the two books?

My books always feature crazy twists and turns, heavy psychological issues, lots of action and fight scenes, some romance, and a touch of horror. Fey Touched and Grave Touched are no exception. 😉

What do you love most about this book – Grave Touched?

I love the antagonists (who I won’t reveal here) because they came about as I was writing them. I literally hadn’t planned on either one, and when they appeared on the page, it made an eerie sort of sense. I also love how tenacious they both are, how they won’t stop until they’ve gotten what they want.

Also, Grave Touched is a love story at its core. The things the two main characters go through and the power of their love and bond is just beautiful. I really love some of their scenes. I’m a romantic at heart, and it shows.

And finally, the strength of the Hunters and how hard they fight for what they believe in, sometimes at great personal cost.

What is it about the fantasy/speculative fiction genre that inspires you — as a reader, as a writer?

I love it because anything goes. You can make stuff up, blend things together, and explore all kinds of new worlds and people and magic and space…it’s wide open, and it’s so much fun exploring all the possibilities.

What aspect of storytelling are you most passionate about?

I’d have to say the characters. I always put my characters through the wringer. They have to work for their ‘happy ever after’. And they always rise to the challenge. I like writing (and reading) about strong protagonists fighting equally strong villains. I’d read a series more for the characters then anything. I do enjoy worlds and magic and culture, but the characters always get me right in the heart every time.


BLURB for Fey Touched (Book 1)

fey touchedTwo sisters.

Asha is the Queen of the Fey, genetically engineered immortal humans who feed on human souls to survive. But she’s running from her people. When she is found by her enemy, one of the Hunters of the Fey, she expects to die. Yet he’s oddly intrigued by her, and Asha finds herself falling in love with him, hoping she can find safety and the home she’s been seeking. Then she’s kidnapped, and everything changes.

Fallon is a Hunter. She’s looking for her long-lost sister, using an addictive drug to search through the stream of time. Her addiction leaves her dangerously exposed to her enemies but, consumed by her search, she doesn’t care…until her fellow Hunters start dying from a mysterious illness. She is torn between duty and desire, and must find an answer before they all die.

What Fallon doesn’t know is that Asha might just be the key to saving them all, if only she can find her.

And time is running out


About Erin Zarro

erin_bwErin Zarro is an indie novelist and poet living in Michigan. She’s married to her Prince Charming, and she has a feline child named Hailey who she’s convinced is part vampire. She loves all things scary and spooky, and is on a mission to scare herself, as nothing lately has scared her. She writes in the genres of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Her first published novel, Fey Touched, is a blend of sci-fi and fantasy. She is currently working on Book 3, Ever Touched, and is trying to stay out of trouble. Mostly.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter


My thanks to Erin for sharing her thoughts and good luck with the launch! Don’t forget Fey Touched (book 1) is currently on sale for 99c at Amazon.

 

In the Dream’verse with KD Sarge

One of the more memorable books I read last year was Knight Errant by KD Sarge, published by Turtleduck Press. It’s part of Sarge’s science fictional Dream’verse series, and the first of three books featuring her engaging heroes, Taro and Rafe. (My brief thoughts on all three here.)

The second of the Taro/Rafe books is His Faithful Squire; and the third, Even the Score, was released last December. To celebrate the latter, today I welcome KD to talk a little about Taro and Rafe and the series.


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Even the Score – A novel of the Dream’verse

Even the Score ~ KD Sarge

Even the Score ~ KD Sarge

One, two, three,
How many will my victims be?
One, two, three, four,
How many more to even the score?

When Taro Hibiki leads a survival class into the backwoods, he has two goals: to prove himself as an instructor, and to propose to his beloved Rafe before he loses his nerve completely. In the wilds might seem a strange place for that, but it’s where Taro feels most at home — and the only place the couple can escape all their other responsibilities.

On BFR, proud colonists say the name stands for “Big Effing Rock,” and brag about their planet’s dangers. More treacherous than bomb bugs or sight scamps, though, is a human seeking vengeance. Soon Taro’s students are dropping one by one, and no matter what Taro does, the killer stays a step ahead. Worst of all, Taro comes to suspect that the students are targets of opportunity — that the ultimate goal is Rafe.

Taro would die for Rafe in a heartbeat, but who’s going to take care of Rafe if he does?

As it happens, the killer has a plan for that, too.

Buy via Turtleduck Press | Amazon Kindle | Smashwords


Here’s KD Sarge…

1. Can you start by telling us a bit about the Dream’verse series — the inspiration behind it and how the stories fit together?

I didn’t start out thinking I’d write a series. I watched the musical Les Mis and all that tragedy got to me. I thought how most of the characters who died just needed a little ~help~ at the right moment. Two days later I started writing about Eve Marcori, former Marine, who made a hobby of helping just when it was most needed. Eve pays it forward, and that’s what links the books. All the main characters are Eve’s rescuees, or rescuees of Eve’s rescuees. She’s saved Taro and Rafe twice each — those boys need a lot of rescuing. 😉

2. Talking about Taro and Rafe — can you please give a brief run down of their story to-date?

Taro and Rafe — my hooligans. Taro is Eve’s little brother. His mother adopted Eve then died, and Eve took her promise to look after Taro very seriously. At nearly 16, Taro can fight like a Marine, fly like a fighter pilot, swear like a Calanian (and blow things up like Crazy Harry). In Knight Errant, Eve is about to send Taro off to college when Rafe drops in. His girlfriend’s jealous husband wants him dead, so he wants to hide behind Eve. Attempting to get rid of Rafe, Taro gets them both kidnapped and the pair end up stranded on a poisonous planet. Where, of course, they fall in love.

His Faithful Squire begins two years later. Taro is eighteen and Rafe is still pretty much useless. But Taro wants to see the galaxy, so off they go, getting in as much trouble as only those two could find along the way. HFS is all about Rafe figuring out he’s not quite useless, and he doesn’t actually have time to be useless at all, because if he is, Taro is going to get plowed under.

3. What kind of experience can readers expect from Even the Score and its brethren in the Dream’verse series?

I hope each book will be one heck of a ride. I want to make readers laugh, make them cry, and have them read the last page with a happy sigh.

4. What do you love most about Even the Score?

Taro and Rafe. I love them together. I love that they are so RIGHT for each other but they can still manage to screw it up pretty incredibly. And the amount of screwing up they do together…

5. What is it about the science fiction/speculative fiction genre that inspires you — as a reader, as a writer?

Sci fi/spec fic is more “figure out the rules” for me. I like to discover as I go. In the Dream’verse there are planets where everything is commodified, planets like BFR where personal liberty is the big thing, planets where it is NOT… it’s a lot of fun, running my characters into those situations to see what falls out.

6. What aspect of storytelling are you most passionate about?

All my stories seem to come around to saving people. Caring about people. Empathy. I want to tell a story about a person who is real to the reader. If a reader comes out of a book feeling like they’re not alone, maybe a little stronger, a little more tolerant — then I’ve done what I set out to do. And, of course, I want the reader to have fun! Life can be miserable enough; it doesn’t need my help.

About KD Sarge

kd sarge 200x197KD Sarge writes for joy and hope, and works for a living. She has tried her hand at many endeavors, including Governess of the Children, Grand Director of the Drive-Through, and Dispatcher of the Tow Trucks. Currently KD loves her job at a private school for children with autism.

Past accomplishments include surviving eight one-year-olds for eight hours alone (she lasted about ten months), driving a twenty-foot truck from Ohio to Arizona by way of Oklahoma, and making a six-pack of tacos in twenty-three seconds.

Writing achievements include the Weightiest First Draft Ever, as well as eleven other, much lighter, completed novels. She has somewhere between five and ten universes under construction at any given time, writes science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, smut (in many genres), and means to one day undertake a cosy mystery. A widow, KD lives in Arizona with her biological daughter, her internet daughter, two cats, a dog, and a hermit crab named Bob.

KD can be found on the internet at kdsarge.com or turtleduckpress.com. Follow her on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, where she mostly talks about cool things she found when she should have been writing.


Many thanks to KD for dropping by to chat about the Dream’verse. Do yourself a favour and go read the first Taro and Rafe story, Knight Errant, today…

July reading: Drought and Debris

Books. July. This is what I read.

DebrisDebris – Jo Anderton

I picked up a copy of Debris, Jo Anderton’s acclaimed first novel (Angry Robot books) in the Veiled Worlds trilogy, in June at the launch of the third. And she very kindly signed it for me too. So, determined to get back on track with my reading of not only speculative fiction, but also Australian Women Authors, I fast-tracked this fantasy/science fiction novel to the top of my to-be-read pile.

It’s a classic ‘book 1’ of a trilogy — meaning that it’s clearly laying the groundwork for grander things. Debris focuses on introducing the reader to its rather unique world, which at this point is a cityscape that reminds me for some reason of the movie, Dark City. You can tell worldbuilding is important to Jo, because the city is a definite character in the novel. It’s futuristic, yet also archaic; the newer parts function using an unusual ‘magic’ system that binds matter together, the older parts are dilapidated with cracked lino and rusty pipes. It’s hard to decide whether this is fantasy or science fiction. Perhaps it’s both.

Anyway, the main character, Tanyana, once an influential architect, is now a social outcast who can only manipulate ‘debris’, which is the residue of the ‘magic’ she once wielded with such skill. She has to become accustomed to her change in circumstances, build new alliances among those who despise her, figure out why the hell this happened to her and whether justice will be hers. The narrative is closely centred around Tanyana and a small misfit group of debris collectors, and although there’s a definite sense of something bigger and nastier going on, the story doesn’t break into the grander scale until the end. It will be interesting to see where she takes it!

droughtBreaking the Drought – Lisa Ireland

Lisa is one of my very good friends and Breaking the Drought is her debut novel with Escape Publishing. It’s a “fish out of water” Australian rural romance novel (m/f to break the trend of my recent reading) and I’m so incredibly excited to see it published. Slick city girl meets country boy in a deftly handled tale, with horseriding, Jimmy Choos (not at the same time) and good old-fashioned romance. Lisa paints a believable Australian country and farming vibe (complete with bush dances and bushfires) and the pressures on the relationship of Jenna and Luke are realistic and nicely resolved.

midwinterprinceA Midwinter Prince – Harper Fox

Yes, all right, you suspected this was coming… right? Seems I’m not done with Ms Fox just yet. A Midwinter Prince is set in London, when Laurie, a young man with money, title and a domineering father, meets Sasha, a young Romani man huddled in a doorway in the dead of winter. Like all Harper Fox novels, both young men are tortured souls, struggling to overcome their pasts and find happiness together. With the Laurie seizing independence, it’s Sasha’s background that is mysterious and has the potential to rip them apart… Great stuff. And there’s a sequel (The Lost Prince), which I haven’t read yet.

I might also have re-read a couple more Harper Fox novels in July: Scrap Metal and Driftwood. More tortured young men falling in love. Again. Scrap Metal is perhaps one of the best explorations of pure unconditional love I’ve ever read. Of all Harper Fox’s books, I think Scrap Metal is the most powerful love story — and beautifully written. Definitely one of my favourites.

Well, that’s it from me for July. Of course, it’s half way through August now, so it won’t be too long before the August reading post!

A few convention highlights – Continuum X

I spent the past long weekend at Continuum X — this year’s Australian national speculative fiction convention, where fans and writers and authors gather together to chat about science fiction, fantasy, horror and other related topics.

It was held at Melbourne’s Intercontinental Hotel at Rialto, a fairly classy venue as these things go. About the best thing about the venue was the bar, which was central and sunken, so you could look down and see whether your friends were there. The bar was probably the worst thing too, owing to the crazy drink prices, which saw me buying $14 glasses of wine…

Unusually for me, I didn’t attend many panels at this convention… nor did I take any notes at all. Which is just plain weird. Normally I’m bursting with new ideas and insights to share by now. But this con was mainly about meeting people — and I met heaps, which was awesome.

I did, however, hear two fabulous talks from the two professional guests of honour — Ambelin Kwaymullina and Jim C Hines.

Ambelin Kwaymullina is an Aboriginal writer and illustrator from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She gave an amazing presentation — raw, passionate, severe — about cultural appropriation, which made us all squirm in our seats. (Or at least it did me.)

I’ve heard many talks about the evils of cultural appropriation as writers, but none hit home like Ambelin’s did. A lot of it comes down to a completely different world view — and the world view of her people is nothing like the world view of “westerners”. She explained how she is “not a science fiction writer”, because science fiction is a construct that has no meaning among her people. And many other things besides.

Ambelin really made me look at other cultures — and not just indigenous cultures — in a whole new way. It was not comfortable to hear… there was so much passion (and bitterness) in that speech. But we needed to hear it. We ALL need to be beaten over the head with it, because it is so easy not to hear or understand, and be inadvertently disrespectful.

Jim C Hines is an American fantasy author and blogger who is quite vocal on subjects of gender equality and is also the guy who did the gender flipped poses for SF/Fantasy novels. He gave a great talk about embracing diversity within the community and beyond… the most memorable comment being something along the lines of how being the recipient of one act of discrimination is like getting a paper cut, but when there are many paper cuts it’s like being flayed alive…

Yes, some very sober and serious messages by our guests of honour.

Perfections

I went to a few book launches at the convention too — none more satisfying than the re-launch of Perfections by my very good friend, Kirstyn McDermott (who I recently interviewed about the book). Even though the copies at the launch were a unique breed, retitled IMPerfections, with a rather fatal flaw, Kirstyn still sold just about all copies that were available. Celebrations all round.

Aside from guest of honour talks and book launches, I went to one panel, one live podcast recording, and the Australian Ditmar Awards ceremony (kind of like the Hugos, but waaaaay less prestigious). The rest of the time I spent hanging out with friends in the bar.

All in all, I had a fabulous time.

My thoughts on Catching Fire

catching fireI loved Catching Fire, the movie. A lot more than I did the book. Which is unusual.

My major complaint with the book was that it seemed to repeat the same story and themes as the Hunger Games (the first book in the trilogy). It suffered from a lack in progression of the overall story arc. Katniss goes back into the arena to fight for her life. Yeah, whatever.

The movie sticks really close to the novel as I remember it — except for some reason I liked it a whole heap more. Maybe this was because I already knew what the story was and had accepted it. Or maybe it’s because the movie highlighted all the differences really well. Not sure.

For those who haven’t read the book or seen the movie yet, I’ll summarise the basic plot:

It’s set in the future dystopian nation of Panem, which comprises 12 oppressed ‘districts’ and a central dissipated ‘capital’. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Malark, winners of the recent Hunger Games (a barbaric reality TV show in which children from each district are annually forced to fight each other to the death), are trying to integrate back into their lives in district 12. But Katniss has attracted the attention of the not-so-nice President Snow, who sees her as a trouble-maker, and resolves to eradicate her and other past winners by sending them back into the arena…

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen is fabulous. The rest of the cast is great too, but she truly shines — no surprises she’s one of the youngest ever Oscar winners (for Silver Linings Playbook earlier this year). 

Whereas The Hunger Games introduces you to this horrible world, Catching Fire does a lot more to show the brutality and oppression of the districts, thereby paving the way for the rebellion that is to follow. Because the movie broadens the viewpoint (the book is limited to Katniss’s first person narrative), the viewer is granted a deal more insight into the overall situation — especially President Snow’s scheming and the desperate plotting of a small rebel group. Somehow the ins and outs of the plot are a whole lot clearer in the movie.

The movie is beautiful to look at and exciting. The costumes are vivid (and they wear some truly wacky outfits in the capital), and each of Katniss’s show costumes are stunning (after all, it is a reality TV show!). Definitely many thumbs up from me!

***

Today’s blog theme is ‘which holiday movie do you love this year and why’. Catching Fire is the only recent film I’ve seen, so it’s a good thing I loved it! I’ll post links to other contributions as they come up.

Also, check out this far more thorough (and a little spoilerific) post from Siri Paulson on Catching Fire – book versus movie.

Trucksong launch party

It’s always exciting to attend book launches, especially when the author is a member of one’s writing group and an all-round nice guy. So it was with a spring in my step that I trekked north to the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy yesterday evening to attend the launch of Andrew Macrae’s debut novel, Trucksong, published by acclaimed Australian indie, Twelfth Planet Press.

Trucksong

I have not read any part of this literary SF novel yet, but it has been garnering many positive vibes from those I know who have. The official blurb goes thus:

A dystopian science fiction novel about lost love, AI trucks and the search for meaning in a post-apocalyptic Australia.

Yes, you read that right. AI trucks.

Trucksong can be purchased directly from Twelfth Planet Press, and heaps more information is to be found both there and on the dedicated Trucksong web site. This includes a sound track for the novel, composed by the author, and a download of the original version of the novel, which was initially written using experimental ‘post apocalyptic’ language as part of a doctoral thesis. Linguifiles are saying it could perhaps have stayed thus, but apparently the revised (yet still literary) version is far more accessible for those of us who don’t wish to work quite so hard.

It must be said Andy put on a fabulous launch party at Playroom, accompanied by experimental projections from Dr. Projectionists and improvised music by expert guitarist Jim Matheas and multinstrumentalist Tom Hamnett. The book was launched by editor of Overland magazine, Jeff Sparrow.

I really hope this book flies –by all accounts it’s something out of the common way and not a little bit special. I do hope international audiences dive in for a glimpse into something quintessentially Australian. Congratulations to Andy on Trucksong’s publication!

Following the launch, several of us wandered off down Brunswick street in search of Andy’s choice of ice-cream parlour — the uber-cool N2 Extreme Gelato, where they make ice cream on the spot by pouring liquid nitrogen right into the mix. Wild, with lots of vapour. Something of a gimmick, yet still delicious. I had the ‘Black lava salted caramel’ flavour.

Book Review: Slow River

I can’t remember who recommended it, or where I heard about it, but I recently read Nicola Griffith’s Slow River, republished as part of Hachette’s SF Masterworks series (it won the 1996 Nebula Award and Lambda Literary Award).

SlowRiver

Set in the not-too-distant future in a city that might be in England, Slow River is about a young woman struggling for control of her life in the aftermath of her kidnapping and from the shadow of a hidden identity. From Amazon:

Lore van de Oest awoke in an alley to the splash of rain. She was naked, a foot-long gash in her back was still bleeding, and her identity implant was gone. She had been the daughter of one of the world’s most powerful families . . . and now she was nobody. And she had to hide.

One of the many things I liked about this novel is the structure. Three interwoven threads tell Lore’s story in different time periods:

  • in the ‘present’ — Some three years post kidnapping, Lore makes some changes in her life to take control of her situation and embrace her future.
  • the recent past — Commencing at the point of her escape and spanning the last three years, Lore deals with issues surrounding her family, the woman who has taken her in, and the world she has been drawn into.
  • childhood — A chronological account of her privileged upbringing right up to the point of her kidnapping just before her 18th birthday, including the familial relationships that are revealed to be critical to who she has been and who she has become.

I also like that it’s an SF genre story focused on character, rather than big ideas and epic events. The SF aspects are almost incidental, but serve the story well to give it that distinct flavour of ‘other’. Events are limited in scope to Lore’s world — major for her as an individual, but barely a blip on the radar of world events. It’s a personal story in entirety. It’s Lore’s story.

And beautifully written.

Slow River is a book I’d recommend to those who want a contemplative reading experience. It’s not fast-paced; nor did I find it a truly immersive experience, where the world fell away. But what it lacks in action and excitement, it has in thought-provoking themes and exquisite craft.

***

To read what books others are recommending for this week (and last week!), check out these wanafriday posts:

Movie review: Riddick

Last week I saw Riddick, the latest Vin Diesel blockbuster movie, and reviewed it for Festivale Online Magazine.

To summarise, I liked the opening (first 20 mins or so) a lot. The rest, not so much. Click through to read the full review!

riddick1a

Above is an image from the part of the movie I liked. It shows Riddick (who is stranded on an alien sun-scorched planet) and his ‘dog’ companion, which he’s reared from a pup. His relationship with the ‘dog’ is really sweet.

Anyone else seen Riddick? Thoughts?

Thoughts on Among Others by Jo Walton

I recently read Jo Walton’s Among Others, winner of the 2012 Nebula, Hugo and British Fantasy Awards for best novel. Since it’s one of the few recent SF novels I’ve read of late, I thought I would share some of my thoughts. [Mild spoilers…]

Among_Others_(Jo_Walton_novel)

Among Others has been described as many things: a fairy story, a love-letter to science fiction, an aftermath story, a magical boarding school story…

… and the cool thing is it’s ALL of these things at once. It’s also a young adult story about coming of age and healing of the heart and soul.

Set in 1979, the story is told in diary form by Morwenna, Mori for short, a 15 year-old Welsh girl whose twin sister has been killed in an unspecified magical showdown with their deranged mother. Mori has fled her mother and the fairy-populated Welsh hills of her childhood, and been sent to live with her estranged father, who sends her to a typical English boarding school. Struggling to deal with her new life and circumstances, Mori finds solace in the voracious reading of fantasy and science fiction novels. These also prove an area of common ground with her father, but it isn’t until she finds the local science fiction book club, populated by kindred spirits, that she starts to deal with the trauma in her past and embrace her new life.

As the narrator, Mori’s voice is engaging, forthright, and passionate (especially when discussing and naming the vast number of books she reads). She writes with conviction about magic and fairies, explaining how the magic works, the nature of her mother’s magical vindictiveness, what the fairies look like and the nature of her relationship with them.  Yet at the same time she’s awkward as she tries to make sense of boarding school culture, her relationship with her father, her growth from a child into a young woman.

It’s complex and many-layered. Lots to think about and question. I think the author does a great job of subtly adjusting Mori’s voice and tone as the story progresses, reflecting the lifting of her spirits and the introduction of hope into her life.

It’s not a fast-paced novel, more a gentle unfurling of light out of dark. The big events have happened in the past and Among Others is about picking up the broken pieces, adapting and getting on with it. The fairy elements and the science fiction/fantasy elements and the boarding school elements and the family elements are all woven seamlessly together. The different threads glitter at different times, depending on which way you hold the fabric up.

It’s by no means a necessity, but to get the most out of this book it would probably help to have an appreciation for science fiction and fantasy — or reading at the very least. There are, it has to be said, many discussions about science fiction and fantasy novels, but they’re not that lengthy. Nonetheless, scores (hundreds?) of books, most of them classics of the 1970s, are mentioned by name and author as they pass through Mori’s reading pile with amazing speed.

I’ve heard the book criticised for this, but even though I’d read very few of the books mentioned, I was willing to go with their inclusion, since I felt it was such an intrinsic part of Mori’s character.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It warmed me and made me smile, without blowing my mind. And although I believe it’s technically classed as a genre book, it’s not typical of such and I think it would be very accessible and enjoyable for non-genre readers. I can see why it won so many awards.

If you’ve read Among Others, what did you think of it?

If I could live in a fictional world…

First off, let me admit I’m going to break the rules. I’ve decided these ’11-question’ games or memes or whatever you call them offer too much fodder for discussion to be used up in a single blog post. So instead I’m going to use each question as a launching point for a single post. And just like that, I have topics for 11 separate posts — say one a week — which will keep me going quite a while!

I will, however, follow some of the formalities first up. Massive thanks to both Alina Sayre and Elaine Smothers for tagging me in the game. But here I begin my naughtiness. If you want to know what the questions are, and what I’m supposed to be doing with them, check out Alina’s and Elaine’s posts respectively. Mwahaha!

And now onto contemplation of the first question, which is: If you could live in a fictional world, where would that be?

OMG, now you see why I want to devote a whole post to this?

I have been a devoted reader of the fantasy genre for as long as I can remember. There are probably hundreds of amazing fictional worlds I would very much love to explore for myself. The discovery of an imaginary world is one of my favourite aspects of reading fantasy — and is probably one of the drivers for me to write it as well. The creation of a world from scratch is thrilling.

As I write this, dozens upon dozens of worlds from novels are cascading through my brain: the Pliocene epoch of Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles, Stephen Donaldson’s The Land, the world Robin Hobb created for her Farseer, Liveship Traders, Tawny Man and Rain Wild Chronicles books, Jacqueline Carey’s Terre D’Ange and surrounds, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, JK Rowling’s Harry-Potter-world… and so many more.

And then of course we have the fictional worlds of the screen: the Pandora of Avatar, the Galactic Empire of the Star Wars series, the world of Farscape… eek!

As a reader, I invariably get the most enjoyment out of novels with superior — what I label three-dimensional — worldbuilding, because they make me want desperately to go there. Hey, they sometimes make me feel as though I am already there! When reading a novel is like taking an armchair tour of a different place, I’m in heaven.

But would I want to live in any of them?

Hmmm.

It so happens that most of the worlds I become enamoured of are pre-industrial. Ergo, no hot water (er, no running water even!), no central heating, strong chance of inequality among both classes and sexes, heaps of manual labour (unless you’re really rich), prevalence of disease… On the up-side, no polution, no processed food, gorgeous clothes, potentially magic, adventure…

I can’t decide.

The question makes me think of another of my all-time favourite fantasy series — Stephen Donaldson’s Mordant’s Need duology. In the first book, The mirror of her dreams, Terisa Morgan steps from our world through a mirror at the behest of an earnest young man who magically appears out of a mirror in her living room.

The world Terisa arrives in is civilised and elegant, if still pre-industrial. She is treated as someone important. Her guest rooms in the sprawling castle seem comfortable (except for the secret doorway into tunnels behind the walls out of which pop strange men in the middle of the night), she has a maid assigned to her, and audiences with the king. The castle even has gravity-fed running (if not hot) water, courtesy of an elevated reservoir. (OK, the engineering of this is not really explored… Thinking on it now, I question such a massive body of water being located effectively in the ceiling…)

There is magic in the form of mirrors that are doorways into other worlds. There is love in the form of the earnest young man. (There is also lots of pain and torture and near-death and saving the world.)

At the end of the second book, A man rides through, Terisa decides to stay. (oops – spoiler!) She has the option to return to our world; but chooses her new life, where she has the power to effect change, to matter, and of course there’s the earnest young man. 🙂 (Geraden is very endearing, and not at all your usual sort of hero, yet hero nonetheless.)

If I were Terisa, I would have stayed too, all things considered.

I know I haven’t really answered the question. If I had to choose one world to live in, right now, I would probably nominate… no, I can’t! I don’t know which one!

What about you? How much of a fictitious world would be too much? Which ones would you most like to visit? And are there any circumstances under which you’d stay?