It talks about a society coming out of a (civil) war, about what people do during such a time, even if not directly involved, and what his means you have to live with afterwards, when times and the situation have changed, when you're older, and when your aims and desires have evolved.
Haunting, fascinating, and nominated for the 2014 Nebula Award (which is for stories published in 2014, and will be awarded in 2015).
Warren Ellis is UK based writer of comics (Transmetropolitan, Freakangels, amongst others), books, and is dabbling in film work, too (RED was based on one of his stories, and had his involvement). Note to those not familiar with him (yet, you should be!) – this is not the Warren Ellis playing the violin in Nick Cave's The Bad Seeds, although he sports a similarly impressive beard...
The album at hand, called Trees, Volume One: In Shadow is a collection of the first 8 issues of the on-going series Trees; written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Jason Howard. Number 1 was published in spring 2014, number 8 in January 2015, with this collection hard on its heels.
The setting is simple – this is a world which has been invaded by aliens, and has ever so slightly come apart at the seams as a result of that. Not completely, you see, as this is not your vanilla alien invasion, but out of whack with a slightly post-apocalyptic feel, nevertheless.
As the opening sequence, overlaid over a brutal police raid in Rio against a group flying smart phones on a kite (the rationale is not explained, but I'm sure you can come up with a number of scenarios for what this could be useful for!) states:
Harry Connolly is a Canadian author with a growing body of work to his name - Circle of Enemies, the topic of this review, is the 3rd book in the 20 Palaces series, published by Del Rey. When Del Rey did not renew the contract for further books in this series (a shame, really) he self-published a prequel to it; and has since written a game tie-in novel in the Spirit of the Century series and has published a collection of short stories (Bad Girls Die Horrible Deaths) which he describes as Dark Fantasy. His latest venture, an Epic Fantasy trilogy called The Great Way, has been crowd-funded (and is rather over-subscribed), with the first book expected in Summer 2014.
But back to the book at hand. Circle of Enemies is the final book in the series before Del Rey put in on ice, mainly due to falling sales figures, I understand. This is a shame, as the trajectory in terms of writing quality, readability, and enjoyability definitely was pointing upwards - whilst I found the first book in the series (Child of Fire) a bit of a slog at times, and the 2nd one (A Game of Cages) better but still lumbered with some of the same weaknesses in the storytelling, I devoured and rather enjoyed this one, and would really rather have looked forward to further installments. Maybe at some point, after the Epic Fantasy trilogy - ?
Circle of Enemies plays in a roughly contemporary America, with the main difference to ours being that Magic is real (well, I have not heard that it is, but maybe things have been kept quiet…). There are sorcerers with extra powers, there are spell books, and there are creatures (the 20 Palaces Society calls them Predators) from a parallel dimension which can give you huge powers and abilities if controlled and handled correctly. If not then they have the distinct ability (at least the more powerful ones) to destroy this Earth…
And where there is power there are people abusing it, bickering over it, and killing each other for it.
Maybe it's overstating matters to say to say that this is something the World has been waiting for with baited breath, but I think I can safely state that the fans of broad-stroke, far-future Space Opera with a solid amount of action have definitely been looking forward to Neil Asher's new series, now called Transformation, of which Dark Intelligence is the first installment. And, I'm happy to report, without the pitfalls which turned me off his Owner series.
It is, as The Technician hinted at (that book links previous events in the Cormac series into the new one, but is apparently not counted as part of it) centered around Penny Royal, an AI which went 'dark' ('mad' does not really cover it, but gives you an idea of what this entails) during the Prador war. And it is, if I need to mention this after the above, set in Asher's Polity universe, again in contrast to the Owner series.
If the previous paragraph does not make any sense to you then let me just tell you that Neil Asher writes Space Opera in a universe where humanity has spread across space (aka The Polity), is governed by AIs (the core ones are called ECS, for Earth Central Security), have encountered a few alien civilisations in passing, and one (the Prador) heads on due to their genocidal mind set. AIs fly space ships, or control drone bodies, and are considered full citizens of the Polity. And Penny Royal turned dark during the war against the Prador, bombed the Polity forces it was supposed to evacuate, and abandoned the war.
It had gone to ground on an Asteroid in the Graveyard, as the now established buffer zone between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom is affectionately known. In it renegade, criminals, salvages, and general chancers and rejects from both races mix, trade, and kill each other, without any government to speak of. Some people have approached Penny Royal due to its unmatched Biotech/Genetics capabilities with requests for special abilities – these wishes come, even when fulfilled, frequently with unwanted and unwelcome side effects, as Penny Royal (or at least one of the 8 states of consciousness if fell apart into) is patently deranged. One of those beneficiaries/victims is Isobel Satomi, a power player in a local crime syndicate, who asked to be turned into a Haiman, a being as close to a melding of human and AI abilities as is possible. But now she's changing, and turning into something much more hideous, dangerous, and decidedly non/inhuman...
This is a Sheason story, set in a culture which follows a path of pain, and more relevant, suffering; all in the name of finding themselves, and keep themselves grounded in reality and the world. By bringing a stranger, foreign to their ways, into their midst it talks about being human, about how new thoughts can fit in with old and established ones, and about bitter lessons that need to be learned.
It also comes with a gorgeous illustration by Tommy Arnold - click through to the story to see it in all its glory.
The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself is the second Novella in Ian Sales’ Apollo Quartet, and was originally published in 2012. The third book in the series – Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above (he has a flair for wordy titles, doesn’t he just!) - is also languishing on my reading pile (hopefully not much longer), whilst the final book, titled All That Outer Space Allows, is scheduled to come out in 2015, and has been announced to be of full Novel length.
Ian Sales is a British writer, editor, blogger, and now publisher. Adrift on the Sea of Rains (the first, BSFA award-winning book in the series) was the first book published on his own Whippleshield Books imprint (he is expanding beyond his own writing now, so this is definitely not a vanity setup).
The book kicks off with a Shelley quote, which gives/gave it its title, which I found very apposite, all the more so as it is from “Hymn of Apollo”! And then we dive into another story built around a diverging timeline of events, based on the American Apollo programme. This time the premise changes earlier than in the first book; so these are clearly not part of the same universe - I would actually expect each of these books to stand on their own, and only be linked by being extrapolations of the original Apollo programme. And by their structure, of course. Anyway, in The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself the back story diverges from what we know as our history between Apollo 10 & 11 - the Russians landed a man on the Moon (which means that the divergence on the Russian side must have been earlier to allow this), whilst Neil Armstrong in Apollo 11 aborted the descent and landing due to the persistent 1202 error he kept receiving (instead of ignoring it, as has happened in our time line). After the cancellation of the Apollo programme the Americans then re-focused their efforts to getting an Astronaut to Mars, which they achieved with Ares 9 (using re-tooled Apollo hardware - this is realistic!). The landing area was in the Cydonia region, famous in conspiracy circles for its Face, its Ruins, and its Pyramid. But what Commander Elliot finds there changes history, eventually changes the technology humanity has available for space flight, and of course proves that the conspiracy theorists were right all along (except that all this is top secret, and everything is being denied officially).