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  • The first notices and reviews reviews for World Fantasy Award winner Lavie Tidhar’s forthcoming UNHOLY LAND have started coming in.

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    Warren Ellis in his ORBITAL OPERATIONS newsletter praises the novel.

    I read an advance copy of Lavie Tidhar’s UNHOLY LAND last week.  It’s one of those lovely books that starts out presenting itself as one thing, and mutates into another almost without you seeing it.


    It begins with a minor pulp detective-fiction writer leaving his home in Berlin to revisit the land of his birth - a Jewish state in Africa.  Right away, we’re in alternate-history space – this was actually a floated idea around 1900, the British Uganda Program, also referred to as the Uganda Scheme, in the wake of Russian pogroms against the Jewish people.  So far, an African take on THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN’S UNION.


    But.  The writer’s name is Lior Tirosh. Compare that to Lavie Tidhar.  Partway through, Tidhar ascribes the authorship of one of his own books to Tirosh. OSAMA.  An alternate-history novel featuring a detective and a series of pulp novels.   One detects the wake of the grand galleon of Michael Moorcock sailing by on the way to Tanelorn.  Tidhar, as most recently evidenced by CENTRAL STATION, is a game-player of a writer who uses the spectrum of science fiction canon for his pieces.


    And then the book turns into what it’s really about, a grand game of alternate worlds cast like jewels on the sand.  The long second act is all dust and blood and madness and glory, and the fast third act comes down on you like a sharpened spade.


    Lavie Tidhar is a clever bastard, and this book is a box of little miracles. I liked it.


    THE SPECULATIVE SHELF enjoys their first encounter with Lavie Tidhar.

    Unholy Land is a stunning achievement. It is packed to the brim with engaging ideas and features a captivating story that I could not stop puzzling over. It will certainly find itself in my Top 10 of 2018 when the year comes to a close.

    I can’t say more about the plot without taking away from what I found to be a marvelous reading experience. There is such an ethereal and intoxicating quality to the story and Tidhar’s writing that I found myself floating through the chapters, not always sure what was happening, or whose perspective we were seeing, but knowing that I wanted to keep reading. The intersecting story threads twisted my brain into a pretzel and I loved it.


    Having never read any other work by author Lavie Tidhar, I was blown away by his command of language — every sight, smell, and feeling of a scene is accounted for and communicated in vivid detail. On prose alone, I would have enjoyed this book, but pairing such good writing with such a conceptually intriguing story made for truly enjoyable reading. I look forward to exploring Tidhar’s other works and I hope he continues to write beautiful and thought-provoking speculative fiction.


    ★★★★½  out of 5


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    Photo: Kevin Nixon


    At SCHOLASTIC BLOG, Tidhar takes 10 Minutes to discuss his new children’s book Candy.

    Q: You’re known as an adult writer – why did you decide to write a children’s book?


    A: It was just the book that spoke to me most at that particular time. To me, Candy is a book anyone could read, I like to think it’s for children aged 9 to 90! My favourite children’s books have a resonance that means you can pick them up at any time in your life, and that’s what I was at least aiming for. I actually see it as very much a part of everything else I’ve written. It’s a very me book – the parody of the detective story, the fantastical background, the ridiculous number of hidden jokes… and all this tries to engage with some big questions, which I think children’s books do brilliantly. It tries to engage with the question of right and wrong; what does it mean to do the right thing? I hope Candy does do that, if in a fun way.


    Q: Is there a difference between writing for children and writing for adults?


    A: I don’t think so. There was definitely a stage in the editing process that took that into account. But mostly it was technical stuff like speeding up the action at the end – which is good advice for any book! – and making the whole reading experience more seamless. But I very much approached it as I would any novel.

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    Q: Where did the inspiration for Candy come from and why will kids enjoy it?


    A: I had this image in my head for years – a kid standing by the sewage pipes looking up at the abandoned chocolate factory on the hill and wondering how to get in – but I was never sure what to do with it.


    Then I sat down to write Candy and it all started coming out. I think it’s a fun book! I say that as I’m not entirely sure you can apply that term to some of my other books…


    So I was very much going for, you know, have as much fun as possible, and I hope that comes through in the book. I was trying to write a book that I would have liked at that age.

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    Art by Luis Carlos Barragán


    CLARKESWORLD (Issue 142, July 2018) features the Tidhar short story “Gubbinal” in both print and audio by Kate Baker.

    Sahar, moving softly through the river valley, made sure to listen. The sound filtered into her helmet from the external mics, and she imagined this must be what hiking on Earth must be like. She listened to the wind; to the rumble overhead from the active ice volcano; to the storm raging on the horizon. But most of all she listened for any movement, for anything with design that may be scuttling about or trying to hide.


    Titan was a cacophony of sound, a heavenly orchestra: the percussion of breaking ice and the patter of methane rains as they fell. The whisper and shout of the winds. In the northern summertime, cyclones howled and screamed over the Kraken Sea. If Sahar shifted to infrared she could see rainbows overhead and sometimes, through a gap in the ever-present canopy of clouds, glimpse Saturn rising low on the horizon. The world was always alive, awash in sound and fury. Sahar was left all alone to listen to it.


    She preferred it that way.


    For more info on UNHOLY LAND, visit the Tachyon page.

    Cover by Sarah Anne Langton

  • The recent release of Kameron Hurley’s APOCALYPSE NYX spawns some excitement.

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    At SFREVU, Benjamin Wald praises the collection.

    The influence of noir on Nyx and her worldview was either absent or lost on me in the original novels, but is inescapable in this collection. Nyx sees the corruption and evil of the world she inhabits, where the rich profit while the poor are fed into the meat grinder of war or scrabble for survival. She likes to think she is inured to this injustice and purports to be out only for herself, but time and again she can’t help trying to protect those around her and right what injustices she can, often despite herself. Indeed, several stories feature femmes fatales who drag Nyx, against her better judgment, into intrigues that underline this message.


    But this noir backdrop is enlivened by a double helping of gritty violence. Nyx is a self-admitted terrible shot, but she makes up for it with her scattergun, sword, and sheer bloody-mindedness, leaving a trail of corpses through the stories–most of whom might possibly deserve it, if you squint a bit, but some of whom just find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nyx is a killer and her tragedy is she can neither accept this in herself nor bring herself to walk away from the violence by which she makes her living.


    This collection starts off with two longer stories, “The Body Project” and “The Heart is Eaten Last” that do an excellent job of introducing Nyx and her team and setting a pattern that other stories will elaborate on. In each story, Nyx and her team take on a job, find out that the job is not quite what they had been led to believe, overcome danger and obstacles (often with significant injuries and moral quandaries), and finally achieve an ambiguous victory. Sometimes, victory is just survival. While this might seem formulaic, it is a perfect frame for the character moments that lie at the heart of the stories, while giving plenty of space for the gritty action scenes that Hurley does so well.


    Hurley always innovates enough within the pattern for the stories to feel fresh. APOCALYPSE NYX is an excellent introduction for those wondering whether to pick up the original trilogy or a great way for those who have already read the previous books chronicling Nyx’s adventures to spend a bit more time in Nyx’s violent world.


    John Keogh for BOOKLIST enjoys the book.

    The plots are taut, thrilling, gritty, violent, profane, magical—everything Hurley’s readers expect. New readers will not feel lost in this world—Hurley has created one of the most engrossing environments in modern sf—but fans will delight in learning how Nix meets Khos and the first time she hires Anneke. Though there is not much personal growth, all of the characters are well realized, even in the short story format, and each story covers familiar interpersonal conflicts and emotional highs and lows. These stories were previously published online, but fans of sf adventure stories with lots of political intrigue will welcome them in print.

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    THE FANTASY INN delights in their introduction to Nyx.

    To put it lightly, Nyx is not the easiest person to love. She is almost completely selfish. For example, in one scene a crew member saves someone’s life and leaves something valuable behind; Nyx berates them for not getting the valuables first and going back to see if the person was still alive. She is incredibly stubborn and gives off a vibe that she doesn’t really care about the majority of her crew as individual people. She just cares that she has a crew. Yet Nyx is competent and acknowledges were weaknesses. Doing something about her shortcomings, though? Nah. And while she will leave a crew member to die if it benefits her in the short run, she still does depend on them. Her character is excellently written, along with the others.


    Another positive about this book is how it incorporates grimdark and new weird elements (bugpunk, for example) seamlessly in the world. Nyx’s moral seems to be, “A job is a job. If it pays well, take it.” The world is full of morally grey characters. Nyx might be extreme, but her crew isn’t innocent either. And despite the perspective being mainly hers, the other characters are still well developed.


    LLAMA READS BOOKS also found interest her first meeting with Nyx.

    As a first introduction to Nyx, I think it works pretty well, and it definitely made me interested in picking up the rest of the books in the series to see more of Nyx and her team.  Recommended for fans of kickass flawed heroines and grimdark SF&F!

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    Marty Halpern on his MORE RED INK blog is excited about the book’s release.

    Last week I received my contributor’s copy of APOCALYPSE NYX, Kameron Hurley’s collection of stories set in her Bel Dame Apocrypha world of God’s War. The book should have arrived within a couple days of being mailed as I live only about fifty miles south of the publisher, Tachyon Publications…but that’s not taking into account the mode of transport: the United States Postal Service! So the package was mailed in San Francisco, Tachyon’s home; upon checking tracking updates, I discovered that the package was transported to a Los Angeles USPS receiving station (about 350 miles south of me), before, eventually, making its way back to good ole San Jose, where I live. I believe it was about six days after being mailed that the package was actually delivered. Six days to really travel only about fifty miles….


    In my December 11, 2017, blog post, I wrote about my work on APOCALYPSE NYX. At that time the book was scheduled for publication in July 2018 – and here we are! Aside from the quality of their books, Tachyon Publications have always met their release dates (rare for an independent publisher… I could tell you stories about other publishers….), and I’ve been working with them since 2002. In fact, I just looked up the details: my first invoice was dated February 19, 2002.


    As Kirkus states at the conclusion of its review of APOCALYPSE NYX “For established fans, a bittersweet reunion with old friends; for new readers, a reasonable enticement toward the superior novels of the series.”


    For KIRKUS, John DeNardo includes APOCALYPSE NYX in If You Could Read a Book a Day, These are the 31 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books You Should Read for July.


    For more info on APOCALYPSE NYX, visit the Tachyon page.

    Cover by Wadim Kashin

    Design by Elizabeth Story

  • 18 July 2018, 10:01 pm

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  • Peter Watts’ incredible THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION delivers.

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    Alvaro Zinos-Amaro at ORSON SCOTT CARD’S INTERGALACTIC MEDICINE SHOW praises the book.

    Naturally, this invites all sorts of irresistible questions, some of which the jacket copy wisely asks: What prompts the human uprising? How do you mount a revolution against an intelligence orders of magnitude more advanced than you, which controls your environment, requires no sleep, and has all available resources at its command? How do you achieve secrecy when you’re under constant surveillance, and how do you meaningfully make plans with others when the intervals during which you’re awake and suspended are outside your ability to regulate? All this and more, answered in under two hundred pages!


    Watts’s storytelling approach is minimalist. He keeps his sentences short and punchy, his exposition to the bare minimum. Certain ideas only become fully elucidated after the fact. All of this works to the narrative’s benefit, conveying in prose something akin to the ceaseless forward momentum experienced by Eri’s crew. That’s not to say that Watts avoids description. Indeed, he excels at a kind of hard-edged, chilly descriptive prose that makes as much use of scientific concepts as it does naturalistic imagery. Consider for example: “The hatch closed at our backs, swallowing us in brief darkness; it brightened to dim twilight as our eyes adjusted to analuciferin constellations glowing on all sides.” Or: “I’d hike to the caverns during down time, watch him dance as the forest went in: theorems and fractal symphonies playing out against fissured basalt, against a mist of mycelia, against proliferating vine-tangles of photosynthetic pods so good at sucking up photons that even under light designed to mimic the sun, they presented nothing but black silhouettes.”

    In his novel Tau Zero (1970), Poul Anderson gave us the starship Leonora Christine, which through an accident to its Bussard ramscoop engines suffers a constant acceleration of one g, subjecting its crew to an increasingly vertiginous temporal dilation in which millions of years end up passing in seconds, all the way to the contraction of the Universe itself. Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson’s The Singers of Time (1991) likewise presents an extreme relativistic scenario. THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION operates in similar “high concept” ground, but it’s undeniably the best of this breed, presenting engaging, believably flawed characters with complex interrelationships (and I certainly count Chimp among them) and a surprise ending that still manages to feel consistent with what has come before. Watts is an original thinker and a bold storyteller, here at the top of his considerable form. This is one of the year’s best science fiction odysseys.

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    For BOOKLIST, Regina Schroeder likes the work.

    Told in a perfectly human voice—someone who questions and shifts his or her stand on things, who has unusual friendships and clings to small details—this is a genuinely pleasing story. Although it certainly could sustain greater length, the latest from Watts (Blindsight, 2006) packs a significant punch into a small package.

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    THE BOOK LOVER’S BOUDOIR enjoys their first Peter Watts experience.

    This is my first time reading the author. I only occasionally read science fiction. I really enjoyed this novella. I felt like I was missing bits of the story though and apparently, I was as this is part of a series. I will likely read the other novellas to get the full story. I enjoyed the way the story develops as Sunday and her fellow conspirators work towards a seemingly impossible task. This short little book raises a hell of a lot of questions. How can you plan to take out an enemy when you’re awake for such a short time? How can you get the better of something but it’s very nature is or should be way smarter than you, something that can read and understand every thought in your head? Excellent little piece of writing.

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    Tom Mayer for MOUNTAIN TIMES reviews THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION.

    Watts writes that particular brand of science fiction so smart that all but the best and brightest among us should have trouble tracking — but it is the author’s talent for storytelling that mutinous scenarios such as those that occur during a never-ending, 60-million-year (and counting) “gate-building” mission to the end of the universe make sense.


    They make sense because Watts infuses his fiction not only with science, but with the human element. If you were “thawed” only once per several thousand years to add humanity and non-digital insights to the computer “Chimp,” an AI rivaling the best and worst of Hal, how far would your trust extend in the endgame being in your best interest?


    While Watts’ plot is reminiscent of some of Asimov’s best short detective stories — the author maintains, despite industry standards, that “Freeze-Frame Revolution” is a novella — he makes this one his own by advancing the technology and intrigue in a fast-paced read that will linger long after the last byte is consumed.

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    IT STARTS AT MIDNIGHT wants more. And thankfully there is.

    And now, I will tell you why I loved it! First, the concept is incredible, and the book delivers. It’s hard to even wrap one’s head around the thought of being alive in space for millions of years, really. But in a good way, because it’s so very thought provoking. It made me think about time in a whole new way, and of course had me questioning whether I could ever do the things that Sunday’s had to do.


    In addition, it’s full of action and adventure, and contains a lot of really diverse and well fleshed out characters. The fact that this comes in at under 200 pages makes it an even more impressive feat, since I genuinely cared about the fates of not just the main character, but side characters as well. And, thanks to The Captain’s review, I found out that there are more stories set in this world! Of which I shall be devouring immediately, obviously. The only problem I’d had really is that I wanted more of this world and well… problem solved!


    Bottom Line: If you love a sci-fi that makes you really think, but is also full of action, this is one you won’t want to miss!

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    For more info on THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION, visit the Tachyon page.

    Cover and design by Elizabeth Story

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    Jack Vance and Grania Davis in 2005 at the Tachyon 10th Anniversary Party (Photo: Jeremy Lassen/LOCUS)


    Editor and writer Grania Davis penned the novels The Rainbow Annnals (1980) and Moonbird (1986). With Avram Davidson, she co-wrote Marco Polo and the Sleeping Beauty (1988) and THE BOSS IN THE WALL (1998), which received a World Fantasy Award nomination. Davis’ short fiction has been collected in Tree of Life, Book pf Death (2013).

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    Davis co-edited several collections of Davidson’s work including The Avram Davidson Treasury (1998 with Robert Silverberg), The Investigations of Avram Davidson (1999 with Richard A. Lupoff), and Everybody Has Somebody in Heaven: Essential Jewish Tales of the Spirit (2000 with Jack Dann). She (alongside Gene Van Troyer) is responsible for the anthology Speculative Japan: Outstanding Tales of Japanese Science Fiction and Fantasy (2007).

    The beloved Grania passed away in 2017. She is missed.


    For more info on THE BOSS IN THE WALL, visit the Tachyon page.

    Cover by Michael Dashow

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