Friday, 28 August 2015

The Mole Machine

 This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here.

It's been a few weeks since I last posted. I had hoped that Impcatcher would be due for release shortly, but unfortunately I've had some issues with my intended publishers, and unless things change in the next few weeks I suspect I shall be parting company from them and self-publishing the book instead.

 Until I can confirm what's happening with Impcatcher, I'm going to put up something different. This is a sequence from a novel I worked on for a time, but never managed to get it to work. The structure is steampunk meets lost world, and might well have ended up as a continuation of the story I presented a couple of months ago.

Our heroes are in a lost city. With them is an unpleasant villain, Stalhmor, who until now has been unable to make trouble...

The city was screaming, an impossible shriek like old metal being ripped asunder. The Geharnei were angry ants, thronging the marbled streets in confusion, heads turning as they sought the source of the cacophony. 

Talenne stared at Stahlmor. He was leaning on the balcony, looking out over the city, his evident laugh drowned by the sound throbbing through the crystal towers. Allory was on his feet, pointing towards the arena, his own protests and anger overlaid by the growing roar. Something was churning the ground, the worked stones of the amphitheatre's seating moving like waves in thick oil. Stahlmor was nodding, expectantly, as the tortured stones finally broke apart and a blackened iron and brass screwhead, spinning manically, surged into the bowl of the arena. It thrust further forward, drawing after it a gigantic, heavy torso, two sets of studded tracks glittering in the brilliant sunlight as they churned on each side. The round, heavy, iron-scaled body had to be twelve feet across, segmented like a tapeworm, and already more than twenty feet had hauled itself out of the ground. Steam was venting from brass pipes behind the drillhead. 

The sound had dropped to almost bearable dimensions as the spinning drill no longer savaged the rock beneath Geharne. Talenne could finally hear Stahlmor's harsh laughter. She had preferred the deafening crescendo of the mole machine's arrival.

"You see, Allory?" Stahlmor rasped. "I am no longer powerless."

As always, comments welcomed!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Starwatch Review

Book review:  Starwatch, by Ian Blackport.

Don't take any notice of the title. Starwatch has nothing to do with astronomy – this is a fantasy caper novel. The heroine, Cyriana, is a thief who collects a disparate team of criminals to carry out an audacious heist. The target is Starwatch, a rich and powerful university. The novel charts the preparations, planning and execution of the job, and we get to know the team and some of their stories as the plot progresses. There are a number of twists as the team prepare for the job. If you've see films like The Italian Job then you'll have some idea of the structure. Starwatch is a very good example of taking a genre – in this case the crime novel – and crafting a fantasy version.

Starwatch is not set in an overtly fantasy world - no elves, dwarves or significant magic – but there are enough differences to make it clearly not our Earth (not least the two moons in the sky). The cultures Cyriana sneaks through are well drawn and interesting, the renaissance-style feel to the world is nicely portrayed and is refreshingly unsexist. The book also has enough sly humour to make it a good read.

The plot itself is entertaining, and the characters are complex and individual – Cyriana herself is a great character (I'm always delighted to encounter a strong, capable female lead - Cyriana and Sorrel would get on well), but her comrades in crime are also intriguing (in all senses!). They are none of them flawless, but most are likeable - they are rogues, not monsters. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and have no hesitation in giving it five stars.

It's available here