Sunday, 22 January 2017

Phantom Atlas

The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies And Blunders On Maps
Edward Brooke-Hitching

Simon & Schuster hardcover £25

***** (5 stars) review by Ian Shutter

A magnificently mind-boggling treat for all fans of Lost World and Atlantis fictional adventures, this book offers cartography on hallucinogens, and ghostly fables of the haunted islands where ‘here be dragons’ is a final warning for the unwarily curious. 

Explorers recast as storytellers with a delightful whimsy, or sinister derangement, is the order of the day in this collection of images, boasting the allure of seven cities of gold, somewhere on the border between speculative horizon and utter dreamscape.  

Lemuria, Thule, weird territories, strange mountains, the kingdom of Prester John, Australia’s inland sea, the Island of California, the infamous Flat Earth, reports from various quests for paradise, and whales so big they are mistaken for islands by saints and sinners alike. From Wak-Wak to Antilla, there and back again, the wanderers do justice to wonderings in grandiose mistakes or hopes of celebrity in civilised nations.

From the Nordic to the Antipodean, this book presents voyages of discovery without wholly rational results. The Phantom Atlas is a fully illustrated compendium of misguided compass following treks, seafaring journeys into fear, confused fantasy, ancestral folklore, and far-out but fascinating inventions about our world as it never was. The African story of the Mountains of Kong, “running along the 10th parallel”, and the mythical Mountains of the Moon, “said to be the source of the Nile”, is a particularly odd piecemeal work of equatorial creationism.  

Looking for a blaze of inspiration to write a gothic fantasy saga or non-historical epic adventure? This marvellous catalogue of errors has plenty of unpicked other-worldly locations, ranging from whole continents to hidden valleys, to choose from. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

Nineteen Nuns On The Number 15 Bus

Nineteen Nuns On The Number 15 Bus: 
The Southend Zombie Apocalypse
Simon G. Gosden

Createspace paperback $5.85 / £3.86

**** (4 stars) review by Steve Lee

Without wanting to sound over praiseworthy of this work I must admit it was right up my street. A rather quirky English saying I know but that’s like the book, both rather quirky and very English. Simon Gosden’s first novella, although he is part of the genre book trade in modern Britain so he knows a thing or two about writing. Rule one write about what you know, so that box is ticked. Set in Southend, and around the Thames region of old Blighty, the story whisks you off with an engagingly fast pace of zombie activity as if in one’s home town. The characters are interesting grounded people we could meet any day of the week, thrown together to survive Southend’s zombie shenanigans.

Shenanigans another great British bit of terminology and just the sort of language found among the very few (60) pages, but that suited me perfectly so I read it in one shift at work on standby overtime. These days I do not read enough anyway and shy away from the usual fare of a 600 page doorstop, so this short piece of English lit from Sarffend made my day. How many Fs in Southend? As many as Mr Gosden wants, and it works. Proper people storytelling in a fantasy apocalypse begs a question. Are you ready for it? Not prepped, living in a bunker sleeping with an AK between your food provisions and an armoury, are you mentally ready for it? Prepared to survive able to care and kill at a moment’s notice. Jeff Cooper’s tag coded up, green light red light stuff, mind set focus grit.
The main character, whose adventure we follow, goes by the name of Tim, who meets the stunningly attractive Tania from Croatia as you do on zombie apocalypse day, so it’s his perspective and insightful thought processes we share. Yes, they make mistakes just like in The Walking Dead TV show I’m also watching as a DVD box-set, but it’s no surprise while the undead try to bite you at every turn and then an arsehole turns up named Jason. He only wants to shit over everything like in Team America.

Gosden writes as I wish I could, or would if I did, and I hope that makes sense. He sticks to zombie lore, so it’s head-shots or stabs all the way and we’re treated to a lot of fast pace action with just enough gore and sprinkle of comedy, some in-jokes, and likeable product placement worthy of transfer to film. Then again I always say that, but it’s true, and I have seen worse. Suppliers would queue up to advertise their brand so come on Triumph, Glock, and Ford, find some money and let’s get this made before the real world ending event rocks up to pull the plug on our greedy fucked up dystopian existence.

19 Nuns... what a title! The dialogue is laced with my genre favourites with references to The Matrix, Spider-Man, Monty Python, Star Wars, Elm Street, and even Duran Duran - though I don’t really like them, honest. This plays out as a cultural joke at the expense of our European heroine because she just does not get it, any of it, but it’s funny. Clarksonesque science comes in a Top Gear style, but I can live with that. In my zombie fantasy they are caused by overusing mobile phones, which is the main reason I might survive, not forgetting my well stocked bunker arsenal and colour coded lifestyle. Hero Tim drinks what I do - Rioja red wine and lager beer, eats what I eat, rides a big motorbike, and has great taste in guns. His van does have a tail-lift, as does mine at work. The gap in my knowledge means I know next to nothing about his boat content, although I’ve been on a really big boat.

Although I do prefer the Glock 21 in .45ACP to the minor calibre model 17. Come on, Simon, if you want to make a hole make it a big one. Get armed, stay armed, find the girl, and never leave her alone. Mossberg beats Remington in the shotgun arms race as it’s easier to load. I liked the landmarks too, such as Traitors Gate at the Tower of London, name dropping the royal prince and the Prime Minister whom the hero recognises but still has to ask who he is. “I’m the PM” he says. My favourite author is Dean R. Koontz, and Simon G. Gosden is a minnow in comparison, but we all know that. Mr Koontz’s heroes always find the love of their life just after winning the lottery, but before they have to face evil, and Gosden’s tale is not unlike that. It reminds me of Road To Fero City by Morat, another recommended read. Tim likes bikes, girls, and guns, but not necessarily in that order, and that’s fine by me.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Take Back The Sky

Same war. Different enemy. The WAR DOGS trilogy concludes with...


Published by Gollancz 
26th January 2017
Trade PB £18.99 | eBook £9.99

First it was Mars, then Titan - the battlefield changed but the war remained the same. Until now.  

Master Sergeant Michael Venn and his soldiers now know the truth about what the supposedly benevolent Gurus are really doing in our solar system. A truth both Earth and the alien Antagonists are intent on wiping out. 

The soldiers must forget their training, forget what they know, and journey to Planet X - infamous home of the Antagonists. Hunted by friend and foe alike and desperate for answers, they will do anything to survive. 

Even team up with their greatest enemy.

Greg Bear is one of the world's leading hard SF authors. He sold his first short story at the age of 15 to Robert Lowndes' FAMOUS SCIENCE FICTION and has since written over forty different sci-fi books across a number of series, including the Forerunner Trilogy, written in the Halo universe. 

A full-time writer, he now lives in Washington with his family. Greg Bear was also one of the five co-founders of the San Diego Comic-Con.