Monday 31 March 2014

Airships seen in Bristol

Airships seen in Bristol

On Saturday evening we all put on our best Steampunk finery and went down to the Folk House in Bristol for "The best book launch I've ever been to" (said an attending author). There was a Victorian picnic, with cucumber sandwiches &cake and royal Kir & homemade lemonade and a tentacle cake kindly baked by Pat Haws-Reed.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Sarah Butland Guest Post

Today Sarah Butland dropped by to talk about money

Sarah Butland was born in Ontario, the year was 1982. She was moved to New Brunswick for over 15 years and now resides at home in Nova Scotia, Canada. Butland has been married to her high school sweetheart and has a superstar son named William, and a cat named Russ who all make her house a home.

BananaBoy and the Adventures of Sammy was born with Sending You Sammy, her first published children's book. Then came Brain Tales - Volume One, a collection of short stories and finally Arm Farm, her current literary pride and joy.

Butland has also won Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Nexus review

Nexus by Ramez Naam


This book has been nominated for several different awards and I can kind of see why. It is a very thought provoking read, dealing as it does with human evolution, transhumanism and post humanism, and is also a sometimes gripping action thriller.

I didn’t devour this book though and at 400+ pages it did actually feel a little long for an action book. The worldbuilding is mainly done via “briefings” scattered throughout which felt just a little like infodumps and the author spends a lot of time telling you how the characters feel.

In the near future there are transhumans and posthumans in a world where gene splicing and augmentation is available from governments and black markets. There is a nanobot drug called Nexus which allows mind to mind communication and the book revolves around Kaden Lane a hacker who has upgraded the nano drug by giving it an OS and making it a permanent upgrade to those who take his version. You can run some programs on it and the book opens with a vaguley amusing party at which Lane is running a “romantic” program to make him into a pick-up artist, which goes wrong. All is not drugs and parties though as the government is waging a war against “Emerging Threats” and Kade is dragged into an espionage plot against the Chinese when attending a conference in Thailand.

The main part of the is set in Bangkok and having visited there last year it was nice to see the city explored. The action is kind of comic book in places – people slammed into brick walls and the walls coming off worse etc. But a very imaginable world of semi-autonomous drones including spider-drones, augmented government agents, shoot-outs and fistfights and aerial dog fights. When Naam plays to his strengths it’s very, very good.

Overall – Entertaining & worth reading, if Naam’s writing ability matches his imagination in future books then they will be pretty special, a writer to watch.


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Last night I was at the brilliant Novel Nights event in a packed room at the Lansdown in Clifton, Bristol.

Nathan Filer author of the Costa winning The shock of the fall was the guest of honour who spoke about plot and character, read a small excerpt from the book and genially answered the many questions from the room. As a bonus I won a copy of the book by knowing that Iain Baks's first novel was The Wasp Factory.

In the second half were six readers and we were treated to foul breathed detectives, crazy South American pilots and much more.

Readers details can be seen here:

Next month will be "Comedy & YA" themed so make sure to get your tickets early.

Like their Facebook page to keep up with news!/novelnights

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Book giveaway

To celebrate the forthcoming release of Jonathan Strahan's excellent The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Bristol Book Blog is happy to have 3 copies to giveaway thanks to the guys at Solaris. We'll also be doing an interview with Jonathan & a review of the book nearer the launch date so check back then.

The celebrated series comes to Solaris on 10th April (US and UK)

The list of contributors reads like a who's who of the SF&F community  including Neil Gaiman, Joe Abercrombie, Karin Tidbeck, An Owomoyela, Madeline Ashby, Lavie Tidhar, Charlie Jane Anders, Geoff Ryman, Caitlin R Kiernan and many more.

This essential book is an established series in the US but until now has only been found on import in the UK. It now joins Solaris’ high-profile anthology list.

The rules?

Well here at Bristol Book Blog we like reviewing books so we'd like you to tell us, in no more than 50 words, what the best short story you've ever read was. The most entertaining reviews win so be creative! All 50 word reviews will be posted on the blog. The title of the story and the author's name do not count towards the word total.

Entries should be mailed to brsbkblog at gmail dot com and have the words Best SF & F in the subject. All entries must be received by April 18th and winners will be announced, on the blog, on April 18th. Good luck!

Friday 21 March 2014


My brother was killed by a giant clam, in Weston-Super-Mare.

My uncle started something with three gorillas that didn’t end well.

My cousin at Bristol Zoo? Well the less said about what happened to him the better.

Perhaps then I wasn’t the best person to volunteer to look after the giant squid. But he looked so lonesome and adorable.  I fell in love right then and there.

 I’m a sucker for tentacles.

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Bristol Book Blog review policy/criteria

I've decided to stop reviewing books, in the traditional sense of the word. To see why & also see if you'd actually still like to send me a book (ask me first - always ask first!) have a look here:

However all books are grist for the mill, and if you'd still like me to read your book and possibly provide some thoughts on it, then do mail me at BRSBKBLOG at GMAIL.COM

Monday 17 March 2014

The Blackbirder by Dorothy B Hughes

 Blackbirder, The (Femmes Fatales: Women…



We start the book in New York, in the company of Julie Guille, an escapee from Nazi occupied Paris. She bumps into an old acquaintance from her Paris days and when he is murdered outside her apartment she goes on the run rather than get mixed up in any investigation. Julie entered the USA illegally, via Cuba, and is a habituated fugitive. What follows is her trying to cross the country to meet with the one man she feels can help her whilst pursuit is always a possibility, from the law and from the Gestapo. This is a book that from page one is tense with a goodly dollop of suspense and paranoia & it has an utterly believable and sympathetic female protagonist. Recommended for pulp & noir fans.


Overall – Good WW2 drama from the Femmes Fatales: Women write pulp series


Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

 Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1 by Chuck Wendig



Miriam Black can see how someone dies just by touching flesh to flesh. Obviously this has turned her into a pretty damaged character. From trying to stop the deaths she soon becomes fatalistic and takes what she needs from those destined to die soon in a peripatetic existence rattling round the USA. When she is targeted by a con man and gets involved with an organised criminal gang things start to go awry. This is a dark and bleak story but is blackly amusing with some great turns of phrase, it’s what you’d expect from Wendig really if you follow his blog or twitter. I enjoyed it but think it may not be for everyone, there is also a strange lack of women populating the world of Blackbirds, 90% of the people Miriam meets are men and Miriam and the other main woman character are basically men with breasts which could piss you off. I’m willing, based on the writing to forgive it some but this drop its rating.


 She puts her hands on her hips and cocks them this way, then that. With the back of her hand, she wipes away a smear of lipstick from where Del kissed her.

“The lights need to be on,” she says to nobody, foretelling the future.

She clicks the lamp by the bed. Piss-yellow light illumines the ratty room.

A roach sits paralyzed in the middle of the floor.

“Shoo,” she says. “Fuck off. You’re free to go.”

The roach does as it’s told. It boogies under the pull-down bed, relieved.

Back to the mirror, then.

“They always said you were an old soul,” she mutters. Tonight she’s really feeling it.

Overall – Smart, sassy first book in an interesting series, I will read the sequels despite problems with the first


And God created zombies by Andrew Hook

 And God Created Zombies by Andrew Hook



John has just been dumped by his girlfriend because he’s too self-obsessed. He has few friends. Worked in finance, until the meltdown and is now basically sat on his bum with nothing to do. When he does a favour for a someone and they drive to his house they accidently run over a man in an alleyway. When they discover that he is both already dead and also still moving John is drawn into the usual zombie apocalypse story development. However that is all well-trodden so Hook decides to go off-piste and treats us to something a little different, something a bit more intelligent and interesting. This is a very brief book, novella length really, and effective because it doesn’t feel the need to belabour the point.


Overall – Interestingly philosophical take on the zombie genre, something a little different


Soul Screams by Sara Jayne Townsend

Soul Screams by Sara Jayne Townsend

Thirteen stories from crime and horror writer Townsend covering 20+ years of published and unpublished stories. As with all short collections there are stories that work for you, and ones that don’t. The first story, the 13th floor is one of the better stories, although does have a couple of flaws. I also really liked Blue eyes, a story about passion and obsession as well as Jimi Hendrix eyes, about betrayal and cigarette burns about abuse. Mainly because I prefer psychological to overt supernatural there were a couple of stories that didn’t gel with me, especially the guitar (about a haunted guitar, I just found that concept a bit silly really), but thankfully the stories that were good far outweigh those I didn’t get on with.

Overall – Mixed collection of shorts from 20+ years’ worth of writing


Lost Cat by Jason

Lost Cat by Jason

A private eye finds a lost cat and returns it to its owner only to be drawn into a deeper mystery. Typical Jason art & odd story. Very odd.


Overall – another wtf from Jason, this is one of his more weird pieces, which is saying something


Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold

 Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold


Eveline Duchen  - Evvie Duchen, sharp Evvie, Evvie the sparrow, a spry little fringe-dweller alone in the crowd of them, always scraping for a crumb, always with one eye open for a bigger bird, or a cat, or a cruel boy with a stone is introduced to us whilst she is casing a posh house for a possible burglary. She is working for a female Fagin figure and feels it is much better to con and steal than it would be to sell her body. How she ended up  being an orphan and street urchin means that certain gentlemen in the British government have taken an interest in her, and her education, and how she can affect the fate of the British empire, and the world.


A good blend of Dickens (you can’t help but compare to Oliver Twist), Folk tales (always nice to see Chinese trickster foxes), spy schools and a light steampunkness  - there are steam hansoms, airships (of course) and the plot revolves around “Etheric science”. However the steampunk is very much a background, a plot device for sure, but this story is much more a character journey and the character is really engaging. What was really refreshing for me was that there were poor people in this & Sebold manages to turn a story that is basically about a 15 year old girl going to boarding school into an enthralling read. There are few off notes (although I think the ending felt a little too neat) and I’d really recommend this to anyone, whether you’re a fan of steampunk or not. There are hints that this is a world that the author may visit again in the future and if she does I’d be willing to revisit too even though I’m still hoping for another Babylon Steel book….


Overall – Intelligent & fun steampunk. Worth a visit.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Most secret by Nevil Shute


This is one of Shute’s boat novels (he really, really likes boats and airplanes, especially airplanes) set in WW2 with a cast of characters who all want revenge against the Germans for one reason or another. An Englishman raised in France is put in charge of a boat of Free French, Danish and odd English characters in a series of daring raids on the French Coast. Since it’s Shute you know it’s not going to end well although it was a better ending for some of the characters than I expected. It’s a bit of a slow burner as Shute spends over half the book setting up the characters, and plot. He also uses an interesting technique which serves to distance you from the action as the narrator stays in Britain whilst the action happens and then there’s a report of how the action went followed by a personal account by one of the men. It’s a bit odd and I’m not sure it worked all that well. Still this is a WW2 adventure story that ticks all the Shute boxes - engineering as hero, affection for transport (in this case boat), romantic involvement, manly men, action, pathos, a downbeat ending. Shute is one of my go to authors who seems to be consistently good but is a bit of a comfort read. Although this is perhaps not the best place to start with his catalogue.

Overall – Stiff upper lips and derring do in one of Shute’s boat novels

Born Weird by Andrew Kauffman


The five siblings of the Weird family have all been given a blursing (should be a blessing but has turned into a curse) by their grandmother when they were born. The blursings give the Weirds particular capabilities or predispositions; Lucy never gets lost, Abba never loses hope, Richard always keeps safe, Kent will win any physical fight, and Angie always forgives.. These have pushed the sibling’s lives in strange directions and the grandmother realises that she can remove these blursings upon her deathbed, which she accurately predicts to be on her birthday. She charges Angie to gather the Weirds together and bring them to her bedside at the moment of her death. What follows is a strange family dysfunctional road trip across Canada and beyond which skirts whimsy and plays with weird. This is a much better novel than the waterproof bible which had put me off his books, but someone I trust a lot recommended this. I’m still not 100% sure I’m a Kauffman fan but I did read this straight after watching Wes Anderson’s latest film and I think that helped put me in the right frame of mind.

Overall – Off the wall slice of gentle weirdness

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Today's special guest is Zen Cho

ZenCho is a Malaysian writer of

fantasy and romance whose short fiction has been published in the US,

UK, Singapore, Australia and Malaysia. She was nominated for the John

W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2013. She lives in London.

Read the interview

Monday 10 March 2014

Airship Launch

On saturday I was in Forbidden Planet Bristol luanching the Airship Shape and Bristol fashion Anthology. Great fun, nice to see all the authors in one place (apart from two honourable exceptions) and lots of cramped wrists and backs as we signed a ton of books.

There was this great display. Andy Bigwood deserves some thanks for creating the art on display (and the cover).

Cheryl gave a speech. Then Roz & Jo gave a speech. Then Jonathan L Howard read from his story, which got several big laughs so that's nice. Then we did a lot of signing, which was a bit chaotic.

All in all a fun day.

Forbidden Planet have a load of signed books & I'm told they'll be making their way around the country to other FP's too.

Don't forget that the first lines competition is still open where you can win a signed HB copy & Gin!

Details here:

Friday 7 March 2014

Today I have Mike Carey as a guest who was kind enough to answer a few questions about his new book The Girl with all the Gifts

The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey

The interview contains minor spoilers (but only if you know nothing about the book, which isn't a bad way to approach it) so if you're the kind of person who avoids such things come back here after you've read the book. Go on, we'll be waiting for you....

Everyone else read on:

Thursday 6 March 2014

Swords of Good Men (The Valhalla Saga) by…

Today I have an interview with Snorri Kristjansson about his book Swords of Good men. Snorri's second book in the series will be published in May 2014, so you have time to catch up with this one, if you haven't already.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

I've been chatting with Sara Jayne Townsend about her forthcoming book Death Scene

Sara Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror.  She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there.  She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris. 


She decided she was going to be a published novelist when she was 10 years old and finished her first novel a year later.  It took 30 years of submitting, however, to fulfil that dream.


Learn more about Sara and her writing by visiting her website at or her blog at

Monday 3 March 2014

The Pact!

Back in the mists of time (well in January anyway) I tweeted that I'd be writing a short story every month and trying to make it submittable quality. from that small waving of a flag no bigger than a handkerchief has come a "pact" amongst a bunch of writers, some of whom I know, some I don't know. We have all decided to write a story a month and submit it.

So far I've hugely enjoyed the process, both the writing (sometimes it really is fun, other times it's like pulling teeth) and reading what the others have produced and offering my poor attempts at critique.

So far I have no answers from any of the submissions, but it's early days. I'll be back blogging about this as and when I find out.

I've also entered a couple of competitions and, again, will blog with details when I find out what's happening there. As with all competitions it is a cross between knowing that it's unlikely that you'll win at the same time hoping that this time they'll pick you.

Just a reminder of a few key dates:

Airship shape launch is this Saturday

There's also an Airship Ball on March 29th

On Monday April 14th I'll be doing a 1000 word reading at BristolCon Fringe:

On Monday June 16th I'll be appearing alongside David J Roger at BristolCon Fringe:

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