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Friday, 19 September 2014

A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Reviewed.

English: Cover art by Frank E. Schoonover from...
English: Cover art by Frank E. Schoonover from A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, McClurg, 1917. Uploaded by User:BPK2. Español: John Carter y Dejah Thoris en la cubierta de la primera edición de Una Princesa de Marte por Edgar Rice Burroughs. Illustrador: Frank E. Schoonover. Bajada por User:BPK2. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This classic, which I mistakenly thought I’d read in my youth, came up amongst some free books on my iPad. Once I started to explore, to see whether I had, in fact, read it, I was hooked.

The story is typical of the author, of course, and the style is dated, as you’d expect. But there is a quality to the writing that keeps the reader engaged. Full of what modern readers would perceive as politically incorrect attitudes, bursting with out-dated ideas about the Red Planet, it may be, but the story moves at a pace, with plenty of action to keep the reader interested.

There’s a good deal of imagination displayed in the solutions to various envisaged problems of living on a dying planet. And the wonderful exaggeration of an Earthman’s prowess on a planet with lower gravity is entertaining rather than irritating.

Written almost entirely as narrative, telling rather than showing and therefore breaking umpteen ‘writing’ rules, this story relies on its powerful plot and strong characters for its success. It may well be dated, but it still entertains. And I love the way the author refuses to be deflected from his tale by the sheer incredibility of his hero’s passage from Earth to Mars and back again. No explanation is given for this remarkable feat, and it’s simple acceptance as an inexplicable happening fits well with the story.

There are some wonderful examples of mixed moral stances, with all sexual references dealt with indirectly and under the covers. The violence and war, however, is accepted as perfectly normal. A reflection, perhaps, of the times and the land in which the author lived at the point of writing? Have things changed very much, I wonder.

I enjoyed this piece of old science fiction and recommend it to those who have grown up with the genre over many years. Younger readers might find the nature of the telling and the idiosyncrasies of the story a little too difficult to take, however.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Coming Closer, the New Book in the Series!


A copy of my publisher's latest enewspaper, with some more news about Partings, and other things of interest. 


Congratulations to our Short SF Competition cash winners, Stuart Aken’s 2nd is here and exciting Kickstarter news!

This week we are celebrating the closing of the Fantastic Books Short Science Fiction Competition 2014. The cash winners have been notified and the editorial process has begun!

After many months, our judges have finally finished battling with the longlist and have awarded the following people the 5 cash prizes;
First prize: Dying Star by Marko Susimetsa
Second Prize: Steampunk Striker by Pierre Le Gue
Third prize: If We Start Killing by Ulla Susimetsa
Fourth Prize: Three Second War by Darren Grey
Fifth Prize: The Moon a Balloon by Rose Thurlbeck
The judging is done completely anonymously and it came as a very nice surprise to see no less than 4 Fantastic Elite Fiction authors in the top 5!
Our heartiest congratulations to everyone who made it to the longlist and we really must stress how impressed we were with the high quality of all the entries. It was a very hard job to decide who was in the anthology and who didn’t make it. Well done to everyone who entered, you are all Fantastic.
We have now opened our next competition. It is a horror story competition asking for stories of EXACTLY 666 words. It is a tough challenge but after seeing the quality of the entries for our competitions over the last two years, we know you can do it. We look forward to you scaring the pants off us!
Now, to other news. Stuart Aken has released the second novel in his ‘A Seared Sky‘ series. Partings continues from where Joinings left off and has a shiny new cover to ensure the final trilogy looks amazing. Our cover designer Heather Murphy has done a wonderful job integrating Stuart’s hand drawn maps into the cover and we couldn’t be more pleased.
Stuart’s books are available from ourFantastic Bookstore and also on Amazon.
And now to our next exciting project. Although lots of our own Kickstarter gifts are still to be sent out (the boxed sets are in production, the special edition boxed sets won’t begin production until October and the audio books will be ready by December at the earliest), there are still lots of folks who would love to see another Fantastic Books Kickstarter based in the universe of Elite: Dangerous.
Thanks to our friend Anthony Olver, who runs the Elite Archives, we are very proud to announce that a brand new Kickstarter will be launching on the 20th September to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original Elite computer game!
The Elite Archives Kickstarter will use your pledges to fund the creation of a beautiful hardback book detailing the 30 year journey this game has taken including interviews, artwork, game tips and tricks, reviews, archive pictures and lots more. Anthony’s passion for the game shines through in everything he does and he has decided that the world needs to know about this amazing game and share his collection that he has painstakingly built up over the years.
This will be the first ever book detailing the history, lore, releases and more of this seminal space trading computer game. As massive fans ourselves, we felt very privileged to be approached by Anthony to publish this book and we are prepared to throw everything we have at making this Kickstarter a success. With us on board as publisher the book will benefit from professional editing, proofing, typesetting and cover design as well as joining the other 5 official Elite titles in our bookstore and on Amazon and other retailers.
The project goes live on the 20th September and will run for only 48 days. With the help of the Elite CommunityScience Fiction fansGamers and Collectors alike we hope to push this project over the line quickly and have already formulated some great ideas for stretch goals. And for those of you who still remember our own Kickstarter project, Commander Dan has promised to make an appearance on video too!
So when the project goes live in two days time, look out for ‘The Elite Archives Book: A 30 Year History of Elite’ on Kickstarter and make sure you spread the word by liking and sharing all our posts about it. Thanks!
By working together on projects that people are genuinely passionate about we can create anything. Just imagine.
Come join the family, you’re welcome!
Just imagine,
The Fantastic Books Team

Monday, 15 September 2014

Apologies for Absence, And a 5 Star Review!

Regular readers will be aware I've been a bit spasmodic with my posts recently. There are reasons.
Mostly domestic.
My wife's beloved sister died recently. I'm undergoing some minor, but disruptive, medical treatment, my daughter has returned from a lengthy spell of adventure overseas and is now seeking work here, our house is up for sale and attracting viewers, my brother is scheduled for heart surgery, and I'm attempting to end a 10 year spell of relative physical inactivity by making myself fit again (amazing how you discover muscles you never knew were there!).

So, things have been a little disconnected here for a while and will probably remain so for a while longer! Nevertheless, I've kept up with many of the things that keep contact with the wider world, and even done a bit of writing. For the future, I shall attempt to make my posts here a little more regular once more.

In the meantime, here's a 5 Star review of 'Joinings', that I came across by accident whilst searching on Amazon. I thought I'd share it because it's from a complete stranger who has clearly enjoyed the work.

5 stars
This review is from: A Seared Sky - Joinings (Paperback)

Joinings by Stuart Aken is the opening book in the projected A Seared Sky trilogy. This science fiction, romance, action and fantasy-adventure novel of epic proportions spanning over 800 pages will delight lovers of the genres as this is one in which they can afford to really bury their heads in. It is also a testimony of the creativity of this British author who through this book loudly proclaimed that he has much to write and share. The beautiful prose, delectable style of writing and the sharpness of the story is enough to keep one absorbed to the last page.

But what really is inside this tome of a novel? To put it simply, it is the story of Tumalind and her betrothed, Okkyntalah, and the precarious situation in which Tumalind lands when she is deceitfully chosen as a Virgin Gift instead of another with important connections. In a world ravaged by superstitious beliefs, fanaticism and hierarchal corruption of the highest order, nothing ever really stands the test of the ordinary, and nothing is what it seems. Dagla Kaz is no ordinary leader either. As the high priest, he is feared and adored, and he is determined to exchange the virgin gifts before the scorched skies returned to normal.

Stuart Aken crafted an extraordinary story populated by extraordinary characters. Aklon, a renegade and the son of Dagla Kaz, is one fascinating character who readers will root for as he walks the path of redemption. Aglydron, the father of Tumalind, is on the most important mission of his life. Aken beautifully spins a tale that is both complex and riveting, as stunning as the world the characters inhabited.

Will you be stiff bored by this mammoth novel? If you are seeking my advice, here’s my answer: Anyone on the lookout for a mesmerizing read will really enjoy this tome. Though set in a fantasy world, Aken created relatable characters with relatable teething troubles which most readers will be able to identify with.

It is a story driven by false prophecy, recklessness and the desire to right a wrong. Joinings: A Seared Sky by Stuart Aken is one of the most enjoyable fantasy novels that I have read in a long, long time. It is incredibly intriguing, gratifying, gripping and spellbinding.


There are buying links here on the blog, but, for your convenience, one click here will take you to your local Amazon page. And a click here will take you to the publisher's store, where UK readers can obtain the print book post free, and may even get a signed copy, if there are any of those left!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Zero, by J.S. Collyer, Reviewed.

Wow! This book moves at a great pace, and rarely lets up. This is a space adventure, a fast-moving action piece with little time to spend on explanation of the setting. However, the author cleverly integrates plenty of clues within the action so that the reader is able to envisage the world she has created here. And it is a world of undesirables, military types, skilled and able technicians, heroes and villains in many guises.

This is a story that gamers in particular will love. The reader experiences the action as the story progresses. And those who love their scifi films with plenty of combat will find this a very satisfying read.

It’s a page-turner, but it’s also a book with plenty of twists and turns. Who can be trusted? Who is telling the truth? Who are the real heroes, here? The characters - and those who know my reviews will be aware this is of real concern to me - are well drawn. The danger of stereotyping has been avoided by giving the people who populate this work individual quirks and sometimes unusual motivations. The mix makes for an engaging and absorbing story.

I read this under less than ideal circumstances, with many breaks due to things over which I had no control. But I never lost the thread and was always able to pick up where I left off. It would have been an even better read in one sitting, but at 364 action-packed pages, this was never an option for me.

If you like your space adventures full of hard men, and women, with plenty of physical conflict and dark humour, and with an undercurrent of subtly applied moral comment thrown in, you’ll enjoy this tale. I did, and I heartily recommend it.