Reading List 2013
Below you’ll find a quick review of every book I read in 2013. There are many – 64 in total. This is not the sort of blog post you can sit down and read to completion. Have a skim, if you like, or if you find it particularly interesting do it in chunks. Seriously. When I did this last year, twelve people died trying to get through it out of some sort of moribund sense of duty.
Because there’s a lot, I’ve already plucked out my top five books from the year’s reading. They’re over here.
These were all written shortly after the books were read, and mostly posted on Goodreads as I went along. Feel free to find me there, if that’s your thing.
Medi Evil 2, Paul Finch – Another three horror novellas set throughout history. More than half of the book is taken up with the first of these, a tale of a Norman family staring down the consequences of their aggressive pacification of Britain. Detailed and compelling, this story actually suffers for the inclusion of a supernatural ‘horror’ – as a tale of a family at war, it’s electrifying, and the grim tone is horrific enough to suit the genre without any need for the presence of an ancient killing machine. The second tale, Amphibians, is a runaround in which creatures from the deep stalk a mad sailor who has absconded with something they consider theirs. It’s good fun, but lightweight. Only the final tale, effectively a Roman retelling of an Exorcist style haunting, fully lives up to the promise of the tales in the previous volume, and in doing so gave me chills. Finch does this horror historical subgenre better than anybody else I’ve read, and the collection is both fun and readable, but it’s not his very best.
The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling – Rowling’s big novel about a little town has a lot more in common with Harry Potter than you might immediately think. In slowly detailing the personalities and geography of the superficially picturesque town of Pagford, peeling away a layer here, colouring in a detail there, she again puts her greatest gift as a storyteller front and centre – Rowling is a world-builder, creating immense and immersive imaginary landscapes that you can lose yourself in entirely. Her characterisation also shows the same approach as the Potterverse – on introduction, most of the inhabitants of Pagford and its grubby appendage The Fields are archetypes and caricatures. It’s as the pages pass that Rowling adds the little depths, one at a time, that open them up in surprisingly ways, until you feel like you know them intimately. I got lost in this enthralling novel, which both begins and ends in tragic death, and scrubs the gloss from a pretty world until the rot beneath pokes through.
The Way of the Leaves, David Tallerman – This smartly presented little chapbook is my introduction to the acclaimed catalogue of Spectral Press, and a nice way to begin what seems a promising relationship. The story is a deliciously creepy English tale of old legends intruding on the present day, as two children find things in a secret barrow best left undisturbed. Tallerman’s short tale is loaded with loss presented simply and sweetly, which nicely counterpoints a genuine sense of dread that builds through explorations of dark places. The horrors are of the soul, with the supernatural present but mostly off camera, and this prods the imagination very sharply indeed.
Ten Little Aliens, Stephen Cole – It’s Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary this year, and as a lifelong fan of the show I’m indulging it even more than usual, including spending time with each Doctor in print leading up to November’s celebrations. Ten Little Aliens sees the first Doctor and his companions Ben and Polly trapped inside a strange asteroid with some space marines on a training mission. It turns out, they’re not the only ones there. This is a book with too many ideas for its own good, and the result is a horrible mash up. The Doctor and companions are very well captured, and there’s no discord jumping from their screen incarnations to the page. The space marines are also a lively and well drawn bunch, and the book just about gets away with putting them and the TARDIS crew in the same story. After that, things start to creak at the seams. Two wildly different alien menaces turn up, one of which bears an unfortunate passing resemblance to the Weeping Angels from the modern show, while the other… is it odd to say that aliens in a novel look cheap? These do. The body horror aspects they bring into play are well written, but all the visuals invoke Doctor Who at its worst. Added to that, the book traps the whole cast in a series of cave tunnels for the whole story. It might effectively recreate the era, in which the same tunnel set could be reused endlessly for budgetary reasons, but books don’t have the same financial issues as a small TV show in the 1960s, and the locale is boring. Add to that some odd extras – one chapter is in a choose your own adventure format that while interesting, jars with the flow of the novel – and you have a book that never quite merges its different tones to tell a consistent story. Cole can write, and delivers the TARDIS crew effectively, but this falls short as a novel.
A Big Hand For The Doctor, Eoin Colfer – Firstly, if this wasn’t supposed to be a Doctor Who book it would be a perfectly functional (though workmanlike) kids adventure story. The glaring problem is that it’s supposed to be about the First Doctor, and he is entirely absent. Instead of the slightly frightening, selfish, frail old genius kids met for the first time in the sixties, we have here a heroic righter of wrongs, who strides into one on one combat with armed killers, and swan dives off rooftops to save little children. I was looking forward to how a modern children’s writer might fuse the energy of the current TV show with the first incarnation of the character, and was hugely disappointed to find that the author went for the easiest solution – write a story with the Eleventh Doctor in it, but make him a bit older and give him white hair. It doesn’t celebrate the show’s history, but rather ignores it, which seems contrary to the point of these little books. Ah well. Kids who have never met the First Doctor won’t have these problems I suppose, and will just enjoy what’s written. As a slightly bigger kid though, this reads as an ill-judged comic parody of the character and the show.
Words With Fiends, Matt Schiariti– I’ve never read the author before, but won’t hesitate to do so again. This is an entertaining and spooky novelette that knows that the enjoyment is in the tension before the reveal (the reader knows what’s going on almost from the start of the book – it’s watching the inevitable catch up with the main protagonist that’s half the fun here). The story made me nostalgic for Stephen King’s earlier works, and reminds me a lot of his immediately engaging characters, and the slow mashing of a detailed and recognisable real world with things that should not be. A very solid story.
Running With The Kenyans, Adharanand Finn – A book that shares a spirit with Born To Run, this follows the author as he uproots his wife and three small children from the UK and settles them for six months in a Kenyan village. He’s gone in search of the secrets of the Kenyan running story, why this tiny percentage of the world’s running population has consistently won most of the major distance running prizes in the last thirty years. There must be a secret, buried somewhere in their genes or lifestyle, and he wants to find out what it is. The answers are simple, and either disappointing or reassuring depending on how you look at it, but the book succeeds not on that basis, but as a travelogue and personal adventure. As he trains, immersing himself in the running life of Kenya’s athletes (who run, mostly, because it’s the only escape they can envisage from poverty – a level of motivation and necessity we don’t have in the West) he sets his eye on putting together a team for the Lewa marathon – where apart from the usual running hazards there are lions to contend with – and it is this personal mission that gives the book guts. Runners should love this book, as it puts you back in touch with some of the thrill of the sport that you can lose track of in the weekly grind of training. It’s also a book that will entertain those seeking some vicarious travel and adventure, more authentically told than the sometimes hyperbolic “Born To Run” and just as inspiring.
A Blink of the Screen, Terry Pratchett – I felt an overwhelming sense of crushing disappointment as I started working through the first few stories and articles in this book. I love Pratchett, and had high hopes. However, the pedestrian comic tales I found, with nothing to distinguish them from any decent (but not great) humourist, let me down in a way Pratchett never had before. They weren’t stories that really deserved to be collected together – this was obviously a vanity project, riding off his name rather than the worth of the content. Then, about a 100 pages in, I reached ‘The High Meggas’, a tale of infinite parallel earths that would later develop further into the novel The Long Earth. It’s brilliant. Smart, incisive, funny, exciting, and best of all – it matters. The characters matter. Their struggles matter. It grips. From out of nowhere, the book suddenly stands alongside the best of Pratchett, and it doesn’t look back. With the book arranged to chart Pratchett’s career from early, formative stuff that isn’t quite ‘there yet’, to what we recognise instantly as the humanist humourist who gave us the Discworld, a law of expanding returns kicks in. If you’re a fan of his novels, you have to wait for that writer to turn up in this book, but when he does he’s on top form. I don’t recommend that anybody wanting to know why Pratchett is brilliant starts here (they might lose patience, and never find out), but everyone who already knows will enjoy this (eventually).
Richard III and the Murder in the Tower, Peter A. Hancock – I picked this book up while researching a short story, and found it engaging and well laid out. It’s dense with names and dates and places, and outside of the central question it tries to answer (at what point did Richard decide that he wanted to be king?) glosses over a lot of details, but there’s just enough to follow along with the arguments, which are sourced and cogent. In the end, I didn’t use a jot of what I discovered here, but I enjoyed following the detective work and sound reasoning of the author a great deal.
The Nameless City, Michael Scott – After last month’s appalling attempt to rewrite the First Doctor as a superhero cyborg, I was rather put off this series of short ebooks. That book seemed less concerned with celebrating the history of the character and introducing his previous iterations to a new generation readers than it was with scrapping everything and starting from scratch. Thankfully, Michael Scott appears not only to know the Second Doctor, but also to like him. This is a short, sweet novelette, accessible to kids without being childish. This is what I thought such a series should be – finding out how other Doctors would have worked in the fast-paced forty-five minute format we know today. And it works brilliantly. The Second Doctor here is Troughton through and through, the scruffy cosmic hobo, and his highlander companion Jamie McCrimmon is also easily recognisable. There’s a guest slot from an unnamed foe who fans will recognise and newer readers will be able to take a fair guess at the identity of, and a huge dose of Lovecraftian homage as the Doctor and Jamie are thrown against an ancient enemy. The cosmic horror this suggests is toned down, but the tropes are well used, and the tentacled, clawed THINGS of Lovecraft’s fictional universe suit the Second Doctor’s era very well. Scott zips the reader through the adventure, plucking out the best loved elements of Troughton’s era on the show, and makes excellent use of them. For older fans, this is a welcome return for the Second Doctor and Jamie, and younger readers are going to love them.
Of The City Of The Saved, Philip Purser-Hallard – Warning – this is another book I can’t claim to be unbiased about. Having been fortunate enough to be asked write a short story based in the city of the title, I picked this book up to get to the know the place. I’d been aware of the novel’s reputation for a while, but it had yet to end up on my TBR pile. So with that in mind…
The City is a galaxy sized habitat at the end of time, where every human who ever was or ever might have been lives a resurrected life of immortality. That simplifies things somewhat, but it gives you the idea – a vast non-secular Heaven of sorts, where cultures clash, history’s personalities have built new lives, and politics are infinitely more complex than they have ever been. It shouldn’t be possible to murder somebody in a world where immortality is the norm, but when somebody manages to do so it sets off a chain reaction of violence and consequence that brings change to what should have been immutable, and rewrites the balance of power.
The plot is, to be honest, the least of this book. The City itself is overbearing, a fascinating world where cultures we know have evolved and new ones sprouted up, and the book swoops around the place plunging you in and out of a handful of its infinite combinations and possibilities. Each of the many central characters is written differently, the author switching styles (sometimes inventing new ones) to represent the vast array of cultures and backgrounds on offer. It’s a heady brew, initially disorientating, and those styles are so disparate that the book occasionally feels like four or five different novels (by different authors) woven together. While this is one of the novel’s greatest strengths, it also prevented the book from being a wholly immersive read for me, as each point of view switch demanded a mental reset that pushed me out of the story and forced me to work my way back into it. The problem vanishes with practice, so that by the time the plot was charging towards revelation and resolution I was able to follow more fluidly.
And it was worth doing so. This is a Faction Paradox novel – I still don’t know much about the Faction, but everything you need for this particular story (where the Faction works slightly differently than usual anyway) is seeded into the plot. The City is bigger than the Faction though, and makes its mark so strikingly that it’s clear why new stories set there are in demand. The ambition and scale of the setting is remarkable, and the dizzying range of stylistic approaches used by the author sets this apart from anything I’ve picked up in a long time. It’s neither an easy nor a light read, asking a level of engagement from the reader that few books dare, but it’s tremendously unique and rewarding, and will leave images and ideas with me that will stick for a long, long time.
The Wheel Of Ice, Stephen Baxter – An adventure featuring Patrick Troughton’s second incarnation of the Doctor that’s so faithful to the era it even thoughtfully includes whole episodes worth of unnecessary padding (Jamie and some kids escape to a moon, mostly so that they can gad about a bit and come back). The Doctor is reasonably portrayed, and his companions Jamie and Zoe are particularly well captured and expanded on. The yarn itself rattles along pleasantly despite several random acts of repetition (numerous expeditions to the same place and back to pick up extra bits of information – one would possibly have done). Baxter gives sound science, and his wheel in space is a very credible technological wonder, but the base under siege hijinks fizzle out with a damp squib of an ending that isn’t clever enough to make confounding the reader’s expectations worthwhile. A mixed bag then, but an affectionate and entertaining one.
The Twelve, Justin Cronin – Part two of a trilogy that started with The Passage, a book that was among my favourite discoveries of 2010. Despite that, I entered into The Twelve a little nervous. Why? Because I could barely remember what happened in the last volume. I read a lot of books. 2010 was a long time ago, in book years. I needn’t have worried. Within a few chapters I had everything I needed to pick up where I left off. As with the previous book, The Twelve covers two main periods of time – the beginning of a genetically engineered vampire outbreak, and the repercussions in a devastated North America a century later.
Vampires are all well and good, but as with all apocalypse novels it’s the human stories that make or break the tale, and Cronin delivers these with a deft touch in both eras. There’s heartbreak to be plucked from the grim trials of humanity in a dying world, and the author handles these deftly and to tremendous effect. The vast time span of the novel is also made good use of here, as it was before, and there is satisfaction to be had in watching the seeds sown in the near future flower abruptly a century later. Finally, Cronin shows that he’s more than willing to mess with your expectations in all manner of ways, and the devastating ends of several threads and characters along the way ratchet up the tension and left me eager for the final installment. I’m a sucker for an apocalypse at the best of times, and it’s been a while since anybody delivered one as effective as Cronin does here. To offset all of that, The Twelve shows perhaps a little less invention than The Passage before it, as though all the best tricks have been used up, but there remains a real pleasure in watching this world unfold.
Red Dog, Louis de Bernieres – The slight (and mostly true) story of Red Dog, a wandering hound who became a local celebrity due to his wanderings across Western Australia’s Pilbara region. The story is written in a simplistic manner, almost as you’d find in a children’s book, but that adds considerably to its personality. There’s not a great deal more to it – Red Dog’s independent spirit reflects the region, and through him we meet several characters along the way, but there isn’t a great deal of character exploration, and Red Dog didn’t stick around anywhere for long enough that I connected with anybody. A pleasant read, that substitutes weight with charm and, much like the title character, doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed – In my younger days I read a fair bit of fantasy, most of it set in worlds drawn from the myths and history of northern Europe. In seeking to dip back into the genre, it was refreshing to have an novel recommended to me that took inspiration from a different source. Ahmed’s debut novel fuses pseudo-Muslim beliefs with other myths sourced from the Arabic world, and the dry lands that form the Kingdoms of the Crescent Moon are all the more pleasing for it. Unfortunately that’s where the originality ends, and the well thought out backdrop does nothing to combat the over-familiarity of the characters. They’re a plot-driven bunch with only enough complexity as is needed to keep the story going, and for all the quirks of the fresh mythos on show their natures echoed Dungeons & Dragons flavoured heroes and heroines I’ve long been familiar with. It’s the same old stuff, in different packaging. That’s not to say the book isn’t enjoyable – it’s a well-paced and smartly written little swashbuckler – but in failing to match content to concept it doesn’t live up to the potential of the Big Idea behind it.
The Spear of Destiny, Marcus Sedgwick – What this tiny celebration of the third era of Doctor Who does well lies in its tick box referencing of the tropes that defined the Pertwee years. The characters are simply drawn but instantly recognisable, particularly Pertwee’s Doctor. The Brigadier and UNIT flash by in the background, Bessie makes an appearance, the Master strokes his beard and cackles – if you know the show, you’ll feel that all is present and correct. Where the story falters in its brevity. There are a lot of potentially interesting things thrown into the mix, and to a fault they’re all dropped as soon as the Doctor races on to the next place he needs to be. A paramilitary force in a museum? Dropped. The Time Lords scooping up powerful artifacts? Dropped. The origins of Norse myth? Dropped. The actual reason why a spear has become a powerful artifact in the first place (is it something to do with the birth of Christianity, or is that just thrown in)? Dropped. None of that does this fast paced adventure any harm, but it feels like a bit of a waste, as though all the best bits of a brilliant novel have been sliced away to focus on the running around. Still, it’s all good fun, very nicely revitalising the Doctor’s third life for younger readers and hitting some nostalgic notes for fans who have been around for a bit longer.
Last of the Gaderene, Mark Gatiss – A perfectly acceptable piece of Third Doctor froth, that (budget aside) could have slotted very easily into Pertwee’s final seasons as the the Doctor. The characters are spot on, and the era is captured well. If anything, that’s the problem with the book. It’s too slavish, reworking common themes from Pertwee’s time and placing them in an only slightly different story. Fans of the era are likely to find it all too familiar. For new readers, it’s a great romp. Does it matter that the appearance of a certain recurring villain is poorly explained, or that the background of the invadiing alien horde is underdeveloped? Not really – this is a slice of seventies Who that should be taken with a pinch of salt and enjoyed for the silliness it is.
The Ridge, Michael Koryta – I went into this novel blind after it was recommended by a friend, and for a long time wasn’t sure what genre I was reading. That’s a good thing – the novel is slow in revealing its hand, and I got the full benefit of the unraveling mystery. The rural setting is very well used here, because this is a novel about isolation first and foremost. We have the widow trying to keep her husband’s dream of running a big cat shelter alive, the recently unemployed journalist who can’t bear to face his life without his beloved paper to obsess over, the policeman who has withdrawn from everything but his job since a near fatal wounding… all faces of isolation, through choice or incident. The thematic loneliness underpins the wilderness of the setting, and allows for some increasingly unnerving sequences as hints of the supernatural begin to flower through the narrative. When it does appear, it ties so closely to the theme of the book and nature of the characters and location that it feels organic rather than divergent, and the denouement is all the more thrilling for that. I haven’t seen this sort of mystery enacted so well since first stumbling across John Connolly’s Charile Parker books.
The Freelancer’s Survival Guide, Kristine Kathryn Rusch – A collection of chapters first published and still available on the author’s website, and about as comprehensive as you could want. Although the book talks generally and is intended for any and all prospective freelancers, the author draws continually from her own experience as a freelance writer of many years standing, and so this book is of even more value to writers. The first half of the book is invaluable, and should be mandatory reading for anybody looking to step out on their own. It’s sensible, thorough, blunt, and inspiring. It won’t guarantee you success, but it lays out the things that you should be thinking about even before you start. There are a few bits specific to self-employment in the USA, around tax and health insurance particularly, but the principles and ideas Rusch spends most of her time on are universal. The second half of the book is difficult to assess from where I am now, as it deals a lot with how to handle things you can’t experience until you’ve reached a certain point. It’s hard to think about the negative aspects of success before you’ve really got started at what you hope to be successful at, for example, but the book is in hand for when those questions arise.
Creakers, Paul Kane – Another beautiful little chapbook from Spectral Press, containing an introduction from Sarah Pinborough, and a story of repressed memory and hauntings from Kane. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t live up to the glowing foreword from Pinsborough. I’ve read Kane’s work elsewhere, and he’s a fine author, but this particular story isn’t a great example of why he is so respected. The tale, in which a son confronts forgotten aspects of his childhood as he explores his deceased mother’s home, doesn’t actually do much wrong except for treading extremely familiar ground (and offering an awkward, contrived, and unnecessary aftermath to the main event), and would sit well enough in a decent horror anthology. As a standalone chapbook in a limited edition, with the reader’s expectations that little bit higher, it doesn’t have enough energy or voice to satisfy. It’s good, but it’s doesn’t seem special enough for this line.
The Roots of Evil, Philip Reeve – It’s April, and time for the fourth incarnation of the Doctor to take centre stage in this series of anniversary short stories celebrating fifty years of Doctor Who. This is easily the best of the line so far. The Doctor on perfect Tom Baker teeth-and-curls form, a giant orbital space station that’s a tree, and an entire civilization that’s been waiting nine hundred years to punish the Doctor for something he won’t do for another seven regenerations. Inventive, fast-paced, funny and perfectly suited to the era while at the same time ramping up the pace to that of the modern TV show. Exactly what this little run of books should be, and a splendid introduction to one of the most enduring of Doctors for young readers.
Chiral Mad, Michael Bailey – A lot of charity anthologies aren’t very good. There, I’ve said it. A lot aren’t bad either, but there are a lot of them and it’s rare to find one that’s actually a superior book in its own right. Chiral Mad is raising money to support Downs Syndrome charities, and while that’s very worthy I don’t recommend that you buy the book for that reason. Instead, I recommend it as that rarest of things – a vastly superior collection of smart, stylish modern horror. You should buy and read it, because it’s a phenomenally good book. That’s all the reason you need. These stories show just how intelligent and relevant the horror genre can be when it frees itself from shock, gore, and an obligation to actually scare you. These are stories that look at your life and the world you live in, peel back the edges, and say something about what’s underneath. Like the best of science fiction, these are stories that comment on the world. They’re fun too, and constantly surprising. My own highlights start with Megan Arcuri’s witty and disturbing ‘Inevitable’, which takes an entertaining body swap scenario and uses it to poke at what identity is. Gary McMahon delivers ‘Some Pictures In An Album’, in which photographs are examined for forgotten truths and tell a disturbing story full of blanks that you as the reader have to complete as you see fit. Gary A. Braunbeck gives snapshots of a different life that is rotting at the centre in ‘Need’. There are many more I loved. Amidst the twenty-seven tales here there were perhaps five that didn’t work for me at all, draping vast quantities of style over too little substance, but that’s a a staggeringly good hit rate. It’s a real pleasure finding the genre I love (but often get frustrated with, due to lack of ambition from so many practitioners) presented with such relevance and skill. Read this.
The Festival of Death, Jonathan Morris – Oh, thank goodness that’s over. There’s a lot to like about this book, but it feels like it goes on forever. Republished to represent the fourth Doctor in the anniversary year of the show, it presents the man of teeth and curls with his companion the Time Lady Romana, and both are in great form (with Romana being particularly well portrayed as an equal to the title character). The writing is strong, and although it’s occasionally self-conscious in how much it wants to be like Douglas Adams that’s no great sin, and the results are fun. The plot is inventive too. The current show has made stories that play with the order of time – events happening out of sequence – a regular feature, but it’s something that’s surprisingly recent given this is a series all about time travel. When Morris wrote Festival of Death, it was still something that had yet to be done much. That’s the book’s biggest problem. The plot is clever, with the Doctor turning up at the end of an adventure he’s yet to have and discovering that he averted death and disaster only by sacrificing himself, then travelling further and further back into the story to do the things he’s already learned that he’s going to do. What makes the story drag in the second half is that it’s all over-explained. We end up seeing the same events several times, from the viewpoints of several characters, often in detail, because the story isn’t entirely confident that you’re following along. By the end the repetition is insanely tedious, which lets down a very promising first half.
Tip of the Tongue, Patrick Ness – Oh, this is gloriously brave. In the anniversary year of Doctor Who, the original chapbook in this series featuring the 5th Doctor… barely has the 5th Doctor in at all. And it works. This is a wonderful little book. Set in wartime Maine, we have the story of two outsiders (an African American girl and a German Jewish boy) who have formed an unlikely friendship. It’s about discrimination and mindless hate, and also about the sort of humanity that can endure and prosper through such things. When Doctor Who is good, it takes big and complex things (like the Second World War), cuts to their core, and presents them in microcosm. And this is very good indeed. As for the Doctor himself, he turns up every now and again, but the children are the primary characters, sitting on the edge of one of his adventures. It’s not in any way a workable model for the show – nobody would want the series to do this every week – but it’s the sort of experiment that the format lends itself to every now and again. Charming and memorable, you should give this to your kids to read because it’s about real things they’ll recognise, then read it yourself straight after.
Fear of the Dark, Trevor Baxendale – The dark is scary. The end. That’s pretty much the content of this novel, which features the fifth Doctor and his companions Tegan and Nyssa. The companions are recognisably themselves (Tegan particularly), but the Doctor is a fairly blank template. I rarely found this depiction of my favourite iteration of the character to be wholly authentic, although he doesn’t do anything wildly aberrant either. For the most part, I simply found him off key. Perhaps it was the emptiness of the plot. A thingy, which is scary, hangs about being scary, and everyone is scared. The problem is that the thingy is only scary by implication. There are some good moments, mostly reminiscent of the movie Event Horizon, but they appear and then vanish again. They fail to build. And the ending itself is anticlimactic in the extreme, and left me wondering what all the fuss was about. This whole story was done with infinitely more flair and texture in the TV adventure The Curse of Fenric, and the hollow core of this book functions best in illustrating how much better that was.
Players, Terrance Dicks – No doubt re-released by the BBC because it provides a credible a continuity-friendly explanation for why Winston Churchill and the 11th Doctor know each other in the TV show, this is a very plain, very simple adventure from Terrance Dicks. The prose is so sparse it’s almost empty, which was appropriate for the episode novelisations Dicks grew a reputation for delivering, but lacking in an original novel. The plot itself appears to be the first act of a sequence involving the mysterious Players, who toy with human history for their own amusement, and so necessarily ends with little resolution. It’s not all bad – the Sixth Doctor and Peri are very enjoyable here, and it breezes through established history with gusto. It’s ultimately an empty read though, and isn’t likely to stay with me for long.
The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon Kay Penman – One of the five best books I read this year.
Make Good Art, Neil Gaiman – A written transcript of a speech Gaiman delivered in 2012 (and which is easily found online, but I wanted a copy over of it). The speech is a glorious thing, about courage, and choices, and art. Everybody should read it. The book? It’s basically an attempt to practice what Gaiman preaches, a exercise in visual design. It fails on every front to impress, or even just to FUNCTION, because it makes reading the actual speech extraordinarily difficult. It gets in the way. It’s a barrier, where if it were to work it would have to be a complement. Deeply, deeply annoying.
Getting Thing Done, David Allen – Although the tools the book cites are a little out of date (Palm Pilots and a Rolodex jumped out), the GTD system is one that clearly has potential to improve anybody’s work habits. I was already using Omnifocus software as an advanced sort of task manager, but was aware that it’s really designed for people using GTD already. I now see why, and how much improved my own productivity and that bit of (excellent) kit might be if I make the switch.
Moonlands, Steven Savile – A novel for young adults that’s fully cognisant of the blurry priorities of your average teenage girl, and which sits nicely alongside the later Harry Potter books in tone. it succeeds in being the sort of young adult book that fits the genre by featuring fully realised and believable young adults rather than through dumbing down a plot, which means the door is wide open for us old adults to pick it up too. Steven Savile’s prose is often lush and colourful, which suits this fantasy of a young girl stumbling over her destiny. There’s plenty of horror along the way, placed front and centre where necessary, but there’s a mountain of whimsy and invention to go along with it. If I have a grumble it’s that the first half of the book, in which our heroine Ash discovers that she might have to be much more than an ordinary schoolgirl, is beautifully paced. The climax, as she battles for the fate of a world that sits alongside our own, is also tremendous. The middle, linking these two marvellous halves, feels underdeveloped. Having brought Ash to the Moonlands with her protector (it would be a horrible spoiler to tell you who that is), the plot rushes them with all speed towards the denouement with hardly a moment to appreciate the world that’s being fought over. This is a shame, for the things we do learn hint at a glorious creation. It’s a small gripe, and forgivable if the author makes good on the potential for further stories that he seeds through the closing chapters. In short, this is a stylish and striking entry in a genre that was beginning to feel samey since Rowling left the field. Savile might be the man to shake it up again.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman – One of the five best books I read this year.
Faction Paradox: Burning With Optimism’s Flames, Jay Eales – The second volume of Faction Paradox tales from Obverse Books, and another glorious Pandora’s Box of storytelling. It remains the case that the Faction is such a flexible concept that the stories in these books can (and do) take you absolutely anywhere. That’s part of the joy of these. You never know what you’re going to get next. Even more than in the previous collection A Romance in Twelve Parts, Optimism’s Flames allows the Faction to remain a shadowy influence on other people stories. If the book fails at all, it is in how far it plays with this. I’ve read complaints that the Faction barely seem to appear in many of these stories, and sometimes don’t feel particularly relevant to the story they’re in when they do. That’s a valid criticism – few of these tales are about the Faction. Instead, the Faction is an influence, sometimes minor and sometimes major, which is what allows for such a breadth of stories to be told. I consider that a benefit rather than a failing, that makes these anthologies unique and valuable. It means that the hugely entertaining Hollywood pastiche ‘Remake/Remodel’ can be found in the same table of contents as the mesmerising and entirely horrific ‘Squatters Rights’. Particular favourites include Aditya Bidikar’s ‘Dharmayudda’, which plays beautifully in the realms of Hindi mythology, and Philip Purser-Hallard’s ‘De Umbris Idearum, a layered tale of Catholic priests past, present, and future coming to terms with an ideology which unpicks fundamental parts of their own religion, almost undoing the need for faith. Another absolute triumph of a book, particularly beautiful in the hardback edition. Everybody interested in genre fiction should be picking these up.
The Diamond Lens and other stories, Fitz-James O’Brien – An early forerunner of the weird story, the stories here are characterised firstly by insane and original ideas, and secondly by the act of the protagonists taking a scientific approach to the supernatural. This is best seen in the titular ‘The Diamond Lens’, in which worlds are discovered under a microscope’s scrutiny, and ‘What Was It?”, an Invisible Man type tale that beats Wells to the punch by several years. In each it is the scientific rigor (within the limits of the science of the day) which lift the story from simple Poe territory into something closer to science fiction. My favourite yarn herein though is ‘Wonderland’, in which the narrator turns an ordinary back street into a rich world of freaks and terrors with the sort gloriously fabulist flourishes that JK Rowling repopularised this century with the Harry Potter books. A lovely little book, and for me a fine introduction to this author.
The Anatomy Murders, Lisa Rosner – There are several excellent studies of Burke & Hare to be had, but this one probably offers the greatest understanding of the people involved. Its success is not in biography, but in context. Each murder or event in the well-worn tale is used as a jumping off point to discuss aspects of 19th Century Edinburgh that lay behind the events, be it the state of medical science and its students, the economics of graverobbing, poverty and the Irish immigration, the criminal justice system, or other critical factors that almost inevitably led to an unprecedented murder spree. Through such careful framing, Rosner vividly lays out the world in which so many killings were conducted over so short a time as a year, and even uses it to question several points previously considered fact. A fascinating and immersive book.
Cabal, Clive Barker – A short novel singing a hymn to perversity. Cabal takes a close look a monsters, and discovers that there is a lot more to them than appearances lead you to believe. At the same time, there’s no escaping the fact that they remain… well… monsters. It’s a beautifully written story, but one that is too often accorded partialities that I’m not sure are inherent in the text. Minority groups are often quick to relate the metaphor of Midian to themselves, but that can only be done on the most selective reading. While on the one hand yes, the monsters are subject to clear persecution, on the other they commit unspeakable acts that they have only got away with for so long because they’ve been sneaky. For these same reasons, I’m inclined to read the monsters of Midian as an exaggerated representation of humanity at large rather than any portion of it. Petty, divided, frightened, terrifying… all these things and more. Of course, the fact that this discussion can be had at all suggests that this a great book. It is. Beautiful, hypnotic, suggestive, and graceful in all its horrors – this is among Barker’s very best.
The Ripple Effect, Malorie Blackman – A short and pointless story, that attempts to hint at the darker, less trustworthy Seventh Doctor. The plot itself, in which an alternate timeline needs to be reset, is obvious from the start (including the resolution – of course it will be reset), and even the younger end of the reading spectrum will have no trouble anticipating it if they watch the show regularly. This would have been fine, if the author had held nerve with the central question of the story – should the Doctor reset a timeline where the Daleks are a force for good? What would motivate him to do that, and how much damage and destruction would he be ensuring just by returning things to ‘normal’? It’s the only interesting idea in the story, and the author shoots it in the head by ensuring the Doctor ultimately has no choice at all. A waste.
Remembrance of the Daleks, Ben Aaronovitch – An odd choice for this anniversary series of reprinted novels featuring the various Doctors. The seventh is possibly the subject of more original novel length fiction than any of the others, so to find him the only Doctor represented in this run by a novelisation of a transmitted episode is rather baffling. The book introduces a few elements not seen on screen, several of which entered the mythology of the character for a while, and this does make it an item of more interest than a straight translation of a screenplay, but these elements are all things which are better represented and expanded on in those (far, far superior) original novels. In its own right, this is a quick dash through a fairly satisfying TV story that you can buy the DVD of, and are probably already familiar with if you’re the type to be picking these books up in the first place. It does its job reasonably well as a novelisation, but doesn’t come close to earning a slot in this run of reprints.
London Falling, Paul Cornell – After an excellent and intriguing opening act, where a meticulously detailed undercover police operation goes horribly wrong, this book lost so much steam that I almost closed it for good. The introduction of the supernatural feels clumsy, and the central cast spent a long time settling into themselves. They’re almost nothing but reaction to the new London they find themselves in, and that kept me from getting to know them at all (which prevented me, for the most part, from caring even slightly about the various stresses placed on them). After struggling on, I reached the final act, which hinges on a brilliantly personal twist I didn’t see coming, and brings the characters to life. It’s all good from there. If the next book picks up that same energy and direction, this could be a promising series. If it chooses to be as bewildered by itself as much of this book is, then not so much.
Earthworld, Jacqueline Rayner – As the year winds on, it’s increasingly obvious that whoever is behind this 50th anniversary series of reprints featuring a novel for each incarnation of the Doctor really hasn’t thought it through. Why else would the novel featuring the Eighth Doctor, the version most people will know least about by dint of his being on TV only once, be chosen from a sequence in which he’s amnesiac and doesn’t really know who he is? Still, at least it’s a bouncy affair, and the companions Fitz and Anji are almost strong enough to cover the fact that the Doctor himself is almost by default as generic as he’s ever been. Not bad. Not good. Baffling selection.
Burke & Hare (Crime Archive), Alanna Knight – A melodramatic retelling of Burke & Hare’s tale, that shows no signs of any original research, and through its several errors indicates an over-reliance on sources that have since been shown to be inaccurate. Fine, as the broadest possible overview, but of no practical use for anybody with a genuine interest in the subject.
Spore, Alex Scarrow – Some of the best Doctor Who stories of the year have turned up in this series of slim novellas aimed at the same audience as the TV Show. This is not the best, but it’s a neat tale with an X-Files feel that follows on nicely from the Eighth Doctor’s sole television outing. A small town has been wiped out by a virus that will threaten all life on Earth if a certain time traveller doesn’t intervene. It’s grisly in places, but to excellent effect.
Written In Stone, M.A. Dunham – I somehow missed that this was the second part of a series when I picked it up, but that becomes obvious in the second act. That it took me so long to realise is to the author’s credit – this tale of angels and demons in conflict stands well on its own. It’s a short and pleasing read, a little over-reliant on exposition in places, but always prepared to make it up to you with a plot twist or a switch in pace straight afterwards. I had fun, and you will too.
The Deputy, Victor Gischler – A fast, terse thriller in which all manner of violence drops into the life of Toby Sawyer, a small town deputy in over his head. There’s plenty of black humour as the violence escalates over the course of one long night, and the author’s ability to thumbnail sketch furious action has a Tarantino like poetry to it. The downside lies only in the emptiness of the plot, which is a predictable affair once it starts moving, but the book doesn’t outstay its welcome and is plenty entertaining in telling a well worn tale.
The Executioner’s Heart, George Mann – After what feels like a longer break than it probably was, perfectly mannered steampunk adventurers Sir Maurice Newbury and Veronica Hobbes romp back in a new full length adventure. It’s a delight to see them again, and although the plot here is a little thin, there is a real sense of their Victorian world becoming murkier and more sinister than it ever has been before. Dark forces gather in the background, and it is they more than the Executioner of the title that apply the pressures that make this a breathless and often claustrophobic turn.
The Anatomy of Robert Knox, A.W. Bates – A comprehensive and well researched biography of the controversial Doctor Robert Knox. The author’s bias is firmly in Knox’s court, and he is perhaps a little too forgiving of faults and a little over-zealous with praise, but he tells the story well. A tale of a potential genius who never quite got there, a mighty character who demonstrated all the foibles of greatness without ever producing the achievements to go with it, and a fascinating man.
Only Human, Gareth Roberts – A novel that’s both pretty good, and intensely irritating. On the plus side, Roberts nails the 9th Doctor and Rose, and that’s half the job when writing these tie-in novels. Watching those two characters bounce around is a great deal of fun. The primary plot is also interesting and well conceived, with splashes of family friendly body horror perking up a tale of mad science and human improvement. However, the novel collapses into the most irksome drivel when the sub-plots surrounding primitive homo sapiens and neanderthals rear their heads. The decision to write these characters as modern families in furs is neither particularly funny nor terribly illuminating, and they drag down a promising bit of tomfoolery.
Horns, Joe Hill – There’s a beautiful blend of sensibilities on display in Horns, where Hill blends the modern horror milieu that he’s inherited from his Dad with a clear love of all things comic book and creates something with a unique flavour I’m coming to associate just with him. Ig’s journey into devilhood is at times wildly comical, but segues comfortably into richly disturbing explorations of vengeance and sociopathy. The characters are sophisticated and colourful, a subtle blend of neurosis and fire that makes them richly memorable, and makes this small story of vast injustice one that wakes you up and keeps you thinking long after it is done.
Scream of the Shalka, Paul Cornell – An alternate official ninth Doctor, played by Richard E. Grant, was launched online and then almost immediately cancelled with the relaunch of the BBC series on the tellybox with Mr Ecclestone in the role. This is the novelisation of that animated adventure, and incredibly refreshing it is too. Most interesting is that writer Paul Cornell makes very similar decisions on how to relaunch the character as Russell T. Davies did for the television. Forget about regenerating the character, and have him turn up well settled in his new body? Check. Give him a dark secret, a tragedy we don’t know about, to drive his initial development? Check. Give him a companion who will show him how to be himself again, and make her the (seemingly) most ordinary person possible? Check. It’s both very familiar, and very new. The story itself is a traditional ‘base under siege’ scenario given a global climax, and is perhaps darker and more drastic than the television series would dare for some time. It’s recognisably the best of Who though, and an intriguing alternate reality for an enduring character. One of the most entertaining bits of Who fiction I’ve read this anniversary year.
The Beast of Babylon, Charlie Higson – This little series of celebratory novellas hits the modern era, and Christopher Eccleston’s manic and judgemental Ninth Doctor, under the watchful eye of Charlie Higson. The story starts of strong, as (during the thirty seconds of screen time in his opening episode Rose where he departs without the titular companion and then comes back for her) the Doctor picks up a new companion while tracking ancient Cosmic Horrors called Starmen to ancient Babylon. The nature of this new companion is smartly held back in a way that could never work on screen, and is perhaps the best thing about the book. The worst is the Doctor himself. For much of the book he is entirely himself, with Eccleston’s rather different take on the character neatly expressed and a joy to read. In the final quarter however, his easy dismissal of wholesale slaughter is jarringly wrong, and stained what had previously been an enjoyable romp. For me, a final stumble that kills the book.
Eat and Run, Scott Jurek – One of the five best books I read this year.
Soul Masque, Terry Grimwood – A grim, colourful slice of the eternal war between Heaven & Hell, and it turns out that both sides are prepared to fight dirty. Grimwood gives a crisp, sometimes staccato delivery of this tale of human wretches being abused and cast aside by the powers that be. It’s a thrilling, intriguing ride, full of rich and novel imagery, as though Clive Barker were rewriting the more miserablist elements of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. If there is a problem, it’s simply that the whole novella reads as the penultimate scene of a larger narrative (with flashbacks to earlier missing chapters to catch you up). That shouldn’t put you off though. As much as I’d enjoy reading that novel, this short presentation still contains a good deal that delights.
Joyland, Stephen King – One of the five best books I read this year.
Doctor Sleep, Stephen King – Little Danny Torrance, survivor of The Shining, is all grown up and more his father’s son than he ever would have wished. An alcoholic at the start of the novel, we get to watch him hit bottom and crawl back out. It’s in Dan, who uses his psychic talents to help dying hospice patients in his care make their final journey, that the novel pursues its publicised aim of being a sequel to The Shining. There are many explicit references and elements for fans seeking that nostalgic connection to a book that terrified so many when it was released, but in reversing the decline of his father Jack Torrance (who never did crawl back up from bottom) Dan gives this book an optimistic power.
It’s so optimistic that it almost fails as a horror novel. The villains of the piece, travelling psychic vampires called the True Knot, are a fascinating mob. Too fascinating. In the end, King has too much sympathy for them to let them be demons. Their perspective is explored, and is strangely sympathetic. They’re weird, and do horrible things, but we spend so much time with them that it’s hard not to empathise with them. At the same time their victim of choice, a powerful shining child called Abra (who Dan signs on to protect) is so clearly their better that the battle between predators and prey is oddly unbalanced. It’s as though the gazelles were given bazookas, and nobody told the lions. The story grips, but never really scares.
Go to The Shining if you’re looking for terror. Doctor Sleep has more subtle things to offer. It’s about redemption, and escape from yourself. While not King’s best, it remains a powerful and compelling fable, all the more so for those of us who have also bounced off the bottom. While The Shining was bleak despair, Doctor Sleep is hope, balancing the scales for the Torrance family and the reader both.
Whitstable, Stephen Volk – One of the five best books I read this year.
Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares, James Lovegrove – Sherlock Holmes has always been a fantastical character, a hero larger than life with extraordinary and unlikely abilities, and he’s well suited to adventures of a strange and uncanny nature. In this rollicking yarn, Lovegrove bleeds a little of the steampunk genre into the great detective’s world, and does it in so careful and explicable a way that the resulting story does not feel terribly out of place next to Doyle’s original tales. A key part of the blend is Watson’s narration, so impeccably depicted here that it carries a weight of splendid authenticity, and sells the added elements with delightful authority. What usually suffers in new fictions such as this is Holmes himself, who can sometimes take second fiddle to new gimmicks. Not here. Holmes is dominant throughout, and exactly the powerhouse of deduction you would expect. Great fun.
Beautiful Chaos, Gary Russell – Beautiful Chaos is among the best thought of among the New Series Doctor Who novels, and much of that appears to derive from a deeper than expected look into the marvellous Wilf Noble (as portrayed by Bernard Cribbins), grandfather of Donna, and the man who would ultimately kill Tennant’s 10th Doctor on the tellybox. He is indeed well captured, full of charm and pathos, and that elevates what is otherwise a fairly dull adventure. Donna and the Doctor are both well captured in some aspects, but unfortunately these tend to be at the shallower end of their portrayals, perhaps in an attempt to move the pace along with forced banter. The story itself is so standard it doesn’t bear much of a review, although there are some nice action set pieces to keep things snapping along. It by no means fails as a Doctor Who story, but it doesn’t live up to the potential of its sub-plots or the splendid Wilf Noble.
Portents, ed. Al Sarrantonio – I hate the genre classification ‘quiet horror’. It creates for me an entirely false preconception that the stories it describes are going to be dull. I rarely feel the urge to read dull stories, and so tend to avoid those that have been described as ‘quiet’. On the other hand, Al Sarrantonio is one of the finest anthologists around, and his name is on many of my favourite collections of fiction. On that basis, I picked up this book, and I’m glad I did. The editor and his authors give short shrift to my preconceptions, and demonstrate that quiet horror has serious teeth. Only a couple of stories failed for me – in this instance I found Ramsey Campbell’s offering to be too much style and too little substance – but in general this is a book of superior and gripping horror fiction from some of the best of the genre’s recent practitioners.
Zenith Lives!, ed. Stuart Douglas – A villain from a bygone age, Zenith the Albino was the nemesis (well, one of them) of Sexton Blake, a detective character who bore not a little resemblance to Sherlock Holmes. At the time of this book being produced, Obverse Books had yet to secure the rights to use Sexton himself, but no such issues surrounded the albino prince of thieves Monsieur Zenith. Mark Hodder provides a blisteringly good opener that smartly lays out all you need to know of Zenith’s pulpish background in the context of cracking yarn of double crossing and heists. George Mann cleverly weaves the albino into his own steampunk mythos, though his tale is perhaps less effective for being a second perfect introduction to the character when we’ve already had an excellent one. Stuart Douglas closes the book with a melancholic piece of pulp, in which Zenith’s greatest challenge might be the passing of the ages. It’s a lovely way to end the collection, while allowing that this character has potential in spades. Paul Magrs and Michael Moorcock are on hand as well, each offering their own takes on the mythos that didn’t grip me as firmly as the three already mentioned but that successfully open up the focus of the book.
Banquet For The Damned, Adam Nevill – I couldn’t finish the thing. Picking it up for another chapter felt like a punishment. I’ve had so many people recommend this book that I feel almost guilty for having so many problems with it, but I do. Characters spend brief sojourns speaking like actual people do before collapsing into the narrative voice. They introspect tirelessly, and tiresomely, sucking life out of the plot (which I kept zoning out of). The prose is a bloated, turgid mess, working too hard to impress and forgetting to progress. I can accept that, very occasionally, a sky or a room might be illumined instead of just being ‘lit’. When both are illumined within pages of each other, I want to commit hate crimes against thesauri. The intent to indulge language to evoke some earlier phase of gothic literature feels misguided in a modernist setting, and so gallingly pretentious at my expense that it actually started to anger me. I did not enjoy this. Not one bit.
Dracula Cha Cha Cha, Kim Newman – Third book in the Anno Dracula series, and this time Newman takes his vampire heroines to Rome, 1959, to attend the wedding of the greatest vampire. Newman practically invented metatextual fiction, in which characters and images from other things are woven through new novels (Alan Moore gets the credit for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but Anno Dracula was there first). Here he pushes that almost to the point of exhaustion, with a myriad cameo appearances infecting the plot. Some are delightful and others meaningless. While James Bond, Orson Welles, and Tom Ripley each find places in the action, there are a lot of superfluous faces coming and going. I enjoyed it, but it was almost too much. The plot itself blends genres, wrapping a giallo murder mystery around the tent poles of Dracula’s marriage and the death of one of the mainstay characters of the series so far, and a very entertaining romp it is too. As an extravagant bonus, the book contains a second shorter novel – Aquarius – set in London a decade later, as revolution infects the populous. This piece is a little more restrained with its name-dropping, and is perhaps the more tightly orchestrated of the two stories. I had no idea it was included, so it came as a splendid surprise.
The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage, Derek Landy – A fast, funny visit with the Tenth Doctor and Martha. It’s a delirious trip into fiction and story, that’s not blind to how much it is borrowing from the Second Doctor’s own era (the Doctor makes several references to the Land of Fiction, which this isn’t but which it might as well be). It’s all so much fun that even the hardest Whovian would struggle to pick fault with the repetition. The dialogue is particularly good, and Ten’s bouncy arrogance is played perfectly. An old idea, nicely repackaged and given a modern day shot of adrenaline.
The Silent Stars Go By, Dan Abnett – Of the various Doctor Who novels I’ve read, this is probably the most straightforward. Abnett absolutely nails Eleven, Rory, and Amy from the first page, and throws them into an adventure that’s breathless and effective. It’s very visual, so much so that it’s hard not to see it as it would be on the tellybox, perhaps as a xmas special. That’s both its great strength (it gives you exactly what you expect, to a comparable standard to the show that it’s based on) and its great weakness (it tries nothing new, and doesn’t use the expanded canvas of a novel to push the format). If you want an original story that’s the same as the stuff on the telly, this is the book you should choose. I’d have preferred more ambition, but it’s hard to fault a novel that’s this much fun.
Nothing O’Clock, Neil Gaiman – Witty, creepy, and breathlessly paced, this is a fine end to this anniversary series of original Doctor Who shorts. The Kin are a deliciously odd villain, juxtaposing two less sinister archetypes to create something uniquely Gaimanesque, and their scheme to conquer the earth by effectively buying it and evicting the current tenants is smart and funny. There are some less than usual time travel applications too, so good that you find yourself wondering how on earth nobody has done them before. If there’s a problem with the book, it’s only the length. Too many good ideas for the page count, which leaves all of them under-served by the resolution. A very good read though, whatever your age.
Things Slip Through, Kevin Lucia – Full disclosure. I haven’t seen a finished copy of this book. I read a pre-publication draft for the author, who was looking for first thoughts and feedback. With that in mind…
This is a collection of Lucia’s previously published stories and some new work, bound up in a framing device that slyly turns the whole thing into a novel without you really noticing. As a collection this is excellent. The first few stories are good, and then they hit another level with ‘The Sliding’ and stay there. The framing device, in which a sherriff investigates why so many strange things happen in the little town of Clifton Heights, elevates the whole – it’s a smart and convincing way to make this more than the sum of its parts, and loads each story with Easter Eggs as you spot how they relate to one another. The book is also, simply, extremely readable. I enjoyed the characters enormously. They’re easy on the ear, and convince as a selection of everyday folk having their lives disrupted by the uncanny. A constantly entertaining book that makes small town US horror fresh again.
And that’s it. I’m in Hong Kong at the moment (this blog should post itself on the 31st), so may have finished other books by now. I’ll add those to my 2014 list.
Currently reading (novel): Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
Currently reading (novel): Jonny Alucard by Kim Newman
Currently reading (short stories): The Weird, edited by Jeff Vandermeer.
Currently reading (short stories): Gotrek and Felix: The Anthology, edited by Christian Dunn.
Tagged 2013, a big hand for the doctor, a blink of the screen, a w bates, adam nevill, adharanand finn, al sarrantonio, alanna knight, alex scarrow, banquet of the damned, beautiful chaos, ben aaronivitch, burke & hare (crime archive), burning with optimism's flames, cabal, charlie higson, chiral mad, clive barker, creakers, dan abnett, david allen, david tallerman, derek landy, doctor sleep, dracula cha cha cha, earthworld, eion colfer, faction paradoc, fear of the dark, fitz-james o'brien, gareth roberts, gary russell, george mann, getting things done, horns, j k rowling, jacqueline raynor, james lovegrove, jay eales, joe hill, jonathan morris, justin cronin, kevin lucia, kim newman, kristine kathryn rusch, last of the gaderene, lisa rosner, london falling, louis de bernieres, m a dunham, make good art, malorie blackman, marcus sedgwick, mark gatiss, matt schiariti, medi evil 2, michael bailey, michael koryta, michael scott, moonlands, neil gaiman, nothing o'clock, of the city of the saved, only human, patrick ness, paul cornell, paul finch, paul kane, peter a hancock, philip purser-hallard, philip reeve, players, portents, reading list, red dog, remembrance of the daleks, richard iii and the murder in the tower, running with the kenyans, saladin ahmed, scream of the shalka, sherlock holmes, sould masque, spore, stephen baxter, stephen cole, stephen king, steven savile, stuart douglas, ten little aliens, terrance dick, terry grimwood, terry pratchett, the anatomy murders, the anatomy of robert knox, the beast of babylon, the casual vacancy, the deputy, the diamond lens and other stories, the executioner's heart, the festival of death, the freelancer's survival guide, the mystery of the haunted cottage, the nameless city, the ridge, the ripple effect, the roots of evil, the silent stars go by, the spear of destiny, the stuff of nightmares, the twelve, the way of the leaves, the wheel of ice, things slip through, thrones of the crescent moon, tip of the tongue, trevor baxendale, victor gischler, words with fiends, written in stone, zenith lives!