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September 2012
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November 2012

New Releases: Brent Weeks' The Black Prism and The Blinding Knife

Black PrismNo one is more surprised than I am that I returned to Brent Weeks. The Way of Shadows (2008) was such a stunning example of LOLFANTASY that I vowed to keep my further Weeks-reading at arm's length. If not further.

Still, time heals all wounds and bloggers I really respect were all rating The Blinding Knife, book two in the AWSUM COLORZ series. The library turned up a copy of The Black Prism, so I took it as a sign and got to reading.

Generally speaking, I agree with the collective enthusiasm - Brent Weeks' recent books are a lot of fun. But are they great fantasy? Eh. I hope not. [There's also a generally-held view that The Blinding Knife is "the next level up" from The Black Prism. Although I'd happily agree that this new series is a vast improvement on the NITEANGELDARKAVENGERSTABFACE trilogy, I'm not sure there was a pronounced difference between its component books. In my mind, the AWSUM COLORZ series has already fused into single polychromatic volume. Possibly because there's no actual plot.]

First, let's just clear the air: the AWSUM COLORZ series is compulsively readable - in the sort of mass-market, just-off-the-trope, I'm-pretty-sure-I-know-what-is-going-to-happen-but-just-one-more-chapter way that I haven't really experienced since the first Peter Brett novel. There's nothing new here, but the presentation is addictive. Short, spicy chapters, generally with just enough action or world-building to tease you into the next scene. There are several viewpoint characters who all serve as a cliff-hanger Lazy Susan, revolving one after the other in perpetual peril. If a book's function is to be read, AWSUM COLORZ has it nailed: I read the books at night, in the morning, while cooking, while waiting for Avengers Alliance to load...

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The Kitschies & Pandemonium: November Events Calendar

Not sure how this happened, but get ready for a wild month:

Jurassic LondonSunday, 4 November:
The End of the End of the World

Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse goes out of print on 4 November, and the eBook will be removed from Amazon. So move quickly, that is, if you're interested in getting a copy of the collection called "extraordinary", "witty", "moving", "great", "wildly imaginative", "brilliant" and "utterly amazeballs". (That last one was from us.) (Amazon UK) (Amazon US) 

Saturday, 17 November:
The Kitschies present... Invisible Cities with Kate Griffin, Mark Charan Newton and Tom Pollock
(6 pm - 7.30 pm)

Three of the best new voices in fantasy all discussing urban and fantasy and cities and urban fantasy and civic fantasy and urban civility - moderated by Tom Hunter. Put together by The Kitschies, London Calling and The Kraken Rum, this promises to be a great evening at Foyles. Tickets (they're free, but you need 'em) here.

Wednesday, 28 November:
Thy Kingdom Come - Launch Night!
(6 pm - 7.30 pm)

Come join us at Blackwell's Charing Cross! Author Simon Morden will be reading and signing, we'll have stacks (well... a very small stack) of the limited edition of Thy Kingdom Come and loads of the brilliant Metrozone titles. Tickets (also free, but very handy to have) here. Facebook event here.

Thursday, 29 November:
A Town Called Pandemonium - Launch Night!
(6.30 pm - Whenever)

We'll be celebrating the launch of our newest anthology at The Royal George (not quite a Wild West saloon, but we'll try...). Authors Scott K. Andrews, Will Hill, Jonathan Oliver and Den Patrick (plus the lovely editors) will all be there for readings, signings and general mayhem. RSVP and whatnot on Facebook - space is limited, so please let us know if you can make it! 

Saturday, 1 December: 
Submissions deadline for The Kitschies

All books need to be in by 1 December! This means physically in-our-hands, not just "postmarked" or "emailed with a long explanation". If you're a publisher with questions about the submissions process (e.g. 'what books are eligible?' 'how many do you need?' and 'where do I send them?'), please read this and email that

Competition: Win a copy of Thy Kingdom Come [Deadline Extended!]

Cover - thy kingdom comeOur foxy edition of Simon Morden's Thy Kingdom Come is going quickly (huzzah!), and, at the rate we're going, it'll be sold out after the launch on 28 November

Here's a chance to get your paws on a copy of one of the 75 copies of this (extremely) limited edtion...

The cover and interior art for Thy Kingdom Come is by the astounding (nay - legendary) Joey Hi-Fi. (Fun fact: Mr. Hi-Fi is also signing bookplates for all 75 copies.)

But this isn't Joey Hi-Fi's only Jurassic London book. In fact, he's in three of them.

Email us at editor at with the details of all three Hi-Fi appearances, and we'll enter you in a drawing for a (signed, limited, numbered, super-sexy) copy of Thy Kingdom Come.

Here are some hints: one of the three is Thy Kingdom Come. Another is easily solved by flipping through the Pandemonium website (or one of our catalogues). The third, however, might take a bit more effort.

Competition ends at 6 pm, London-time, on Monday, 5 November. We'll even spring for shipping, anywhere in the world. [Deadline extended to Monday!]

Sam Wilson's Personal Apocalypses

Rather than going for a broad, top five list for my Pandemonium guest post, I’m going to do something a little smaller and more philosophical. I’m not enough of an Armageddon expert to be able to proclaim a top five with square-jawed authority, but there’s something about apocalyptic fiction that drives it straight into the territory of the Big Questions.

Of course, just because a story can get there, it doesn’t mean it’ll have convincing answers. Some of the books and films on this list get right to the edge of significance and then fuck it up, like a tourist at the Grand Canyon taking blurry photos of the tour bus. But even these disasters can be educational. So the apocalypses below aren’t necessarily my favourites. They’re just the ones that, intentionally or unintentionally, have made me wonder what’s really going on with post-apocalyptic fiction.


World_War_ZI might as well start with something I can recommend pretty much without reservation.

Max Brooks’ World War Z tells the story of a global zombie apocalypse through interviews with survivors over a decade later. What makes it particularly interesting is the detailed way it depicts the zombie infection spreading and society collapsing, aided by profiteering corporations, inept military strategy, bureaucratic bungling and short-sighted self-interest. It also speculates on the ways that different countries might deal with an extreme threat, recognising the plurality of human cultures. Rather than just saying “the world ends” it takes it apart piece by piece, laying out the parts like a technical diagram. It’s a thoughtful and engaging strategy, and reading the book made me realise something important about apocalyptic fiction: It’s almost impossible to create a story of the world falling apart without revealing, on a fairly deep level, how you see it right now.

Science fiction is mostly about the present to begin with, but apocalyptic fiction takes it a step further. It removes a fundamental part of our lives – civilisation – and then asks what’s left. It’s a great opportunity to reveal the world in a fresh way, and it’s pretty obvious when a post-apocalyptic writer is unable or unwilling to do that.

Contrast the clear-eyed detail of World War Z with…

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New Releases: The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 23

Best New Horror 23This year's edition of The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror contains some good stories, with tales by Joan Aiken, Ramsey Campbell, Christopher Fowler, Mark Samuels, Alison Littlewood, Paul Kane, Gemma Files and many others.

If you're looking for a book of good horror stories, there you go. This book does what it says on the tin. I'd read a few of these in their original publications, and it is good to see them all in one place. And for a good price. Etc.

Where the book gets a little more controversial (and therefore fun to review), is in its introduction. Editor Stephen Jones begins the book with a lengthy summary of the year in horror. For the most part, this is pretty dry. It is, after all, a survey, and the poor man has a lot to get through. Still, there's some cool stuff in here: auction prices for Universal Movie posters, for example, and a shout out to Stories of the Apocalypse (woo!). 

However, there are also some more provocative inclusions. Since I don't have my own Mammoth Book in which to respond, I figured I'd crack out a review instead.

After some deliberation, my issues with Mr. Jones' introduction fall into two broad categories:

1) He's using a professional platform to air personal grievances. Don't get me wrong, if I had something like Best New Horror at my fingertips, I'd be tempted to sneak in the occasional "hi mom" as well. But this isn't the place to settle old scores.

2) I disagree with his interpretation of events. Mr. Jones has the right to his opinion - he just can't let it colour what is set up as an authoritative review of the year in horror.  

2b) I've also got a big problem with his opinion.

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The End of the World by Den Patrick

Scary Pint

“I smell regret,” boomed Bumblefuck, taking a sip from my pint. So loudly, in fact, that a hen party across the street stopped giggling and retreated. One or two of them started crying. If you’d asked them why they wouldn’t have been able to tell you.”

"The End of the World"

Regret is a strange thing. It’s the burnt psychological fingers, the psychic pain of playing fire. You swear you won’t make that mistake again, and often you don’t, unless complacency slips in. People who routinely play with fire are either in denial or have behavioral problems. These are not mutually exclusive states.

Regret can also take the form of missed opportunities, a constant questioning of ‘what if things had better’. Nowhere would this feeling be more pronounced than at the end of the world, I imagine. The brink of destruction.

Without really intending to, I wrote a story about regret, which sounds intensely lofty, po-faced and Not Fun. Hopefully the reverse is true. The tale centers on a demon, who for the purposes of the story is called Speight. Demons are a fairly irredeemable lot, and everyone secretly loves the bad guy more that the hero (except for James Bond movies, perhaps). So what if our resident, irredeemable demon develops regrets? And what if there’s a very narrow window of time to set things right, if they can be set right at all?

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Thy Kingdom Come by Simon Morden - pre-order your copy now

We've also taking pre-orders for our first full-length non-anthology: Thy Kingdom Come, a collection of apocalyptic short stories by Simon Morden.

Cover - thy kingdom comeThe book has an interesting publication history. Thy Kingdom Come was first released ten years ago as a multimedia thingy (on CD). (You can read more about that on Mr. Morden's site.) But this is the collection's first publication "with pages", as he puts it. 

Thy Kingdom Come contains twenty interconnected stories. Ten follow Marty, a young boy in Plainview, Nebraska, and his coming of age in a terrifying new world of conservatism and fear. The other ten are scattered around Europe, where religious fanatics are trying to hasten the Second Coming by using nuclear weapons.

As a bonus, Thy Kingdom Come also serves as something of an origin story to Mr. Morden's Philip K. Dick Award-winning Metrozone series. Familiarity with the Metrozone certainly isn't required, but readers familiar with the series will be delighted to have a peek into some of the world's dark corners.

It is a truly exceptional book - I've had occasion to review it a few times in the past - and, despite being ten years old, is as meaningful and as accurate as it ever was. It is an honour for us to bring it back to readers. 

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A Town Called Pandemonium - Pre-order your copy now

We're now taking pre-orders for the latest Pandemonium anthology, A Town Called Pandemonium.

Cover - a town called pandemoniumA Town Called Pandemonium is a double experiment: it is a shared world and a Western. The original brief was more "Unforgiven" than "Wild, Wild West", but, despite our intentions, the town evolved to have a slightly unnerving style that is all its own.

The best word is probably "secretive". Pandemonium is a small town with vast depths. This mostly seen in its cast of characters, all of whom are amazingly realised.

The ten authors were all astoundingly creative, enthusiastic and (as is necessary in a shared world) flexible. We couldn't be more proud of the fruits of their labour:

  • Will Hill - "The Sad Tale of the Deakins Boys"
  • Sam Sykes - "Wish for a Gun"
  • Scott Andrews - "Grit"
  • Chrysanthy Balis - "Belle Deeds"
  • Joseph D'Lacey - "The Gathering of Sheaves"
  • Sam Wilson - "Rhod the Killer" (extract available here)
  • Jonathan Oliver - "Raise the Beam High"
  • Archie Black - "4.52 to Pandemonium"
  • Den Patrick  - "Red Hot Hate"
  • Osgood Vance - "Sleep in Fire"

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New Releases: Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Red CountryThere's a short review and a long review, so I'll lead off with the former, then get my rambling on. You have been warned.

Joe Abercrombie is probably the finest British fantasist of his generation. And by fantasist, I mean the uncut, unparsed definition of the profession: the sword-swinging, big world, explodey magic, epic type. Abercrombie writes the sort of dick-swinging ubermensch of David Gemmell (who, if I understand correctly, was the last British fantasy author to crack the bestseller lists), but with the added values of self-awareness and contemporary craft. Abercrombie's characters are flawed, not superheroic, and he puts them through their karmic paces. His stories combine tongue-in-cheek self-reflection with a strangely ethical (if not wholly moral) sense of justice. In Mr. Abercrombie's books, there's a single rule of law: everybody gets what they deserve.

[It is (and I understand there's some irony here), an absolute shame neither Best Served Cold nor The Heroes managed to pick up a single British, fantasy-focused award. In ten years' time, we're all going to look back and feel really, really sheepish about this.]

Meanwhile (and this is the short review, remember?): Red Country.

This is neither Abercrombie's best nor his worst, but, let's be clear - the 'average' Abercrombie is anything but, and this book still sits atop the rest of the fantasy field. Red Country contains all the vim and vigour (and violence and venality and variety and...) of his earlier works. It merely lacks a little of the subtlety.

The thematic origins of Best Served Cold and The Heroes were just that - origins. They served as inspirations that evolved into something new. Red Country tries too hard to establish itself as a Western. For the most part, Red Country is so immersive that the reader doesn't notice the seams. But there are instances where it stumbles; where the story fits the aesthetic and not the other way around.

Still, if you've been waiting for this year's big doorstop fantasy: Red Country is it. There's jaw-dropping violence, twists, turns and character arcs that prompt the occasional muted cheer. Abercrombie is fast supplanting George R.R. Martin as the standard by which all contemporary epic fantasy should be measured.

Read it. 

That's the short review. Now let's get cracking on the long one.

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On the Trail of the Black Dove by Lou Morgan

Black Dove image"At the Sign of the Black Dove" was, technically, the first short story I ever had commissioned. It wasn't the first I'd written, but it was certainly the first time anyone had ever asked me to come up with something to a brief.

Inspired by the paintings of John Martin, they said.

Apocalypse, they said.

Sure, I said.

And then I went and hid under my desk and rocked backwards and forwards for a bit, chewing on my fist, because… apocalypse, y'know? Where the hell do you start?

You start with a pub. Obviously.

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