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Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes

51zj-nLhlaL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_A flashback, as I reviewed Nineveh a few years ago - I'm a Nineveh hipster!

However, the topic is well worth revisiting, as this excellent book is now published in the US and UK. You can find it on Amazon [that American cover is amazing!] and in the UK through Belgravia Books (as well as other retailers).

Katya Grubbs is an exterminator - more a relocator, actually, as she’s a fundamental believer in vermin’s right to life. A swarm of mysterious beetles infests an idyllic suburb and Katya is hired to do her thing. Her investigation brings her in contact with pests of all shapes and sizes - including the suburb’s sleazy developer and her own wayward father.

Despite the lack of any SF/F elements, Nineveh is a contemporary urban fantasy classic, along the lines of Zoo City and King Rat; a tale about a hidden world and the people (or creatures) that live beneath our notice. Katya is an exterminator with a heart. Eschewing her father's brutal approach to the job, Katya tries to move the insects rather than killing them.

Her standards - ethical, moral, professional - are all put to the test when a wealthy developer hires her to clear his new suburb of a beetle infestation. This is where things get creepy, crawly and a little bit chilling. The beetles don't behave the way bugs should, the previous exterminator on the job was her (mysteriously absent) father, and the property itself is inherently disturbing: a surreal landscape of abandoned wealth and unfinished buildings.

Nineveh works excellently as a metaphor for gentrification and class structure, but, for me, the real strength was in Katya's own journey - an exploration of empathy and the tenuous impossibility of finding balance. Katya tries to travel between two worlds; she's a good soldier and a loyal daughter, but also attempting to adhere to a greater moral code. The resulting novel is a haunting mystery and a perceptive character study; an unsettling and gorgeous tale of what lies beneath.

[Editor's note: Londoners, there's a launch gig tonight at Gallic Books!


Ramón K. Pérez: a man of many styles

Wow

It’s not unusual for a comic book artist’s style to develop or progress as their career continues. It’s a bit rarer for an artist to totally change their style or technique over time or between projects, although many artists do experiment. It’s rarer still for an artist to use two totally different styles or techniques at the same time, in the same book and even on the same page... but one who does is top comic artist and cartoonist: Ramón K. Pérez.

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Review Round-up: The SPFBO Finalists (Part 2)

I've reviewed four of this year's #SPFBO finalists already - you can find those here, as well as my (slightly whiny) approach to scoring. The best way to keep up with all the reviews is through this page, where organiser-and-author Mark Lawrence keeps track of the scores and reviews.

This set includes assassins and demons and all sort of fantastic goodies, so let's get stuck in.

51PgaT9Q0sL._SY346_Assassin's Charge by Claire Frank

A throwback! Huzzah! Assassin's Charge is easily one of the most readable of the finalists - a zippy, accessible fantasy that's quick to pick up and easy to read. Rhisia Sen is one of the classic fantasy tropes: the badass assassin. We're introduced to her in all of her badass glory: she plots a job, does some remarkable gymnastics, flings awesome gear about and, steely-eyed, gets the job done. Then she returns home to her mansion, gets pampered, has sex with gritty boy-toys, and is generally, you know, badass.

Except even Rhisia's badassery has its limits. Her handler gives her the job of a lifetime - an incredible payout that will allow her to retire in total luxury. She travels out to a village in the middle of nowhere, ready to do her assassination thing, but... the job is a kid (child, not goat). Rhisia's heart might be badass, but it still beats. In an unprecedented act of unprofessional behaviour, she calls the job off.

Unfortunately, the job has other ideas. It turns out that Rhisia's handler - backed by the Emperor himself - has betrayed her. And Rhisia now has a price on her head. With her (still-breathing) victim in tow, and a sexy smuggler to help, Rhisia sets out to solve the mystery, turn the tables and, of course, save her skin.

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Stark Reviews: Lemonade Joe (1964)

Lemonade Joe

Stark says: “Wounds, shock, sore feet, Kolaloka will cure all!”

Ever since I staggered headfirst into a clip from Lemonade Joe on YouTube, I’ve been dying to review it. “Who the hell is that?” I thought, watching a man with a curly moustache prance through a musical routine, “what is this film? Why are those Jan Švankmajer-style wax heads spinning around? Wait, IS THIS A WESTERN?”

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Review Round-up: The SPFBO Finalists (Approach & Part 1)

51Q4ahBJtTLAfter months of tension and excitement and a lot of reading, we're now in the final round of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. 

Ten bloggers read 30 self-published books each. Every blog selected one book for the final. Now, all ten bloggers are reading all ten books in pursuit of FANTASY EXCELLENCE (or, at the very least, a winner). We're each moving at our own pace, so the best way to keep up is through this page, where organiser-and-author Mark Lawrence keeps track of the scores and reviews.

You can find links to reviews of my initial 30 here.

So... I hate doing ratings for books. Genuinely. For long-term readers of this blog (hi mom!), you'll know that we haven't scored a book since 2010. In fact, in one of the few blatantly self-serving acts of revisionism I've ever committed, in 2011ish, I went through and deleted all the scores from previous reviews. I really don't like rating books.

However, I completely understand the need for some sort of judging system for the SPFBO, which features ten multiclass blogger/judges with very, very different tastes and scoring standards. So, I've embraced the chaos, and used numbers. Basically, this is a disclaimer that my numbers are just my numbers and OH GOD NEVER AGAIN. Also, please remember that the way judging works means I'm reviewing ten books that I didn't 'pre-select', so, naturally, they're not all going to be to my personal taste.

So, all caveats said and done, let's hand out the first batch of arbitrary numbers! 

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Radio Drama: "The Willoughby Obsession" (1980)

Pocket watch

"The Willoughby Obsession" first aired in 1980 on Nightfall.

Thoughts Before Listening

Hallo dears. Today I have decided to listen to something called "The Willoughby Obsession" from Nightfall. This show might be exciting because ‘obsession’ is a very exciting word and so is ‘Willoughby’. Due to racism, I also believe that this will be Downton Abbey, Dr Who and Call the Midwife all mixed together. I’m not sure if my Indian culture will prevent me from understanding all the words. It probably will.

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From tiny acorns... the growth of Giant Days

Giant Days

Most media artifacts come to the public fully formed, the creative process long since edited away or consigned to the rubbish bin. With comic books that process has typically been more open to the public. For starters, when following a long-running series over a number of years, you can see how characters and concepts grow and change in time. If the series has the same creative team you may also see how an artist’s style or a writer’s craft develops as they gain experience.

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2000AD: Why is Judge Dredd so damn good anyway?

Dredd

As 2000 AD reaches its landmark 2,000th issue, it seems like an appropriate time to look back at the weekly anthology’s greatest creation: Judge Joe Dredd.

First appearing in 1977 in the second prog of 2000 AD, created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, Dredd is a hard-line law enforcer in the dystopic future, dispensing justice in the enormous Mega-City One. The character has gone on to star in pretty much every subsequent issue of 2000 AD, spawned numerous spin-offs and two feature length films. So, 1,999 issues since he first appeared, just why is Judge Dredd so appealing?

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