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New Releases: The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

The Reapers are the Angels The Reapers are the Angels is a post-apocalyptic zombie thriller, combining the best of both genres. It is a stunning, character-driven, evocative narrative that shares more in common with Jack Kerouac than George Romero. Author Alden Bell has effectively written that dusty coming of age standard, the road trip, but in an entirely different way.

The protagonist, Temple, is a young woman of indeterminate age. One of the children born after the apocalypse she has, in effect, inherited the earth. Whilst the older generation still clings to conventional ideas of community and desperate attempts at a pre-zombie normalcy, Temple is most comfortable on the road. She's an adventurous spirit and, most importantly, a survivor.

In The Reapers are the Angels, Temple's peregrinations take her through the Southeast and Texas. Initially, she's just motivated by her instinctual urge to keep ahead of the zombies ('slugs' or 'meatskins'). It doesn't take long, however, before she picks up a sidekick and, more inconveniently, pisses off a bloodthirsty evildoer. It becomes the unlikeliest of races: can this young girl deliver her mentally-challenged ward to his family before she's hunted down by a killer?

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Underground Reading: The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

Way of Shadows The Way of Shadows is the first volume in the "Night Angel" series by Brent Weeks. Attentive readers may notice that this results in an unsubtle combination of "night", "shadow" and "angel" on the front cover - plus a bonus nod to ninjas. Add in the predictable art of a hooded-but-oh-so-cool male model, and you've got yourself a fantasy bingo.

The story follows a young boy of uncertain ancestry who grows up on the streets of a bad, bad city. His name is AZOTH and he's really AWESOME.

He's like, stronger and smarter than the other kids, right? But he's still really nice and thoughtful and super-deep, so chicks and gay guys both dig him (not that Azoth is into guys) and he's really hot, even though he's a kid. He's SO BADASS that he can't hang out with the other kids, so he goes off to be a superASSASSIN called a WETBOY because he's so AWESOME that you have to make up new WORDS to describe him. [Editor's note: apparently this is also the term for someone that wets his pants for sexual pleasure...]

 And he gets, like, beat up a lot in training, but he's SO COOL that even his superASSASS...WETBOY BOSS is all like "AZOTH! YOU R SO AWSUM. YOU SHULD HAV MI BIG SWORD" and then Azoth is like, "Whatevah. I am too hard, I will just kick YOUR ASS TOO. (Also, I am not GAY. STOPPIT.)" and then like, kicks HIS ass.

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New Releases: Gods of Manhattan by Al Ewing

517RuLcdhNL._SS500_ I've never met Al Ewing, but I have a vision of him in mind as some sort of Wild West gambler and gunman - much like the notorious Doc Holliday.

"Yup," Ewing growls raspily, "I'll write in your world. (breaks to spit a long stream of tobacco on the floor) But I'm a-writin' it my way. You need my words? You got 'em. (shuffles cards with a flourish) But them words? They're mine. I ain't taking no responsibility for what happens next." (pats dancing girl on bottom, shoots bartender for short-changing him)

Take, for example, Death Got No Mercy, Ewing's outstanding contribution to the Afterblight Chronicles. Whilst the rest of the series oscillated between the blockbuster (Spurrier, Levene) and the somber (Andrews, Kane), Ewing's bizarre, legitimately post-modern, tongue-in-cheek contribution was from a different world altogether.

It was brilliant - there's no doubting it - but it was a disturbing, over-the-top, self-reflective type of brilliance that went somewhere very different than rest of the series. In Ewing's book, men punch bears. And then go on chapter-length explorations of the nature of authorship. Cross Joe Lansdale with Grant Morrison, and you start to get close to Ewing's take on the Afterblight.  

Meanwhile, in Pax Britannia, Ewing has skillfully eschewed every traditional steampunk convention and carved out his very own take on the New World. Jon Green owns Europe (as well as the oceans and, most recently, the moon), but once you cross the Atlantic, that territory is all Ewing.

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New Releases: The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud

Ring of SolomonFour years after completing the Bartimaeus Trilogy, Jonathan Stroud returns with a prequel set in the same setting. The Ring of Solomon is set several thousand years before the quasi-Victorian era of the previous books. The sarcastic djinni Bartimaeus is enslaved in an era best described as "Biblical".

For those unfamiliar with Stroud's world, The Ring of Solomon serves as an excellent introduction. Djinn (or 'demons') are summoned and enslaved by magicians. They're not very happy about it, but, generally speaking, don't have much control over things.

Bartimaeus is one of the djinn. Even counting for his unusually inflated ego, he's smarter than most - and certainly more troublesome.

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The biggest buzz at BICS? The Walking Dead. With Adlard present and the TV show looming, this wasn't a surprise.

What did stun us was the second-most-talked about book at the show - Ian Culbard's upcoming adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness. There's been a lot of Lovecraftian work over the past few years, but the new graphic novel from Self Made Hero may be the best of them all. Two dealers (including a prominent London shop), two artists and a well-known writer all slyly pegged this as the book to watch.

"I've spent the past six weeks in meetings with other publishers interested in giving us a new home, and I was gratified to receive offers from five of the firms we met with. They were all firms I respect greatly and would have enjoyed working with; but in the end, one stood out as clearly the best match, and that was Titan Publishing." -- Charles Ardai, Editor, Hard Case Crime

New Releases: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

340x_ship-breaker Ship Breaker (2010) is a young adult, post-apocalyptic, science fiction novel from Paolo Bacigalupi. The titular character is Nailer, a teenager who lives (barely) and works (hard) on one of the polluted coasts of North America.

Nailer is part of one of many hundreds of crews that swarm over derelict ships and dismantle them for their raw components. In the post-greenhouse-meltdown world, resources are scarce - if it weren't for the crews, there'd be no materials left at all.

Nailer's world is a brutal one. The crews are part of a nasty, feudal society. Teens like Nailer are caught between roles - growing too big to crawl through ducts in search of valuable wire, but not big enough to join the adults that dismantle heavy machinery. There's nowhere to fit in and, of course, no escape.

Nailer's luck takes a turn for the better when he makes a massive find. One of the newfangled, "swank" clipper ships has washed ashore. The only thing that stands between Nailer and valuable, life-changing salvage? The near-dead young girl that he founds on board.

Fortunately, this being a young adult book, so Nailer does the right thing. Also, she's hot.

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BICS, 9-10 October 2010

New cover4The 2010 British International Comic Show has come and gone (and with it, our annual pilgrimage to the wilds of Birmingham).

Although it is always great to see the Big Names - this year, the biggest were Charlie Adlard and Jonathan Ross - the real beauty of BICS is getting to meet the Names That Aren't Big Yet. There's a brilliant culture of talented, hard-working writers and artists, doing fantastic work.

Here are five of our favorites...

Fetishman: I'm pretty sure we wax poetic about the rude inkings of Doctor Geof after every major con, but he continues to outdo himself. Prints, magazines, buttons, medallions... there's a little bit of fetish for everyone. He combines genius with a terrifying work ethic: at every con he mentions his next Big Project and then, much to our surprise, it always seems to come about.

Rob Davis: Holy cow. Rob Davis didn't show up until the Sunday, and his work actually stopped us in our tracks. He creates absolutely stunning retro designs - both his own work and existing pop culture icons. Check out his amazing Doctor Who posters (off the back of some work he did for the BBC). He's currently at work creating an illustrated adaptation of Don Quixote - the full 500 pages. We saw some early sketches and they were astounding. 

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