File this somewhere under ‘happy fanboy’:
“Newton combines strange and vivid creations with very real and pressing concerns with estimable commitment and passion.”
news & reviews
Esteemed South African newspaper, the Mail & Guardian, cracks open Nights of Villjamur:
Nights of Villjamur is as much about the city of Villjamur — its squares, cafés and quartiers — as it is about situation or characters. Newton’s distinctive voice evokes a claustrophobic sense of place, as powerful as that of Jeff Vandermeer’s Ambergris, and much of his tale engages with what it means to live in — and be of — this city and what it means to be different. Slouching through the sleet-soaked streets are police investigators, assorted royals and aristocrats (some more insane than others), a country boy on the make and a career soldier trying hard to hold on to his ethics. Each has a rough-edged individuality and the intricate plot mixes elements of detection, horror and strategy with its sorcery and swords. Although the occasional jarring sentence suggests editor and writer are still meshing their skills, Nights of Villjamur introduces an intriguing, intelligent new fantasy voice.
And a hurrah for that. What intrigues me most of all is just how much coverage this newspaper has given to fantasy fiction – that’s very encouraging to see, and I wish more British newspapers would take notice.
When first thing in the morning you see China Miéville cooking eggs for Peter Hamilton, you know it’s not going to be normal weekend. I realise that sentence implies something earthy happened the night before, and given China’s remarkable ability to deploy the opening riff of Let’s Get It On several times over the weekend, who could blame me for such an interpretation.
In addition to the above, myself, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Julie, Chloe and Amy from Pan Macmillan, were all sharing a bucolic, charming cottage, which was a (hefty) stone’s throw from the beach. There were wooden floorboards, comfy sofas, a huge kitchen, and everything had that retro-chic touch that makes homeware addicts froth.
I feel I should point out that the Gollancz authors were herded into chalets at Pontins (note the review titles “Hell on earth” and “never ever again”). Clearly, the gods did not favour them, and some would blame Simon Spanton for renting such dire accommodation. (If a Gollancz author is reading this, I’d email him with more ostentatious demands in future.)
It wouldn’t be an SF con without the stormtoopers, of course, and they were there on the doors of Pontins Camber Sands. (As an aside, I heard Darth Vader had an issue ordering Doritos from the bar – one of the many reasons I love these conventions.) There was a pungent, cavernous stage area rammed full of dealers and fans, and being Pontins, there was a grotty arcade in which to waste away and spare change.
Oh yeah, there were some panels and stuff (the reason we were there) and they were all good fun. Kudos to Dave Bradley in particular for seeing through the literary events. Mostly, these were held in the corner of a bar, which had its problems (couldn’t hear a lot of what was going on when full of people), but also its charms (a fun atmosphere, alcohol). This was one of the first few cons I’ve been going to as Proper Writerly Person, so I was impressed with how thoroughly all the writers mingled and, with all those egos contained in one room, it didn’t end in fisticuffs. And it was good to meet online folk in the flesh. It reassures me that when I type in this box, it’s not simply white noise being lost into the aether.
The only issue I had this weekend was with the Playstation music game, which sprightly agent Simon Kavanagh of the Mic Cheetham agency had brought in randomly for us to play. I’m hugely competitive at such things, and Paul Cornell stuffed me into second place, so he and I are done professionally.
And I really have to thank the ladies of Macmillan for really looking after their authors. I felt terribly guilty sipping wine whilst they frantically rushed around to make sure we were all fed and watered and generally happy. Which we were. (I know you might think I *have* to say that because they’ll be reading this blog, but it also happens to be true.)
I heard tell of an SFX Weekender 2, next year, so if you missed it there might be another chance.
UPDATE: If you did miss it, I found a photo set of the weekend on Flickr.
In addition to the other panels/sessions, I’ll also be appearing on Friday night’s panel “In these days of globalisation and the Internet, is there still such a thing as British SF and Fantasy”. I’ll be alongside Paul Cornell, Stephen Hunt, and Peter Hamilton.
I think my answer will be a vague yes and no, and I might sound
grumpy realistic about modern publishing. (I can see my editor rolling her eyes right now.)
Hope to see you there.
Also, I’m hearing interesting noises about the release of Nights of Villjamur in the US. More news as and when I have some.
This weekend, I’ll be attending the SFX Weekender, at Pontins in Camber Sands. Yes, that’s right – Pontins. I think the plan is for authors to don brightly coloured blazers and work the crowd through Steps songs.
A bunch of genre folk will be on hand to give indispensable advice and witticisms on all things science fiction and fantasy. I am included in that list of genre folk, and I think (for these things can change) I will be doing the following things:
13.00 – 14:00 Workshop – How to get published (a Q&A for would-be authors). I believe I’m on this with my editor, so expect me to offer hugely controversial titbits only to be slapped down by her.
15:00 – 15:30 Some sort of interview type thing with Sandy Auden.
16.30 – 17.30 Panel – Is spin off, shared universe, tie-in and franchise literature under-appreciated?
So please come along to any of these if you want to have a chat with me/insult me/offer me gifts.
The most amusing matter to share is that the Tor/Pan Macmillan authors will all be sharing a beachfront cottage for the weekend. Together. With editor and publicist.
I’m seeing it like a mix of The O.C. and The Big Bang Theory. There exists the potential for an amusing situation comedy to be spawned from our experiences – I’m emailing ITV right after this. But of course, the question you’re all going to want to know is, will I beat China Miéville at Top Trumps?
Seems as though I’m late to my own party. Whilst the interwebs was busy fluttering with this news, I was getting my haircut and buying new shoes, and then I’ve got to cook dinner for four tonight. But anyway:
PRESS RELEASE – 28th January 2010
SECOND TWO-BOOK DEAL WITH TOR UK FOR MARK CHARAN NEWTON
Julie Crisp, Senior Commissioning Editor at Tor UK at Pan Macmillan has concluded a second two-book world rights deal for UK fantasy author Mark Charan Newton, for an undisclosed five-figure sum. The agent was John Jarrold.
These books continue his Legends of the Red Sun series that opened with Nights of Villjamur, which Tor UK published 2009. The second title, City of Ruin, will be published in June 2010, together with the first in paperback. US rights to both those titles have been acquired from Macmillan by Bantam.
‘I’m delighted that we’ve been able to set up a second deal before Mark’s first novel is even out in paperback,’ said John Jarrold. ‘That speaks highly both of his writing and of Julie’s enthusiasm for the series.’
Julie Crisp commented: ‘Working with Mark on such an exciting series has been wonderful. Everyone here at Tor UK is thrilled that we’re able to continue with this talented author and we look forward to the fans’ reactions to the news that there are forthcoming titles.’
Mark Charan Newton is in his twenties, and lives in Nottingham. He previously worked as an SF buyer in a major bookstore chain.
Praise for Nights of Villjamur:
‘A dark epic which shows its debt to Gormenghast: death stalks the shadows and scheming, idiosyncratic characters have their own agendas. This is fantasy with vast scope and ambition… a complex, eldritch vision.’ The Guardian
‘At its best, I was reminded of Jack Vance or Gene Wolfe… this is a promising start to a series worth pursuing.’ The Times
‘While the sun over Villjamur is dying, Mark Charan Newton’s star as a writer is burning with a fierce talent.’ Stephen Hunt
Contact John Jarrold or Chloe Healy, Press Officer at Tor UK, for further information:
John Jarrold: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org phone 01522 510544.
Chloe Healy: e-mail email@example.com phone 020 7014 6186
A few comments starting to roll in already for City of Ruin.
in this second book of Legends of the Red Sun series, Newton is braver. He mixes the same ingredients he let us taste in Nights of Villjamur but his elixir is bolder this time. I imagine there’s a risk in being brave, but I think Newton does an excellent job in keeping the reader captivated and surprised, and in creating an unusual setting that is not absurd but that creates an intriguing world full of mysteries and astonishments…
Mark cut loose a little on this book, it’s not just a repeat of the excellent Nights of Villjamur, the story has advanced and moved away from the political intrigue to more practical matters like feeding a city with a war coming and ensuring there is an escape route for the civilians. The forthcoming invasion by the Okun has to be prepared for and as always, everyone has their own problems to distract them. To add to all of this things are getting a little weird within the city itself. The characters are delightfully complex, the most repugnant behaviour tempered by some sympathetic moments, these are characters I can fret about and worry between chapters what will happen to them.
These were from PDF copies, so if any reviewers are interested in getting their paws on a file, drop me a line.
The mighty Adam Roberts has gone to town on – or more specifically to – Villjamur over on his Punkadiddle blog.
At its best, though, this novel is doing something really quite interesting, stylistically speaking. Where Fat-Fantasy convention requires clear, kinetic bright-colour satisfactions, he is aiming for something more alienated, snowed-in and bare. Take this description of sunrise, for instance; right out of Waiting for Godot: ‘dawn broke with ferocious speed, shadows chased off the ice in the blink of an eye’ . The city is most memorably evoked when Newton stops trying to build New Viriconium, and channels instead the unreal city of the Waste Land (and Eliot is somewhere behind this novel: ‘this is the way the world ends—not with a bang but with a fucking big bang’ 157). I liked this aurora: ‘vivid streaks of red and green drifting across the darkness like sheets of rain’ ; and this fire: ‘Night, and a small fire had been built on the surface of the ice, transforming the cultists into strange purple silhouettes.’ The whole needs to be more consistently tonally ragnarökkric, like this, I think. But I enjoyed it, and Newton looks like a writer on his way somewhere very interesting.
I’m delighted to have been Punkadiddled. It’s a very thorough review (if not completely complimentary as you’d expect from such a ruthless literary figure), and one certainly worth linking to. I like the fact he touched on some of the deliberate mishmash of certain aesthetics and values, particularly of the “Heroic and Bourgeois” modes, which many have – quite understandably – overlooked.
Many have suffered from their Punkadiddling, but I’m happy to have survived.
I don’t want to get into discussing things like New Weird or Old Peculiar, and I’m not going to pretend that I can do a good job at it. All that I know is that Newton has created an amazing story that dances among various genres and sub-genres. It is a dangerous thriller but it also contains traits of horror. It is fantasy but it also touches science-fiction. All this is mixed so well in this book that it was a true delight to read.
If I had read Nights of Villjamur in 2009, the year of its publication, it would have been one of my top two books of 2009. Now that I read in 2010, even though the year is very young, it’s going to be hard to best it. The bar is raised very high.
Note: he’s also reading City of Ruin – so if you’re a reviewer and want a PDF, drop me a line.
And in other business, do you wish you could start up a review blog and talk shop? Well, have a look at The Speculative Scotsman. In a remarkably short period of time he’s built up an attractive, intelligent, regularly updated and well-connected site. There’s a good mix of opinion and review, as well as a healthy dose of cynicism. It’s a lesson in how to get started.
SF Crowsnest magazine this month contains a rather lovely and lengthy review of Nights of Villjamur.
It kicks off with:
I will now admit that this was great. A great novel, hear that?
And ends with:
The whole book accomplishes the task of setting up the series in a promising and rewarding way. The characters are genuine, the action is well paced and bloody and the bad guys are humanly evil. Do you like you fantasy twisted, epic and bloody? You’ll love this. If you’re not into the above then I think you’ll still love it.
Splendid. It’s strange, looking at reviews for Nights, now I’ve written another book in the series – especially given how different the tone of City of Ruin is. I mean, it feels like a totally different bit of writing altogether, and my mind has been examining new characters and themes for over a year. So reading what people thought of the first requires me to wind the mental clock back a year. I suppose I’ll have to get used to it with the US release, too. (I can hear you now, you sarcastic lot, ‘Oh you poor, poor authorial lamb, such agony!’ – I’m not expecting sympathy, I’m just saying it’s weird!)