news & reviews


Year’s Best Round-Up

A little indulgence, if you please. Nights of Villjamur has made it onto a few best-of-the-year lists published so far.

Speculative Horizons’ made it a top five read:

This was easily one of the most hyped books of the year, which as we all know is not always a good thing – whether or not that is the case depends on whether the book can meet readers’ heightened expectations. For me, Nights of Villjamur does.

Wertzone placed it at number eight:

Mark Charan Newton’s debut is a mix of the traditional secondary world fantasy, ‘icepunk’ and the New Weird, with a host of unusual characters caught up in events beyond their control.

OF Blog of the Fallen made it a top debut of the year:

Nights of Villjamur is an interesting hybrid novel. Combining elements of dying earth fiction with “weird” fiction (this is more apparent in his second novel, City of Ruin, of which I have read the first 100 pages or so in draft form before work demands deprived me of any real chance to resume reading it), Nights of Villjamur is a promising opening to a fantasy series.

Fantasy Book Critic placed it in the top ten of their mammoth list (over 200 books read!), and Aishwarya likes how my head works.


Where I Can Be Found In 2010

It looks like I’ll be heading to Eastercon this year, which is from the 2nd-5th of April, 2010, just outside London. I really enjoyed this one two years ago, when it was in the same hotel. It was pretty much a Who’s Who of British SF in that bar.

Before that, I’ll be at the SFX Weekender on the south coast, and apparently Tor UK have booked many of their authors into a beachfront cottage. (My deeply immature comments of us all going cottaging together have so far received no response from my editor, Julie.) This is the first year of the con, so I’ve no idea what to expect.

I will also be going to Alt Fiction – which is one of my favourite lit conventions – based in Derby, on Saturday 12th June.

There may well be more updates, and hopefully a signing or two.


Ebook Updates

I’ve had several emails about an ebook version of Nights of Villjamur, whether or not there would be one, so I thought I’d mention what was going on.

Yes, there is going to be a ebook version. Two, in fact. They’ll both be available around the same time, one from Pan Macmillan (Tor UK) when the paperback is released, and the other from Random House (Bantam Spectra), when the hardcover is released. Both will be released around the start of June. (Why does it feel like I’m cheating on Tor UK when I mention Bantam Spectra? Can I not love them both at the same time?)

You’ll have to check nearer the time what the pricing is going to be, before you run to your nearest torrent site.

As a slight tangent, I wonder, what are people prepared to pay for an ebook? I’d be intrigued if people would give their opinions in the comments – not that it’ll make a jot of difference to the plans of my esteemed Publishing Overlords. I’m a relatively new fantasy novelist – and this is the first novel in a series. What would you pay, honestly? What do you think should be the right price? What would make you pay more or less for one?


Busy, busy, busy

Life keeps getting in the way of interesting bloggage. But there will be UK paperback cover art forthcoming – just a few little tweaks to finalise, and we’re done. It is hugely different to the other covers, and I can tell it will divide opinion, but that’s all part of the fun, right? Right.

I’ll also have a really interesting piece on attitudes to tie-in fiction, which I’ll be posting on Jeff VanderMeer’s blog in the next week or so. It’s a conversation with Dan Abnett, a chap who’s sold over a million novels, and it’s hugely enlightening. I want to use the spotlight on this topic. I hope it has a significant impact on the views of people who look down on tie-in fiction.

On Thursday evening I’ll be doing a talk at the Nottingham Central Library – it’s more of an informal chat about tips to get published and whatnot. If you’re in the area, pop in and say hello.

Having submitted the final draft of City of Ruin a while ago, I’m now a little way into the third book in the Legends of the Red Sun series. I’m back in Villjamur now, which challenges my desires to do something different with each book. You know when you grow up in a certain place, then you go travelling, or live elsewhere, and when you go home everything feels a little weird? Well, it’s a bit like that. I’m not finding it difficult, and I’m not the sort of writer who gets writer’s block (my problem is pinning down a few ideas and not letting madness take over), but I can certainly now see the challenges in writing a fantasy series. I have new respect for the GRRMs of this world. Still, I’m certain I can make things interesting and challenging for myself – I don’t really see the point in writing unless it’s hard work.

Oh, and I’m currently reading Manhattan Transfer, but John Dos Passos, which I really recommend to anyone who wants to write about a city.

There. That wasn’t so boring now, was it?


Manuscript: In

It’s been a bit quiet on here recently, so apologies for that. I’ve handed in the final manuscript for City of Ruin, with the rewrites now finished. So we’ll be moving onto the line edits very soon, which is the point where a writer wishes to claw his or her own eyes out with a blunt instrument, having seen the manuscript far too many times.

It’s done. Everything is on schedule for June 2010, which, coincidentally, should be the same month that Night of Villjamur will be released by Random House in the US, and the paperback is released in the UK. It’s safe to say that I won’t be sleeping next summer if I wish to keep shamelessly whoring myself publicising the books.


Fortress of Solitude

Digging up some old (not that well-formed) notes on a book that I’ve been thinking about recently.

The Fortress of Solitude is a book that’s difficult to catagorise. With brief genre moments, and certainly many nods towards SF / comic book fandom, it describes the lives of two boys, Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude. One white, one black, both growing up in Brooklyn. Not a simple friendship.

The first and largest chunk of the novel is in third person, following mainly Dylan’s family as they move into the area of New York populated mainly by blacks, a decision spurred on by his Bohemian mother. It is here that Jonathan Lethem gets in full prose swing, clearly echoing Don DeLillo, in mood, pace, sentence structure. And for me that’s not a bad thing at all, since I consider DeLillo a major deity. I still think so little is ever discussed of style in books – perhaps it’s something not well understood, but it’s worth making a point here just how talented a stylist Lethem is.

Fifth grade was fourth grade with something wrong… The ones who couldn’t read still couldn’t, the teachers were teaching the same thing for the fifth time now and refusing to meet your eyes, some kids had been left back twice and were the size of janitors. The place was a cage for growing, nothing else.

One such sentence used to describe the poor quality education that Dylan must go through, and ultimately rise out of. Lethem’s voice is perfect to capture the world of 70s America, with all the music references, the language of the street, the graffiti, then the drugs. Lethem shows with warmness the racial tensions of the period, the yoking, the “yo, mama“, the social challenges. When he bursts into those stream-of-consciousness style sentences, he’s poetic.

Dylan being one of the only white boys in the area suffers, inevitably, but not without making friends along the way. His relationship with Mingus is distantly affectionate, and Dylan does his best to blend in with black culture, but his geek side is too strong for him to remain bound by Brooklyn. Of course, a magic ring is thrown into the mix, granting invisibility, something Dylan appears to have craved, and the powers of flight. (This ring was acquired from someone who was on the way out of society, who seemed relieved to be rid of it.)

Later the story breaks into first person, as we join Dylan after college, then looking back on college, before revisiting Brooklyn. You can’t help but by this point be totally immersed in his upbringing, so engaged, that this section stands up on the supporting frame of the third person narrative. They wouldn’t work without each other. Dylan is now suffering from an uncertain relationship with his past, almost unable to move on fully, Brooklyn never leaving him. Lethem writes with such an obvious love for the area. And all the time in the background is Dylan’s father, the painter of SF novel covers whilst working on a film, painstakingly, over the course of his life, never quite being finished. A relationship that is distant in the first section, ever more powerful towards the end of the novel. And of course there is the ring, revisited.

It is complex in places, hazy in others—but never meant to be clear. Only towards the end can we understand where he was going, and even then it is more of a feeling; something within ourselves, our own childhood and future concerns, perhaps, that is brought to mind.