news & reviews

1May

Forbidden Planet Signing, Thursday 4th June, 6 – 7pm

A press release from Forbidden Planet!

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Diary Date: Thursday 4th June 6 – 7pm

Forbidden Planet is pleased to announce a signing by Mark Charan Newton. He will be signing his astounding novel Nights of Villjamur the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Thursday 4th June 6 – 7pm

Already making a name for itself as ‘a contender for the best fantasy novel of 2009’, Nights of Villjamur is Mark’s epic debut work. With a richly convoluted plot and a corrupt and decadent culture, the story is told from multiple points of view, each with a distinct voice and agenda. Gloriously complex and beautifully evocative, Nights of Villjamur sets a new standard in fantasy fiction writing.

Born in 1981 and now live in Nottingham, UK, Mark writes strange and highly erudite fantasy fiction and brings a new level of literacy and awareness to the genre. When not wandering the streets of Villjamur, you’ll find him enjoying books, guitars, geeks, cheap indie-music bars – or escaping the big city completely.

Forbidden Planet is the largest store of its kind in the world. Some of the biggest names in Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Comics and Cult Entertainment have come to our London Megastore for signing events, including: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Terry Gilliam, Simon Pegg, William Gibson, Mark Millar, Guillermo Del Toro, Brian Froud and Stephen King.

For more news about our signings please go to: http://www.forbiddenplanet.com/Signings.html

Danie Ware
Tel: 020 7803 1890
Email: danie.ware@forbiddenplanet.com

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Note how I “enjoy”, amongst other things, geeks… (I think this was cut from the sidebar on the right, but hey, if you are a geek, chances are I will enjoy your company.)

29Apr

Fantasy Book Critic Review

Another one in, this time from the major blog Fantasy Book Critic. And it’s rather nice.

…not only did “Nights of Villjamur” fully meet my expectaions, it exceeded them, being a novel that I plan on re-reading several times in the future…

…a book that I couldn’t help but savor, lingering on several memorable passages, although there are various points when the action heats up so much, that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The novel re-reads extraordinarily well too since knowing what happens and having a better grip of the setting actually adds to the enjoyment.

My only complaint with the book is that I now have to wait a while for the next installment 🙂

In the end, even though it’s early yet, Mark Charan Newton’s “Nights of Villjamur” has established itself in my mind as a contender for Best Fantasy Novel of 2009.

17Apr

Graeme Visits Villjamur / As Does King Of The Nerds

Yep, I’m being solipsistic again. Here’s another review over at Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review.

I finally got round to picking the book up last weekend and finished it last night in a fit of ‘I can’t stop reading, I really must find out how it all ends…’ It turns out that everyone was right and my anticipation of ‘Nights of Villjamur’ was well founded…

… The bottom line is that Newton writes an engaging tale full of different subplots that all come together to form a picture you’d only half guessed at while you were reading. ‘Nights of Villjamur’ has something for everyone and it’s all good. If you’re after a noir thriller then follow Inquisitor Jeryd down the mean streets as he attempts to solve a murder that has everyone baffled. If you’re after something political then Villjamur is full of competing factions that are all out for power and will stop at nothing to get it. If all you want is a bit of honest thievery and the sound of swords clashing in anger then there is plenty of that as well.

The events portrayed in ‘Nights of Villjamur’ are guaranteed page turners and the characters involved are just as engaging. Newton takes his time going into what it must be like living in a world approaching its end and how this can affect people’s decisions. Some characters stick to what they know whether that’s the upholding of the law or following their own base desires. In a dying world where change can be seen as pointless some characters do develop and these journeys are the ones that are worth following. There is enough going on in these pages to make reading the sequel pretty much essential as far as I’m concerned…

Nine and a Quarter out of Ten

I don’t know where I lost that .75 of a point. Must. Try. Harder.

And here’s another just in, from King of the Nerds (what a great blog name!):

This was by and large one of the best titles I’ve read this year. Had Tor U.K. not sent me an ARC for review I’d be converting my dollars into pounds and not regretting that fact for a single moment…

The subtle blending of fantasy, horror, noir, and fantasy results in an interesting and enthralled final product that has a lot to offer just about any reader. Marketing material and reviews mentioned Charon amongst such speculative fiction luminaries as M. John Harrison, Stephen Erikson, and even China Mieville. To an extent those comparisons are accurate but to be fair I think Newton has managed a synthesis of styles that deserves to be examined in its own right rather than solely with the context of his literary forbears. As I’m almost certain I’ve mentioned before that is courtesy I do not necessarily extend every book my way. As a debut novel (at least with a major publisher, The Reef had a small print run but I might have to track it down anyway, but even as a second novel) Nights of Villjamur is surprisingly mature bit of prose that I would hope to see on any list of modern fantasy classics and in the coming years I’m willing to be we’ll be seeing Newton’s name amongst those aforementioned luminaries (maybe on some other new author’s book). As I said before there is no official U.S. date, a shame for fantasy fans here stateside and the U.K. market has to wait to June to pick this one up. This is a book that fantasy fans are going to want read; highly recommended.

Now that’s set the weekend up very nicely indeed.

14Apr

Review @ The Agony Column

Rick Kleffel over at the popular review site The Agony Column has written up a lovely review of Nights of Villjamur.

an impending ice-age, driving refugees to seek solace in a city that takes its cues from The Pessimist’s Guide to the Afterlife, a city populated by cults like that of Sri Chinmoy, a city where the dead are banging at the gates. That would be Villjamur, where a variety of intriguing characters are on a collision course, none of whom is a wise wizard waiting to retire, a farm-fresh country boy with a special destiny or hot farm girl handy with a sword. Instead, you get a dash of Lear, with a King’s daughter, and, always a great sub-plot driver for entertaining fantasy, a murder mystery. Cults, con-men and genocide round out this sunny vision without giving a single hint that everything will be solved in climactic sword fight between the farmboy and a wizened but magically-powerful antagonist.

This is all very well and good, but for readers, the proof is in the reading. Newton writes prose that’s both direct and detailed, moving the action but embedding it in a heavy, grungy atmosphere. He does a great job of integrating the supernatural, the science fictional and the surreal into his fantasy.

I’m sure someone is bound to rip into the book sooner or later. At this rate I’ll be getting a touch of the Joe Abercrombies…

6Apr

Aidan Reviews “Nights of Villjamur”

Aidan, over at SF/F blog A Dribble Of Ink, gives a very satisfying review of Nights of Villjamur, and picks up on all the main things I was hoping for: mainly that it can be enjoyed on numerous levels.

The most immediately jarring asset of Newton’s debut is the prose. Shockingly contemporary, one has to wonder if this tale of political intrigue might be set not on a fictional fantasy world, but in a far future version of our own, corrupted beyond recognition. Newton sets few ground rules with his prose – noirish and moody…

Certainly happy that the graft gets noticed!

Nights of Villjamur is being bandied about by reviewers and publicists as a literary fantasy, delving into the underused Dying Earth sub-genre and written to appeal to those looking for something more from their fantasy. While this is certainly true, I was surprised at how much more there was to the novel from the perspective of a Terry Brooks fan. I was worried I would find a dense, overwritten piece of philosophical literature hidden under a fantasy verneer (think Terry Goodkind’s Naked Empire, but not piss-poor), but what I found instead was a tightly plotted novel that worked just as well as a fantasy novel as it did a piece of introspective literature.

Splendid. Now, time for some beer.

30Mar

Major Book Club Deal

Some splendid news, as reported on my agent’s blog:

I’m delighted to say that the SF and Fantasy Book Club have selected NIGHTS OF VILLJAMUR by Mark Charan Newton (being published by Tor UK in June) as one of their ‘Cosmic 5’ debut titles for 2009 – this makes it one of their most important titles of the year, and it will receive major support in the club magazine and website.

Which is awesome.

27Mar

Updates, Age, etc.

Random posting. Tomorrow I hit 28 years old, which means I will have escaped the 27 Club, but I still have a few hours to go, of course. Going up north, hopefully loose myself here to contemplate time, and visit the very nice antique bookshop nearby.

I’m in the middle of tightening up the first draft of the second book, and would be making good progress if it wasn’t for Twitter. I’m also re-reading Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth, which is so much more surreal than I remembered.

And it’s nice to see M John Harrison causing a ripple or two across the interwebs.

16Mar

“The City & The City” by China Miéville

REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! In fact, there’s no way you can really look at the book in much detail without giving away the central premise, and I’d urge any other reviewers reading to bear that in mind. I’ve tried to limit them myself.

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I can’t find my collection of Borges’ Labyrinths, which is going to annoy the hell out of me, because I wanted to re-read the story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”.

In the story, an encyclopedia article about a mysterious country called Uqbar is the first indication of Orbis Tertius, a massive conspiracy of intellectuals to imagine (and thereby create) a world: Tlön… One of the major themes of “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” is that ideas ultimately manifest themselves in the physical world and the story is generally viewed as a parabolic discussion of Berkeleian idealism — and to some degree as a protest against totalitarianism… “Tlön, Uqbar…” has the structure of a detective fiction set in a world going mad.

I can’t help but wonder if this was the influence behind the wonderful new China Miéville novel The City & The City.

Set in present-day Beszel, a city located on the edge of Europe (it feels like somewhere near Turkey) Inspector Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad is called to the scene of a murder of a young woman, her body left discarded under a mattress in a local estate. Following the form of a police procedural, naturally Borlú tries to piece together the life of this unknown woman. He soon discovers more than one name for her, and that she had some interest some of the dangerous underground political groups. Here we learn there are nationalists and those seeking unification with the neighbouring city, Ul Qoma. Once identified, it turns out that the victim was actually a young American PhD student conducting research at the university in Ul Qoma. But progress is really made when Borlú identifies a vehicle that carried her body to the scene of the crime. He deduces that for her to have ended up in Beszel, from Ul Qoma, this vehicle must have breached. Breaching is where the fantastical elements kick in, and where novel gets really, really cool. But to discuss it would mean be big spoilers, so I won’t go into detail.

Because Borlú suspects Breach has been invoked, he attempts to get this organisation on board—they are so thorough and omnipotent, they may well be able to successfully find the killer of the woman. But after the authorities of both cities deny him this, he is invited to cross the border to the city of Ul Qoma to where the investigation can continue.

Gone is the baroque style usually associated with Miéville’s work. This is nothing like the Bas-Lag novels, so don’t expect that. It is written in first person anyway, which inhibits that kind of flair considerably.

…I turned back to the night-lit city and this time I looked and saw its neighbour. Illicit but I did. Who hadn’t done that at times? There were gasrooms I shouldn’t see, chambers dangling ads, tethered by skeletal metal frames. On the street at least one of the passers-by, I could tell by the clothes, the colours, the walk, was not in Beszel and I watched him anyway.

The conversation within is how people might really speak, and isn’t traditional book dialogue. For me, the whole mood was in the style of independent European cinema. I could see the curious colour treatments, long brooding shots, the intense acting, restrained minimalism and deep pauses. The world-building, as you’d imagine, is constructed perfectly—one of the pleasures is thinking how real these artificial cities are, with a culture that slots very neatly alongside our own present day one.

All in all, this a restrained Miéville analysing the psychological states, existential positioning, the fear of the unknown with regards to being watched. The philosophy of Berkeley comes to mind, via Borges, notions of seeing and being seen, the states of mind that influence this. And I can’t help but feel the purpose of the crosshatching also demonstrates something else—about borders between certain nations. Divisions, separations, the things that stop us from seeing. But you have to read the book to understand all this.

Put all that aside and you still have a very smart and elegant crime novel that just so happens to utilize a psychological border. It is a change of direction, certainly, and one that might very well push Miéville into post-genre mainstream success.

15Mar

A Delightful Review Of “Nights of Villjamur”

Thanks to the magic of Google Ego Alerts, I spotted a new review of Nights of Villjamur over at Wertzone, a top science fiction and fantasy review blog. Here’s an outline:

what is (relatively) unusual is that the author brings an interesting prose style and a more measured pace to bear on the book. The storyline unfolds deliberately, carefully, and the book’s rich writing draws you into its world, the story and the lives of the characters in an accomplished manner… a work that immerses you in its world and demands you pay attention… this is a polished and accomplished debut novel and is well-recommended.

I’m slowly managing to calm down now, what with all the angst of waiting to see what people think.