news & reviews



Should the blog go offline in the next couple of days, that will be because we, at Chez Newton, will be bringing in a crack-team to redecorate the place. Or at least bring the blog into 2011, with a more elegant feel about it. Normal service will be resumed in the next few days.


Locus Review & Courgettes

Stolen shamelessly from my agent’s site, here’s a scan of a review of Nights of Villjamur, in esteemed industry magazine Locus.

Thanks to Mark Yon who also spotted the really lovely review and brought it to my attention. If you’re not a Locus reader, click the image to see the whole review in full.

Otherwise here’s a quick snippet:

I’ll join the enthusiastic chorus for a work that deserves all the favourable notice it can get…

I look forward to whatever Mark Charan Newton has to offer, for he’s already the master of the SF/fantasy hybrid.

Well, it’s funny they should mention whatever I have to offer, because I’ve plenty of courgettes going at the moment. Seriously. Does anybody want one?


Review & A Cabbage

There’s a rather pleasing review of The Book of Transformations over at Fantasy Book Review, where it gets a score of 9.8/10:

… one of the superheroes that the city’s cultists create is slightly different from the average superhero, mainly due to the fact that she’s transsexual, which is awesome. She isn’t a joke character… it’s just a fact that she happens to be a transsexual… It’s a long, long time since reading a book and series from a new author has made me this excited. How he manages to fit it all into one book is amazing. The style of writing is so clean, no paragraph is wasted. This is such a pleasure to read… I really believe in years to come we will be talking about new authors, and asking, are they the new Mark Charan Newton?

Well, if any authors are to be the new me, I shall set the new criteria – before any such claims are made, they will have to grow vegetables like this:

What a mighty cabbage! I had to wrestle the damn thing to get it out of the ground.


The Guardian on The Book of Transformations

The Guardian newspaper features The Book of Transformations in its SF and Fantasy review round-up:

The third volume of the Legends of the Red Sun continues the epic story of the city of Villjamur. The series is replete with many of the stock features of high fantasy: evil emperors, battling armies, sinister cultists, occult magic and, not least, the looming, eldritch setting of Villjamur itself. But Newton’s skill lifts the story beyond what might, in the hands of lesser fabulists, have been merely a string of clichés. This is a remarkable catalogue of transformations, embodied in the character of Lan, a “transwoman” making the arduous journey from male to female, from circus performer to an individual whose abilities will help to bring change to a city under threat from forces of evil within and without. The Book of Transformations is a dark and original vision.


Alt Fiction Etc.

On Sunday I went to Alt.Fiction. Though I only went to the one day (it was a weekender this year) it is by far and away the best British SF literary convention (I say literary – because the SFX Weekender, which I also love, is more about fun and solidarity than anything else!).

At Alt Fiction, the panels are actually about proper meaty topics, the whole thing is well organised, it’s not expensive to buy food and drink, and there is an ever-increasing number of authors and industry folk who come to gather on the day because they know it’s a good event to be at. The great thing about Alt.Fiction is that it’s about the craft as much as fandom, which other cons seem to forget sometimes, so it’s geared up with new writers and fans in mind. It’s all about the literature.

I was on a podcast in the morning called “Is genre just for boys?” with Graham McNeill, Jenni Hill and Jennifer Williams, which was splendid fun and we had a good bit of banter going back and forth. That should be online soon, actually, so those who missed it can have a listen. I’ll link to it when it’s up.

The panel at the end of the day was on “What’s next for genre?” with Dan Abnett, Alastair Reynolds and Simon Clarke. I was moderating this, and thought we managed to cover some pretty wide ground for such an ambiguous title – from recent trends, to things we’d like to see more of (and the likelihood of those wishes happening), all the way through to the Internet, how fandom has been changed by it and, finally, to ebook piracy, which we talked about very passionately.

Here’s a snap of me (looking very tired) with Alasitair Reynolds, after the panel. It was shamelessly taken from this album on Facebook. On that link there are more photos of the day, all of which were taken by Jyoti Mishr.

As usual, lots of splendid folk there, and I never got around to talking to everyone I wanted to, which is always the way.

In other news, City of Ruin was mentioned in the Book Smugglers’ LGBT recommended reading list (which was lovely); and the list is well worth investigating.


Quick Pimpage

I almost feel apologetic for plugging the books and interviews and whatnot, such is the nature of the blog these days. But tough.

First up, a lengthy review of The Book of Transformations over at Civilian Reader:

The choice of a transgender as the main protagonist could have gone awry, but I think Newton has written her character, her difficulties, and her interactions with others (colleagues, strangers, enemies) very well indeed, and with a delicacy that was both welcome and surprising. Often, when one finds characters such as this, a preachy or strident tone can come across (at other, saddening times, more negative tones are evident), but not once did it feel like the author was trying to push an agenda. It’s very much a case of the main character happens to be transgender, and Mark does a great job of highlighting a lot of the problems that face transgenders in the world today, only transferred on a more repressive and less enlightened fantasy setting. If I’m perfectly honest, however, I never thought of Lan as anything other than female, which I think is a sign of Newton’s success at writing her character.

Very happy so far with the reaction to Lan.

And on the Suvudu blog I contribute to their Take Five feature, courtesy of Matt Staggs:

1) There’s a giant spider in City of Ruin that, as part of a minor sub-plot, is taking out union leaders – and the names of those leaders are based on real-world revolutionaries. In fact, there’s a bit of a role for unions in this book – part of what I wanted to do was show that, contrary to what some politicians would tell you, unions are all about ensuring workers are protected (in this case, not being made to work like slaves in freezing conditions etc). You can put this in a fantasy novel and people understand that. You see it on Fox News and… well. Quite.


Springsteen-Related Stuff

Two Bruce Springsteen points to make today. First, Clarence Clemons, saxophone player in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, died a couple of days ago.

Known as the “Big Man” for his 6ft 5in frame and stage presence, Clemons was an original member of Springsteen’s E Street Band and has been called its “soul”. In a statement, the singer said his loss was “immeasurable” and that he and his bandmates were honoured to have stood beside Clemons for nearly four decades.

Describing him as “my great friend, my partner”, Springsteen added: “With Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music.

“His life, his memory and his love will live on in that story and in our band”.

There was a man who could belt out a saxophone solo (at 4:00 in).

Secondly, last year I wrote a short story for Darkness on the Edge, which was a Springsteen-inspired anthology, and which today I discovered is now available as an ebook from PS Publishing for a very reasonable £3.99. It originally came out as a limited edition, so this is good news.

So many of Springsteen’s songs bring you close to the edge of a darkness where uncertainty reigns – a darkness not just on the edge of town but of our hearts and minds . . . the darkness between child and adulthood, perhaps; or between courage and fear; marriage and divorce; even confidence and self-doubt. These nineteen authors nudge us closer to an answer . . . and let us see what really is stirring out there in the shadows.

I don’t often write short stories but, being a fan of the Boss, it was one of those opportunities not to be missed.


Linkage & Book Talk

But first, pimpage, over at LEC Book Reviews:

Call me a skeptic, but after the progress Mark Charan Newton had shown in City of Ruin, I was doubtful that we would see another leap forward such as that one in the next book. The Book of Transformations proved me wrong, exhibiting a writer at his best yet, and more importantly, thoroughly enjoying himself. More than that though, The Book of Transformation offered, much like its predecessor, a terrifically bizarre fantasy adventure, utterly unique in its construction. Fans of the first two books will be glad to find a book better than those this third time around. And for those that have yet to jump in to Newton’s rich, weird and thrilling world, there’s no better place than this one to start. This one is, you’ll understand, highly, highly recommended.

Daniel Abraham makes a brief statement on the current gender debate in SFF, which you should read:

There’s always a problem for men advocating for women’s equality that we come across as something less than manly while doing so.  A woman I used to date had the solution of advocating for women in derogatory terms, as in “Ah, I say give the bitches equal pay.”

Though I rarely work blue, it seems to me that this is the occasion for it.  If you are offended by rude language or are a woman, you may stop reading now.  I’ll get back to a more genteel, open, and civil conversation next time.

Still here?

Okay, then, fellas.

It seems as though the rise of self-publishing continues, as the Bookseller discusses a self-published author hitting the one-million sales mark:

Locke said: “Kindle Direct Publishing has provided an opportunity for independent authors to compete on a level playing field with the giants of the book selling industry. Not only did KDP give me a chance, they helped at every turn. Quite simply, KDP is the greatest friend an author can have.”

Other than an editor or an agent, that is. No doubt these one-off headlines will be enough to fuel the fires of struggling authors-to-be out there, but for every one success, there are probably a hundred thousand failures. Much like ordinary publishing in that respect, I guess. What is interesting is that in the few years I’ve been working in this industry, the stigma of self-publishing has all but vanished (allowing the publishers involved to make a mint by playing on the emotions of the struggling artist).

Meanwhile, the Guardian discusses the merits of actually having an editor:

But as an author who has a contract with a publisher, I like the fact that, on a very basic level, every time I deliver a manuscript, I am auditioning for them all over again.

Lastly, watch this, and then send it to all your e-reading friends:


Ways To Go, Interview, Review

Following on from my post on death scenes, I noticed that the BBC featured an article on the 10 strange ways Tudors died, which is morbidly amusing:

The occupation of “gong farmer” sounds quite cheerful until you realise it was what the Tudors called people who were paid to clear out the sewage from cesspits.

So what can be said about the drunken Cambridge baker who, while relieving himself, fell backwards into a cesspit on 2 June 1523? He died horribly. What a way to go.

You don’t get many of these in novels. They seem rather ignoble ways to go, I guess.

There’s an interview with me over at the Mad Hatter’s site. Take a look at the nonsense I continue to spout:

Suffice to say, though, that I subscribe to the Watchmen school of heroes – that beyond the powers, superheroes are still people with stuff going on in their own lives. But power happens to be a central theme to the novel – it’s contrasted with political and democratic power (such as with the anarchists, who choose to decentralise to minimise the negative impacts of power). If anything, it’s structures of power that are what I choose to tackle, and superpowers are an extension of that metaphor.

And here are a few more words from Leo Cristea on the latest release:

Simply put, Lan was one of my favourite characters. Not only was she fascinating, but she was also exceedingly normal. That was the point. Newton had to force the issue that Lan is a normal character, and he does this remarkably well. Her transition features briefly, and following this, Lan is Lan. Her change is not the focus of the story. It’s not important. What is important is her new life and her role in the events transpiring in the city—a city facing destruction from inside and out.

Now enough of me. Go and enjoy the sunshine.


Pornokitsch on “The Book of Transformations”

A wonderfully meaty review (always something that appeals to the author ego) over at Pornokitsch:

As a comics fan, I naturally tend toward an analysis of The Book of Transformations’ take on fantasy heroism – or, more accurately, the transformation from human to superhuman. But this is only one of the many, many lenses that can be applied Mr. Newton’s substantial text. He has given his book an audacious title and yet the finished product manages to live up to it. The book also scrutinizes the moment that utopian socialistic aspiration turns into anarchist revolt, and when enlightened absolutism becomes an oligarchial dictatorship. Transformations marks a turning point in the series as well – the climax of the internal politics and the dawn of a more external focus. The characters themselves undergo a series of transformations: static definitions of gender, class and species are all evolved over the course of the book. Transformation is a broad topic, but Mr. Newton approaches it from every conceivable direction. This is a book that, like many of its Dying Earth predeccesors, will provide grist for criticism for decades to come.

I realise the following sentence makes me sound like an arse, but it’s such a satisfying feeling when reviewers genuinely get the little layers. After all, I’ve been faffing about with them for the better part of a year; they’ve been loitering around my head in addition to the But what happens to the people? bit. Go read the rest.

To balance out the author ego, here’s a one-star review of Nights over at Amazon, entitled “Pompous prose murders momentum”.

I’m watching my stats closely to see which link gets the most clicks.