12Apr

Guardian Review

Here online for all to see is a rather positive review of The Reef with a nice little bit here:

Newton treads new ground in his attempt to bring literary concerns to the fantasy genre.

Well that’s bloody well going on the cover of something. And a hurrah for that. Yes, that’s certainly what I was trying to do, push things a little further, for my own entertainment, and lovely to see that the review simply got it.

5Apr

Mythago Wood—Or, They Don’t Write ‘Em Like This Anymore

Mythago Wood

Mythago Wood, by Robert Holdstock, is quite simply a beautiful book. It is a fantasy novel about the very nature of fantasy itself, about what it means to imagine.

Set after the Second World War, Stephen Huxley returns to his family home, Oak Lodge, on the outskirts of Ryhope Wood. It may appear like an ordinary enough ancient English forest, but Stephen’s father has spent the majority of his life researching some mysterious nature within. After his father’s death, he finds his brother has taken up the mantle of pursuing the secrets of the forest. And within Ryhope, are the mythagos, creatures from myth and legend that appear to the mind of ordinary humans, morphing into real flesh and blood creations. So the scene is set for one of the most beautiful books in the fantasy genre. Stephen’s encounters with the forest, the mythagos, his attempts to explore his deceased father’s journals and research, are wonderful meditations on the ability to imagine—a cornerstone of the fantasy genre. It is the most British fantasy I’ve read, too. Rob Holdstock writes with that tender, British touch—similar to Christopher Priest—elegant, slightly clipped. The essence of the forest, its sheer pungency, is all too real. He writes about ancient British myths in an ancient English woodland. It’s heady stuff.

I’ve actually met Robert Holdstock, and he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll meet in the genre. Even more of a reason to buy the book.

This book is a read for spring. To be accompanied with a slice of modern Folk music, as below, continuing my apparently unhealthy obsession with the music of Seth Lakeman.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YX8z95Ndtz8]

3Apr

Seth Lakeman

I’m a bit of a closet folkie, really loving it when summer’s on the horizon. You’d do well to find better musicianship than when watching a proper folk collective in full swing, each musician reading the next, feeding off the reaction of the gathered crowd. Plus they have cool instruments. Here’s something a little more stripped bare, Seth Lakeman.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx-ZdSLaUOY&feature=related]

31Mar

Review of The Reef

First one I’ve seen, over at Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, and also the first review of anything of mine. And it’s a good one!

…a book that people will get a lot out of, especially if they’re fans of China Mieville’s work. Whether you’re after soaking up the sights of a fantastically drawn world, or being challenged by the darker recesses of the human mind (or even both!), then this is the book for you. Newton’s next work to be published will be his ‘Nights of Villjamur’ series and, on the strength of ‘The Reef’, I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

Well, can’t say fairer than that. I’m curious as to how this book is received, since it is a bizarre book. Not easily classifiable. It has subtle links to Nights of Villjamur, which the sharp-eyed who read both books will notice. But the new book for Tor / Macmillan is a bigger, widescreen epic fantasy. I think I’ve grown as a writer (I wrote The Reef when I was 23) in dozens of aspects. I always think that if you don’t push yourself to improve at writing, you might as well stop.

30Mar

Catching Up

Been a quiet week on here. Eastercon was huge amounts of fun. Met a great many people, some for the first time. There was a mini launch of The Reef, and both China Miéville and Christopher Priest bought copies—two authors I’m huge fans of; and reading China’s work made me want to write in the first place. Needless to say, I was chuffed.

Then I spent a relaxing week in the Yorkshire Dales for my birthday, which included a visit to the finest pub called The Crown, at Lofthouse. Now, this place is awesome. The landlord looks like Santa gone off the rails. He was great. He drank so much ale, and kept topping his pint up in between serving people. Must have been three pints during an hour lunch. You can pay for food in cash, cheque, or by bartering with coal, eggs etc. No cards here. The cash register is a wooden box. The gents’ facilities can be found by walking out the front door, up the road, through something like a shed without a roof, and is the black painted wall before you. The newest piece of furnishing was a square clock from the 1970s, and really stood out against the rest of the decor. And the food was fantastic. They don’t make places like that anymore.

18Mar

Slow Reading

I don’t know about you, but I’m amazed and fractionally suspicious of anyone who manages to read several books in a week. I was happy to find this article about the joys of reading slowly, and I utterly agree.

If a book is worth reading, it must be absorbed, sentence by sentence, which often means re-reading paragraphs if they are tricky – or if they are delightful.

I only ever have time to get to books I think are going to be worth opening these days, since time seems ever more precious. I’ve found bliss from reading Don DeLillo, a man whose sentences ring with style and finesse, and rereading only sends you deeper. M John Harrison is another, where burying beneath the prose brings you further zen-like realisations, makes you question more about the text and yourself. His words sparkle.

Why is it that people seem to insist on reading so many books a week. Is it to tick them off some grand list to impress their mates? Is it a sign of the times to have such levels of consumption? Are they reading it properly? Or are they reviewers such as this one? Surely taking your time with something worthwhile stirs the soul. The kind of thing that makes summers endless, humid, pungent, sensual things we remember for years after.

I like to think that authors who slave over sentence-craft are rewarded by readers who do the same, who take their time to enjoy the work in their hands. Maybe I’m just a frilly-cuffed romantic fool, but I wish more readers would take their time instead of racing through paragraphs. Sure, books must entertain, but that’s a basic standard. I wonder what other writers think about their work being read at speed?

13Mar

Sufjan Stevens

It appears the scumbag legal people at Sony won’t allow embedded YouTube clips of Jeff Buckley. So instead, have a double dose of the next best thing, Sufjan Stevens. The top video, “John Wayne Gacy Jr”, is possibly the most haunting song I’ve ever heard. An interesting thing, that to be disturbing, you don’t have to be harsh and gritty, as clichés go in the arts in modern times. This is subtle stuff, and hugely more powerful. The second video is cool because he’s got a banjo, and that rocks. I dated a girl with a banjo once.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otx49Ko3fxw] [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4tkiGvV_ek]
11Mar

Noir In One Line

This is a fantastic line that I’ve read (re-read) recently in M. John Harrison’s wonderful, genre re-defining novel, Light. It’s when the character Ed Chianese is in one of the tank farms, imagining himself in a virtual world detective film from the 20th Century, the plot being in the far future. He raises his Colt:

He had two shots left, and it was important he spoiled the first one.

I love it. Isn’t it great when the odd line really, really stands out and slaps you in the face. That’s the whole point of noir in one line.