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Review: Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh (Orbit Books)

The blurb:

In the future, love is complicated and death is not necessarily the end. Love Minus Eighty follows several interconnected people in a disquieting vision of romantic life in the century to come.

There’s Rob, who accidentally kills a jogger, then sacrifices all to visit her in a cryogenic dating facility, seeking forgiveness but instead falling in love.

Veronika, a shy dating coach, finds herself coaching the very woman who is stealing the man she loves.

And Mira, a gay woman accidentally placed in a heterosexual dating center near its inception, desperately seeks a way to reunite with her frozen partner as the years pass.

In this daring and big-hearted novel based on the Hugo-winning short story, the lovelorn navigate a world in which technology has reached the outer limits of morality and romance.

***

This novel is, without a doubt, unique.

When I began reading it I tried not to have any preconceptions of what to expect – from the blurb I knew that I would be reading a love story set in a high-tech world; I wasn’t expecting aliens or spaceships or epic weapons, and neither should you. Rather, expect something new. For instance, the tale’s opening scene: a woman, woken from some sort of coma – except she hasn’t been in a coma. She’s dead, has been for years, and she’s been drafted (without her consent or knowledge) into what is basically a dating service.

What a premise, right? Yep, I was hooked from the beginning, too.

You see, what this story does is explore love, relationships, and friendships against a backdrop of immortality and social media – death has been eradicated, though the price is beyond exorbitant; you can live a life of influence, with all the notoriety and success that comes with such a life, but the price you pay for it is your privacy.

Each character’s tale explores aspects of this world: Rob’s path takes him into the meat and tech of the world, revealing just how insane such a world can be, yet at the same time offering a glimpse of the happiness everyone is searching for; Veronika finds herself in that quintessential Catch-22 situation: able to give advice but utterly unable to follow advice. And Mira’s situation is perfect at exploring just how we are forced do to things that aren’t in our character if it means we have just a chance at finding what we’ve been searching for.

And the tech in this tale is at once dazzling and terrifying – I really hope that Will hasn’t had an accurate vision of the future, but unfortunately I can’t help thinking that advances in technology coupled with social media are taking the world in exactly this direction.

We already live in a world where being connected (whether it’s via Twitter, Facebook or InstaGram) grants you a certain social status – if you’re connected then you know what’s happening in the world from instant to instant, leading you to believe that you’re informed and can have a knowledgeable opinion, but the cost, as explored in this tale, is that you know more about the world and less about your loved ones, and even yourself.

Love Minus Eighty” is an excellent read, at once an exploration and a vision of just how we, as emotional beings, continue to try and live alongside technology that can either increase the distances between us or bring us closer together. Highly recommended!

10 / 10

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To order your copies of “Love Minus Eighty“, click the following links: Exclusive Books, Book Depository, Amazon US, Amazon UK. And check out Will’s website for more info on him and his work.
Be EPIC!
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Posted by on June 20, 2014 in Reviews

 

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Guest Post: Gail Z Martin – Why Book Covers Still Matter

Morning! 🙂

I’m honoured to have Gail Z Martin -author of Chronicles of the Necromancer (Solaris), The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit), The Ascendant Kingdoms Cycle (Orbit), Deadly Curiosities (Solaris) and numerous shorter tales-  back on the blog with another guest post. This time she’s  talking about a topic very close to both reader’s and writer’s hearts – book covers. Over to Gail!

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Back when the only place to get books was in bookstores, browsing the shelves for new and interesting covers could be a pleasant Saturday afternoon pastime. Even before bookstores added coffee shops, it was easy to while away several hours just perusing the covers of books, looking for a hidden gem, a new adventure, or a tempting tome.

Now, much of our book buying has moved online, either to purchase paper books via Internet booksellers, or to download ebooks. It’s gotten harder to leisurely browse, in part because there are fewer brick-and-mortar bookstores than there used to be, and in part because those physical stores that do exist have often cut back on their range of books in order to feature profitable extras like gifts, music, movies and coffee.

So in an age when shoppers may only see the cover as the size of a webpage thumbnail, do covers really matter?

I believe they do. I know that some people lament the death of book covers in the same way they lament the passing of music album covers in the age of CDs and iTunes. And I agree that books do face some of the same threats that music has faced, although there are significant differences. All the same, I think that the reports of the death of book covers, to paraphrase Mark Twain, has been greatly exaggerated.

We’ve often been exhorted to not judge a book by its cover, yet covers are often the first connection an author makes with a reader. This is especially true if the author has not yet reached the superstar ranks of name recognition, or if the reader has never read anything by the particular author in the past.

It does appear true that the better known an author is, the less effort goes into their covers. Make it to the pinnacle of success, and covers often feature only the author’s name and the book title with a solid color background. But for most books, the cover signals the reader that this book is part of a particular genre, like other books the reader has enjoyed, and begins the job of shaping expectations before the book even gets lifted off the shelf.

A good cover–one that accurately signals the reader as to the genre and type of story–plays a major role in attracting an audience for the book. The quality of illustration and bookbinding also tells a reader something about the book, as many small press and self-published authors will attest. Watch readers move through a book festival or the vendor room at a genre convention, and notice which books get handled more often, and which ones never get picked up. Good covers make a difference.

What makes a good cover? It’s a complex mix of elements that starts with a professional quality illustration. Poor art is a stumbling block few books can overcome. Appropriate illustration is the next hurdle. Readers understand the visual shorthand that signals mystery, thriller, urban fantasy, epic fantasy and other genres. Send a miscue, and you’ll lose many potential readers while disappointing those who buy expecting a different sort of book.

Type font, placement and color matter, just as it matters to have a catchy title for the book. I’m not a graphic artist, but I can tell when the placement of the words on a book cover doesn’t look professional. Traditionally published authors don’t have to think about these things, but it’s a detail that many small press and self-pubbed authors struggle with as they strive to gain legitimacy in the reader’s eyes.

The back cover matters, too. I have my books face up on the table at signings to attract readers, but when I engage prospects in conversation, I’ll hand the book to them back cover up, encouraging the person to read the book summary and endorsement quotes. A gripping teaser of a recap goes a long way toward pulling in a reader and building a hunger to read the rest. If the reader has never read a book by a particular author, endorsement quotes by familiar authors or publications decreases perceived risk. While not every reader is swayed by blurbs, those quotes matter a lot for a certain type of book purchaser, and as an author, we want to send good cues on as many different levels as possible.

Authors like to believe that it’s the words between the covers that really matter, and they do. But without a cover that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them pick up the book, those words never get read. I can’t count the number of times a reader has told me, “Your cover made me buy your book.” I make sure to profusely thank my cover artists, and I work as closely with them as possible to provide the details necessary to do justice to the story inside. Covers matter!

***

About the Author: Gail Z. Martin writes epic and urban fantasy, steampunk and short stories. She is the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle series and the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series of epic fantasy books, as well as the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy world and coming in 2015, Iron and Blood, a Steampunk novel, co-written with Larry N. Martin. Gail is a frequently contributor to US and UK anthologies. She also writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

Find her at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com. She leads monthly conversations on Goodreads and posts free excerpts of her work on Wattpad. An original novella set in the Deadly Curiosities universe, The Final Death, is available free on Wattpad here.

Reign of FINAL

Massive thanks to Gail for this excellent guest post, and to Anna Gregson for arranging it! 🙂

Wishing you all a kickass weekend!

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Guest Post

 

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Michael Sullivan’s ‘The Riyria Revelations’ Picked Up By Orbit

Orbit is pleased to announce that it has acquired rights to publish the Riyria Revelations series by self-published author Michael J. Sullivan.  Orbit will be publishing the complete series in three volumes in consecutive months in Fall/Winter 2011-2012. The first volume, Theft of Swords, will be published in November 2011; the second volume, Rise of Empire, in December 2011, and the final volume, Heir of Novron, in January 2012.

Michael J. Sullivan has already self-published the series in ebook and print-on-demand editions, and each volume has been prominent on the ebook fantasy bestseller charts.

Senior Editor Devi Pillai says: “This is the kind of fabulous new adventure fantasy that readers of Terry Brooks and Brent Weeks can fall in love with. Michael really delivers a great story that keeps to the idea of great epic fantasy while taking on fantasy clichés and having fun with the idea of two thieves caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I read the first book – and I was hooked.”

Michael J. Sullivan says: “”I couldn’t be happier to have The Riyria Revelations released by Orbit. Of all the fantasy imprints, they have shown an unsurpassed eye for quality and I’m both excited and humbled to be included in a select group of authors as talented as Brent Weeks, Gail Carriger, and so many others.”

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Michael J. Sullivan has lived in Vermont, North Carolina, and Virginia. He worked as a commercial artist and illustrator, founding his own advertising agency in 1996, which he closed in 2005 to pursue writing full-time. He currently resides in Fairfax, Virginia with his wife and three children.

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I am incredibly happy about this! 😀 I’ve always said that The Riyria Revelations deserves a bigger readership, and now that Orbit has picked up the series, it will damned well get that readership! 🙂 The series kicked off with a bang and has grown in strength, complexity and sheer readability with every following title; it’s fun, serious when it needs to be, doesn’t suffer from info-dumps and world-building-itus, and can stand tall with every other major Epic Fantasy series out there. The fact that Orbit will be bringing it to the wider world is soooo damned awesome! For our neck of the woods, it means that the books will also finally be available in South Africa! As a bookseller I absolutely cannot wait to get all my customers hooked on this series! 🙂

Massive congratulations to Michael and Robin – all their hard work has paid off ! 🙂 It’ll be interesting to see whether Larry Rostant incorporates Michael’s illustrations for these Orbit-releases (Michael did the cover artwork for each and every novel, if you didn’t know that), and I can happily wait to read the series-finale, Percepliquis. 🙂

I first saw the news over at Fantasy Book Critic (thanks to Liviu), and then checked out the news over at Orbit before reading the announcement-posts on Michael’s and Robin’s blogs. 🙂

CONGRATS!

Be EPIC!

P.S. Haven’t heard of the series yet? Check out my reviews so far to get a taste of what you can expect:

The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha (making up Orbit’s first volume – Theft of Swords),

Nyphron Rising and The Emerald Storm (making up Orbit’s second volume – Rise of Empire),

and still to be reviewed: Wintertide and Percepliquis (making up Orbit’s third volume – Heir of Novron)

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2011 in Announcements

 

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Jennifer Rardin: RIP

I was stunned and saddened to see the news this morning. 😦

Jennifer passed away on the 20th of September. I haven’t yet read her novels though, as a bookseller, they’ve been consistent sellers and even here in South Africa she’s got quite the fan-base. I don’t think that’ll change.

I added Jennifer as a friend and Facebook some time ago, not because we were friends or had previously met, but because I thought it’d be great to have the odd moment to interact with her and chat about her novels and writing in general. Jennifer was going to to a guest blog-post on this blog in November, and even though that won’t happen anymore, Jennifer’s presence will still be felt on the blog from November onwards. I’ll be reading her books and spotlighting them on the blog, in an effort to keep her memory alive and to keep people talking about her work.

Jennifer struck me as an incredibly warm, friendly person, with absolutely no airs and graces, and that in itself is something important to celebrate about her. Urban Fantasy as a whole has lost someone wonderful, but our loss is as nothing compared to what her family has lost, and my heart goes out to them.

According to her website, book seven in the Jaz Parks series will be out in November, and the final book, which Jennifer completed, will be out in June 2011. Right now, and for some time to come, let’s miss her and remember her.

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2010 in Announcements

 

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Cover Launch: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

Just launched over at Orbit, here’s the cover for you:

The cover was done by Richard Jones. 🙂

And, to tease you even more until the book hits the shelves, here’s a small blurb for the book:

Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals.

But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he’s willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

Looking forward to it! 🙂

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2010 in Announcements

 

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The Cover to Philip Palmer’s Version 43!

Just released on Twitter by Phil, care of Orbit:

Looks awesome! Love the cover! 🙂

I’ll be reviewing Red Claw in the next couple of months, keep an eye out for it. 🙂

Be EPIC!

P.S. The cover came about due to the awesome photography of Eric Westpheling. 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2010 in Announcements

 

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An Interview with Philip Palmer

Philip Palmer

You know how sometimes life becomes so busy that you have to sacrifice a few less-important things to get focused on the really important ones? That’s what happened with Philip, and why this interview took so long to get onto the blog. 🙂 After all, the man is not just a SF / Space Opera Author; he works in TV too. 🙂 But in retrospect, Philip’s timing couldn’t be better – with his latest novel on the way, this interview will give his fans (and I am most definitely one of them) some insight into his thought-processes, and wont spoil Red Claw at all. 🙂 So, without further a-do, I give you Philip Palmer!

First of all, welcome to the South African SF-reading public, Philip, and thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. 🙂

It’s a real pleasure Dave.

Here’s my first question: Were you smoking something when you wrote Debatable Space? 😉

I’m tempted to try some illicit drugs as a way of calming myself down a little; my natural metabolism is WAY too high. But I prefer to use endorphins – Nature’s natural narcotic.

I do like safe formulaic writing – when I’m looking for something to read on a Friday night. But when I write, I want to take risks. We’ve all read so many novels, seen so many films; so I want to know, what else? And how else?

Will you please tell us a bit about yourself? Your work in TV, influences, etc?

I’ve had a gipsy life as a writer – a bit of this, a bit of that. I worked as a script editor, and a script reader – David Puttnam was my boss for many years, when I was a humble reader. I’ve been a TV development executive, a TV script editor, I wrote for the British cop series The Bill, I’ve even been involved in the production side of things, for a company called Lucky Dog.

Working in TV taught me about story – how to tell a story, how to brainstorm a story, and how you need to never underestimate your audience when telling that story. (Which of course most British TV shows do ALL the time – but it’s good to know your enemy!)

Will you please take us through the process of writing the book – what led to Lena popping into your head, any ‘eureka!’ moments where something worked even better than you thought it would, and seeing your book on the shelf for the first time?

I really don’t know where Lena came from; I just had that voice in my head, and I listened to it. I knew I wanted an “unreliable narrator”, someone self-deceiving, but ultimately loveable. And the moment Lena started talking to tinbrain, her remote computer – the tone and energy of the book was all there.

I started with a mind full of hazy ideas – solar yachts, space pirates, the notion of writing a story that was a yarn, not an interior monlogue. And then each section leaped into place as I continued through the book. The Cambria sequence was a particular delight for me.

Some stuff I had to work at – building up Peter Smith’s character, getting the balance between Lena’s thought diary and action-adventure. But most of it really was eureka stuff.

And I remember I went with a friend into Blackwell’s Bookshop on Charing Cross Road, just before the official publication date of the book – and found 3 or 4 copies on the shelf, which had snuck out early. My friend actually bought one, and got me to sign it! Now that was a good moment. Then a few seconds later, my wife phoned up to tell me the roof was leaking and we had an infestation of ladybirds in the bedroom. So I said, ‘Yeah, but who cares? My book’s on the shelf in Blackwell’s!’

The main concepts that you dealt with, such as Emergence and Primary Imagination; did they grow out of telling the tale, or did you know from the beginning that you wanted to deal with them?

Before I started writing, I did quite a bit of science reading to get my head in that space, and it was then that I became fascinated by emergence. It just struck me as the only answer I know of to that vital question; how does this stuff actually happen? Evolution explains how complicated things evolve, by surviving or dying out; but how do simple things get to be complicated things? Why isn’t the universe just a great big mush of mess? If entropy and chaos are the natural state of things then, huh? Explain a snowflake!

The concept of Primary Imagination is something that has always intrigued me. At University I was a huge fan of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, and who also wrote philosophy, and coined the phrase ‘suspension of disbelief’ to explain how we read and actively perceive fiction – and that phrase is still the best definition ever of the amazing magical thing that happens in our heads when we read a book, or see a film.

And it was Coleridge who coined the phrase Primary Imagination – based on his reading of Immanuel Kant – and guess what, it makes absolute sense. We each of us create the world, every time we look at it. We find pattern and beauty when we perceive matter that is actually made of atoms inhabiting weird quantum states, we see colour because of the way light interacts with our eyes, we make the real “real”. How cool is that?

You’ve given life to some incredible characters in DS; did any of them ever sneak up and surprise you with something you hadn’t planned?

Kalen’s ‘miaow’ was a bit of a shock to me. And Alby was the character I loved writing most – because he is so unpredictable, and hard to define, and so effortlessly powerful. I would love to have a friend like Alby.

You spoke of Michael Crichton’s novel Prey in the ‘Extras’ section at the back of DS; what are your opinions on ermergence and the ‘Hollywood’ threat of AI? (I say ‘Hollywood’ threat because it’s such a money-maker there)

Prey was indeed a great influence – Crichton (bless his memory) is such an uber-nerd that he actually has a reading list at the back of the book – which I devoured voraciously. The reading list proves he knows what emergence really is – a powerful ‘theory of everything’ for biologists. But he’s also smart enough to know that you can’t have a book without a villain; so he quite shamelessly uses emergence as a way of creating monsters.

I can’t be judgemental about that – I use the same approach myself all the time. You take the truth – great concepts in science – profound ideas – then you make a rattling good yarn out of them. So though I don’t really think emergence and nano-technology are any kind of urgent threat to us; it’s cool to write stories in which that is so!

You left clues all through the novel as to the final fate of Peter; how was it writing the particular character that did the deed?

The clues were particularly cunning because I didn’t really know that was going to happen at the end. But, without giving anything away – I wanted magic in the closing sections of the book, and hope I achieved that .

Lena is vibrant and emotional and utterly fearless (when it suits her); Will Lena (and Flanagan, and the rest of the pirates) ever return? We certainly miss her (all of them) already. 🙂

I’d love to write another Lena and Flanagan book, and hope to do so. I’d be wary, to be honest, of making a series of books about the characters – because that might make them seem ordinary, and it’s their extraordinariness that defines them.

But I do have a notion for a follow-up novel, featuring Lena’s son (a son she didn’t know she had) in cahoots with Flanagan and Lena, on a mission at the far edge of the galaxy…But I have a bundle of other ideas too, so I’m not sure which ones I’ll write next.

And finally, what’s next for you, and for us? Already working on the next novel?

I’m having a joyous time at the moment writing my third book, a noir sci-fi novel set several hundred years later than Debatable Space, in what I call the Exodus Universe. It’s a detective drama, a murder story, it has killer aliens, it has it all really! That should be ready to send to my editor (DongWon Song) in the autumn I hope.

Meanwhile – book number 2 is to be published later this year. It’s called RED CLAW, and it’s similar to DEBATABLE SPACE, despite being totally different in every single respect. It’s not a space opea, it’s a thriller set on a planet rich in deadly aliens. And the main characters are a bunch of scientists who, like me, are geeks; geeks in peril no less.

Orbit have put a lot of work into designing a cover and approach for the new novel that will, we hope, make it stand out. The cover is “pulp”, but with attitude; and it’ll be published in the rather snazzy “B Format” – the paperback format that’s used for Iain M. Banks’ books here in the UK.

RED CLAW is my love song to the old fashioned ‘bug eyed monsters’ genre – the twist being, each of the bug-eyes monsters in my story has a Latin name, and a beauty all its own. It’s really a novel about the joy of discovery, and the naturalist’s love of nature – with a bunch of killer doppelanger robots shooting the hell out of everyone along the way.

Thanks, Philip, for giving up your time to answer these questions, and for writing such a brilliant novel! We wish you all the best!

A pleasure – and let’s keep in touch.

If you haven’t had a chance to read DS yet, and are wondering what DS is, check out my review of the excellent debut here. 🙂

debatable-space

I’m sure the wait for the interview was worth it, don’t you agree? 🙂 And I’m sure you’re all looking foward to Philip’s second book for Orbit, Red Claw. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the cover; and go ahead, have a good laugh! I know I did! 🙂

redclaw5

Check out Philip’s website here for further updates from him, and check out Orbit’s website here. 🙂

You can also order Debatable Space here (US) and here (UK), and pre-order Red Claw here (UK).

Be Fantastic!

P.S. Did you know that John Jarrold is Philip’s agent? 🙂

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2009 in Interviews

 

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M.D. Thalmann / Satire and Sci-fi

M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist specializing in satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

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