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Review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

To be honest, I never expected to be the recipient of an ARC of The Shining Girls – considering what a big 2013 title this book is and will prove to be, I thought that most of the available ARCs would go to the big newspapers and such here in SA, so I was very chuffed when a copy was dropped off at my workplace and given to me. 🙂

The Shining Girls Banner

I’ve been excited about this novel since the moment I heard about it (and it goes without saying that any new novel from Lauren, after Moxyland and Zoo City, would excite me), and was even more pumped up for it when I read the first chapter a couple of months ago. In that chapter I was introduced to Harper Curtis and Kirby – Harper the shiver-inducing gift-giver, and Kirby the fragile-seeming girl who had created a wonderful little circus in the dirt. That first chapter left me with chills and a rumbling foreboding, because I realized after reading it that in The Shining Girls Lauren was moving in an entirely new direction; she would be taking me down a path that neither Moxyland nor Zoo City had explored. By the time of this realization, the term Time-Travelling-Serial-Killer wasn’t even important any more – the glimpse I had received of Harper had made enough of an impression on me that I knew I would be reading the book as soon as I could.

The Shining Girls SA Cover

So, when I got the book, I re-read the first chapter, not because I had forgotten the chilling circus-and-pony scene, but because I wanted that seamless slide into the novel – and the pages flew by, the tale opening up like a carnivorous, giant rose, ready to capture that person unwary enough to draw too close to smell the enticing scent. Harper, the novel’s antagonist, already had my attention – like all the twisted, off-centre killers I’ve met in books, I couldn’t help the fact that I wanted to know more about him. Here was this man, chatting amiably to a little girl, enticed by her just as he is trying to entice her, and he doesn’t hide what he is. So secure in his purpose that he doesn’t even need to hide it from me, the reader. The hints in that first chapter of what we would discover about Harper were expertly doled out – almost like  catching the myriad scents that make up a dinner before experiencing the dishes’ complete smell. And Kirby, this little girl indulging her imagination as she plays in dirt, trying to attain some measure of control over her life even at such a young age, was already the broken person I would get to know throughout the novel; broken, yet stubborn in her resolve to try to make sense of her life. So, as first chapter’s go, Chapter One of The Shining Girls was, in my opinion, perfect.

The Shining Girls SA Special Edition Cover

Then I fall deeper into the novel – gaining some more background on Harper, such as hints of his past, the kind of dark things he’d already done, discovering the preliminary sparks of how his mind works; and back to Kirby, who is frayed and damaged and taut, looking after her mother even as she’d trying to find that something that will give her a reason to not be like her mother. The chapters tumble onward, not like something out of control and direction less  but with a sense of relentless and devastating motion – in this novel, there is no immovable object, nothing to stand in the way of the constantly-building tension. Lauren achieved this by jumping, time-wise, in each chapter – so please do pay attention to the dates in which each chapter is set; they’re not just there as a time-stamp. 😉 She also does this by revealing more and more of Harper, his methods, how he learns to focus on only what he needs and not the spectacle of the world around him; it also happens in Harper’s chapters that Lauren plays plays with what’s important and what isn’t, not only plot- and character-wise but also world-wise – she seems to ask, almost subliminally  just what about the world has improved with technology? Does the progress that civilization continuously faces come at the cost of our dwindling humanity, or do we actually discover more of ourselves? It’s not an in-your-face exploration / wondering; it’s beautifully subtle.

The Shining Girls UK Cover

Now, I was worried that I wouldn’t care about Kirby – after all, when reading the book’s blurb you find out that she has survived this killer once already. So, did that knowledge regarding her taint her growth as a character and my having to care about her, as all story tellers and writers must do in order for their characters to live? No at all. In fact, I found myself slipping more and more into a ‘For fuck sakes, Kirby, just stop this, just let it go!” frame of mind as she began her search for the man who almost killed her. She pushes herself into a position that’ll make it easier for her to gather information and over-looked evidence, meets another wonderful character with his own pain and mistakes and worries, Dan Velasquez.

The Shining Girls US Cover

We find out more about her mother, about the sad, almost unthinkable circumstances of her conception, and finally get to the scene that forced her onto the converging-with-Harper path once again – how she is attacked by Harper, what happens during the attack, and how she survives, is incredibly intense and graphic. It was, to my mind, expertly placed – it’s the tipping point of the novel, that moment in which the reader realizes that the brakes have failed and the lights are out and that you can’t help but clench your jaw harder and harder with each passing page. Layer upon layer of characterization, for each important character, has converged, and from the moment of Kirby’s survival, these layers combine with the intricate plot to steamroll the reader towards not only a deeper understanding of Kirby, Dan, Harper, even Rachel (Kirby’s mother), but a sense that if you just read with more attention you’ll be able to figure it out – but the beauty of it is is that you can’t. Why? Because of the House that Harper uses, this enigmatic and terrifying place in all times – it’s the only character in the novel that remains mysterious, the only character we gain almost no understanding of. Did it work for me, this lack of detailed information about the House, how it works, why it exists, etc.? Without a doubt. Sometimes, as readers, as those hijacked to our imaginations, sometimes it’s just better not to have all the knowledge. Sometimes a force of nature is just that, and it cannot be described or experienced or understood in a way that a human mind can understand.

Lauren

This novel is insanely good – multi-layered, both in terms of characters and their growth and progression through the tale, as well as in how it was constructed and written – Lauren has a beautiful, fluid style, a way of writing that I can only describe as slipping words into the current of the story at exactly the right moment. This novel is set entirely in the US-city of Chigago, so there’s no South African link as with Moxyland and Zoo City, but then there’s absolutely no reason for a link to SA, so I wasn’t disappointed at all. I cannot say, of course, that Lauren captured the various time-periods of Chicago that we experience in this novel (since I’ve never been to Chicago), but what did come through strongly for me was the city’s presence, the sense that every building and every street had a story to tell, that every window -broken or whole- was watching, and that every moment of silence was like the preparatory-to-striking breath of a predator. There are instances of beauty in Lauren’s descriptions of the city, but the majority of the novel takes places in places pregnant with sadness and tension and exhausted silence; there’s a brooding atmosphere evident in each scene, whether we’re with a Radium Girl or in the bullpen of a newspaper; the hints of beauty are more stark for this, more affecting, even as they’re few and far between.

Now, as you all know, I usually read Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, the odd thriller and murder mystery, so I guess you might be wondering whether -having similar reading-tastes- you might enjoy this novel? I’m pretty sure that you will, for a range of reasons:

1), we all read what we read to live the events in the book through the characters, and Lauren has created memorable characters in this story – characters that will disturb you, will irritate you (because you want to give them advice and help them), will have you gnawing at your nails or smoking cigarette after cigarette (because you want them to persevere, to survive, to find that way out), characters that will leave you with a wave-like melancholy (Kirby’s mother), or a cheer at every chapter they appear in (Dan), but most importantly, characters that you’ll care about, characters that might just leave you realizing things about yourself – because, after all, we live different lives and experience different events through the characters in novels, don’t we?

2) the time-travelling aspect of the novel is really intelligently done – it’s not just a trope, a fixture, a way of moving from A to Z and everywhere in-between. Coupled with the mysterious House and the city of Chicago, it’s a thing you cannot predict or fully understand, and that makes it wonderful and terrifying at the same time.

3) Harper Curtis – the bad guy, the antagonist; he’s not a stereotype, as far from a cliché as it’s possible to be (which is as it should be!). He’s a despicable man, with a world-view that is both shiver-inducing and completely understandable – he’s so damned memorable because you will live in his head throughout this novel, and you won’t be able to help yourself thinking, “Would I really do things differently if I had found the House? Would I choose the path I’ve always walked or the path whispering to me?” There aren’t many serial killers in my list of most memorable, and Harper definitely joins that list – Hannibal Lecter (Thomas Harris), The Travelling Man (John Connolly),  Patrick Süskind’s Jean-Baptiste Grenouille and Kaaron Warren’s Stevie (Slights – who freaks me out so much I still haven’t been able to finish the novel).

This novel is disturbing, thrilling and intelligent – Lauren has shifted into new territory with this often-sad, eminently readable tale of a hunter and his prey, of the House you’ve always wondered about but never had the guts to enter, of the strength of character and the pull of destiny that so often rules lives, and of the simple yet often-overlooked beautiful moments that stitch together our lives with lasting and reverberating echoes. It’s a tale in which time travel is the shadowy, always-watching character, not the pipes-and-electronics vehicle employed by the characters. And it’s Lauren’s best novel yet!

10 / 10

The_Shining_Girls_by_Lauren_Beukes

Today is the official South African release date of The Shining Girls, and if you don’t want to wait until the 25th of April or the 4th of June, respectively, head over to Exclusive Books’ website and order your copies! For those willing to wait, click here for Amazon US (4 June) and here for Amazon UK (25 April).

For more info about Lauren and her work, check out her website here, and if you’d like a beautiful special edition of The Shining Girls (done by the excellent Joey HiFi), click this link!

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Reviews

 

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SA Spotlight: The Mall, Deadlands & BFSA Nominations

Hey guys and girls, I thought that I would point your attention to two distinctly South African genre books that’ll be hitting the shelves soon – and in a BIG way! 🙂

I’ve spoken about The Mall before, but since I’ll be diving into it soon (hehehe the perks, you know, of being a reviewer!), and since you’ll be able to pre-order your copies here in SA soon, too, it’s time for another spotlight. It’s written by two South African authors (Louis Greenberg and Sarah Lotz) under the pseudonym S.L. Grey, and will be coming from Corvus Books in June – SA release-date to be announced as soon as I get the info.

Here’s some info about the book, just to, you know, make you pound the desk (or your lap) in excitement and / or dread:

Dan works at a bookstore in a deadly dull shopping mall where nothing ever happens. He’s an angsty emo-kid who sells mid-list books to mid-list people for the minimum wage. He hates his job.

Rhoda has dragged her babysitting charge to the mall so she can meet her dealer and score some coke. Now the kid’s run off, and she has two hours to find him. She hates her life.

Rhoda bullies Dan into helping her search, but as they explore the neon-lit corridors behind the mall, disturbing text messages lure them into the bowels of the building, where old mannequins are stored in grave-like piles and raw sewage drips off the ceiling. The only escape is down, and before long Dan and Rhoda are trapped in a service lift listening to head-splitting musak. Worst of all, the lift’s not stopping at the bottom floor.

Plummeting into the earth, Dan and Rhoda enter a sinister underworld that mirrors their worst fears. Forced to complete a series of twisted tasks to find their way out, they finally emerge into the brightly lit food court, sick with relief at the banal sight of people shopping and eating. But something feels different. Why are the shoppers all pumped full of silicone? Why are the shop assistants chained to their counters? And why is McDonald’s selling lumps of bleeding meat?

Just when they think they’ve made it back to the mall, they realise their nightmare has only just begun…

Sounds utterly creepy and cool, and the descriptions of the environments put me in mind of the incredible stuff that Clive Barker comes up with – really looking forward to being grossed out, creeped out and shocked to hell with this book! 🙂

You can pre-order your copies here (Amazon UK), and as soon as it’s listed at Exclusive Books I’ll let you know. (If you don’t want to wait -and who the hell would- you can get your Kindle-edition right now!)

Next up, a zombie-apocalypse tale for YA fans set in Cape Town – yep, after you read this book you’ll probably never see the Mother City in the same way again! I present to you – Deadlands:

I’ve already been to a cool as hell and incredibly cutting-edge Cape Town in Lauren Beukes’ Moxyland, so I’m really looking forward to getting my paws on this one – zombies South African style? Hell yes! 🙂 (And that’s not all…!)

Deadlands is written by Lily Herne and will be coming to us from Penguin Books SA on the 1st of March; here’s another small blurb to whet your appetite even more:

Ten years after Cape Town was destroyed in the War with the living dead, zombies ramble free in Cape Town’s suburbs (known as the Deadlands), and the remaining living are either in fenced in on farms or in urban shantytowns.

The living are watched over by the mysteriously robed Guardians, a race of humanoid figures who appeared at the end of the War and who keep the living dead at bay, albeit for a steep price. Every year the Guardians stage a human Lottery and select five aspiring teenagers to be whisked out of the enclave for a secret purpose. To be one of the chosen five is a highly sought after and prestigious accolade.

No one (yet) knows why it is that the Guardians prize teenage bodies so highly, how they control the zombies or what they look like under the robes that cover their bodies…

Two very cool books on the way! 🙂

Finally, and this is the coolest news I’ve heard in a *very* long time, Lauren Beukes‘ Zoo City has been nominated (twice) for a BFSA award! For those who don’t know, the BFSA is the British Science Fiction Association, a highly respected organization that trumpets what they consider to be the best.

Zoo City was nominated for the Best Novel and the guy who did (and does) Lauren’s SA & UK covers, Joey HiFi, was nominated as Best Artist. 🙂 Awesome news! I’m really damned happy that a homegrown, completely South African novel has hit this level – not only is it a massive compliment for Lauren and Joey, but it’s also a WAKE UP CALL to all the writers out here: write your books already! 🙂

Here’s that crazy-cool (yet chilling) artwork:

Congrats to both Lauren and Joey – let’s bend our thoughts on them winning those awards! 🙂

 

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2011 in Announcements

 

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BookEx: The Science Fiction / Horror Panel

Hey Everyone, hope you’ve been having a great weekend so far. 🙂

I just wanted to let you know one last time about the SF/Horror panel that will be taking place at 4 tomorrow afternoon at BookEx:

I’ll be chairing the panel and the authors who’ll be sitting with me are Lauren Beukes, Louis Greenberg and Sarah Lotz.

Lauren, Louis and Sarah are all based in Cape Town, so it’s really awesome to have them come out all this way. 🙂

Lauren, as you all probably know, is the author of Maverick: Extraordinary Women from South Africa’s Past; Moxyland (US / UK / SA), and Zoo City (US 25 December / UK / SA)

Louis Greenberg has written The Beggars Signwriters and also edited the 24-story collection, Home Away; he is also collaborating with another author on the horror novel, The Mall.

Sarah Lotz is the author of Pompidou Posse, Exhibit A and Tooth and Nailed; she is the other author collaborating with Louis Greenberg on the horror novel, The Mall.

And since Sarah and Louis are collaborating on The Mall, it’s only far to feature their combined author-persona, too: SL Grey

We’ll be talking about Science Fiction and Horror, the growing industry for both genres in South Africa, as well as Louis and Sarah’s collaboration as SL Grey for The Mall, as well as anything else that takes our fancy. 🙂

We hope you’ll come through and join us!

R30 will get you in and our panel starts at 4, but there are plenty of events throughout the day, so do check out the program. 🙂

Hope to see you there!

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2010 in Announcements

 

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Lauren Beukes Launches Zoo City in the UK – Starting Tonight!

Yep, that’s right folks, Lauren is probably in the UK as I’m typing this. 🙂 She’ll be appearing at three separate events where you can go check her out – be sure to take your copies of Moxyland along with you, I’m sure she won’t mind signing them (she signed my two copies of Moxyland, one ARC and one SA edition, and she also signed my copy of Zoo City, at a launch earlier last month). 🙂

Here are the details:

Lauren will be appearing TONIGHT at The Antelope Tavern (hehehe weird but cool name, can’t imagine the people inside bounding around energetically, though) as a special guest of the British Science Fiction Association; she’ll be reading from Zoo City -and Lauren does awesome readings, let me tell you- as well as answering some questions about her work afterwards. Oh, and keep an eye out for some other Angry Robot surprises bounding around The Antelope Tavern… 😉 Oh, and you don’t have to be a member of the BSFA to attend, how awesome is that?!

Tomorrow is the big event: Lauren will be launching Zoo City at Forbidden Planet’s Megastore from 6PM to 7PM, so be sure to get there early to avoid queuing (or get there early to get your queuing done, er, early 😉 ). Forbidden Planet have also teamed up with Angry Robot to bring you a first-of-its-kind exclusive offer: 100 (no more, no less) LIMITED EDITION HARDCOVER copies of Zoo City have been made available – so if you can’t wait until September to get your copy of Zoo City, you’d better follow this link and buy a copy before they’re all gone! Would absolutely love me one of those, but I’m not as lucky as you all in the UK. 🙂

But that’s not all – you’ll get one final opportunity to meet Lauren: she’ll be a guest of the British Fantasy Society‘s first Open Night (technically, Open Afternoon) on the 31st of July – check out the link for the details.

So there we have it, folks! Three opportunities to meet one of the most exciting authors writing today – Lauren’s an awesome lady and her novels are kickass (Moxyland reviewed here, Zoo City reviewed here) and she’ll probably be taking the UK by storm. 🙂 Enjoy the events!

If you can’t make it to these events, have no fear – you can still order copies of Zoo City from Forbidden Planet (hopefully they’ll have some left!) and have it signed by Lauren, otherwise, order Zoo City here and Moxyland here.

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2010 in Angry Robot, Announcements

 

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Review: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

I used to live in Hillbrow, the section of Jo’burg in which much of Zoo City is set, but I was too young at that time to really remember it. We lived there, though, and I’m told it was a wonderful place to live. Now, though, and for the last couple of decades, at least, Hillbrow has become a complete and utter hell-hole. Stories of old ladies on pension being mugged repeatedly, and here I’m talking six or seven times in as many weeks; stories of entire appliances being thrown from windows during New Year’s Eve celebrations; stories that would make you wince and shake your head and tell the person who’s telling you these stories to just stop.

As a South African living about an hour from Hillbrow, I’m practically inured to Hillbrow-stories – as South Africans we’ve heard it all before, and many, many, many times. It’s like having to drive down a road on which a sewerage-plant is located, every day – at first the stench is crazy-bad and you’re damn sure that it clings to your clothes, but after a while the stench becomes a scent and then even that scent disappears. It is a curse of being human that you become used to everything.

Zoo City is, in some ways, a strident wake-up call. A shout from every rooftop, megaphones included. It’s the kind of book that draws attention to that which needs to be acknowledged and stopped while, at the same time, showing you that there is beauty and magic in everything and that you just need to allow yourself to look.

Zoo City focuses on Zinzi December; she struggles to make ends meet by finding lost things for people and also by dreaming up scams that end up fleecing the unfortunate, naive victim out of their money. It was wonderful getting to know Zinzi, even the not-so-nice and exploitative sides of her personality; sometimes I found myself shaking my head at her stupidity and practically consistent desire to get herself into difficult situations, but I also also learned to admire her for her ability to pick herself up and keep on going, even when everything around her was falling to pieces. I found her to be the kind of character that kept me interested and curious – Lauren lets Zinzi reveal herself, so that as the story progresses you get to know different aspects of her personality; just like what would happen during a long friendship or relationship with someone. I wouldn’t mind reading more tales that star Zinzi – she’s definitely a fresh, bold and tenacious girl! 🙂

But Lauren peoples Zoo City with plenty of other characters, from the star-producer Odi to Zinzi’s boyfriend, Benoit as well as a host of others – twins who are taking the SA music scene by storm, Zinzi’s contacts and friends from a previous life, and plenty of awesome animals – especially Sloth, the best of the lot. 🙂

Lauren also does some incredible world-building in this book, as she did in Moxyland; this is the Jo’burg that everyone knows (at least, those of us who have been there) but it’s also a new, darker Jo’burg that seethes with shadows and tension and yes, even beauty. I got the same feeling from Lauren’s Jo’burg as what I got from Kate Griffin’s London (from A Madness of Angels) – it’s familiar and exotic and beautiful, even though it seethes with danger, cruelty and chaos, and even though I’d probably see my ass if I ever went to Lauren’s Jo’burg, I’d still love to go. 🙂

I’m not going to say anything about the Urban-Fantasyish aspects of Zoo City – discovering that for yourself is one of the great things about this book. Suffice it to say that the magic (and there is magic) is pretty damn awesome and always interesting – the entire culture that has taken hold because of this magic and its effects is easily one of the stars of the novel. 🙂

The novel is also peppered with articles that lend it a refreshing authenticity – everything from supposed psychology of Zoo’s to glimpses of Zoo’s across the world. And no, I don’t mean animals-in-cages Zoo’s. 😉

Zoo City is an excellent example of what South African writers can achieve if they want to write stories set in South Africa; you really can give it our very particular flavour while telling the kind of tale you want to without having to focus on the evils of Apartheid or HIV / AIDS as a story-telling vehicle; one of the many things that Zoo City proves is that South Africa definitely has authors that’ll get you to sit up and take notice (while learning about our country), and Lauren Beukes is one of the authors at the forefront of showing this to the world. I have no doubt that readers in the UK and US will be intoxicated and astonished by this novel and that its characters events will remain with them for some time. That I hope that South African readers embrace this novel doesn’t need to be said – it’s just a matter of time. 🙂

8 / 10

To order your copies of Zoo City, click here (Exclusive Books); Zoo City will be available in the UK in September (from Angry Robot Books), but if you’d like to devour it before then (and who in the UK wouldn’t?!) then check out the info here – Lauren will be launching Zoo City at Forbidden Planet and you’ll be able to get yourself a limited edition hardcover. 🙂 Pre-order your copies here (Amazon UK) and head over to Lauren’s site here and her blog over at Book SA here.

Be EPIC!

P.S. Don’t just take my word that Zoo City is awesome – you can also read a review by Lood Du Plessis, one of my good friends, over at the Exclusive Books’ website. 🙂

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2010 in Angry Robot, Reviews

 

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Zoo City by Lauren Beukes – SA Launch!

If you’ve got plans for the 24th, Cancel Them. (yes, that was some not-so-subtle subliminal messaging there)

Lauren Beukes will be at Love Books in Melville for the Jo’burg launch of Zoo City! Here are the details, and remember, RSVP if you’re going! 🙂

I’ll definitely be there (thanks to the generosity of my good friend and fellow Writer-In-Training, Lood Du Plessis, who will be picking me up), so I hope to see many of you there, too. 🙂

Remember, Zoo City is already available and should be in stores country-wide – my review will be up on the 24th, just in time for the launch, and Lauren will also be launching Zoo City in the UK next month – details to follow. 🙂

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2010 in Announcements

 

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The Podcast, The Sloth and Jedi Dood

Hey guys, got some videos and news for you today. 🙂

First off, you’ve probably heard the announcement about the impending Angry Robot podcast! If you haven’t, here’s the low-down:

“Beginning in July 2010, Angry Robot will be broadcasting a new podcast series. Broadcast monthly, the 30-minute podcast will take the form of a joint interview with two Angry Robot authors or staff, along with genre and publishing news and a monthly competition to win Angry Robot titles.

The host and interviewer is Mur Lafferty. Mur is one of the world’s best-known and best-loved podcasters, and the co-author of the book Tricks of the Podcasting Masters. As well as hosting her own immensely popular podcast for wannabe writers I Should Be Writing, she was also recently announced as the new editor of Escape Pod – the world’s most popular short fiction podcast.

Mur commented: “One of the things I love most about podcasting is the chance to talk to so many talented authors. I’m thrilled to get the chance to chat with Angry Robot authors; it’s an honor to be producing a show for one of the newest and most exciting SF publishers around.”

The podcasts will be broadcast from the Angry Robot website, and will be downloadable as a subscription through iTunes. The first podcast interview will feature Angry Robot Publishing Director Marc Gascoigne and Editor Lee Harris, talking about the history of the imprint, the move to new partners Osprey, and the future. August’s guests are Angry Robot authors Lauren Beukes and Kaaron Warren – and you can believe that’s going to be an interview worth tuning in for!”

Awesome news indeed! I’m a huge fan of podcasts – my top casters are the guys who do the Dragon Page podacst, the guys behind the Smallville podcast, Starkville’s House of El, the group behind the Wheel of Time podcast, The Fourth Age, and the writing-podcast run by Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler and Dan Wells, Writing Excuses. I’ll have to get my act in gear and start listening to to Mur’s podcast, too! 🙂
Can’t wait for the first one!

Next up, here’s the pretty damn cool Book Trailer for Lauren Beukes‘ still-awesome-read-another-fifteen-pages-half-an-hour-ago Zoo City:

And finally, here’s a video that Blake Charlton brought to my attention – being a Star Wars fan, I absolutely loved this! 🙂 So much, in fact, that Blake needs a new title. I thought long and hard about this, and decided that there’s only one name that really has a ring to it;

Blake Charlton, you will henceforth be known as…

Darth Numinous!

Hehehehe!

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2010 in Announcements, Book Trailer

 

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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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