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Titan Books

Tony Talks #19: Happy New Year + 2020 Update!

Happy New Year (and decade) everyone!

Firstly, I’d like to thank each and every one of you who reads this blog when you get the chance. I’ve worked hard particularly in the last few months to keep content rolling on a daily basis and I appreciate any interactions I have with you, whether via likes on posts or comments or on social media. I hope for more of that in 2020 and to get to know many of you better, if I don’t know you already.

This blog has kind of become my central focus point over the last six months ever since I quit my role as co-founder/co-editor of Set The Tape in April. That was a really interesting almost 2 year project that taught me, primarily, that I am not an editor! I am a writer, for better or worse. I have enormous respect for anyone who edits copy and runs a website with multiple staffers and content daily because it is an all-consuming task with little financial reward that can end up quite the grind. It just wasn’t for me, in the end.

Ever since, I’ve been toying with what the future holds as we enter the 2020’s in terms of writing and podcasting and I thought I’d share my musings with you on this New Year’s Day.

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Book Review: THE SILVER WIND (Nina Allan)

Nina Allan prefaces this re-issue of her 2011 science-fiction novel, The Silver Wind, with thoughts about material she has inserted back into the book which didn’t seem to fit the first time around, and this nicely queues you up for the kind of treat her novel turns out to be. The Silver Wind is discordant, tricky, eerie and almost entirely non-linear, all in the right ways.

Even giving a broad description of Allan’s fairly short, not much longer than a novella work, is a slippery proposition. Ostensibly the story revolves around brother and sister Martin and Dora Newland, who find themselves embroiled in the mystery of a man named Owen Andrews, a watchmaker who has found a way to control the flow of time. To say anymore feels churlish and unfair to the sweep of Allan’s book which is unusually structured in order to pay off the inter-connectivity of what are, effectively, short stories tethered together by an ever-developing thread concerning time travel.

We might as well get that one out of the way given the novel is science-fiction. Time travel is a factor.

Book Review: War of the Archons #2 – Hangman’s Gate (R S. Ford)

Everyone writing fantasy is living in the shadow of George R. R. Martin these days given the global success of Game of Thrones, and Hangman’s Gate—second in the War of the Archons trilogy—is no exception.

For some writers this could work to the detriment of their product but not R. S. Ford, who seems to have learned a valuable lesson from Martin across this and previous novel in the series, A Demon in Silver – allow your characters to be sarcastic, gritty and almost a touch self-aware they’re in the middle of a broad, fantastical world. Hangman’s Gate continues a series which has all the trappings of traditional fantasy – magic, heroes, kings, mystical lands etc… but, like Martin, his characters are earthy, relatable despite their setting, and often massively out of their depth. In short, they’re frequently very fun to hang out with, which helps the series find its footing.

Hangman’s Gate isn’t afraid to throw new characters into the mix and peel away different layers of the world Ford has created, a world rapidly coming apart.

Book Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Vanishing Man (Philip Purser-Hallard)

One of the beautiful things about Sherlock Holmes–the character–being out of copyright is that publishing houses like Titan Books can keep bringing us licensed adventures of Arthur Conan-Doyle’s iconic detective from an array of different writers.

The Vanishing Man is one such tale. Conan Doyle’s stories often were novellas or even short stories as Dr. John Watson, erstwhile partner to the unique and maddening genius Holmes, would recount their ‘problems’ to the reader, and Philip Purser-Hallard gets a full novel sized plot for the detective duo to unravel. In doing so, he doesn’t remotely reinvent the wheel. This is a classic, traditional Holmes & Watson case, set in their heyday during 1896, which could slot perfectly well amongst Conan Doyle’s canon. The Vanishing Man has a solid central mystery, a litany of garish and exuberant Victorian characters, and the joy of a conclusion in which we see Sherlock putting it all together in front of our eyes.

In short, The Vanishing Man is going to scratch the Holmesian itch for fans of these stories nicely.

Book Review: Green Valley (Louis Greenberg)

From time to time, Titan Books are kind enough to send me advance copies of upcoming novels I express an interest in. When they do, I’ll be reviewing them here on Cultural Conversation.

Dystopian fiction has long been the province of novelists projecting into the future but Louis Greenberg presents a fascinating, contained version in Green Valley of how technology may consume us.

His first solo novel, after having written as part of a team with fellow novelist Sarah Lotz under the name S. L. Grey, Green Valley hinges on a key choice made by society in the not too distant future about how we interface with technology in our lives. The so-called ‘Turn’ saw humanity reject the penetration of advanced virtual reality projecting an existence before our eyes which played out on a technological playing field in exchange for an older, slightly rougher and defiantly more *real* world… except the community of ‘Green Valley’; protected behind a huge wall, flanked by largely abandoned real world communities, and driven by their own laws and systems – an entirely autonomous community significantly more advanced than the rest of the world. Greenberg’s novel is all about the intersection between these two intentionally different worlds.

Green Valley could easily have ended up as an episode of the Netflix TV series Black Mirror, holding up as it does a mirror to our relationship with technology and finding darkness, confusion and terror in the reflection.

Book Review: All My Colors (David Quantick)

From time to time, Titan Books are kind enough to send me advance copies of upcoming novels I express an interest in. When they do, I’ll be reviewing them here on Cultural Conversation.

You may have heard the name David Quantick over the years.

You may indeed have seen him as a talking head on more than a few clip shows providing a comedic or acerbic bent, but in reality he is one of the most quietly esteemed comedy writers in the UK of the last thirty years, from the influential and dark work of Chris Morris such as The Day Today, Brass Eye and Jam, through to a fruitful union with Armando Iannucci on The Thick of It and most recently in the US, Veep, which has seen Emmy Awards coming his way.

The latter two projects are mentioned on the cover of All My Colors, a title itself handily Americanised as this sees Quantick—in his first slice of prose fiction—playing in the American cultural wilderness as he brings to bear a caustic, snappy slice of satirical, melodramatic horror. The story of Todd Milstead feels like what would happen if you threw H.P. Lovecraft, The Twilight Zone, Stephen King and 80’s Richard Briers-starring comedy Ever Decreasing Circles into a blender.

Naturally this is, in no way, a bad thing.