Category Archives: Science Fiction

Conquest

Science Fiction set at Edinburgh Castle and in the Scottish Highlands? If it didn’t actually have aliens, I’d say that Conquest is like any other – fabulous – story about invasion and resistance movements. Written by John Connolly (does that man never sleep?) and Jennifer Ridyard, Conquest is the first in their mature YA sci-fi series The Chronicles of the Invaders.

Despite the aliens I’d have felt it was more civil war story than sci-fi, except it looks like we are heading out into space for the next instalment.

Set in the not too distant future, Earth has been invaded by the Illyri, from a very long way away, arriving via multiple wormholes. They were pleased to find a race so similar to themselves, but shocked at the crude behaviour exhibited by us humans. As with many invasions, it seemed at first as if the Illyri were more civilised, but we’re all the same; good and bad and ‘human.’

John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard, Conquest

16-year-old Syl lives with her father at Edinburgh Castle, and like most teenagers she likes to disobey the adults occasionally, which is how she meets Paul Kerr, a 17-year-old member of the resistance. At first he doesn’t realise she’s Illyri, and he saves her life and then she saves his, and after that both of them are in danger.

This is a fantastic tale of deception and intrigue, politics and love. (Star Trek meets Braveheart?) There are witches and spies; some with special abilities. Conquest is very pacy and exciting. You just don’t know who to trust. The Illyri have brought with them people from other planets, and some of them you’d rather not think about too much.

Gruesome in places, but also lots of food for thought regarding what we – in reality – are doing to this planet.

You’re never too young to write a book

And then they all turned around and looked at me.

Yes, you!

(That should teach me to sit by the emergency exit.)

I had just enough time to leave the Royal Exchange on Monday and make my way to the People’s History Museum for an afternoon with Eoin Colfer. It was for schools only, so don’t fret if you feel you’ve missed it. Well, you obviously have missed it, but unlike me you are not a school. Just outside Kendals (House of Fraser) I encountered the Waterstones team bound for the same place. The boxes of books almost fell off their trolley, but righted themselves at the last moment.

At the museum a very nice helper asked me to pick a stool (adults had to rough it, as it was fully booked) and to sit at the back (like by the emergency exit), and then as I went to look at the book display I returned to find my stool almost walking away. (You’ll be pleased to hear I wrestled it back.) Left my stool again for ‘other business’ and was rewarded by meeting Eoin’s publicist Adele. (I know her. I don’t have to ask stupid questions like I did the other day.)

Eoin Colfer

In case any of the children were upset to miss an afternoon of school, Eoin mentioned that as a teacher he is legally qualified to hand out homework. He sounded very Irish when he said that.

So, WARP, the new book, is about time travel, and the reason Eoin picked this ‘original’ subject is all to do with Ireland in the 1970s. They had nothing (although Eoin had – still has – three younger brothers, and he hates younger brothers). Television offered only the bible channel and the farming channel, until a friend got BBC, which had wonderful things like Doctor Who, which they could watch through the window…

Eoin Colfer

There were more tall stories about how Eoin came to watch BBC and Doctor Who, which had to do with semi-nudity, a fierce dog and an air rifle. But anyway, this confirmed his determination to write about time travel one day.

Then he told us some rubbish about trying to scare his sons with his writing, but they have watched the Powerpuff Girls, so don’t scare easily. His eldest son is a cruel teenager who flicks his hair and no longer tells his father, who is in charge of all the money, that he loves him. Or whatever.

(For that kind of money I’d be more than willing to tell Eoin I love him.)

The younger one has a wrestler’s death move he uses on his defenseless dad, and there was a long story about the little one’s toilet habits. It sort of makes you want to go, but you can’t very well amidst all the peepee and poopoo and old Frenchmen.

Eoin Colfer

When Eoin returned to his teen disco experience, I knew I’d heard it before and recently. But where? I remembered after a while only to forget it almost immediately. (Preston.) Then remembered again.

There were more dancing memories. Someone very sweetly asked how he met his wife. At a ceilidh, at a very young age. His wife was also responsible for getting Eoin writing, because he was forever saying things like ‘he could do it better’ until she snapped and told him to do it then. Thank you, Mrs C.

His goal is to write fifty books. Current tally is 24. Eoin loves books, but has no plans to marry one. The second WARP instalment will be Hangman’s Revolution which will be published in April.

Kaye Tew for mcbf

Eoin Colfer

Eoin Colfer

Before Eoin went over to the signing table, he signed some books standing up. They were prizes for the winners of the various categories of the Postcards from the Past competition, launched a year ago. I rather liked the one from the iceberg that did for the Titanic. I didn’t know icebergs could write postcards.

Eoin Colfer with Adele Minchin

This time I almost succeeded in being last in the signing queue, and I’d brought my adult Eoin Colfer books along, seeing as I missed him a few weeks ago. I hope none of the short ten-year-olds in the audience has even an inkling as to what they are about. But they’ll grow up one day, and then they will be allowed to read them, and they will be taller than they are now, and Eoin will be forced to hate them. (I am very short, btw.)

Eoin Colfer

The Eye of Neptune

With his Monster Odyssey The Eye of Neptune, Jon Mayhew has written a Jules Verne prequel. I wish I had thought of that, back in my most fervent Verne-reading years. Although I’m not sure I could have come up with the downright gruesome sea creatures that literally fill this book.

Jon Mayhew, The Eye of Neptune

Prince Dakkar has been living with the mysterious Count Oginski for four years, learning ‘useful’ things for when it is time to return to his own country and take over as ruler. But when Oginski is kidnapped, Dakkar saves himself by escaping in the strange submersible that his mentor has built.

And from then on this is a rollicking adventure featuring the dreadful sea creatures and the pirates and other humans who live in and on the sea. Britain and America are at war, and Dakkar needs to avoid being caught as a spy when he ends up in America. That’s not a problem for long, as Dakkar gets more ‘caught up with’ the enormous and dangerous creatures that seem to have something to do with C.

C wants to rule the world. And he is mad. Or maybe not?

This is the perfect adventure for those readers who fancy themselves as someone who could save the world. Dakkar is the archetypical adventurer; brave, reckless, clever and exotic. You want to be him, or to be his friend.

I believe there’s more books coming, so it would seem the world has not been totally saved yet. Excellent news!

Space Blasters

You have to love Philip Caveney’s cinema books! Here we are again, all ready to pop into the latest ‘Star Wars’ film. Or not.

Philip Caveney, Space Blasters

Kip, whose Dad runs this Stockport cinema with a difference, has decided once and for all that he will not go into any more films, however much Mr Lazarus tries to tempt him. And Mr Lazarus, the 120-year-old projectionist, respects his wishes. Things went wrong last time. And the time before that.

Dad is happy, because his cinema is finally doing well. He has no idea why, though, which could be the reason he is stupid enough to talk to the press. So, Stephanie from the Evening Post works out all is not as it seems. Kip has to try and deflect her interest in Mr Lazarus and his putting-people-into-films machine.

Unfortunately that doesn’t go well. Unfortunately, Mr Lazarus has a younger brother, who at a mere 117 is a little boisterous. Unfortunately, Kip ends up having to sort out what goes wrong between these two old men, leaving his girlfriend Beth holding the fort.

Meanwhile Stephanie’s curiosity leads to an unexpected meeting with Zeke Stardancer, while Emperor Zarkan also has various unexpected things happen to him.

Thank goodness for bratty little sisters! Kip’s, not Zarkan’s. And Dad can work out how his projectionist managed to grow a beard in a few hours. Or maybe not.

It’s a slice of fish, really.

(I believe this is the last cinema book by Philip. That’s good, insofar that it’s often best to leave a party when you’re having the most fun.)

Life after Artemis

What to do now that Artemis Fowl, that loveable rogue, has ‘retired?’ Luckily, the fact that Eoin Colfer writes hardboiled adult crime novels these days, has not prevented him from coming up with more outlandish plot ideas for us younger readers.

Eoin Colfer, W.A.R.P.

In W.A.R.P. The Reluctant Assassin he returns to the Victorian era, with a crime thriller complete with a sci-fi twist. As Eoin warns in his author’s notes, there are neither vampires nor werewolves on offer, but he can give you mutants, murderers, magicians, and other dreadful types. And an ‘Injun princess.’

We have Victorian urchin Riley and 21st century FBI agent Chevron Savano, age 17. (So, totally unrealistic. Or not. How are we to know what those alphabet agents really get up to?) What’s more, we have a wormhole. And Riley and Chevie couldn’t meet without one or other of them travelling through said wormhole.

Other people go through the wormhole, too, and in some cases it doesn’t end so well. W.A.R.P. is the witness relocation scheme with a difference. Witnesses are stashed in 1898, which is so safe.

There is a villain, who – I think – is actually quite charming. The blurb describes Garrick as a terrifying assassin – which he is – but I quite liked him. Not sure if I was meant to.

So, a thriller set in London, now and in 1898. The advantage being that even an FBI agent will recognise the landmarks in the past. They are the same, but smell worse. And Riley’s reaction to television was quite something.

This book has the usual humour that you come to expect and crave from Eoin, and whereas at times I was afraid that it would turn out to be only a Victorian FBI through the wormhole kind of affair, when you get to the end – which is not really an end at all – you understand that there is much more to it. Temptingly so.

Rat Runners

What a marvellous film Rat Runners would make! It’s a great book, but I spent my time reading it seeing the film it could be turned into. Daughter won’t like me saying this, but it’s precisely the kind of thing she likes watching on television. (So read the book!)

Oisín McGann, Rat Runners

This must be Oisín McGann’s best book to date. I have enjoyed all the ones I’ve read, but do feel Rat Runners has that little bit extra. Set in a slightly futuristic London, it’s much as we know the place, except for the way everything is policed and what people can do. They have a kind of robotic – but live – watcher who can see everything, bar your thoughts. Possibly.

Nimmo is under age and isn’t allowed to live on his own, but he does anyway, having made a deal with the scientist Brundle who owns the building. When Brundle is murdered Nimmo wants to find out who did it and why. He also ends up having to search for something that Brundle had, which it turns out all the crooks in London want.

He is made leader of a group of three other adolescents – Scope, Mannikin and FX – and their job is to find this item. The four each have special skills, taken straight from your favourite thrillers. The youngest is twelve, and they all have something that their ‘boss’ can use as leverage to force them work for him.

Very exciting, and I am more than ready for the next one. I can’t see that we are done yet.

The Lighthouse trilogy

It wasn’t until I went into the kitchen to make lunch that I realised the Resident IT Consultant had not even had breakfast yet. I knew he was awake, but had forgotten to ‘keep tabs’ on what he was doing.

But I didn’t need to go and have a look at him to know what. He was busy reading Adrian McKinty’s Lighthouse trilogy. I had, yet again, pointed out he might like to read all three Lighthouse books. Because they really are good. He’d read the first and given up.

Or so we thought. When he took a second look at The Lighthouse Land, he came to the conclusion he had probably (!) not actually read it at all. So he remedied that, and skipping breakfast was one way of getting more reading in, once he’d opened his eyes that morning. He didn’t skip breakfast so much as have it after I’d lunched, so it was lunch he missed in the end.

After that I knew how it would go. He went straight on to The Lighthouse War, barely pausing for breath. And then he grabbed my rare, signed copy of The Lighthouse Keepers, and it was all I could do to tell him not to drop it in the bath.

The next morning he returned it, safe and finished. Knowing that he is sparing with the adjectives, even for marvellous books, I asked ‘was it OK, then?’

‘Reasonable, I suppose,’ said the man who had barely eaten or slept while reading.

If anyone else feels like depriving themselves over three reasonable books, do have a go. He is underrated, that Adrian McKinty. Even by Resident IT Consultants…

Dung beetles in Salford Quays

When the Resident IT Consultant heard that I’d asked another man out to dinner, I had to placate him by lending him a copy of Grk and the Phoney Macaroni. That’s because the man was none other than Josh Lacey, who is also Joshua Doder,* who writes about the adorable Grk.

I then added to my dinner guests by trawling through the shortlist for the Salford Children’s Book Award, and apart from those who were ill or otherwise indisposed, or who claimed to be telling 2000 people in Derry what to do, I found Dirk Lloyd (aka the Dark Lord, aka Jamie Thomson) and Gill Lewis, who both courageously sacrificed themselves to dinner with the witch. (I suppose it beats a dry sandwich alone in a hotel.)

Dining – and wining – authors is almost better than going to awards ceremonies. (Think Disney’s Snow White and a certain witch.)

Speaking of hotels; they shouldn’t be allowed to name and build them in such a way that authors don’t know where they are staying. We almost led someone astray after the meal.

I found Josh and the Dark Lord in the bar at the Lowry last night, where I had gone to warm up, and they for a glass of something. Before long I forced them to go out and search for Gill, who had abandonend the end of a very good book to dine with us.

We talked about a lot of things. The Dark Lord talked the most, and he is very keen on games. And similar stuff. He knows about smörgåsbord, and there was a rather unfortunate conversation about eating elk.

Some people go to awards nights away to sleep, when sleep is hard to come by at home. (On that basis, maybe there should be even more events away for the sleep deprived.) Gill, who is a vet, writes about animals, and the Dark Lord got busy thinking one up for her next book (which, if it mentions too much gamesy stuff is all his fault) to top ospreys, dolphins and bears. It seems dung beetles are the answer.

There was some speculation as to who will win today’s award. Most of our money is on Frank Cottrell Boyce, but I’m sure we could be wrong. It might be one of the dinner guests. Or Barbara Mitchelhill, David Logan or Lissa Evans. Who knows?

I gather Alan Gibbons is doing the talking again this year, so I wish I could be/have been there. But as usual, I’m happy for the children of Salford who have read and voted and hopefully generally enjoyed this year’s award work.

And my fellow diners might never have the same kind of bank balance as JKR, but they are great company, and only ever so slightly slow at ordering food. At least one of us was starving, and another very sleepy. Actually, that makes two of us.

There was some speculation on the feasibility of a Jacqueline Wilson sci-fi novel, and why not? The odds are better than for me getting the hang of modern mobile phonery. I tried texting my guests. I tried answering my phone. I’m pretty useless at it all.

Maybe it’s because I’m a foreigner that I don’t distinguish between more and longer. I meant longer. I never knowingly insult children’s authors.

Thank you, Gill, Josh and Jamie.

PS Gill Lewis and her Sky Hawk won!!!

* I am sorry to have to tell you (well, not that sorry, actually) that Joshua Doder is now dead. Kaput, as Josh Lacey put it. He is taking over his alter ego, and from now on Grk will belong to him.

The old weltschmerz and other fun stuff

‘Never, never, never kill a customer.’ I like a book where the bad baddie – who is still not quite as dead as you’d like – actually takes on board what others say to him.

And I like a book where 15-year-old boys in a small village near Belfast can talk about weltschmerz and get away with it. To be more precise, it was Lord Ramsay who said it, and Lord Ui Neill who puts up with him.

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to mention that Thaddeus doesn’t die in chapter one, from hunting whatever that creature he was out hunting was. He was needed to babysit the two Lords and their alien friend Wishaway, and that’s a job almost worse than being eaten by a large cat in the first chapter.

I’m glad Thaddeus got an outing in the third book in Adrian McKinty’s (I haven’t mentioned him for several days!!) Lighthouse trilogy, The Lighthouse Keepers. He had sort of hovered for long enough that the time was ripe. And travelling through wormholes is so much more amusing if you can have someone new along each time.

Have to admit I was disappointed to have the old baddie still with us, and in Northern Ireland at that. But they have to be somewhere.

There were new baddies too. The CIA. And the clairvoyants. They know for a fact that Jamie – Lord Ui Neill – will cause the end of the world, which means they need to cause the end of Jamie before he does his bit. He has to be killed.

And there is the other world, Altair, and it also has bad people. Or maybe not. They could just be enemies, which isn’t the same thing. Their world is coming to an end, too.

The Lighthouse Keepers is funny and exciting;  and just the right mix of comedy and thriller, with a suitable amount of science fiction-cum-astrophysics thrown in. It’s very Irish. There is also a hilarious description of Larne. Although I might just think so because I have never been to Larne.

Reading The Lighthouse Keepers after the end of the world on 21st December 2012 posed a little bit of a problem, and Adrian was totally wrong about Starbucks, and hopefully a wee bit wrong regarding Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan. But not necessarily very wrong, which is worrying.

While the second book in the trilogy probably was better than this one, it is so good that you really must try it. The whole trilogy could do with being re-issued, and preferably by a British or Irish publisher. To me it is much more of a European story, and I feel so many people are missing out on a terrific read.

Today

So, how are we? All present and correct?

I’m not one to buy into this end of the world stuff. I had actually managed to escape the latest ending of our world until quite recently, when I read in Vi magazine what was happening. Their reporter had been to France and was amused by the restaurant he came across, that offered a spectacular last night meal with entertainment.

Perhaps he has not read Douglas Adams? I suspect the restaurant people might have, unlikely though it sounds.

But it set me thinking apocalyptic thoughts. There is Tim Bowler’s Apocalypse; bleak, but not quite the end of everything. (Unless I got it all wrong?)

There is/was – or maybe not – Nicola Morgan’s novel which tried to be Apocalypse, but changed into The Passionflower Massacre ( a much better title, now that I stop to reflect) in deference to Tim.

Most likely there are apocalypses everywhere with our taste for dystopias and horror. (Quick search in online shop only netted a couple more, surprisingly.)

Some years ago the Resident IT Consultant returned home and mentioned he’d seen a film while away. I asked what film. He said it was called The Day Before Yesterday. Or something. Personally I find his a more interesting title than The Day After Tomorrow (which is what he did see.)

Let’s get on with today…

Hello, is anyone there?

Anyone at all?

Maybe it was a mistake to set this blog post to appear automatically?