Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Review: Binary by Stephanie Saulter

Author:  Stephanie Saulter
Series:  ®EVOLUTION 2
Publisher:  Jo Fletcher Books, May 5, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
List Price:  $22.99  (print)
ISBN:  9781623654658 (print)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Zavcka Klist has reinvented herself: no longer the ruthless gemtech enforcer determined to keep the gems they created enslaved, she's now all about transparency and sharing the fruits of Bel'Natur's research to help gems and norms alike.

Neither Aryel Morningstar nor Dr. Eli Walker are convinced that Klist or Bel'Natur can have changed so dramatically, but the gems have problems that only a gemtech can solve. In exchange for their help, digital savant Herran agrees to work on Klist's latest project: reviving the science that drove mankind to the brink of extinction.

Then confiscated genestock disappears from a secure government facility, and the more DI Varsi investigates, the closer she comes to the dark heart of Bel'Natur and what Zavcka Klist is really after-not to mention the secrets of Aryel Morningstar's own past...

Melanie's Thoughts

Binary, the second book of the ®EVOLUTION series by Stephanie Saulter, starts several years after book 1 with the norms and the gems living together in more harmony and the gemtechs a mere shadow of their former selves. Everything seems too happy until some gemstock is stolen from a super secure government building and DI Sharon Varsi, a norm now married to gem, is sent to investigate. While the investigation unfolds the savant Herran is asked to work for the former baddy Zavcka Klist. What seems like two very separate plots combined with secrets from Ayrel Morningstar's past all culminate in one fantastic read.

I reviewed Gemsigns back in May 2014 and it later became one of my favourite books of the 2014. I was not disappointed with Binary (with the added bonus that in the UK it was released much earlier). Saulter introduced us to very few new characters but likewise did not bring back that many of the main characters from Binary. This really worked as all the sub-plots revolved around the beautiful and wise Gem leader Ayrel Morningstar.  We get to see a glimpse into her past through a series of flashbacks and see how her past has shaped his future self as she faces off with the former gemtech kingpin Zavcka Klist.

I was a bit dubious that I was going to enjoy this book as much as I liked Gemsigns but Saulter did it. She managed to weave a story that flitted from the past to present with ease and drew the reader in so deeply that it was almost impossible to put this book down. While I missed some of the characters I had grown to love in the previous book I was just as happy to spend time getting to know new ones. The book still focused on Aryl Morningstar who is a compelling protagonist and the flashbacks make her even more so. Kavcka was equally interesting and nothing is better than a baddy who isn't overtly sinister. Saulter writes truly believable science fiction and I almost feel smarter from having read it. I can hardly wait to find out what happens next.

Interview with James Cambias and review of Corsair - May 5, 2015

Please welcome James Cambias to The Qwillery. Corsair is published today by Tor Books. Please join The Qwillery in wishing James a Happy Publication Day!

TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel Corsair is published on May 5th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote A Darkling Sea (January 2014) to Corsair?

James:  The two books were written in a totally different way. For Darkling Sea I started with the basic idea of the novel and kind of "wrote my way into it." I skipped around within the text, working on different sections as the mood struck me (with the result that when I first thought it was finished my wife pointed out that I forgot to include the middle).

Corsair was based on a short story, and I developed the outline in considerable detail before I ever started writing the book. Especially since a lot of the action is determined by orbital mechanics, I had an externally-imposed timeline I had to fit everything into.

For any space geeks reading this: the timing of events on the way to and from the Moon were based on NASA's detailed timeline of the Apollo 11 mission.

TQ:  You are also a game designer. How does this affect (or not) your fiction writing?

James:  It gave me the chance to practice the basics and get paid for it; I wrote game adventures and sourcebooks and learned how to write coherent prose and build outlines and meet a deadline.

However, game writing also taught me some habits I had to "unlearn" to write fiction. In a roleplaying game, the story tends to be one of incremental success: the player-characters encounter monsters, overcome them, and thereby become more capable and able to take on more formidable enemies. But in a novel the characters have to spend a lot more time _failing_ before the final climax.

TQ:  Tell us something about Corsair that is not in the book description. Is the title literal (corsair = privateer or pirate)?

James:  Something which sadly did not make it into the book description is that there's a lot of comedy in it. My main viewpoint character is a pretty funny guy, even though he's also a terrible person.

The title is entirely literal. This is a book about Captain Black the Space Pirate, Supreme Badass of Space, and his nemesis Captain Santiago of Space Command.

TQ:  Which character in Corsair was the hardest character to write and why? Easiest and why?

James:  The trickiest character in the book was probably Captain Elizabeth Santiago, simply because I had to find out as much as I could about proper military operations and conduct. I'm pretty certain active-duty military personnel will spot many mistakes, and I hope they will be forgiving.

The easiest was David's foil Halfdan. I love Halfdan. I could write Halfdan all day. He is absolutely insane, incredibly annoying, and if there's a sequel I'm definitely bringing him back.

TQ:  Both Corsair and A Darkling Sea are Science Fiction. Is Corsair hard SF like A Darkling Sea? In your opinion, should Science Fiction deal with 'big issues' or simply be entertaining?

James:  Despite the fact that it's about space pirates, Corsair is pure hard science fiction. Indeed, it's a lot "harder" than Darkling Sea, as it includes no imaginary science (like the faster-than-light drive). In thirty years all this could be happening over our heads.

As to the question of "issues" or entertainment, I've long maintained that it's a false dichotomy. -Moby Dick- is considered one of the most profound novels in American literature. Herman Melville wrote it to cash in on the public's interest in whaling. It was his "airport novel."

Corsair touches on some pretty heavy issues: the globalization of organized crime; the increasingly blurry lines between crime, terrorism, and government operations; the exploitation of refugees; the expanding surveillance state; and some others. It also has boat chases, space battles, and buried treasure.

TQ:  Please give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Corsair.

James:  My favorite line in the book comes during some hostage negotiations. One of the bad guys, Vlad Draganovic, has kidnapped Anne Rogers and is trying to persuade Captain Santiago to give him Captain Black. But she is playing chicken with him over the phone.

“Because—” He groped for words. “—it’s your job! You are a soldier, yes? You defend your country. She is an American citizen, so you must protect her. I am a dangerous man. Maybe I torture her before killing her. You don’t want that.”

“I have other problems.”

“It is common human decency! What is wrong with you?” he shouted into the phone.

TQ:  What's next?

James:  I'm currently working on a third novel called -Arkad's World-, a coming-of-age story about a human boy alone on an alien planet. I'm hoping it will be done in time for a 2016 release, but right now that's not certain.

Publisher:  Tor Books, May 5, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  $25.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765379108 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Space pirates and computer hackers in a thrilling near-future adventure.

The year is 2020 and robotic mining in space has become a lucrative part of Earth’s economy. Precious materials are gathered from asteroids and dropped down the gravity well to be collected out of the oceans. But just as the commerce has evolved, so has the crime, and piracy is a booming market with hackers doing all they can to get their piece of the prize.

Ten years prior, computer wizards Elizabeth Santiago and David Schwartz met at MIT: She was there to begin a promising career in data security; he was there to sneak into classes. After a brief affair David disappears—and neither ever dream their paths will cross again.

Now an Intelligence Operative working to prevent international space piracy, Elizabeth has been fighting a particularly skilled hacker…whose style seems eerily familiar. Soon they go head to head over some particularly valuable cargo—but as always when the steaks are that high, there’s more danger lurking than either can imagine.

From the author of the critically acclaimed A Darkling Sea comes another thrilling space adventure that will appeal to fans of Star Trek and Star Wars. With genuine characters and action not overwrought by exaggeration, this is a clean, hard SF standalone novel that is sure to impress and entertain.

Qwill's Thoughts

Corsair is James Cambias' second novel. It's set in the not so distance future (2020 and 2030) and features Elizabeth Santiago and David Schwartz whose lives intersect years after dating. The Moon is being mined for Helium by Westinghouse and shipments from the Moon to the Earth are sometimes hijacked by space pirates as they drop from lunar orbit to the Earth. The most blatant and brilliant of the pirates is David aka Captain Black. Elizabeth works for the military trying to stop pirates like David.

David is more than a bit of a jerk, is incredibly intelligent, and is motivated by pure self interest. He has justifications for his actions but they ring hollow. He's a thief and a pirate because he can be and because he wants to be rich. He is also very amusing and despite his many faults I find him likable.

Elizabeth joined the military but runs into trouble with her superiors for being too aggressive in her attempts to protect Helium shipments. She's sent to another job where she will supposedly be under the radar for a while. Elizabeth is very driven and has a lot of trouble dealing with failure. She also does what seem to be and are sometimes wrong things for what are the right reasons.

To say that things go badly for David and Elizabeth is a bit of an understatement. They are both in trouble. In the end, they need each other's help to save more than themselves. Cambias lets us see different sides to Elizabeth and David - they are certainly not one dimensional.

In addition to David and Elizabeth there is a truly fine cast of supporting characters - from the really nice, the really odd, to the extremely menacing. The science is fascinating, but never overwhelms the story. Nor do the deeper issues raised by the novel. There is a lot to think about in Corsair if one is so inclined.

Corsair is full of intriguing science, evil plots, and schemes. Cambias has crafted an engaging nail-biter that is exciting, fun and a satisfying read.

About James

James Cambias is a co-founder of Zygote Games and has written several table top role-play game tie in novels. His short fiction has appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Shimmer, and several other anthologies. In 2001 he was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his family. Visit him online at jamescambias.com.

Goodreads  ~  Wikipedia

Interview with Eli K. P. William, author of Cash Crash Jubilee, and Review & Giveaway - May 5, 2015

Please welcome Eli K. P. William to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Cash Crash Jubilee is published today by Talos Press. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Eli a Happy Publication Day!

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Eli:  The first time I can remember writing fiction was in the fourth grade. The teacher asked us to do some sort of assignment in our class journals, and as a way of slacking off I wrote a story. My only memory of this story (no copy survives that I'm aware of) is of men leaping about on dusty cliffs shooting each other with plasma blasters, surely some cliche pastiche of the cartoons and comics I was absorbing at the time. This was around the beginning of the school year and I was expecting my new teacher to react angrily, as my third grade teacher always had when I broke the rules, but he was surprisingly encouraging, seeming to approve of my creativity. So, seeing that I could get away with it, I went on to fill my journal with fictional scribbling for the rest of the year. And I continued to submit stories, surreal gags and other silliness right up to my final year of high school whenever I didn't feel like doing a bit of homework or didn't have the answer to a question on a test. Some teachers were similarly encouraging or just found it amusing; most were indignant and vengeful.

So I guess I started writing as a form of juvenile disobedience, inspired by fictional characters like Bart Simpson. It was a way for me to defend my imagination from the stifling power of standardized education (my favourite song at around the age of ten was Pink Floyd's Brick In The Wall, which I now sing occasionally at karaoke in my more rebellious moods) and prevent my spirit from being squashed by teachers, the basis for whose authority no one could ever persuasively explain.

My first stab at serious writing, however, wasn't until the end of high school, but that's a whole other topic.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Eli:  Neither or both. On the one hand, when I try to write outlines, my scenes begin to develop without my planning them, as though writing themselves. On the other hand, when I try to write without an outline, I'll find myself seeing into the future, as it were, of my fictional world, which sort of gives me my plot out of nowhere. In the case of Cash Crash Jubilee, the writing process was complicated. I started with a concept, then wrote scenes, then developed characters, then outlined, then did research, then redeveloped the concept and characters, then went back to the plot, then wrote scenes, then did more research, etc., etc. I was inching along on this circular course until one day the ending to the whole series came to me in a flash (though at this point I still believed it was a single novel, not a series, and it would be several months before I looked up average word counts and saw that I was already way over. The naivety of first time novelists!). For the book I plan to write after the Jubilee Cycle, I’m hoping to work without an outline and instead improvise off the characters, concept and setting, but sudden insights into the plot may overturn this plan and, in the end, I suspect it will unfold in a similarly haphazard fashion.

I think I write best when the story grows organically, but unfortunately that isn't something within my control. It either comes or it doesn't and all I can do is write everyday and hope.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Eli:  Being concise. Whether it’s newspaper articles, short stories or novels, I pump out first drafts quickly, but they're always too long. After this follows an excruciating process of "murdering my darlings", that is, of cutting out unneeded sentences to meet the editor's word count. To put a positive spin on my weakness, I just have too much to say.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Eli:  For the last few years, I have been alternating back and forth between reading a novel in Japanese and reading one in English.

The Japanese novel that made the biggest impact on me was Hardboiled Wonderland And The End of The World by Haruki Murakami, who is definitely one of my favourite authors. Although the subject matter and structure of this novel are entirely different from Cash Crash Jubilee, I tried to adapt its style of storytelling, where the reader is dropped into a state of intrigued bewilderment and then gradually shown what's going on. Also, Abe Kobo's Woman of the Dunes, Hiromi Kawakami's Manazuru and Ryu Murakami's Coin Locker Babies are all masterpieces in their own ways.

On the English side of things, I think some of my influences will be obvious from reading the book: Orwell, William Gibson, Phillip K. Dick. Also Kafka of course. Other less obvious influences include: Ursula K. Le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, China Mieville, Jonathan Swift and Plato.

TQ:  Describe Cash Crash Jubilee.

Eli:  In a near future Tokyo, all actions, from laughing to scratching an itch, are intellectual properties owned by corporations that charge licensing fees. The protagonist, Amon Kenzaki, works as a Liquidator for the Global Action Transaction Authority, his job being to cash crash bankrupt citizens and banish them to Bankdeath Camps, where they are cut off forever from the action-transaction economy. In the beginning, he is obsessed with frugality and job promotion because he’s trying to save enough money to visit a mysterious forest he sees in his dreams. But his plans are disrupted when he is assigned to cash crash an upstanding politician he admires, his best friend disappears, and, worst of all, he is charged for an exorbitantly-priced action called “jubilee” that he never performed. Soon, he feels compelled to investigate, but this forces him to confront the bewildering bureaucracy he serves and many of his cherished beliefs about the world he inhabits begin to unravel.

TQ:  Tell us something about Cash Crash Jubilee that is not in the book description.

Eli:  This is not merely a story of man versus bureaucracy. It is also about the relationship between three friends, Amon, Rick Ferro and Mayuko Takamatsu, and how they cope with existence in a hypercapitalist, info-saturated world.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Cash Crash Jubilee? Did you always plan to write a Science Fiction novel? Are there additional genre(s) in which Cash Crash Jubilee might fit?

Eli:  In the 2003 Canadian documentary The Corporation, there's a section about how the World Bank forced Bolivia to privatize its public water infrastructure as a condition for a loan. The American multinational corporation, Betchel, then gained ownership of all water in the city of Cochabamba, including even rain, and began to charge citizens what was in some cases a quarter of their income just to drink it. This got me thinking: if such a basic necessity as water could be commodified, then what about air? Or pieces of sidewalk? Or sunlight? From these ruminations, I was lead to the idea of a world in which literally every molecule is private property owned and traded by different companies. But as I was fleshing this out, I realized that there had to be some practical way for the authorities to ensure that people paid for using such commodities. So I came up with the concept of defining property in terms of actions. It wouldn’t be the air as such that was owned but the act of breathing it and so on. Part of the reason I eventually settled on this second version of my idea was that it connects more closely to the basic tension between free will and fate (or determinism) that runs through world literature (and philosophy) and so makes for a more interesting story.

As far as I can remember, I never thought about writing a novel until after I had graduated from high school and this was when I came up with the idea just mentioned, so the first novel I thought of writing happened to be SF. However, my short stories and the ideas I have for future novels are closer to magic realism, surrealism or slipstream.

In addition to the labels dystopian SF, cyberpunk and postcyberpunk, I think Cash Crash Jubilee can be read as a satire, a thriller, an allegorical mashup, and as an incredibly drawn-out thought experiment.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Cash Crash Jubilee?

Eli:  All sorts. I read a whole bunch of dystopian literature to make sure I wasn’t stealing anyone’s ideas (or of I was, that I was doing it intentionally) and some literary novels to develop my prose style. I read up on cryptography, the Internet of Things, so-called “augmented reality”, “mediated reality and“diminished reality” (not a big fan of these terms), ubiquitous computing, portable computing, artificial intelligence, etc. In learning about these topics, the theories of cyborg-inventor Steve Mann, who developed the technology behind Google Glass long before Google got into the game, were particularly relevant (he happens to teach at my alma mater but I have never met him). In developing various futuristic neologisms, I researched the etymologies of English words. To add texture to the setting, I read up on Tokyo, its present and history, on Japanese politics. I also did research into different myths including the Fisherking, Plato’s allegory of the cave and myth of Gyges, and of course the Jewish jubilee tradition, all of which are woven into the narrative.

TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Eli:  Amon was the easiest because he’s kind of like me.

The hardest was Mayuko because she was my first ever prominent female character.

I know you didn’t ask me, but the funnest to write was Amon's boss, Sekido, because he’s so nuts.

TQ:  Which question about Cash Crash Jubilee do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Eli:  You are a Japanese-English translator. Did this have an influence on how you wrote Cash Crash Jubilee?

Yes. Absolutely. I’ve used my knowledge of the Japanese language and culture extensively in writing this novel. For example, technically the characters are all speaking in Japanese and much of the advertainment I include was inspired by Japanese media. Also, as I was writing the novel, some of it came into my head in Japanese first, at which point I had to translate my thoughts into English before putting them into words on the page, and I often translated the English text into Japanese in my head in order to make sure that it made sense in its ostensible linguistic environment. This means, in my way of thinking at least, that Cash Crash Jubilee is partially a translation already, and I’m looking forward to having it translated into Japanese (or perhaps "back-translated" is a better way to say it). As my understanding of Japanese and the craft of translation deepens further, I’m hoping to develop this mental translation approach in my future writing.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Cash Crash Jubilee.

Eli:  Here's one from the climax:

"With fading inertia, the merry-go-round gradually slowed, like a roulette wheel before the decisive moment."

And how about a silly line from Sekido:

"Very observant, Kenzaki. As always I applaud you inwardly, with tiny imaginary hands."

TQ:  What's next?

Eli:  Well, I’m working away at the sequel, The Naked World, as part of my contract with Skyhorse Publishing. I’m gradually developing two novels set in present day Tokyo that I would classify as magic realist and that I’m planning to write after I've finished the Jubilee Cycle. I’m trying to get some old short stories published and writing new ones. Hopefully I can squeeze in a few newspaper articles too.

I also hope to break into literary translation (most of the translation I do now is technical or business related). Last year, I was hired by a Japanese publisher to translate a coming-of-age novel by one of Japan’s leading writers, Ryo Asai, that I am tentatively calling On The Cusp, but various issues (not connected to me directly) have blocked its publication. I'm hoping these will be sorted out soon, so my finished translation can be released as an ebook as planned. Either way, I plan to get my story translations published in the near future.

These various projects should keep me occupied for about the next decade if all goes as planned (which I’m certain it won’t, hopefully for the best).

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Eli:  Thank you very much for having me.

Cash Crash Jubilee
Series:  Jubilee Cycle 1
Publisher:  Talos Press, May 5, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 392 pages
List Price:  $25.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781940456270 (print)
Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher

A cyber-dystopian world unlike any other

In a near future Tokyo, every action from blinking to sexual intercourse is intellectual property owned by corporations that charge licensing fees. A BodyBank computer system implanted in each citizen records their movements from moment to moment, and connects them to the audio-visual overlay of the ImmaNet, so that every inch of the metropolis crawls with information and shifting cinematic promotainment.

Amon Kenzaki works as a Liquidator for the Global Action Transaction Authority. His job is to capture bankrupt citizens, remove their BodyBank, and banish them to BankDeath Camps where they are forever cut off from the action-transaction economy. Amon always plays by the rules and is steadily climbing the Liquidation Ministry ladder.

With his savings accumulating and another promotion just around the corner, everything seems to be going well, until he is asked to cash crash a charismatic politician and model citizen, and soon after is charged for an incredibly expensive action called "jubilee" that he is sure he never performed. To restore balance to his account, Amon must unravel the secret of jubilee, but quickly finds himself asking dangerous questions about the system to which he's devoted his life, and the costly investigation only drags him closer and closer to the pit of bankruptcy.

In book one of the Jubilee Cycle, Cash Crash Jubilee, debut novelist Eli K. P. William wields the incisive power of speculative fiction to show how, in a world of corporate finance run amok, one man will do everything for the sake of truth and justice.

Trinitytwo's Point of View

Imagine a world where you are charged a fee for every breath, blink and sigh. Where corporations control the rights to most of your bodily functions and the basics you take for granted like chewing, sitting, and talking, cost you money. In this world, when a person comes of age, an internal body bank CPU is installed. The BodyBank, a nano computer system, records and tallies the majority of bodily functions and payment is then made to the corporation who owns each function’s license. At this time citizens are also fitted with contact lenses that superimpose a 3D digital world over their mundane reality. With these special lenses everyone and everything has a digital overlay so for a price, flaws can just be programmed away. Everyone, except those unfortunate bankrupts who have “cash crashed” and are exiled to bankdeath camps in the District of Dreams.

Amon Kenzaki is an exceptionally frugal citizen. Amon is proud of pinching pennies by texting instead of speaking, blinking less, and constantly controlling the urge to scratch or massage his forehead. He works as a Liquidator; his job is to highlight potential bankrupts for counseling and, with the help of his partner and best friend Rick, to incapacitate the newly bankrupt until they are picked up by Collection Agents. Once collected, the bankrupts are taken to the Archives where all their information is uploaded and stored before they are stripped of their BodyBank and taken to a bankdeath camp.

Cash Crash Jubilee is the first book in the Jubilee Cycle series. Eli K. P. William meticulously constructs a future where people have become so attached to technology that it has destroyed the importance of human relationships. This “free world” is a dispassionate place where children have no parents or family, they grow up in places called BioPens and a SubMom watches over them. Thinking is still free but it seems to me that Amon spends little time using his mind to do more than to find new ways to save money. He lives in a solitary bubble of his own making, relying on technology over social interactions. His lifestyle seems like a commentary of our current generation’s addiction to texting, videogames, and the internet. However, due to this, I felt as if Amon was practically bereft of personality. I looked at this world through his detached point of view and wasn’t hooked, partially due to the fact that Amon’s character develops so slowly. It isn’t until the ending that the protagonist begins to wake up which made for some sluggish reading.

William does a phenomenal job laying out the ground work with his rendering of this cyber world. His dystopian Tokyo is fascinating and his vivid description is truly impressive. If you’re looking for first rate world building or an inventive and thought-provoking view of humanity’s potential future, I would recommend this book. Its warning of relying too much on technology is an eye-opening cautionary statement.

About Eli

Eli K. P. William is the author of cyber-dystopian novel Cash Crash Jubilee, published by Talos Press (an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing). Originally from Toronto, he now works in Tokyo as a Japanese-English translator and has written articles for the Japan Times, the Pacific Rim Review of Books and Now Magazine. In addition to absorbing his fair share of literature, philosophy, movies and comics, he also practices streetdance, and is one of those rare SF writers who is proficient at the robot.

Twitter @Dice_Carver

The Giveaway

What:  Five entrants will each win a copy of Cash Crash Jubilee by Eli K. P. William from the publisher. US ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on May 15, 2015. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 04, 2015

Interview with Joanne M. Harris and Review of The Gospel of Loki - May 4, 2015

Please welcome Joanne M. Harris to The Qwillery. The Gospel of Loki will be published on May 5th in the US by Saga Press.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. You've written more than a dozen published novels. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Joanne:  The challenge for me has always been to find something that I haven’t already done, or to find a new entry into a subject that has been covered many times before. I like to surprise the reader; and to do that, I’m aware that I have to surprise myself. Sometimes that means taking risks, or playing with narrative, voice and form. Sometimes it’s experimental, but I think taking risks is part of the fun...

TQ:  Your website bio lists as a hobby, among other things, "quiet subversion of the system..." How does this hobby influence (or not) your writing?

Joanne:  I’ve always thought literature should be subversive; asking more questions than it answers and continuously challenging the preconceptions of the reader. It’s not always a comfortable way to approach writing (or reading), but I find it keeps me alert, and stops me falling into the kind of routine that would lead to me writing the same books again and again.

TQ:  Describe The Gospel of Loki in 140 characters or less.

Joanne:  The unofficial chronicle of the rise and fall of Asgard, with all the fun stuff put back in.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Gospel of Loki that is not in the book description.

Joanne:  It features a giant cow; an eight-legged horse; a talking head; an enormous snake; some teenage werewolves; several factions of warring gods and a pair of magical crows who like cake.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Gospel of Loki? What appealed to you about writing in about Norse mythology? And why tell the story from Loki's point of view?

Joanne:  I’ve been writing stories based on Norse mythology for a long time. I loved the myths as a child, and I’ve been researching them ever since. There are so many really strong characters there; so much humour, drama and conflict; such a powerful portrayal of a community; and yet the myths are fragmentary - so much has been lost and omitted. I think this, in some way, is why writers and artists have come to them again and again; we are drawn to complete the stories in our own way, to re-imagine the characters in ways that fit our changing times. Loki is very much an anti-hero for our times. He’s defiant of authority; a rebel; a misfit, both racially (he’s not one of the gods, but a kind of fire-demon) and in terms of his gender (he’s bisexual, gender-fluid, and even gives birth, which doesn’t sit well with the gods at all). He’s also clever, getting the gods both in and out of trouble in classic Trickster fashion. But although he’s probably the most active character in the myths, there’s very little about Loki himself – his past, thoughts, his motivation in acting as he does. I wanted to explore that, and to give a little insight into how the mischievous trickster becomes a character so dark and troubled that he finally brings about his own destruction, as well as that of the world itself...

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Gospel of Loki?

Joanne:  I guess I’ve been researching these myths all my life. At the moment I’m learning Old Icelandic, so that I can read Snorri in the original...

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Joanne:  Loki himself is both the easiest and the hardest to write. The easiest, because he sounds a lot like a version of me; the hardest, because all the other characters are seen through Loki’s eyes, which makes for some very skewed perceptions...

TQ:  Which question about The Gospel of Loki do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Joanne:  A lot of readers have commented on Loki’s use of modern slang, and have asked themselves (though not me) why I chose to write in such a contemporary voice. Here’s why:

All myths, when they were first told or written down, were told in contemporary voices. This is no exception. In the original myths, Loki speaks in a very informal voice, often insults the other gods, often speaks with defiance. Rather than write his dialogue in the mock-heroic language used by Snorri (which even then was dated and inappropriate), I’ve used modern slang – besides which, there’s a strong hint in the narrative that Loki has somehow survived the end of the world and even his own death, and is therefore addressing us as the recipient of his tale, right here, right now, in the 21st century.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Gospel of Loki.

Joanne:  I’d rather you chose your own. Or let the readers do it for you...

TQ:  What's next?

Joanne:  I’m working on several things; a psychological thriller called DIFFERENT CLASS; plus an illustrated project called HONEYCOMB and a series of musical story projects to accompany it...

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Gospel of Loki
Publisher:  Saga Press, May 5, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages
List Price:  $25.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781481449465 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

“A surprise from the author of Chocolat,” New York Times bestselling author Joanne M. Harris, “this pacy adult fantasy is narrated by Loki, the Norse god of fire and mischief” (Vogue).

This novel is a brilliant first-person narrative of the rise and fall of the Norse gods—retold from the point of view of the world’s ultimate trickster, Loki. A #1 bestseller in the UK, The Gospel of Loki tells the story of Loki’s recruitment from the underworld of Chaos, his many exploits on behalf of his one-eyed master, Odin, through to his eventual betrayal of the gods and the fall of Asgard itself.

Using her lifelong passion for the Norse myths, New York Times bestseller Joanne M. Harris has created a vibrant and powerful fantasy novel that the Sunday Sun recommends “to her long-standing audience with wit, style and obvious enjoyment;” The Sunday Times claims it “lively and fun;” and The Metro adds that “Harris has enormous fun with her antihero...this mythical bad boy should beguile fans of Neil Gaiman.”

Qwills Thoughts

The Gospel of Loki tells Loki's story from his first interaction with Odin to Ragnarok. It is told from Loki's point of view. Loki is a classic unreliable narrator or so it seems. Loki is the Trickster god so in many ways I was predisposed not to believe him. And if you've seen the Marvel films it's hard to keep that portrayal out of your head while reading, though the films don't really contradict anything about his character as portrayed in the novel. Loki certainly does little to hide what others would consider faults. Just the opposite - he revels them. He accepts who he is. He is sometimes not as clever as he thinks he is, but more often than not manages to pull off his tricks. He's cunning, calculating, and sometime careless.

Through Loki, Harris gives the background of the Norse myths including the creation of the worlds, the joining of the Aesir and the Vanir after a long war, and more. Things get really interesting for Loki when Odin brings him to Asgard. Despite Odin's promises, Loki is not welcome. He is an outsider; someone who is easy to blame when things go wrong. While he does cause a lot of trouble he's not at fault all of the time. He does exploit the weaknesses of the others in Asgard but also helps them. Loki is a contradiction born of Chaos. While Odin has what he believes to be very good reasons for bringing Loki to Asgard it was really not a great move on his part.

Loki lets us know why he does what he does throughout the novel. You might not agree with him but you understand his motivation. I could not help thinking that if the others were nicer to him, more accepting, that things might have been different. However, these are Loki's perceptions of the others and how he is being treated and probably are extremely twisted. Odin and many of the other gods are so tied up in destiny and Loki is so stubborn and hurt perhaps nothing could be done to change what happens. Things play out as they apparently must.

Harris has written a thoroughly enjoyable novel with straightforward prose and excellent pacing. It doesn't matter if Loki is unreliable. The Gospel of Loki is his take on what happened. It's fascinating and entertaining. Loki is the bad boy of the story, and you may very well end up caring about him.

About Joanne

Joanne Harris (MBE) was born in Barnsley in 1964, of a French mother and an English father. She studied Modern and Mediaeval Languages at Cambridge and was a teacher for fifteen years, during which time she published three novels, including Chocolat (1999), which was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.

Since then, she has written fourteen more novels, two collections of short stories, and three cookbooks. Her books are now published in more than fifty countries and have won a number of British and international awards. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and has been a judge for the Whitbread Prize, the Orange Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize, and the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science. She works from a shed in her garden, and lives with her husband and daughter in a little wood in Yorkshire.

Stay up to date with Joanne:

Guest Blog by Linda Reilly and Review and Giveaway of Fillet of Murder - May 4, 2015

Please welcome Linda Reilly to The Qwillery. Fillet of Murder, the first novel in the Deep Fried Mysteries, will be published on May 5th by Berkley.

When I began writing Fillet of Murder, which features a fish and chips eatery in the Berkshires, I wanted readers to like my people . . . maybe even find a few of them quirky. Isn’t that one of the things we love about cozy characters? Since I grew up in the region where the series takes place, I scrolled my mind backward (way, way backward) to my younger days, to some of the wonderful “characters” I was lucky enough to know.

I was seventeen when I first got a summer job at an old-style restaurant called The Willows (long gone, I’m afraid). The owner, Gladys, was a generous soul and one of the best cooks I’ve ever known. Throughout that entire summer I flipped burgers, made sub sandwiches, and washed a never-ending stream of dirty dishes and pans. I even scrubbed clam shells for the soon-to-be steamed clams, never realizing they were still alive until one of them snapped shut and sent my heart into overdrive!

That summer left me with so many treasured memories. I can still recall how appreciated Gladys made me feel after working long, hot hours in a kitchen cooled only by a table fan. She overpaid me and over-praised me—she was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known.

Those are the days I thought back to when I first began writing the Deep Fried series. I wanted Talia Marby, my main character, to have those same warm recollections of her first summer job. So I created Bea Lambert.

As characters go, Bea is one of my favorites. Picture a petite, sixtyish woman with springy black curls, leaf green eyes, and a darling British accent. Originally from the UK, her speech is populated with words like “luvvy” and “bloke” and “wanker.” Bea is the co-owner, with her hubby, of Lambert’s Fish & Chips—an eatery located in a cobblestoned shopping plaza designed to resemble an old English village.

Talia was a teenager when she got her first job at Lambert’s. Troubled by a rift between her mom and dad, she bonded with the childless Bea, and Lambert’s became her refuge. Even when she wasn’t working, Talia could often be found mulling over homework at one of the tables at the back of the restaurant. Bea couldn’t have loved Talia more if she’d been her own daughter.

Talia learned the fish and chips biz that summer, never dreaming she’d return there more than fifteen years later to help out Bea in a pinch. What she also never imagined was murder, right there in that charming plaza. When Bea is accused of murdering a fellow shopkeeper, Talia dives right in to rescue her friend from a certain stint in the pokey.

Looking back, I realize that Bea and Gladys didn’t have all that much in common. Not unless you counted their many kindnesses, their overwhelming generosity, and their love for humankind.

Were you ever lucky enough to have a Bea or a Gladys in your life? Do you have a story you’d like to share about your first summer job?

Fillet of Murder
Series:  Deep Fried Mystery 1
Publisher:  Berkley (Prime Crime), May 5, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425274132 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher


Talia Marby serves up delectable English deep fried fare in the heart of the Berkshires—but she soon discovers there’s something fishy going on…

Sometimes in this life, you have to fish or cut bait. After walking away from a miserable job and an even worse boyfriend, Talia Marby has no regrets. She’s returned to her hometown and is happy to help her dear friend Bea Lambert by working at Lambert’s Fish & Chips, a cornerstone of a charming shopping plaza designed to resemble an old English village.

But not all the shop owners are charming. Phil Turnbull has been pestering Bea to sign a petition against a new store opening up, and his constant badgering is enough to make her want to boil him in oil. When Talia and Bea stumble upon Turnbull murdered in his shop, the police suspect Bea. Now it’s up to Talia to fish around for clues and hook the real killer before her friend has to trade serving food for serving time…

Includes delicious recipes!
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Book Depository : Books-A-Million : IndieBound

Jennifer's Review

The first novel in Linda Reilly’s new Deep Fried Mystery series is entitled Fillet of Murder. The book follows Talia Marby as she returns to her hometown, nestled in the picturesque Berkshire region of Massachusetts, after leaving a horrible job and a stagnant relationship behind her in the big city. While Talia is temporarily staying in her late grandmother’s cottage she is working at Lambert’s Fish & Chips for her old friend Bea, and trying to decide where she really wants to go with her life. Lambert’s has always been a haven for Talia, so she is devastated to find the local bully, Phil Turnbull, brutally murdered in his lamp shop in the same quaint plaza that she loves. Things go from bad to worse, when her beloved Bea is named as the prime suspect in the crime. Talia feels the need to clear Bea’s name by finding the real culprit.

Talia is at a crossroads in her life and spends a great deal of time doing some heartfelt soul searching, trying to discover if her life lies in her comfortable home town, in the high powered world of Boston or somewhere in between. She comes off a bit flat in the beginning, but as the story evolves, you can see she is a strong character who has just hit a bump in the road. She has many supporters, especially her mom, who runs a local home for the elderly, and Bea, who is an audacious British ex-pat with a sweet nature that has been in Talia’s life since she was a teenager. Talia’s best friend, Rachel, a local schoolteacher, is always there for her with advice and encouragement. Whitnee is Talia’s young and naïve co-worker, who is trying to balance school, work and a difficult home life. Talia also gets to know the other shop owners in the plaza. The ill-fated and manipulative Phil makes a brief but explosive appearance before his untimely demise. Suzy is the gregarious owner of a small fragrance shop. Jill is a wife and mom and purveyor of tea and its accoutrements. Jim owns a pottery shop and is another person from Talia’s past; he is the former high school geometry teacher who has found his passion in working with clay. After Phil’s murder, we meet is ex-wife Kendra, a very snooty and uptight socialite, and her new step-son, who surprises everyone with his intentions of opening a comic book store in the plaza. A new possible love interest enters Talia’s life in the form of Ryan Collins, the nerd of her high school class, who has grown into a handsome and kind man. Ryan’s dad is a resident of the home for the elderly that Talia’s mom runs. Many of the characters have a potential motive for the murder.

The crime investigation often takes a backseat to the personal lives of the characters, but comes to the forefront again towards the end of the book when the trail of clues leads Talia to a place she wasn’t expecting. The author provides a plethora of detail, from her descriptions of the local landscape to the back stories of the important characters. The plot flows slowly throughout much of the novel, but speeds up in the end, and the mystery, along with Talia’s future, are both tidied up by the last page. There are a couple of recipes included that have significance to the storyline, Bea’s famous coleslaw and Talia’s newest creation, Deep Fried Pickle Spears, both look easy to make and delectable.

About Linda

Raised in a sleepy town in the Berkshires, Linda Reilly has spent the bulk of her career in the field of real estate closings and title examination. It wasn’t until 1995 that her first short mystery, Out of Luck, was accepted for publication by Woman’s World Magazine. Since then she’s had over forty short stories published, including a sprinkling of romances. In 2013 Five Star Publishing released her first full-length mystery, Some Enchanted Murder. Her first mystery in the Deep Fried series, a cozy featuring fry cook Talia Marby, will be released by Berkley Prime Crime in 2015.

Linda lives in New Hampshire with her husband, who affectionately calls her “Nose-in-a-book.”

Website  ~  Facebook

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Fillet of Murder by Linda Reilly from the publisher. US ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on May 13, 2015. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change.*

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