‘Reboot’ and fore-edge painting

I recently read Reboot by Amy Tintera. Despite the dystopian setting and intriguing premise (see synopsis at end of this post), it was one of those books that just did not make much of an impact on me–it was not amazing, and it was not awful. I suspect if I was a tween I would have enjoyed it a lot more.

But there is one overriding reason I impulse-purchased it, which is the reason I am happy to have it on my shelf:  the edition is edge-printed! In fact, all three “edges” are illustrated, and the image is retained when you fan the pages because the printing sits on the edges of each page as well. Fore-edge printing uses a special process to print on the cut, outside edges of the book block of a publication.

Reboot strip

This is not something you see often on mass-market paperbacks, and it’s not something you would ever notice if you shop online for books, as I do 95% of the time.

Admittedly, this edition of Reboot is not quite in the same artistic league as, for example, the beautiful watercolour fore-edge painting on this 1976 limited edition of Watership Down:

Watership Down fore edge painting

The book experts at AbeBooks summarise the technique of fore-edge painting:

The front page edges of the book are bent back to expose a greater area and a watercolor painting is applied to this surface. After completion the book is closed and the painting cannot be seen. The opposite is also true. The painting is done on the edge of the pages so it can be seen when the book is closed but is not visible when the book was open.

The technique of fore-edge painting dates back to the 17th century (and even earlier, in other forms). I love the gifs of the 19th century “secret” fore-edge paintings from the Special Collections at the University of Iowa (more here):



Reboot by Amy Tintera

In this fast-paced dystopian thrill ride, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games, Legend, and Divergent, a seventeen-year-old girl returns from death as a Reboot and is trained as an elite crime-fighting soldier . . . until she is given an order she refuses to obey.

Wren Connolly died five years ago, only to Reboot after 178 minutes. Now she is one of the deadliest Reboots around . . . unlike her newest trainee, Callum 22, who is practically still human. As Wren tries to teach Callum how to be a soldier, his hopeful smile works its way past her defenses. Unfortunately, Callum’s big heart also makes him a liability, and Wren is ordered to eliminate him.

To save Callum, Wren will have to risk it all.


The watch list

My weekly[-ish] list of speculative fiction novels that I think are worth looking out for. They are mainly – but not always! – new or forthcoming releases.

Sketch-Book-icon The watch list

Hang Wire by Adam Christopher

HangWire Adam ChristopherWhen Ted Hall finds strange, personalised messages from a restaurant’s fortune cookies scattered around his apartment, his suspicions are aroused, particularly as his somnambulant travels appear to coincide with murders by the notorious Hang Wire Killer.

Meanwhile, the circus has come to town, but the Celtic dancers are taking their pagan act a little too seriously and the manager of the Olde Worlde Funfair has started talking to his vintage machines, although the new acrobat’s frequent absences are causing tension among the performers.

Out in the city there are other new arrivals, immortals searching for an ancient power which has been unleashed – a primal evil which, if not stopped, will destroy the entire world.

Book Depository shows that this book is available from 7 November 2013, but Angry Robot‘s site shows the publication date as  January/February 2014 (US&Can/UK). Designer and illustrator Will Staehle did the cover for this, as well as for Christopher’s other novels. My favourite is the one for Empire State.

Bête by Adam Roberts

Bete Adam RobertsA man is about to kill a cow. He discusses life and death and his right to kill with the compliant animal. He begins to suspect he may be about to commit murder. But kills anyway…

It began when the animal right movement injected domestic animals with artificial intelligences in bid to have the status of animals realigned by the international court of human rights. But what is an animal that can talk? Where does its intelligence end at its machine intelligence begin? And where might its soul reside.

This novel is still several months away from release (anticipated June 2014), but Gollancz today revealed the cover, and it really is rather remarkable.

The book includes a talking cat, as Adam Roberts explains:

‘It’s true. However felinophobic I may, myself, be, I figured it was time. And, you know: Sabrina the Teenage Witch features a talking cat. Bulgakov features a talking cat. Considering the kind of writer I am, you can probably guess whereabouts on the scale strung between those two felines my own talking cat comes. Besides, there’s a lot more than just a cat. For example, the novel starts, as does the Quran itself, with a cow.’

Uncrashable Dakota by Andy Marino

Uncrashable Dakota Andy MarinoIn 1862, Union army infantryman Samuel Dakota changed history when he spilled a bottle of pilfered moonshine in the Virginia dirt and stumbled upon the biochemical secret of flight. Not only did the Civil War come to a much quicker close, but Dakota Aeronautics was born.

Now, in Andy Marino’s “Uncrashable Dakota,” it is 1912, and the titanic Dakota flagship embarks on its maiden flight. But shortly after the journey begins, the airship is hijacked. Fighting to save the ship, the young heir of the Dakota empire, Hollis, along with his brilliant friend Delia and his stepbrother, Rob, are plunged into the midst of a long-simmering family feud. Maybe Samuel’s final secret wasn’t just the tinkering of a madman after all. . . .

What sinister betrayals and strange discoveries await Hollis and his friends in the gilded corridors and opulent staterooms? Who can be trusted to keep the most magnificent airship the world has ever known from falling out of the sky?

There’s an excerpt over at Tor: http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/10/uncrashable-dakota-excerpt-andy-marino

The best opening line that wasn’t …

“Nineteen years, three months, and one week before I found Seivarden in the snow, I was a troop carrier orbiting the planet Shis’urna.”

I just love this line from Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie — it really should have been the opening sentence of the novel, I think, rather than sitting at the start of chapter two. For the record, the first sentence of the book is this: “The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it.” Not quite the same impact, right?

Ancillary Justice

Random Acts of Senseless Violence, now in SF Masterworks series

I was thrilled to learn today that Jack Womack’s Random Acts of Senseless Violence is being republished as part of the SF Masterworks series. I read it a couple of years ago, and summed it up as “an un-heralded classic that left me feeling liked I’d been punched in the gut – and I mean that as an absolute compliment to the power of the book.” It’s bleak, intense, and absolutely exquisite. From the back cover copy:

Paying meticulous attention to the evolving rhythm and syntax of speech, and their alliance with class and race, Womack demonstrates that woven into the mutable nature of language are clues to the dark and shifting potentials for the future of the society in which we live.

Random-Acts-of-Senseless-ViolenceIt’s just a little later than now and Lola Hart is writing her life in a diary. She’s a nice middle-class girl on the verge of her teens who schools at the calm end of town.

A normal, happy, girl.

But in a disintegrating New York she is a dying breed. War is breaking out on Long Island, the army boys are flamethrowing the streets, five Presidents have been assassinated in a year. No one notices any more. Soon Lola and her family must move over to the Lower East side – Loisaida – to the Pit and the new language of violence of the streets.

The watch list

My weekly[-ish] list of speculative fiction novels that I think are worth looking out for. They are mainly – but not always! – new or forthcoming releases.

Sketch-Book-icon The watch list

Most weeks, I feel completely overwhelmed by the number of awesome new books coming out, and I go crazy updating my wishlist at the Book Depository and cross-checking books’ availability at my local library and downloading sample chapters onto my Kindle. And other weeks … it gets quiet. Like now. So just one book on the list this week.

Plan D by Simon Urban

Plan D Simon UrbanOctober 2011. While West Berlin enjoys all the trappings of capitalism, on the crowded, polluted, Eastern side of the Wall, the GDR is facing bankruptcy. The ailing government’s only hope lies in economic talks with the West, but then an ally of the GDR’s chairman is found murdered – and all the clues suggest that his killer came from within the Stasi.

Detective Martin Wegener is assigned to the case, but, with the future of East Germany hanging over him, Wegener must work with the West German police if he is to find the killer, even if it means investigating the Stasi themselves. It is a journey that will take him from Stasi meeting rooms to secret prisons as he begins to unravel the identity of both victim and killer, and the meaning of the mysterious Plan D.

A dystopian alternate history murder mystery! ‘Plan D is less about the crime and more about the political backdrop and increasing tensions between the two Germanys. Urban’s world-weary main character tries to maintain his personal values within the corruption of a superbly detailed GDR regime.’ (from Putting the science into fiction.)

New banner artwork for She reads speculative fiction or, Zoetica Ebb is a creative genius

Today, the She reads speculative fiction site got a little upgrade: a glorious banner illustration by Zoetica Ebb.

Zoetica describes herself as “a Moscow-born, LA-raised artist, writer and photographer, dedicated to proving that life is as beautiful as we make it.”  And beyond that, words are entirely inadequate to convey the extent of her myriad talents. Her website is a must-visit if you want to know more about Zoetica, and see more of her art, design, and photography: http://www.biorequiem.com

I still can’t quite understand how she was able to turn my stick-figure concept, which I scribbled on the back of a shopping receipt while sitting on the bus, into the wonderful image that now sits at the top of my website (oh, wait … that’s right: creative genius!). This is the actual sketch I sent her, along with vague instructions that I’d like it to look something like a cross between Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince illustrations and her own Space Friends sticker set:


And she made this:


I believe my response was: I totally totally totally LOVE IT!

And I do. I totally love it. I hope you do too.

The watch list

My weekly[-ish] list of speculative fiction novels that I think are worth looking out for. They are mainly – but not always! – new or forthcoming releases.

Sketch-Book-icon The watch list

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice Ann LeckieThey made me kill thousands, but I only have one target now.

The Radch are conquerors to be feared – resist and they’ll turn you into a ‘corpse soldier’ – one of an army of dead prisoners animated by a warship’s AI mind. Whole planets are conquered by their own people. The colossal warship called The Justice of Toren has been destroyed – but one ship-possessed soldier has escaped the devastation. Used to controlling thousands of hands, thousands of mouths, The Justice now has only two hands, and one mouth with which to tell her tale.

But one fragile, human body might just be enough to take revenge against those who destroyed her.

Orbit describes this as “inventive and intelligent space opera for fans of Iain M Banks.” Now, I suspect that Banks fans are going to have a pretty high bar when it comes to standards for space opera – the Culture is simply inimitable, as far as I am concerned.

That aside, this first published novel by Leckie is garnering positive attention, and for me the stand out feature is this: in Leckie’s future, the default gender is female. Woah! And it’s a bit complicated. The protagonist Breq is physically female, but the distributed consciousness that inhabits is genderless. What does this to do language? There’s a link to be made to Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness.

I’m very excited about this one.

Read a sample from Ancillary Justice.

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

Violent Century Lavie TidharFor seventy years they guarded the British Empire. Oblivion and Fogg, inseparable friends, bound together by a shared fate. Until one night in Berlin, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and a secret that tore them apart.

But there must always be an account…and the past has a habit of catching up to the present. Now, recalled to the Retirement Bureau from which no one can retire, Fogg and Oblivion must face up to a past of terrible war and unacknowledged heroism – a life of dusty corridors and secret rooms, of furtive meetings and blood-stained fields – to answer one last, impossible question: What makes a hero?

Lavie Tidhar has been nominated for loads of awards (and even won a few!) for his work, and he carried off the 2012 World Fantasy Award prize for best novel for Osama.

The press release for The Violent Century describes it as “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy meets Watchmen”, athoughtful and intensely atmospheric novel about the mystery, and the love story, that determined the course of history itself.”

Dream London by Tony Ballantine

Dream London Tony BallantyneIn Dream London, the city changes a little every night and the people change a little every day.

Captain Jim Wedderburn has looks, style and courage by the bucketful. He’s adored by women, respected by men and feared by his enemies. He’s the man to find out who has twisted London into this strange new world, and he knows it.

But the towers are growing taller, the parks have hidden themselves away and the streets form themselves into strange new patterns. There are people sailing in from new lands down the river, new criminals emerging in the East End and a path spiralling down to another world.

Everyone is changing, no one is who they seem to be, and Captain Jim Wedderburn is beginning to understand that he’s not the man he thought he was…

I am beginning to think any book with a cover illustration by Joey Hi-Fi is a book worth reading! As well as this one for Dream London, he has created covers for Lauren BeukesMoxyland (and also this one) and Zoo City, and for Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds and Mockingbird.

Joey Hi Fi