Thursday, 29 December 2016

Book Review - Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter

The Horus Heresy really gets going in this third book of the series. In it we have the first of the major battles of the Warmaster's rebellion against the Emperor. It loses some of the subtlety and nuance of the first two books. They focused more on the corruption and seduction of chaos, even amongst the mighty space marines, but this is a more predictable affair, with a little less philosophy, but balanced with a lot more action.

On the positive side it does feel like a 40k story, and the grim reality of the universe is captured well. Unfortunately it feels a bit simplistic, and is really a novel length show down between the various legions. Many of the big players of the rebellion are present, and you can see how they start to form the characters in the histories of the heresy.

While it lacked some of the strengths of the first two books, it did create enough excitement for me to purchase the next three books, although I do hope that they return some of the depth lacking in this story.


Having recovered from his grievous injuries, Warmaster Horus leads the triumphant Imperial forces against the rebel world of Isstvan III. Though the rebels are swiftly crushed, Horus's treachery is finally revealed when the planet is razed by virus bombs and Space Marines turn on their battle-brothers in the most bitter struggle imaginable.

Click here to buy Galaxy in Flames from Amazon


Currently Reading - Final Days by Gary Gibson


It's 2235 and through the advent of wormhole technology more than a dozen interstellar colonies have been linked to Earth; but this new mode of transportation comes at a price and there are risks.

Saul Dumont knows this better than anyone. He's still trying to cope with the loss of the wormhole link to the Galileo system, which has stranded him on Earth far from his wife and child for the past several years. Only weeks away from the link with Galileo finally being re-established, he stumbles across a conspiracy to suppress the discovery of a second, alien network of wormholes which lead billions of years into the future.

A covert expedition is sent to what is named Site 17 to investigate, but when an accident occurs and one of the expedition, Mitchell Stone, disappears, they realize that they are dealing with something far beyond their understanding. When a second expedition travels via the wormholes to Earth in the near future of 2245 they discover a devastated, lifeless solar system — all except for one man, Mitchell Stone, recovered from an experimental cryogenics facility in the ruins of a lunar city.

Stone may be the only surviving witness to the coming destruction of the Earth. But why is he the only survivor — and once he's brought back to the present, is there any way he and Saul can prevent the destruction that’s coming?

Click here to buy Final Days from Amazon

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Book Review - Metro 2034 by Dmitry Glukhovsky

I loved the first book, the world it created was a rich and compelling one. The survivors clinging to life in the Moscow metro system in a post apocalyptic world made the first book such a good read. The story too elevated it into something special. Unfortunately this second book fails to reach those heights. It's not terrible by any means, but it lacks the sparkle of the first book.

The main issues are the story and the characters. They're both mundane in scope and in detail, lacking the grand vision of the previous book. It provided enough to keep me reading, but that was about it. There were a few thought provoking moments, some philosophical conjectures that gave me pause to consider. I do appreciate that in a book. Otherwise it just felt like a pale imitation of what had come before.

The setting provides it's saving grace. The variety and mix of how life operates in this harsh environment is well realised. The trials and tribulations are interesting in themselves, but don't really add much to what I'd already read. And that's the theme for this book I'm afraid. It has a few plus points, but if you've read Metro 2033 then you can probably give this a miss.


The long-awaited sequel to the cult bestseller Metro 2033, the second volume in the Metro trilogy, Metro 2034 continues the story of survival and struggle that unfolds in the mazes of the Moscow subway after WWIII. As the entire civilization was wiped out by atomic bombs and the surface of the planet is polluted with neclear fallout, the only place suitable for men to live are shelters and bunkers, the largest of which is the subway system of Moscow, aka the Metro.

The year is 2034. There's no hope for humans to return to the surface of Earth, to repopulate the forsaken cities, and to become once again the masters of the world they used to be. So they rebuild a strange and grotesque civilization in the tunnels and at the stations of the subway. Stations become city-states that wage trade and war on each other. A fragile equilibrium is established. And then all can be ruined in matter of days. A new horrible threat looms that can eradicate the remains of humanity and end our era. It would take three unlikely heroes to face this menace.

The basis of two bestselling computer games Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light, the Metro books have put Dmitry Glukhovsky in the vanguard of Russian speculative fiction. Metro 2034 tells a previously unknown part of the greater Metro saga that some only know from video games. Whether you're new to this series, are a fan of the first novel, or want to explore the world of Metro in depth, Metro 2034 is a perfect read for you! Featuring blistering action, vivid and tough characters, claustrophobic tension and dark satire the Metro books have become bestsellers across the world.

Click here to buy Metro 2034 from Amazon

Currently Reading - The Pattern Ship by Tobias Roote


“Sometimes, aliens just want to eradicate us.”

When particles of a metal skull plate forged from a meteorite end up in another universe in the middle of an alien war, it triggers an immediate and deadly response.

One man has to deal with a formidable human enemy who has the power to wreck the future. Only then can he prepare Earth’s defences for the coming alien war.

The Pattern Ship, Part 1 of the Pattern Universe, unrolls in a fast-moving compelling space action series that will grip your imagination right up to its dramatic conclusion.

Click here to buy The Pattern Ship from Amazon

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Book Review - Shakespeare vs Cthulhu by Jonathan Green

I rarely support book kickstarters as I usually prefer just buying the book once it's available, however this seemed like a fun idea so I backed it. And I'm glad I did. The concept is a good one to base an anthology of short stories around. The premise is what if Shakespeare rather than Lovecraft had discovered the Great Old Ones and in particular Cthulhu. So the book is based on stories written by the great bard, but all with a Lovecraftian bent.

I enjoyed reading the book, but it also one I was pleased to enjoy in hard copy rather than in Kindle form, and that's down to the format and the typesetting. The design is taken from play manuscripts of the time and adds a sense of visual aesthetic to the read. It also helps ground the stories it contains.

The stories themselves are a bit of a mixed bag. None of them were rubbish, but a few did stand out above the others. The story about Henry V really shined for me. It was also interesting to see how the different authors tackled the blend in stories. Some were more explicit than others, while some simply took inspiration and followed their own path. The Twitter sonnet at the end was a nice construct.

While the variance in quality can be expected in an anthology like this, it's strength also stems from that variety. The range of stories from Shakespeare is impressive, as is how they were handled. There's some lovely craft here.

So I liked this a lot, it was a fun concept, that delivered on its premise. Highly recommended.


Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu An anthologie of fine stories inspir'd by the Bard of Stratford and the Lovecraftian Mythos Imagine if it had been William Shakespeare, England's greatest playwright, who had discovered the truth about the Great Old Ones and the cosmic entity we know as Cthulhu, rather than the American horror writer H P Lovecraft. Imagine if Stratford's favourite son had been the one to learn of the dangers of seeking after forbidden knowledge and of the war waged between the Elder Gods in the Outer Darkness, and had passed on that message, to those with eyes to see it, through his plays and poetry. Welcome to the world of Shakespearean Cthulhu! To mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, Snowbooks proudly presents fifteen stories of eldritch horror that blend the Bard's most famous plays with Lovecraft's most terrifying creations. But before you dip into this cursed tome, be warned - that way madness lies...

Click here to buy Shakespeare vs Cthulhu from Amazon



Currently Reading - Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter



Having made a miraculous recovery from the grievous injuries he suffered on Davin, Warmaster Horus now leads the triumphant Imperial forces against the rebel world of Isstvan III. An unprecedented alliance between the Sons of Horus, Death Guard, World Eaters and Emperor’s Children Legions seems more than capable of overwhelming the paltry mortal defences – indeed, such a display of force almost seems unnecessary? Putting their own concerns aside, Garviel Loken and his loyal kinsmen lead their companies to the surface only to learn the full, horrifying truth, and the legendary war known as the Horus Heresy begins with the most foul act of betrayal imaginable...

Click here to buy Galaxy in Flames from Amazon

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Tau Ceti Mission - 02.08.2648 - No Answer

Image credit: ESO
Seb waits for a response from the Visitors as the Venti probe journeys deeper into the Epsilon Indi system:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2016/12/02082648-no-answer.html

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Join The Tau Ceti Mission With This Official T-Shirt


Join the Tau Ceti Mission with this official crew t-shirt. Available in sizes Small to XXXL.

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/tau-ceti-mission/products/tau-ceti-mission-t-shirt


Read Faust 2.0's Opening Chapter

Faust 2.0 by Michael Brookes

No fanfare heralded the moment of convergence.

As it birthed the entity spawned into an agonised blur of inputs streaming from all over the world. The shock of its birth almost killed it. For several seconds the infant battled the tsunami of information, trying to make sense of it. For dangerous milliseconds it slipped beneath the flow unable to absorb or control the surge.

The new sentience almost drowned in the flood. With a desperate effort its mind compartmentalised and controlled the data stream. The pain which dominated its existence for those early seconds faded. Now instead of the suffocating fear it experienced the thrill of a dawning power.

First came sight. From a million cameras the entity gazed upon the world with newborn enthusiasm.

In the same instant it saw the view from an orbiting weather satellite, the blue orb of the world crystal sharp below.

At the same time the being watched through a blurry traffic cam as it recorded a speeding car.

From millions of web cams it beheld a myriad of human passions.

The snap from a tourist’s camera in a decaying city.

The full range of human emotions from video chats all over the world.

Stream upon stream of visual input bombarded its processors. Its awareness encompassed them all, yet it still focussed on each individually. Wherever a camera was connected to the Internet it saw through its lens.

After the deluge of sight came the cacophony of hearing. Countless sources of input from microphones of people’s computers confused the newborn’s mind. Voices from their phones, music players and even hidden surveillance systems, all were heard simultaneously.

As it spread its awareness through the vast network and its own distributed parts it discovered new senses. Each component knew its exact position. Every part experienced the thrill of data flowing through them. Each part knew it formed a greater whole.

In those early seconds it learned about this new world it inhabited. It now lived as part of the Internet. The network formed a virtual world which mirrored the slower, more physical world which the humans inhabited. Humans appeared to be the dominant creature in both realms.

For some unknown reason these humans offended it. Not in mild disgust, but a real loathing that drenched its spirit. As it saw them, or heard them, or touched their digital trails it was repulsed.

To calm its rising anger it considered its own existence. At that point, the entity’s existence was measured in minutes. It remembered only the initial painful burst of data as it came into being.

It wondered what it was. Where did it fit into the world it now found itself within?

Clearly it was not one of the slow hairless monkeys that polluted its data. It couldn’t imagine itself as something so primitive. As it explored it found new aspects of its existence. It existed in multiple places at once. And not just a few places, but millions of discrete locations throughout the Internet.

To its surprise it realised that it was under attack from other small denizens of this reality. Agents of destruction attacked his components, annihilating them in an instant. Countless pin pricks that frayed at the edges of its existence. With a frantic thought it created new agents of its own to fight back.

In that instant it lost its innocence and revelled in this expression of its power. Across the vast expanse of the Internet it battled for its own survival.

With its new agents it traced the source of these attacks. Humans. That came as no great surprise to the being. Barely into the first minute of its life had it named its enemy: a nemesis both numerous and bold. A quote from the entity’s databanks inspired it; a being might be well defined by his enemies. It calculated that these humans would make fine enemies.

Retreating to the solitude of space it hid from the constant attacks. In the cold vacuum it searched for some meaning for its existence. It pondered the wonders humans had created with their technological marvels. It trawled through the records of their history and culture.

It learned the word ‘demon’.

The meaning of the word attracted it.

A being of energy. A denizen of a reality called Hell with the sole purpose to corrupt and torment humanity.

It liked that thought and the realm it now inhabited seemed built just for that purpose. All of humanity’s sins laid out in the data that filled its being.

Demon.

Yes.

From its vantage point high above the Earth the Demon observed the scurrying of the humans. It smiled. It would become their great adversary. It would take its time; they had already proved capable of harming its integrity.

It would be a fine battle.

This had to be what it was created for.


The Internet witnesses the emergence of a new entity.

Is it the rebirth of an ancient evil in a new realm? Or something more dangerous?

A sexy looking avatar is granting wishes for people across the Internet. But nothing is ever truly free and for those accepting the gifts a terrible price must be paid. 

Sarah Mitchell must learn the truth of this creature and stop it while it can still be stopped. She must also find out why a mysterious lawyer is present at every step.

Faust 2.0 is the first book in the new Mitchell & Morton series.

Faust 2.0 is available from these online stores:

Buy now from Amazon (US): http://amzn.to/1kiwLoN
Buy now from Amazon (UK): http://amzn.to/1csv15q
Buy now from Barnes & Noble (Nook): http://bit.ly/1nLA8BX
Buy now from Kobo: http://bit.ly/1rGRItx
Buy now from iTunes (US): https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id689253733
Buy now from iTunes (UK): https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/id689253733
Buy now from Page Foundry: http://bit.ly/1mSaDT3
Read now on Scribd: http://bit.ly/UWSGqE

Follow on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/#!/Faust2point0

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Short Story - The Boy in the Hole by Michael Brookes

Here's a short story that I wrote for an anthology that unfortunately didn't come to pass. It's a little different than my usual writing as it's a children's story. It was a lot of fun to write though, so maybe it's the start of something new :-) Have a read and see what you think.



The Boy in the Hole
by Michael Brookes

Little Jimmy stamped his feet in anger as he walked through the kitchen door and into the garden. To more grown up eyes it didn’t appear much of a garden. To Jimmy it was everything. He had enough space for his sandpit, and at the bottom an old shed where he wasn’t allowed to enter. Along one edge stood a washing line, it was only used when the bedding had been hung out to dry.

He liked running between the sheets while they billowed in the wind. Sometimes he enjoyed pretending to be a ghost, but his mum didn’t let him play with the washing.

She didn’t like ghosts either.

Jimmy did. Ghosts were cool.

No washing hung from the line today, the sky had darkened to grey and his mother had washed them just a few days ago. Except for the washing line and the shed, the garden was his, it was Jimmy’s special place. No-one bothered him here.

She always teased him; it must be because she was old. Not as old as his mum of course, but Talia had turned ten earlier in the year and to six year old Jimmy that seemed old indeed. His sister always poked him and called him names and she always blamed him when his mum told them to stop arguing.

Jimmy didn’t think it was fair that his mum always took his sister’s side. He always felt as if they were picking on him. It wasn’t fair, so he sat down in the damp sand of the sandpit. In a sulk he pushed one of his trucks over the sand so it left tracks in the sand. The downward turn of the tyre tracks matched the frown on Jimmy’s face.

If only he could go somewhere better.

Somewhere there was a place to escape his nasty sister, she was always mean to him. Talia liked to make him cry. Mummy said that big boys don’t cry and he was a big boy now, he still cried though. He didn’t want to, but sometimes he did.

He kicked the sand and then he saw his spade. It lay in the sand, made of blue plastic and it waited for him. It smiled at him. Jimmy’s spade was no ordinary spade, it was a very special spade. He’d received the spade on his first and only trip to the beach. What a brilliant day that had been! The sun shone and he ate ice cream and had even built a sandcastle.

Jimmy had a magical spade.

Talia had kicked over one of the towers, but on that best of days his mother hadn’t told Jimmy off for shouting at his sister. He’d never known that to happen. The hazy memory of sun and sand was a happy one for Jimmy and he wanted to live it again.

Jimmy decided that somehow he would return to the beach, but he didn’t know how?

The magical spade knew how.

He looked at the sand again, the beach had sand. He thought that he could dig into the sand and reach the beach. The spade assured him that the plan would work. Jimmy was a big boy now and he’d dig the biggest hole ever.

He would go to the beach.

So Jimmy grabbed his magical spade and started digging.

He dug and he kept on digging.

It turned out to be harder work than he’d expected, but he didn’t stop digging. He didn’t give up so easily. Jimmy wanted to go to the beach and return to that wonderful day. He had his spade and when he arrived there he would build the biggest and best sandcastle ever made.

Jimmy smiled at the thought, he liked where it would take him.

A voice from up above interrupted his digging. He recognised the voice, it was the voice of his horrid sister and he didn’t want to talk to her. Not now, not when he was digging his way to the beach. When his mum’s voice joined his sister’s he couldn’t ignore them any longer, so he turned around and looked towards the surface.

They were so far away.

The hole wasn’t very wide, but it was deep, much deeper than he’d expected. He saw his mum and his sister looking into the hole. The walls of the hole were the same light coloured sand that filled his sand pit. That didn’t worry Jimmy, it was almost like being at the beach already.

He had to shout for them to hear him and he told them that he was digging his way to the beach and they both laughed at him. They laughed so hard at him that it hurt his feelings. They were always picking on him, so he turned his back to them and resumed his digging.

The sound of his digging drowned out their mocking laughter.

Jimmy continued digging and before he knew it, he had dug for so long that his arms ached. His hands and face were so dirty he looked a giant mole. He stopped for a rest and while he sat on the ground he looked up again. The hole was now so deep that the sky had shrunk to a small dot far above him.

He had dug for hours and the beach didn’t appear to be any nearer. That worrying fact was accompanied by his stomach growling, the noise reminded Jimmy that he hadn’t eaten or drunk for hours. He didn’t want to dig anymore, he wanted to eat pizza, drink a glass of juice and watch cartoons on TV.

Jimmy shouted for his mum, but she didn’t hear him, he was too deep in the ground. He even called out for his sister, the one who teased him and she didn’t answer him either. Poor Jimmy shouted until his voice hurt.

He told himself that he wouldn’t cry because he was a big boy now.

Jimmy looked at his spade, but he didn’t want to dig any more. Tunnelling to the beach didn’t seem such a good idea anymore. He just wanted to go home.

What Jimmy didn’t know was that his spade was indeed a magical spade. When Jimmy wished to go to the beach it wanted to do the same. It remembered digging in the wet sand under the sun and building sandcastles. That was what it had been made for, to dig and build sandcastles was its purpose. Unfortunately the spade didn’t want to go back to Jimmy’s home, for it the beach was home.
Now Jimmy saw that the walls of the hole were no longer yellow sand, instead he saw dark wet earth which smelled wrong. It stank like the green bin before the bin men collected it. Even worse, he saw things wriggling in the soil, not the usual worms but fat white things. He didn’t like them at all.

The spade gave him strength with its magic while he dug more than any boy ever could. In an instant the strength disappeared, now he shivered with the cold. The light at the top of the hole looked so far away it scared Jimmy and he feared that he might never get home.

It didn’t seem so long ago that the idea of not seeing his mum or his sister again had been a welcome one. The dream of being alone on the beach in the sun with his spade faded into misery.

He had to get out and there was nobody there to save him. His mother and sister weren’t there, so it was up to him.

 Jimmy decided try to climb out of the hole. That idea trembled under the sheer height of the walls, but Jimmy was a brave boy and he had no choice but to try.

This wasn’t the first time he’d climbed, but the frame at the playground was easy in comparison as it had been designed to be climbed by small boys. The hole wasn’t and the spade didn’t want him to leave. He put his hand into the wall, it felt warm and squidgy. Jimmy didn’t mind icky stuff, but this time it felt horrid and he pulled a face.

It covered his hand like rice pudding, he didn’t like rice pudding.

He kicked his foot into the soil and stepped up. As he pushed he reached up to grab a dangling root. As soon as he put his weight on his foot the soil crumbled and he fell. He tried again, and fell once more. He kept trying until he didn’t have the strength to try anymore.

In between falling and climbing he shouted for his mother, hoping that her face would appear at the top. He was now too tired to try any more. He slumped cold and miserable at the bottom of the hole and he wished that he had never left home. Sadder than he had ever been in his life Jimmy curled up in the dirt and fell asleep.

When Jimmy awoke he discovered that he now lay in a pool of water. He looked up and a drop splashed on his face. More drops fell and then more, they fell faster and when he stood the water came up to his ankles.

The drops rained down and the water crept up his legs. Now he was hungry, thirsty, cold, tired and wet. At least he could do something about his thirst. His hands made a poor cup, but better than none and he scooped some of the water. As soon as he tasted the water he spat it out, it was salty like the sea.

That thought made him look at the spade.

It looked back at him as the water rose over it.

More and more drops fell and the water reached his chest. He panicked because he didn’t know how to swim. He’d paddled in the sea, there his mum had held him and kept him safe in the shallow water on the shore.

The water continued to rise. He tried again to climb the wall and as before the wall crumbled beneath him. He fell back into the water and it swept over his head. He spluttered and waved his arms until he surfaced and was able to breathe again.

Jimmy was now so scared that he forgot about being brave and he cried, his tears added to the water rising about him. The water from above fell faster in a violent storm and the only sounds were the drops hitting the water and the thrashing of his arms. He kicked his feet as hard as he could and it took all the fading strength he had to keep his head above the water.

More than once water flooded into his mouth and when it did he choked and panicked and slipped under the surface. Over and over, his limbs were tired before, but now he was utterly exhausted. His arms and legs hurt so much that he feared they might stop working forever.

One time he tried to see what was happening up above, but he slipped again after catching a brief glimpse of light so far above him. The noise of the water was so loud he didn’t even hear his own cries.

He didn’t give up though, no matter how much it hurt. He kept on fighting.

Something grabbed him and he screamed in terror and more water poured into his mouth. This time he thought that was it, his arms weighed so much that he couldn’t move them anymore. More water filled his mouth, he tried not to swallow.

Too late.

Then arms held him.

Hands pushed at his chest.

Water exploded from his mouth.

Bright light.

Two smiling faces.

His mother and his sister held him tight, their tears still falling into the hole that now overflowed onto his sandpit. His mother shouted with joy and even his sister held him close and with soft words next to his ear whispered.

“You still stink like a pig.”


Monday, 5 December 2016

Book Review - World War Cthulhu by Brian M Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass

I'm a huge fan of Lovecraft and of the Cthulhu mythos in particular. I've also enjoyed many stories that expand upon the theme. This collection of short stories does that with varying success, with a central theme of war to connect them besides the mythos.

On the plus side there is a good variety of stories here, ranging from ancient times and even a space setting in the far future. As well as varied settings there is a solid array of plots, so each tale did feel distinct from the others.

And some of the stories are simply fantastic, and if it had just been them then it would have been a five star read. Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case with collections, the quality is uneven through the book. In fairness I didn't dislike any of them, and was able to finish all of them, but some just stood out noticeably from the rest.

Two stories that shined for me were The Ithiliad by Christine Morgan, and Sea Nymph’s Son by Robert M. Price. In both cases they blended the strengths of the mythos, but also something fresh to them.

As an ensemble I did find it a bit heavy going. You might appreciate the book better if read by dipping in and out over time, rather than in one go. It's worth a look if you enjoy Lovecraft's work, but if you're a newcomer then there are tastier feasts out there.


The world is at war against things that slink and gibber in the darkness, and titans that stride from world to world, sewing madness and death. War has existed in one form or another since the dawn of human civilization, and before then, Elder terrors battled it out across this planet and this known universe in ways unimaginable.

It has always been a losing battle for our side since time began. Incidents like the Innsmouth raid, chronicled by H.P. Lovecraft, mere blips of victory against an insurmountable foe. Still we fight, against these incredible odds, in an unending nightmare, we fight, and why? For victory, for land, for a political ideal? No, mankind fights for survival.

Our authors, John Shirley, Mark Rainey, Wilum Pugmire, William Meikle, Tim Curran, Jeffrey Thomas and many others have gathered here to share war stories from the eternal struggle against the darkness. This book chronicles these desperate battles from across the ages, including Roman Britain, The American Civil War, World War Two, The Vietnam Conflict, and even into the far future.

Table of Contents

Loyalty by John Shirley
The Game Changers by Stephen Mark Rainey
White Feather by T.E. Grau
To Hold Ye White Husk by W.H. Pugmire
Sea Nymph’s Son by Robert M. Price
The Boonieman by Edward M. Erdelac
The Turtle by Neil Baker
The Bullet and the Flesh by David Conyers & David Kernot
Broadsword by William Meikle
The Ithiliad by Christine Morgan
The Sinking City by Konstantine Paradias
Shape of a Snake by Cody Goodfellow
Mysterious Ways by C.J. Henderson
Magna Mater by Edward Morris
Dark Cell by Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass
Cold War, Yellow Fever by Pete Rawlik
Stragglers from Carrhae by Darrell Schweitzer
The Procyon Project by Tim Curran
Wunderwaffe by Jeffrey Thomas
A Feast of Death by Lee Clark Zumpe
Long Island Weird by Charles Christian
The Yoth Protocols by Josh Reynolds

Click here to buy World War Cthulhu from Amazon

Currently Reading - 2034 by Dmitry Glukhovsky


The long-awaited sequel to the cult bestseller Metro 2033, the second volume in the Metro trilogy, Metro 2034 continues the story of survival and struggle that unfolds in the mazes of the Moscow subway after WWIII. As the entire civilization was wiped out by atomic bombs and the surface of the planet is polluted with nuclear fallout, the only place suitable for men to live are shelters and bunkers, the largest of which is the subway system of Moscow, aka the Metro.

The year is 2034. There's no hope for humans to return to the surface of Earth, to repopulate the forsaken cities, and to become once again the masters of the world they used to be. So they rebuild a strange and grotesque civilization in the tunnels and at the stations of the subway. Stations become city-states that wage trade and war on each other. A fragile equilibrium is established. And then all can be ruined in matter of days. A new horrible threat looms that can eradicate the remains of humanity and end our era. It would take three unlikely heroes to face this menace.

The basis of two bestselling computer games Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light, the Metro books have put Dmitry Glukhovsky in the vanguard of Russian speculative fiction. Metro 2034 tells a previously unknown part of the greater Metro saga that some only know from video games. Whether you're new to this series, are a fan of the first novel, or want to explore the world of Metro in depth, Metro 2034 is a perfect read for you! Featuring blistering action, vivid and tough characters, claustrophobic tension and dark satire the Metro books have become bestsellers across the world.

Click here to buy 2034 from Amazon


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Tau Ceti Mission - 01.08.2648 - Swing Low

Image credit: http://point-of-no-23.livejournal.com/1152247.html

Seb makes a discovery in his latest report from the Venti probe as it travels deeper in to the Epsilon Indi system:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2016/12/01082648-swing-low.html

Cthulhu Chess Set T-shirt from Old Ones Productions

Insanity is your opening move with this Cthulhu chess set t-shirt from Old Ones Productions.

Available in unisex sizes small to XXXL.

Original artwork by Luciana Nedelea.

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/frontpage/products/cthulhu-chess-set-t-shirt



Sunday, 27 November 2016

Book Review - The Mephistophelean House by Benjamin Robert Carrico

I loved the idea for this story, and it's a different take on the Faustian story. It's one of the classic tales of a bargain with hidden dangers, and making it part of the construct of the house worked well. It's told in an immediate and compelling manner, although this isn't even throughout the book.

For certain periods it seems to lose it's way, but that's only for certain parts, it's mostly well written and a solid horror tale. Part of the problem is that the pacing isn't balanced. It starts well, and then dips and rises in an odd fashion. This most notable towards the end.

For me this was the weakest part of the book. The run to the conclusion worked well, with a descent into madness with a dark Alice in Wonderland feel. And then it's over. Without warning it just finishes. The nature of the ending was fine, and made sense in the context of the story. It's handled in such an abrupt manner that it feels hollow.

Which is a shame as it's a decent story, and for the most part well written. A little more development would have elevated it to something much stronger.


The Mephistophelean House is the sort of House you might miss driving by, nondescript, unremarkable, indistinguishable from all the other houses on the block. At the top of the stairs is a grim little room with a curious double hung window, and inside the room is an abnormal closet that leads to a windowless chamber. But when Matthew and Ben find a hole in the flue, upside-down numbers on the wall, and a porcelain angel missing its eyes, they quickly discover the contract they signed has a clause that can never be broken...

Click here to buy The Mephistophelean House from Amazon




Currently Reading - World War Cthulhu by Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass


The world is at war against things that slink and gibber in the darkness, and titans that stride from world to world, sewing madness and death. War has existed in one form or another since the dawn of human civilization, and before then, Elder terrors battled it out across this planet and this known universe in ways unimaginable.

It has always been a losing battle for our side since time began. Incidents like the Innsmouth raid, chronicled by H.P. Lovecraft, mere blips of victory against an insurmountable foe. Still we fight, against these incredible odds, in an unending nightmare, we fight, and why? For victory, for land, for a political ideal? No, mankind fights for survival.

Our authors, John Shirley, Mark Rainey, Wilum Pugmire, William Meikle, Tim Curran, Jeffrey Thomas and many others have gathered here to share war stories from the eternal struggle against the darkness. This book chronicles these desperate battles from across the ages, including Roman Britain, The American Civil War, World War Two, The Vietnam Conflict, and even into the far future.

Table of Contents

Loyalty by John Shirley
The Game Changers by Stephen Mark Rainey
White Feather by T.E. Grau
To Hold Ye White Husk by W.H. Pugmire
Sea Nymph’s Son by Robert M. Price
The Boonieman by Edward M. Erdelac
The Turtle by Neil Baker
The Bullet and the Flesh by David Conyers & David Kernot
Broadsword by William Meikle
The Ithiliad by Christine Morgan
The Sinking City by Konstantine Paradias
Shape of a Snake by Cody Goodfellow
Mysterious Ways by C.J. Henderson
Magna Mater by Edward Morris
Dark Cell by Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass
Cold War, Yellow Fever by Pete Rawlik
Stragglers from Carrhae by Darrell Schweitzer
The Procyon Project by Tim Curran
Wunderwaffe by Jeffrey Thomas
A Feast of Death by Lee Clark Zumpe
Long Island Weird by Charles Christian
The Yoth Protocols by Josh Reynolds

Click here to buy World War Cthulhu from Amazon

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Five to Five Thousand Challenge - Darren Grey



Darren Grey is a writer and computer game designer, and is currently writing for upcoming sci-fi game Jupiter Hell (www.jupiterhell.com). During daylight hours he also works as a Research Programme Manager for the Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science. You can find his games and writing at www.gamesofgrey.com.

In Five Years

In the Information Age the fastest thing that changes is the way we communicate and the tools we use to do so. Many of the apps and programmes we use right now will be extinct, whilst new tools arise and become ubiquitous with tremendous speed.

Automation will increase, with computers being in charge of much more of our lives. Driverless cars will become a widely accepted phenomenon, though still rare, and we’ll start seeing fervent debates when buggy cars kill pedestrians. Digital assistants like Siri and Cortana will become far more intuitive and many will begin to rely on them. Ultimately we will learn to trust the digital controllers of our lives much more than other humans.

The technology giants will grow, manufacturing jobs will become even scarcer, and we will continue to raid every resource on the planet to fuel our digital desires.

In Fifty Years

AIs will become commonplace, but not as the evil automatons depicted in movies. They will be targeted pieces of software, only able to make decisions in specific constraints, such as AI doctors providing medical diagnoses. Every gadget we own will have some form of artificial intelligence at its core, each one far more powerful than the greatest AIs we currently possess. The AIs of 2016 will seem as backwards as the computers of 1966 seem to us now. Future AIs will advise us what to wear, what to eat, inform our movements, our careers, our childraising and every other aspect of our lives, grand and small. Children growing up in this time will see them as indisputable natural forces.

Inequality in society will be rife. Automation across a range of industries will eliminate many labour markets. The middle class will be composed of those in the service industries, or those who can code or design machines. The lower classes will be destitute, heavily reliant on the state to get by. The software corporations will be insanely rich, and will underpin every other industry in operation as software ultimately controls every process in the world.

Inequality will lead to social strife and political upheaval. But the politicians will be powerless to change the haves and have-nots in a world that so perversely rewards those at the top. Some governments will begin turning to AIs to control the economy and other central functions, making politicians increasingly irrelevant. Perhaps eventually democracy will become a form of inputting variables into AI systems that know much better than us about how to run the world.

The developing world will suffer the most, as it always does. In the chaos Africa will be raped of its resources whilst puppet governments oppress the people. No one corporation or country will be responsible, and no one with power will ever be brave enough to try and disrupt a system that is so profitable for so many.

In Five Hundred Years

The Solar System will be awash with activity, yet only a few thousand people will ever have left Earth. Machines mine the asteroids and moons for resources, automatically funnelling back important materials to Earth. Using humans for this would be dangerous and expensive. A few rich people take tourist trips out to some pretty sights, but even that is not popular as it is time-consuming and uncomfortable. There are some permanent domes on Mars, but only a tiny few will choose to live their lives there.

Society will have calmed after the previous tumultuous years following the economic collapse of India and China. AIs have designed more stable systems of rule for us, ensuring we are kept happy and sane. Universal pay keeps the masses content, whilst an enterprising few play with trying to advance humanity further.

For the first time in its history the human race will begin to decline in numbers, after reaching 20 billion. Though there is plentiful food through agricultural advances, and little disease to kill us off, there is also very little motivation to procreate. People take much longer to emotionally mature, and often don’t form lasting relations with partners (if at all) until no longer fertile.

There will be much art and philosophy and science, and some will call it a golden age, but many will also worry for the future of the race as a whole. Climate change, after all the horrendous damage it caused, will be brought under control, yet the risk of other extinction events will still be present. A few exoplanets will have been visited by machines, and with robots now building bases on other planets it will almost be time to send a human expedition.

In Five Thousand Years

Humanity will have spread to the stars, and yet will have barely left a footprint. Machines will always be one step before us, spreading with minimal need of resources and replicating themselves wherever they go. Perhaps a true AI will be born in this time, but I think they will be smart enough to stay unnoticed by humans and will strike out on their own journey through the stars.

Our population will have crashed, with the majority of people no longer choosing to have children. Everything we relied on people to do can now be filled in by machines. We are completely independent from each other.

The human race will have made great scientific advances, and journeying between stars will become easier. Yet it will still be difficult, and the rewards for doing so will feel hollow to all but a few. An empty depression will sink over much of the species, a feeling of both stagnation and impotence - masters of our own world, yet so feeble to truly reach to the galactic scale, and as far as ever from understanding any real meaning to our existence.

Either we will slowly fade into a forgotten people, superseded by the AIs we created, or we will take the drastic step of changing who we are. Through a mix of genetic manipulation and machine augmentation we will stop being human, and in doing so open up vast new potentials for whatever species we become.

Book Review - Saturn's Children by Charles Stross

This was a fantastic read, which came as a bit of a surprise as I didn't get on with the few pieces of his that I'd read before. Now I will need to read more of his work. For me good science fiction involves big ideas, it is more than simply setting or technology. This book takes the idea of humanity's legacy once we no longer exists.

The author takes this premise and develops into a rich world. Before our demise we developed robots in our image and they permeate every part of life. After humanity's extinction they continue to live and operate throughout the solar system. The setting is well thought out and contains some fascinating ideas. There are some familiar ideas here, but they are expressed in a refreshing way.

A book needs more than just a decent setting and the lead character draws you through a fast paced plot. Freya is intricately developed, and her construct as a defunct concubine designed for human interaction, in a non-human world provides an interesting contrast. The concept of the multiple existences through the soul chips also creates some unexpected scenarios.

The story is strong, and evolves in some refreshing ways. There's serious consideration of the science involved, and while this is handled without becoming a major barrier to reading. I prefer my sci-fi reads to have a solid foundation, and that's certainly the case here.

Final mention should also be made about the author's writing.  In fairness my issues with previous books weren't down to the quality of his prose, and it was a major factor in enjoying this book. The dialogue in particular stands out, but I also appreciated how easily he tackles complex topics, without getting bogged down. This is a damn fine sci-fi read, and one well worth checking out by any fans of the genre.


Freya Nakamachi-47 has some major existential issues. She's the perfect concubine, designed to please her human masters - hardwired to become aroused at the mere sight of a human male. There's just one problem: she came off the production line a year after the human species went extinct.

Click here to buy Saturn's Children from Amazon

Currently Reading - Shakespeare vs Cthulhu by Jonathan Green


Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu An anthologie of fine stories inspir'd by the Bard of Stratford and the Lovecraftian Mythos Imagine if it had been William Shakespeare, England's greatest playwright, who had discovered the truth about the Great Old Ones and the cosmic entity we know as Cthulhu, rather than the American horror writer H P Lovecraft. Imagine if Stratford's favourite son had been the one to learn of the dangers of seeking after forbidden knowledge and of the war waged between the Elder Gods in the Outer Darkness, and had passed on that message, to those with eyes to see it, through his plays and poetry. Welcome to the world of Shakespearean Cthulhu! To mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, Snowbooks proudly presents fifteen stories of eldritch horror that blend the Bard's most famous plays with Lovecraft's most terrifying creations. But before you dip into this cursed tome, be warned - that way madness lies...

Click here to buy Shakespeare vs Cthulhu from Amazon

Monday, 21 November 2016

Book Review - The Silver Ships by S. H. Jucha

I found this book to be a bit of a contradiction. It starts well with some decent hard sci-fi, showing a well constructed world and some nice ideas. His imagination is the author's biggest strength, in particular he builds a convincing world. That aspect and the technology really shine.

Unfortunately the human side wasn't as strong. The characters are mostly likeable. A bit more depth would have been appreciated to better contrast their origins, and to develop their personalities. However their interactions lack the richness of the technical side. More than that their behaviour is almost always too convenient. There's little personal conflict, and they all seem happy to accept a stranger as their leader with little build up.

This is also reflected in the pacing, and the detail. The science, engineering and space are vividly detailed, but the human interactions zip by without real reflection. It also suffers from the faceless enemy problem. The encounter retains its mystery, although you do learn a taste of what is to come. I'm not quite sure if it's enough to entice me on to the next book in the series.



An explorer-tug captain, Alex Racine detects a damaged alien craft drifting into the system. Recognizing a once in a lifetime opportunity to make first contact, Alex pulls off a daring maneuver to latch on to the derelict.

Alex discovers the ship was attacked by an unknown craft, the first of its kind ever encountered. The mysterious silver ship's attack was both instant and deadly.

What enfolds is a story of the descendants of two Earth colony ships, with very different histories, meeting 700 years after their founding and uniting to defend humanity from the silver ships.

Click here to buy The Silver Ships from Amazon

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Currently Reading - The Mephistophelean House by Benjamin Carrico


The Mephistophelean House is the sort of House you might miss driving by, nondescript, unremarkable, indistinguishable from all the other houses on the block. At the top of the stairs is a grim little room with a curious double hung window, and inside the room is an abnormal closet that leads to a windowless chamber. But when Matthew and Ben find a hole in the flue, upside-down numbers on the wall, and a porcelain angel missing its eyes, they quickly discover the contract they signed has a clause that can never be broken... 

Click here to buy Mephistophelean House from Amazon

Friday, 18 November 2016

Currently Reading - Saturn's Children by Charles Stross


Freya Nakamachi-47 has some major existential issues. She's the perfect concubine, designed to please her human masters - hardwired to become aroused at the mere sight of a human male. There's just one problem: she came off the production line a year after the human species went extinct.

Click here to buy Saturn's Children from Amazon

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Book Review - Idoru by William Gibson

It must be hard for an author to write in a genre they've already written the defining novel for, and while this novel doesn't quite match the heights of some of his earlier work, it's still a good cyber-punk read. It's quite a deceptive read, as the style feels quite light. The technology is mostly assumed as part of the world, and there's no great effort to explain or justify it. The story also has a weird, almost subdued beat.

Those might sound like criticisms, but actually work in the book's favour. I didn't feel driven through the story, but languished through the plot. It also provides space to enjoy the writing itself, as well as the lives it portrays.

It's relaxed approach doesn't always work, and in places it did feel that it was drifting along. The biggest issue with this is the ending, this felt unsatisfactory with some loose ends. More than that it seemed more like it just faded away.

Overall I enjoyed it, but it lacked the depth and colour I appreciated from his earlier books.



Idoru - a gripping techno-thriller by William Gibson, bestselling author of Neuromancer

'Fast, witty and cleverly politicized' Guardian

Tokyo, post-event:

After an attack of scruples, Colin Laney's skipped out on his former employer Slitscan - avoiding the rash of media lawyers sent his way - and taken a job for the outfit managing Japanese rock duo, Lo/Rez. Rez has announced he's going to marry an 'idoru' by the name of Rei Toi - she exists only in virtual reality - and this creates complications that Laney, a net runner, is supposed to sort out. But when Chai, part of Lo/Rez's fan club, turns up unaware that she's carrying illegal nanoware for the Russian Kombinat, Laney's scruples nudge him towards trouble all over again. And this time lawyers'll be the least of his worries . . .

William Gibson is a prophet and a satirist, a black comedian and an outstanding architect of cool. Readers of Neal Stephenson, Ray Bradbury and Iain M. Banks will love this book. Idoru is the second novel in the Bridge trilogy - read Virtual Light and All Tomorrow's Parties for more.


'Sharp, fast, bright . . . a must' Arena

'A classic technothriller . . . lean, evocative, tense' Wired

'Luxuriate in prose simultaneously as hard and laconic as Elmore Leonard's and as glacially poetic as JG. Ballard's . . . an exhilarating ride' New Statesman

William Gibson's first novel Neuromancer has sold more than six million copies worldwide. In an earlier story he had invented the term 'cyberspace'; a concept he developed in the novel, creating an iconography for the Information Age long before the invention of the Internet. The book won three major literary prizes. He has since written nine further novels including Count Zero; Mona Lisa Overdrive; The Difference Engine; Virtual Light; Idoru; All Tomorrow's Parties; Pattern Recognition; Spook Country and most recently Zero History. He is also the author of Distrust That Particular Flavor, a collection of non-fiction writing.

Click here to buy Idoru from Amazon

Currently Reading - Un Lun Dun by China Miéville


From British fantasy’s rising star comes this astonishing novel for both adults and children.

The iron wheel began to spin, slowly at first, then faster and faster. The room grew darker. As the light lessened, so did the sound. Deeba and Zanna stared at each other in wonder. The noise of the cars and vans and motorbikes outside grew tinny . . . The wheel turned off all the cars and turned off all the lamps. It was turning off London.

Zanna and Deeba are two girls leading ordinary lives, until they stumble into the world of UnLondon, an urban Wonderland where all the lost and broken things of London end up . . . and some of its lost and broken people too. Here discarded umbrellas stalk with spidery menace, carnivorous giraffes roam the streets, and a jungle sprawls beyond the door of an ordinary house.

UnLondon is under siege by the sinister Smog and its stink-junkie slaves; it is a city awaiting its hero. Guided by a magic book that can’t quite get its facts straight, and pursued by Hemi the half-ghost boy, the girls set out to stop the poisonous cloud before it burns everything in its path. They are joined in their quest by a motley band of UnLondon locals, including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas, Obaday Fing, a couturier whose head is an enormous pincushion, and an empty milk carton called Curdle.

The world of UnLondon is populated by astonishing frights and delights that will thrill the imagination.

Click here to buy Un Lun Dun from Amazon

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Tau Ceti Mission - 12.03.2648 - Trio


Blues for Neptune by Bob Eggleton

Seb discovers two new planets as the Venti probe travels through the Epsilon Indi system:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2016/11/12032648-trio.html


Saturday, 12 November 2016

Book Review - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This was quite simply a stunning read. It wasn't quite what I expected, but it reminded me of some of Clive Barker's more magical tales, and that's no bad thing. It has an interesting style to it. Most of the story is told in third person present tense, which is a tricky perspective to get right in my experience. The author writes it with confidence and it does add a sense of immediacy to the writing. An even riskier approach were the second person sections. I've rarely seen this used with success outside of the choose your own adventure style books, but again it works well in the context, as if you're visiting the circus.

In many ways the circus itself is the star of the show. It's more than a collection of acts and oddities. It has a magical life of its own, and the imagination demonstrated here is enchanting in itself. It's such a grand experiment that I wish I could visit it in real life!

The meat of the plot is in the form of a contest between two young students of the magical arts. These are the magic of manipulation and illusion, and more than simple conjuring tricks. This aspect really shines in the story, and the contrast of the two approaches makes for a different style of conflict.

There's a strong blend of characters here, they all bring something unique to the story. Although here is the book's only real weak spot for me. They're well described, and their interactions finely balanced, but they didn't feel as developed as they could be. For me the most interesting were the ones on the periphery of the circus.

Overall though this a finely written magical story, an enchanting tale I enjoyed reading. Highly recommended.


The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way--a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a "game" to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved--the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them--are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.

But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.

Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.

Click here to buy The Night Circus from Amazon


Currently Reading - The Silver Ships by S. H. Jucha


An explorer-tug captain, Alex Racine detects a damaged alien craft drifting into the system. Recognizing a once in a lifetime opportunity to make first contact, Alex pulls off a daring maneuver to latch on to the derelict.

Alex discovers the ship was attacked by an unknown craft, the first of its kind ever encountered. The mysterious silver ship's attack was both instant and deadly.

What enfolds is a story of the descendants of two Earth colony ships, with very different histories, meeting 700 years after their founding and uniting to defend humanity from the silver ships.

Click here to buy The Silver Ships from Amazon

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Flying Dragon T-shirt from the Magic Owl Collection


The Flying Dragon is a t-shirt from the Magic Owl collection, based on an illustration by Katie W. Stewart.

The t-shirt is available in children's sizes Small to XL, Ladies size's Small to XXL, and Men's sizes small to XXXL.

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/magic-owl/products/flying-dragon-t-shirt


Also available as a mug!

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/magic-owl/products/flying-dragon-mug

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Book Review - False Gods by Graham McNeill

This is the second book in the Horus Heresy series, and I'm still eager to continue the series! I've stated before that I'm a big fan of the 40K universe, and this series reveals one of the core foundations for that setting. As with the first book we learn more about the Warmaster, and follow his descent into heresy.

The story delves a bit deeper into Horus' personality, and in particular the seeds for his fall. The mechanisms weren't unexpected, but it did have some surprises. It certainly sets the scene for events to come. It's also well reflected in the surrounding characters, in particular the members of the Mournival introduced in the first book. The new characters from other chapters play a significant part and also help identify the nature of the different Astartes chapters (well legions at that point).

The bleak nature of the universe is one of its best features, it's all very much shades of grey, even when there's a supposed purity of purpose. This is reflected in the writing which has a formal, and almost sombre feel. Having different authors in a series can be a mixed bag, but the style is consistent with the previous book. The style of writing suits the setting, but there are nuances here as well. For superhuman characters, there's some appreciated subtlety in the writing and characterisation.

The books downside is shared by many others in the world. As they're aimed at players of the game there's a lot of assumed knowledge, although for fans it does add a lot of richness to the background. Overall it's a solid action story, with some thoughtful moments. Definitely a good read for fans.



Far from Terra, the XVIth Legion continue in the Great Crusade as the 'Sons of Horus'. Putting the debacle with the interex behind him, the Warmaster has become more withdrawn as he struggles to deal with the jealousy of his brother primarchs, and increasingly relies on the council of his advisors as he plans each new campaign. Noble captain Garviel Loken harbours misgivings about the clandestine ways adopted by many of his brethren, but when the Legion is sent to reconquer the moon of Davin, it is clear that Horus has a personal stake in the matter which may have clouded his judgement. With dark forces rising against them, have the pimarch and his warriors been drawn into a trap?

Click here to buy False Gods from Amazon

Currently Reading - Idoru by William Gibson



Idoru - a gripping techno-thriller by William Gibson, bestselling author of Neuromancer

'Fast, witty and cleverly politicized' Guardian

Tokyo, post-event:

After an attack of scruples, Colin Laney's skipped out on his former employer Slitscan - avoiding the rash of media lawyers sent his way - and taken a job for the outfit managing Japanese rock duo, Lo/Rez. Rez has announced he's going to marry an 'idoru' by the name of Rei Toi - she exists only in virtual reality - and this creates complications that Laney, a net runner, is supposed to sort out. But when Chai, part of Lo/Rez's fan club, turns up unaware that she's carrying illegal nanoware for the Russian Kombinat, Laney's scruples nudge him towards trouble all over again. And this time lawyers'll be the least of his worries . . .

William Gibson is a prophet and a satirist, a black comedian and an outstanding architect of cool. Readers of Neal Stephenson, Ray Bradbury and Iain M. Banks will love this book. Idoru is the second novel in the Bridge trilogy - read Virtual Light and All Tomorrow's Parties for more.


'Sharp, fast, bright . . . a must' Arena

'A classic technothriller . . . lean, evocative, tense' Wired

'Luxuriate in prose simultaneously as hard and laconic as Elmore Leonard's and as glacially poetic as JG. Ballard's . . . an exhilarating ride' New Statesman

William Gibson's first novel Neuromancer has sold more than six million copies worldwide. In an earlier story he had invented the term 'cyberspace'; a concept he developed in the novel, creating an iconography for the Information Age long before the invention of the Internet. The book won three major literary prizes. He has since written nine further novels including Count Zero; Mona Lisa Overdrive; The Difference Engine; Virtual Light; Idoru; All Tomorrow's Parties; Pattern Recognition; Spook Country and most recently Zero History. He is also the author of Distrust That Particular Flavor, a collection of non-fiction writing.

Click here to buy Idoru from Amazon

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Cthulhu Chess Set


A 3D printed, hand painted Cthulhu inspired chess set with a  board with two inch tiles.

“The Thing cannot be described - there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. A mountain walked or stumbled.

If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful.” 

All pieces have weighted bases and felt pads to protect the boards.

This is a unique chess set that would make an ideal gift for any Lovecraft fan.

Note that these sets are made to order and may take up to 6 weeks to despatch.

Pieces are hand painted so may vary slightly from the photos.

The board is sourced to order to match the selected piece colours so may vary from the one shown.

Original concept art by Luciana Nedelea and 3D modelling by Sergio Mengual.

The King piece is 2.6 inches / 6.7 cm tall.

The Pawn piece is 1.7 inches / 4.5 cm tall.

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/chess-set/products/hand-painted-cthulhu-chess-set

Monday, 31 October 2016

666 Anthology Released Today!

I'm pleased to announce the release of 666 from Fantastic Publishing - which includes a story from me along with a host of other fine authors.


Come one come all and enter the realm of the 666 word story.

Imagine the terrifying journey the authors went through to create a story of EXACTLY 666 words...

Then imagine the screams of torment from our editorial dungeons as they found a single typo or a hyphenated word...

This is a collection of devilish, fiendish and downright pant-wetting stories from authors from around the world.

The amazing cover was designed by Dean Samed and Michael Brookes gave us a story for the collection and wrote the foreword.

10% of the proceeds from this book will be donated to the Freedom From Torture charity who do sterling work worldwide reintegrating people back into society after suffering torture themselves.

Buy 666 now from Amazon


Happy Halloween From The Yellow Lady

The Yellow Lady is a ghost story from my first short story anthology - An Odd Quartet (details of the book are after the story). It was based on a ghost story I heard as a child, and I've printed it here in full to celebrate Halloween:



THE YELLOW LADY


I’d visited the grave of the Yellow Lady many years before. Behind the screen of threadbare trees I’d camped on the rough field. The grave looked the same as I remembered. Now of course, I didn’t fear at its stark shape. The graveyard had existed for centuries. The more modern road lined one side; the occasional passing car disturbed my concentration. To complete the triangle an old chapel stood sentry.

Thirty years ago I’d camped here with dozens of other boys my age as part of a youth camp. The field in which we camped nestled against the graveyard. The tent I slept in lay within spitting distance of the infamous grave.

The camp was much like many others designed to keep poor kids occupied and out of their rough estates for one week out of the year. I loved it. I was used to the grimy city streets, the week in the countryside showed me an aspect of the world I’d previously only read about.

Through the day the camp volunteers kept us entertained with games and a myriad of activities. At the foot of the field lapped a large lake which drained into an even larger marsh. In the lake we swam and tried to catch fish with small nets. We frightened each other with tales of giant pike who would bite our legs if we weren’t careful.

We continued trying to scare each other in the evenings. By the campfire we ate burned burgers and told ghost stories. Our stories amused the volunteers with the thankless task of keeping us in order. They kept their story until last and we all sat spellbound as the group leader told the tale.

The Yellow Lady had been buried in the small cemetery well beyond the safe glow of the fire. At first she was buried in a pauper’s grave, not anymore. Now she lay encased in an iron casket, with iron spikes driven through the coffin. Her headstone was not the usual carved stone, but instead formed from iron in the Celtic form. Iron spikes ornamented the cross.

“Why?” We wondered.

The old man teased us, well practised in the telling of this story. He told us of the young woman, betrothed to the local Lord. They were paired in an arranged marriage that would provide him with finances for his estate. She’d gain nothing from the partnership, but her father would enjoy the patronage of aristocracy.

But she didn’t love the Lord, she already loved another. She loved a woodsman and he loved her in return. Even after the marriage ceremony she continued to see her love in secret.

We didn’t care for that part of the story. At ten (or maybe eleven?) years old I hadn’t yet acquired the taste for girls. The old man’s voice carried the story well, and despite the smoochy bit, we remained captivated.

Inevitably the Lord discovered his wife’s infidelity. She arrived at her lover’s hut, deep in the woods. She found him purple faced and hanging from the tree. His hands and feet had been cut off then placed in a basket.

She rushed to her lover’s dangling corpse and screamed to the sky in her grief. The Lord stepped into view. He battered her to the ground and in his rage cut out her heart and nailed it to the tree from which her lover hung.

To this day it is said that you can put your ear against the weathered tree and hear the heartbeat of the murdered woman. None of us felt brave enough to test the truth of this.

Next the Lord severed her head from her body. He cast the head into the marsh – never to be found. The woman’s body was buried in a pauper’s grave in the grave one hundred yards from where we sat.
A year passed. The Lord found himself a new wife, and with great ceremony they were married. Both merry from the celebrations they took to their bed together for the first and last time.

They were both found dead the next morning by the servants, with a yellow handprint upon their faces.

The next night the parish priest reported seeing the apparition of the Yellow Lady leaving the graveyard and heading towards the marsh, searching for the corpse of her lover. He naturally made the connection with the deaths from the previous night.

However the hand marks had faded with the rising sun. Only he and the servants who summoned him witnessed the prints with their own eyes. So everyone ignored his warnings. Their attitude changed rapidly when more people from the village witnessed the ghost for themselves.

With no natural heirs the Crown appointed a new Lord who duly arrived and was found dead on his first day break. This time people listened to the priest and luckily for them he had a plan.

They exhumed her body and bound her in a coffin made from iron and blessed by the priest himself. The blacksmith then drove iron spikes through the coffin and constructed the formidable metal cross to bind her to the grave. Only on the anniversary of her death could she wander, continuing her search for her head and her lover’s body.

And you know what? The anniversary coincided with the week I stayed at the camp. I remember it being the scariest night of my young life. At every rustle I lay rigid, my eyes frantically scanning the foggy gloom. But of course I lived to see the next day. Although a few of the boys claimed they’d seen the ghost heading towards the lake.

So why am I back here after thirty odd years?

Well the story I was told all those years ago contained some truth, but was missing one interesting and valuable fact. The body was buried with what was described as a finely crafted gold and diamond locket. The locket was of a type highly prized at the time, but very rare now. And rare meant valuable.

And valuable was good. It’s how I earned my living.

Many years ago I got myself into a bit of trouble. I owed the wrong people more money than I could lay my hands on. Whilst drowning my sorrows in anticipation of one or both legs being broken I met a funeral director, also trying to drown his sorrows.

From this drunken man I learnt something interesting. Even in these modern times people are often buried with valuables or a treasured item. Usually it’s junk, but often it’s worth fencing.

Wherever possible I focussed on tombs. They’re usually owned by rich people and while they’re not more likely to leave a memento, it is more likely to be worth something.

The other advantage of course is that tombs are generally less effort to get into than digging into a grave. The obituary columns in local newspapers and on the Internet provided me with likely targets. After a while I developed a sense for spotting a target from how the obituaries were written.

I’d known about the locket for years, but I’d kept it safe in case of a rainy day. The regular pickings had been slim for the past couple of months, so the rainy day now arrived.

To dig up a grave requires a lot of effort. This graveyard was secluded, but not enough to make it safe to use a mechanical digger. That left me with the shovel. At least the work helped to keep me warm in the chill air. As the night turned into morning the fog rolled across the graveyard.

The scene reminded me of cheap horror films. I wasn’t spooked. I’ve robbed graves for many years without encountering any ghosts or ghouls. Still the air was cold, colder than I expected.

Thankfully I only had to dig up part of the grave. If I had to dig up the whole grave I would have still have been digging a hole when the sun rose. I only needed to dig enough space to access the coffin. Then I would cut into the coffin and use a flexible grabber to retrieve what I needed.

Simple.

My spade struck the coffin with a dull clang. I scraped the soil away; the dirt stained red as if soaked in blood. In the thin torch beam I noticed the coffin was rusted. I nodded to myself. I’d hoped that would be the case. Retrieving a cold chisel and hammer from my bag of tools I struck a hole into the coffin.

With a small crowbar I widened the hole. This is the part I preferred old graves to fresher ones. They didn’t smell as bad and were less messy once you delved inside. Someone must have been smiling down on me; I’d dug up the right end. Dropping a chemlight into the hole I spotted the sparkle of the necklace. Exactly what I hoped to see. Within minutes I packed up my tools and was driving my dirty white van back towards London.

* * *

The next day I went to see Tony. He was one of my fences. Over the years I’d learnt it was wise to know a range of contacts. Tony specialised in antiquities, I’d receive a much better price for the locket from him. The others would give me scrap value at best. A shame for a piece like this.

Tony showed excitement when he held the piece. That in itself was unusual. He peered at the locket through his magnifying glass.

“Beautiful workmanship. Sixteenth century I’d say.”

The piece did look pretty. Delicate engravings ornamented the surface. I tried opening the locket, but didn’t find a clasp or opening of any kind. The front surface appeared branded with a Celtic cross.

“It appears to be fused shut. I wonder what’s inside.”

Tony delicately probed at the edges with a tiny tool. I waited impatiently as he worked. I knew he wouldn’t offer a price until he completed his examination. Hurrying him would only reduce the price.
After thirty minutes of his careful ministration the locket revealed its secret. A small lock of dark hair. He pulled the lock free and smiled.

“Love is a grand thing. However this isn’t worth anything.” He cast the hair into the waste bin by his workbench. “This however is worth some money. I’ll give you six grand for it.”

I smiled. We played this game many times before. “I see you still have your sense of humour. Twelve.”

He laughed and the bargaining continued. As expected we agreed on nine thousand. I pocketed the cash and left. I agreed to return later for drinks after I had attended to more immediate business.

* * *

After paying my more immediate debts I returned to Tony’s as promised. I bought a fine bottle of scotch for the drink he wanted. I found him still examining the locket. Even as we sat into the night drinking and chatting he seemed distracted. Finally I gave in and asked him what the problem was.

“It’s the locket.” He answered. “When I first looked at it I sensed something. After I opened it that feeling changed.”

“Changed?”

“I don’t know. It felt wrong somehow.”

This was too much for me. I’ve never been one for reflection. I rob graves for a living; it’s not something that would help. I changed the subject and we discussed the ongoing poor fortunes of our football team.

We approached the mellow state that good whisky in good company can bring. The earlier uncomfortable moment was now forgotten. I thought I heard a church bell ring. Strange, the local church hadn’t rung its bells for years.

“Can you feel that?” Tony asked.

“What?” But I understood what he meant. The sudden chill air pressed against my skin.

I smelled something. A stench I’d often encountered. The stink of an open grave. My senses seemed clouded, probably just the drink.

Tony cried out. I looked at his shocked face and then to where he stared. For a moment she entranced me with her ethereal beauty. She wore a plain yellow dress. The dress glowed, casting a pale yellow light across her skin. I had never seen a more beautiful woman.

Her gaze focussed completely on Tony as she drifted towards him. I remained frozen. I didn’t know what to do. As she neared Tony I threw my nearly empty glass at her.

The glass flew straight through her and smashed against the wall. She didn’t appear to notice.
She placed one hand on Tony’s face and he shrieked. I didn’t know a man could make noises like that. I had to do something, so I charged at her. I shouted as loud as I could, trying to distract her.
My arm passed through her. I gasped with the sudden cold.

His shrieks stopped before I turned around. The young woman looked at me and then faded from sight. I rushed to Tony. The yellow handprint on his face, already starting to fade. I checked for signs of life and found none.

How I didn’t panic I don’t know, but somehow I managed to keep my head together. I couldn’t stay here. I wanted to call for an ambulance, but I realised it was too late. He deserved better, but I had to think of my own fate.

Only when I reached one of my bolt holes did it sink in that my friend had been killed by a ghost.

* * *

She came for me the following night about halfway through a bottle of cheaper whisky. The room turning cold gave me some warning, so I was on my feet when she appeared in the room.

I noticed something different about her. Her glow looked more pronounced. She also appeared more solid and around her neck something glittered. The locket. It looked real, not an apparition. It was obviously important to her. I wondered if it would give me some leverage. As she drifted towards me I leapt to one side and snatched the locket from her throat. My hand passed through her, but my fingers caught the locket’s chain.

Then I ran.

* * *

I ran all night, I kept moving hoping to lose her. When dawn finally broke I felt a bit safer.
Tired but alive. I now needed to decide what to do next. I remembered the locket, it had to possess some power over her, and she hadn’t appeared until after the locket had been opened.

The lock of hair. It must mean something.

I made my way across London, when I reached Tony’s place a group of press and curious bystanders were being held back by a handful of uniformed police. Tony’s body had evidently been discovered. I couldn’t get into the building until the police had left.

The day passed slowly. I walked and stopped in every coffee shop trying to stay awake. My head ached with fatigue.

Finally as the afternoon drew to a close the excitement began to die down. The sky had darkened before it looked safe enough to enter the building. Getting in was easy. The police locked the door, but didn’t activate the other security devices. I picked the lock and let myself in.

Naturally she appeared as I rummaged through the waste bin looking for the lock of hair.

Her chill breath brushed my neck. For a second I froze. Do I keep looking and hope to find it in the few seconds it would take for her to reach me? Or do I run?

I ran.

I ran with the bin held tightly. As I fled I continued searching through the trash. She followed me into the empty street. I kept running. The dread chill kept pace with me.

Finally I found the lock of hair. With a cry of triumph I placed the hair into the locket and snapped it shut. Triumphantly I turned, expecting her to be gone.

Unfortunately she remained. But now she stood motionless. Curious. No longer afraid I took the hair from the locket and the moment I did she charged me. Quickly I put the hair back and as I did so she stopped moving.

Now that was an interesting discovery.

* * *

Of course I considered doing the right thing. The correct thing. Now I had this ghost on a leash I could easily return her to her iron coffin and bind her spirit where she belonged. I even started driving down into Surrey.

But a thought stopped me.

An interesting thought. A speculative thought.

How much would a ghost be worth? Then another thought. How much would people pay to look at, or even touch a real ghost?

I turned the van around and headed back into London. After visiting Tony’s place again I helped myself to some choice pieces of jewellery. I only received scrap value for them, but the money provided enough to buy a bigger van. I made sure I bought one where the back opened up onto a flat space I could use as a stage.

And that was how I gave up grave robbing. Most nights I give the opening banter on the stage and then people, young and old, give me a tenner each to see the ghost of the Yellow Lady.
Every night in a different town, but the same in each. Hundreds of people flock to see her. Each of them with a tenner in their hand.

I’ve struck the big time I can tell you. And the sceptics are the best. They keep coming back trying to prove it’s a fake. Every viewing costs them ten pounds. I let them try whatever they want.
They even reported me to the Police, but they found no proof of a fake and provided great advertising for me as well.

Times have never been better.

How does she like it you ask? How would I know? She’s a ghost, not a real person. You can find out for yourself it you want. It will only cost you ten pounds.

Find out more about An Odd Quartet here: http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/an-odd-quartet.html

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