I’ve never read any Jack Kerouac but if I did, I imagine it might be a bit like Sion Smith’s CITIES OF THE DEAD. Beat Poetry, to me, sounds like a sort of noirish slam on regular poetry and that’s kind of what’s going on in this book. It’s like hard-boiled travel writing. Like the author, Sion Smith, has captured the true feelings of the various cities he visits – their hopes and fears and dirty secrets – and he’s telling us about it in a language we can all understand.
It’s like that bloke, Jonathan Pie, who does the satire news reader thing, you know the one. He’s on Youtube and he’ll deliver the news like it’s usually delivered and then it cuts to his ‘off camera’ rant where he tells you what he really thinks. CITIES is like that, in a way: the bits of the travel guide that Smith put together after hours in his dimly lit hotel room – banged out on an old typewriter, cigarette dangling from his lips.
It’s primarily historical figures Smith’s interested in with the cities he visits – dead people – but always from a completely fresh angle, again digging deeper than what’s in your average guide. And then there’s the living characters he meets along the way – damaged people who seem, at least to me, somewhat dead themselves, ghostly and ethereal in their interactions.
CITIES OF THE DEAD is the elegant, accessible and emotionally engaging story of a man on a different type of journey. And it’s one which the reader can feel part of, too. So, grab your hat and climb on board – it’s going to be a rocky ride but, trust me, well worth it in the end.
BUY CITIES OF THE DEAD
I’ve always been tempted by the Star Wars tie-in novels or Extended Universe, as it is known by fans. I even dipped my toe into the water, trying one of the X-Wing novels but, to be honest, while there was nothing at all wrong with the writing, I felt the story required you to have at least some knowledge of the many, many books and comics and games and whatever else that had gone before it. So while Disney’s decision to reboot the EU, rendering its back catalogue as ‘legends’ and releasing its own slew of canonical novels, was understandably met with derision by many fans, it was an opportunity for people like me to reconnect. And reconnect I have.
The long-awaited 7th chapter of the Star Wars saga brings old characters and new together in an epic adventure sure to excite fans a lot more than the prequels of ten, fifteen years ago. We went into this movie expecting a lot and, for the most part, the movie delivered. But what about the book?
I’ve been a fan of Alan Dean Foster ever since reading his novelisation of Alien 3 back in the day. With a dramatic change of pace, the film proved to be divisive among fans of that series and yet Foser seemed to relish the chance to commit its somewhat muted story to print, lending characters such as Charles Dance’s Clemens more definition than even the movie offered. And that should be the job of the novelist – to breathe even more life into those characters onscreen, to offer fans a greater insight to their actions and motivations, their hopes and fears. And here, in The Force Awakens, Foster does it brilliantly.
Listed as Book 1.5 in the Expanse series, the bestselling space opera by James S.A. Corey, The Butcher Of Anderson Station gives us the backstory of one of the most enigmatic characters from Leviathan Awakes (book 1 of the series). Depending on who you talk to, Fred Johnson of the Outer Planets Alliance is either a hero or a mass-murderer, freedom fighter or terrorist, and that sentence alone highlights some of the complexities around the man. This short e-novella (around 10 K words long) details Fred’s backstory and leaves us, as readers, to make up our own minds.
Written in the same engaging style as other Corey books, TBOAS will no doubt delight fans of the series and, being something of a self-contained story, might even serve as a good taster for newbies. Either way, with The Expanse TV series due to hit Netflix soon, there’s no better time to get onboard with the books.
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Military sci-fi is not a sub-genre I’ve been naturally drawn to – or so I’ve thought. Renowned for its emphasis on tech and less on character development than your standard space opera, it’s been something I’ve tended to shy away from. But then again, when I think about it, some of my favourite sci-fi stories have been military-based – and none of them could be accused of half-assing it when it comes to the characters. Case in point: Battlestar Galactica, its reboot being one of the most character-rich sci-fi series out there.