Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, November 2015: Europe at Midnight, An Atlas of Countries that Don’t Exist, Trudi Canavan, Mira Grant, Emma Newman, and more

From the Other Side, November 2015
By Paul Kincaid

[Editor’s Note: From the Other Side is Paul Kincaid’s monthly column on books and news from the other side of the Atlantic.]

Earlier this year, when I was noting all the titles in the running for the various genre awards, I was particularly pleased that Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson appeared on three shortlists. Inexplicably, it didn’t win any of them, so I’m expecting the sequel, Europe at Midnight (Solaris), to do rather better.

I say “sequel”, but this new book is not exactly a continuation of the same story, and the engaging hero of that first book only appears on the very last page of this one. Nevertheless, we get the same basic scenario: Europe has shattered into countless little statelets, some no more than a city block in size. And there’s the same spy craft moving the plot along. But Hutchinson has expanded on the ideas we encountered in the first book, so we open in a university that is the setting for a civil war and that we slowly come to realise occupies its own pocket universe. And a significant chunk of the narrative takes place in an entirely different Europe. The third volume in the series is already scheduled for publication around the same time next year, and Hutchinson has tentatively announced plans for at least one more volume after that. All I can say is that if he can keep up this level of invention, this will surely be one of the most interesting and important genre series of the moment.

Europe At Midnight An Atlas of Countries That Don't Exist: A compendium of fifty unrecognized and largely unnoticed states

It’s not science fiction, but an intriguing and timely companion to Hutchinson’s series might well be Nick Middleton’s An Atlas of Countries that Don’t Exist (Macmillan). It’s a tour of 50 unrecognized and largely unnoticed states, including one European republic that had just one day of independence, which rather makes it feel as if Hutchinson’s invention isn’t at all wide of the mark. Read the rest of this entry »

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Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, May 2014: Comics Unmasked exhibition, and new books from Nick Harkaway, Paul Cornell, Trudi Canavan, and Jeff VanderMeer

From the Other Side, May 2014

By Paul Kincaid

So, with the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the annual awards circus comes to an end (at least until the Hugos in August) in the splendid surroundings of the Royal Society. Under the gaze of Thomas Hobbes and Earnest Rutherford and other worthies we were treated to an award ceremony that seems to be getting longer every year. This time, for instance, there was a nicely unsettling short film from Sci-Fi London’s competition to make a film in just 48 hours, followed by a reading from each of the shortlisted novels by one of the professional readers for Audible. Eventually, however, the envelope was opened by last year’s winner, Chris Beckett. And the winner was, perhaps inevitably, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, the novel that seems to be gathering just about every award going this year.

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Just a week after the Clarke Award ceremony, I went along to the British Library to see their Comics Unmasked exhibition. I think Dave McKean, who designed the show, went overboard on the Anonymous figures with their Guy Fawkes masks who stood in crowds, watching at every turn in the exhibition. Yes, the exhibition does emphasise the political dimension of comics, but this was rather heavy handed. Nevertheless, what’s on display really is fascinating, from a medieval parable told just like a strip cartoon, to examples of erotic comic art, by way of super heroes, the Illustrated Police News, Andy Capp and a Gorillaz video. I recognised lots of comics from my own childhood, and there are plenty of more recent work by Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Posy Simmons and others. The exhibition is on until 19th August, and it really is worth paying a visit. Read the rest of this entry »