The Rebellion Advent Calendar hits day 16 today, and we’ve lined up yet another corker of a competition for you.
We’ve got a pair of James Lovegrove’s finest creations to give away: Age of Odin and Age of Ra, two of the most popular Pantheon books out there. These are the special editions to boot, with shiny new covers and the glow of the gods about them.
The mighty James Lovegrove returns today with a brand new piece of all-action military sci-fi: Age of Heroes.
Yes, the latest Lovegrove is now officially out in the wild, and cannot flippin’ wait for you to read it. It’s classic Lovegrove – action, adventure, a few laughs and a story that you’ll rip through quicker than you thought was humanly possible.
You can find out a bit about Age of Heroes over at Civilian Reader, when James had a chat about the book, Godpunk and load more.
In the meantime, here’s what we have to say about it…
CHILDREN OF THE GODS!
Born of the Gods, created to be their champions, their names echo in eternity: Theseus, Perseus, Hippolyta, Heracles, Helen of Troy and all their half-mortal ilk.
But the Age of Heroes is long past, and no more epics are told of their deeds. Blessed – and cursed – with eternal life, they have walked the Earth for millennia, doing their best to fit in among ordinary humans, taking new names and living new lives.
And one by one, the demigods are meeting terrible, bloody ends.
Now it’s up to Theseus, comfortably ensconced in New York and making his living as a crime fiction writer, to investigate the deaths. His search for the culprit draws him back into the lives of his dysfunctional extended family, and into a world of tragedy and long-held grudges that he thought, and hoped, he’d put behind him.
Praise the gods! James Lovegrove’s Pantheon Series, which includes fan favourite titles such as The Age of Ra and The Age of Zeus, has topped 200,000 sales worldwide!
We know, pretty amazing right? James’s all-action tales of god-bothering derring-do are exactly the sort of books we love to publish: fast, furiously inventive and flat out fun to read.
James had this to say about his incredible achievement:
“When I started writing my Pantheon series back in 2008, I had no idea it was going to be a success. Or even a series. I just had an idea for a novel and the idea tickled me: the Ancient Egyptian gods dividing the world up between them and fighting proxy battles using us mortals as chess pieces/cannon fodder.
That book was The Age of Ra, and the reviews were good, and word of mouth brought sales, and Solaris asked me for a sequel. But I couldn’t see a way of carrying the story on in any meaningful way, so I counter-proposed. How about a novel about a different set of ancient gods?
Solaris said yeah. Thus was The Age of Zeus born. And so it went on. I’ve now written seven novels and three novellas, all fitting in under the umbrella title of the Pantheon series (the latest being the just-about-to-hit-a-bookshop-near-you Age of Heroes). Each is standalone but deals with the same core theme: our relationship with our deities.
I never foresaw that the books would become so popular. I just wanted to tell good stories about gods, using each established mythology as a playground to mess around in. I’m deeply gratified – and grateful – that readers have taken them to their hearts in the way they have, and I look forward to dreaming up further new guises for old gods in the years to come.
I should also add that I’m hugely indebted to the fine folk at Solaris — the present curators Jon, Ben, David and Rob, as well as those who went before — for taking a punt on these books in the first place and then shepherding them through their various incarnations and metamorphoses for lo, these many years gone.”
Hearty congratulations to James, and here’s to many more years of godly goodness!
World of Water should not be confused with Waterworld, the 1995 Kevin Costner movie which it seems nobody saw and liked apart from me.
Yes, I know it’s a crap film. I knew that even before I went to the cinema to watch it. But it has some amazing set design, some memorable imagery, and a grand sense of ambition. In the mid-90s Costner was a big box office draw, and he could have chosen to play things safe. Instead, he used his star power to leverage funding for an expensive post-apocalyptic action adventure and cast himself as a somewhat unlikeable protagonist. Kudos to him for that.
My novel, despite a certain similarity of title, bears no resemblance otherwise. The second in my Dev Harmer series, it’s set on an alien world entirely made of water rather than, as in the Costner movie, our own future Earth after the icecaps have melted. Can such worlds exist?
Apparently, yes. The idea of ocean planets has been hypothesised by astronomers and cosmologists. Originally formed of ice, they melt as they migrate inward to the centre of their solar systems. Their seas are thousands of kilometres deep, with either ice at their core or else some strange alternative phase of water generated by the immense pressures. The extrasolar planet Gliese 1214 b, which orbits a star in the constellation Ophiuchus, is considered the most likely known candidate for being one.
Our own oceans on Earth are filled with life. Some of it is amazing, some creepy, and some downright terrifying. In World of Water I set myself the task of realising what kinds of aquatic life there would be on an alien ocean planet. At times I based my speculation on real examples – the hideous vampire squid, for one, and the equally unlovely anglerfish – while for other specimens I just let my imagination run wild.
I also wanted to create a humanoid water-dwelling race, and part of the challenge, and the fun, was making them simultaneously credible, otherworldly and empathetic. I did not want them to resemble in any way the Aquaphibians, the fishy race in the puppet TV show Stingray. Instead I went for something sylph-like, eerie-looking, yet strong and aggressive.
When tackling the issue of how they might communicate underwater, I first considered a variant of whalesong or dolphin-style echolocation clicks, but in the end decided on bioluminescence. Many forms of sea life, including squid and some octopuses, have light-emitting photophore cells in their skins which serve as camouflage or enable them to lure prey, confuse predators and even see certain food sources in the deep-sea darkness. I envisioned my sea-dwellers using their photophores to express thoughts and emotions, employing colours and patterns in complex configurations. In effect, they speak in light.
The seas scare and fascinate me. The pleasure of swimming offshore on a hot day is mitigated by the primordial fear of what might lurk below the waves, unseen, wishing to take a bite out of me or drag me down and drown me. I hope I’ve managed to inject some of that awe and dread into World of Water.
Brace for a downpour, folks: today is the day that World of Water, James Lovegrove’s latest Dev Harmer adventure, is unleashed upon us.
You can now catch up with Dev – last seen getting hot under the collar in World of Fire – as he visits the ocean world of Robinson D for a relaxing holiday. No, scratch that. What we meant was ‘for a battle with an ancient God-beast and a race against time as his own body fails him.’
To celebrate, the very brilliant James Lovegrove has written a piece for us all about his World of Water hero. Read on for more…
The heroes of the golden age of pulp fiction were a mixed bunch. For every noble superman like Doc Savage there was a cackling madman like the Shadow. For every stony-faced arbiter of justice like the Avenger there was a weirdly masked vigilante like the Moon Man. For every square-jawed, two-fisted private detective like Nick Carter there was a mystically-inclined crimefighter like the Green Lama.
While writing the first of my Dev Harmer novels, World of Fire, I was mainlining pulp heroes. For some reason I’d developed a sweet tooth for their high-flown, often absurd adventures. Most of these were penned at breakneck speed by penny-a-word hacks who didn’t give a damn about things like quality prose or logical continuity and cared only about fulfilling contracts and meeting deadlines. Their work lacks finesse and subtlety but nonetheless, at its best, has a crude panache and an undeniable brio.
I decided that, since I was beginning an SF adventure series myself, I would take a leaf out of their books. The hero of my stories would be a distillation of various pulp figures, a modern-day variant. Flawed, reluctant, self-deprecating, self-destructive, with a smart mouth and just enough brains to back it up, he would, I hoped, endear himself to readers in spite of his drawbacks and have a distinct flavour of his own.
His name – Dev Harmer – came to me out of nowhere. When I was young we lived across the road from a farm owned by a family called Harmer (naturally my sisters and I would refer to the patriarch of this clan as Farmer Harmer). The surname implies destructiveness and the infliction of injury, and it seemed to suit the character. As for the Dev part, it’s an abbreviation, short for something – but what that something is, only I and Dev know, and neither of us is telling. It’s no accident, though, that “dev” is the first syllable of another word for demon.
Dev is a victim as well as a protagonist. Almost against his own will, he has had his consciousness digitised and is then beamed across the known universe to various trouble spots, a bolt of pure information which can be downloaded into an environment-suitable clone body. On every new world he visits he wakes up in a brand new host form and must embark on a dangerous mission, all in the hope and expectation that one day he will regain his original body. His enemies are an AI race, Polis+, who are engaged in a futuristic Cold War with humankind. The two empires have reached a state of détente, and Dev’s job is to help maintain the peace.
To tell his stories in an appropriately terse, racy fashion, I elected to alter my own prose style to emulate that of the pulp fictioneers. One basic rule I set myself: no paragraph longer than three sentences. I haven’t always kept to this rule in the novels, but exceptions are few. I thought it would be a restriction, but in fact it’s been liberating. It has forced me to rethink my writing strategies and stopped me being lazy and falling back on old, well-thumbed techniques.
Dev’s new mission sees him sent to a water world where the local indigenes are in a state of rebellion, chafing with resentment at a human military presence on their planet. As he investigates, he learns that there’s more to these “restless natives” than meets the eye and that something huge and Lovecraftian is lurking in the deeps, awaiting its moment to rise.
If, with my Dev Harmer tales, I’ve managed to recapture some of the thrill and energy of the pulp pager-turners, while giving them a bit of polish and a twenty-first-century sensibility, I’ll consider them a success.
Throwback Thursday: your favourite writers go back
Welcome to our new Throwback Thursday blog series, every other week we’ll be taking a peek behind the curtain of some of your favourite author’s earlier works, and we couldn’t think of a better author to start the series with than NYT-bestselling author James Lovegrove:
Writing World Of Fire
I can usually rely on it taking me four to five months to complete a full-length novel. The period of time depends, of course, on the word count and the quantity of other demands I have simultaneously. A sudden spike in the level of journalism commitments, for example, can add a couple of weeks to the total. I slow down somewhat during the school holidays, too. It’s distracting when the kids are home and doing their best (but often failing) to leave their dad alone in his office to work.
Four to five months may seem fast but it’s nothing compared with the rate at which the Golden Age pulp fiction writers wrote. Some of those guys could turn out a novel in a week. Even the slower penmen among them were managing a book a month.
They had to. They were living hand-to-mouth, surviving from contract to contract, and unless you were one of the big names working on one of the prestige character titles, the pay rate wasn’t great. For every Lester Dent (Doc Savage), Maxwell Grant (The Shadow), or Norvell Page (The Spider), there were thousands of lesser-known hacks hammering desperately at their typewriters, rushing to meet deadline.
What emerged from this frenzy to fill the ravenous, ever-hungry maw of the pre- and post-war story-magazine industry was often some very bad prose. Also, some very hackneyed and ill-thought-through plotting.
Equally, however, the pulp writers produced work with an unrivalled energy and urgency, tales that reflected the breakneck speed and brain-wracking ferocity of their creation by becoming compelling, page-turning masterpieces––the kind of thing you can’t stop reading once you start, skating over the infelicities of the writing and the often clunky characterisation just to see how it all turns out.
I don’t consider myself a pulp writer, but I bore the example of these long-gone pace merchants in mind when I sat down to begin World Of Fire. I was keen to capture some of the propulsiveness they brought to their storytelling. I wanted to re-create some of the spirit they imbued their tales with, that flinty fire and flash. I hoped to evoke that sense that the next action scene was never far away, the hero was only one step ahead of the villain, a reversal of fortune could come at any moment, and a long ladder of advances and setbacks must be scaled before victory was achieved.
I can’t say that I managed to complete the manuscript in a week, or even a month. It was closer on three months, from January to March of this year. But I belted through it all the same. The only novels that have taken me less time were my debut, The Hope, and my first Sherlock Holmes, The Stuff Of Nightmares (six and seven weeks respectively). Interestingly, in each instance the book was my maiden attempt at something, be it just plain writing a novel or writing a mystery novel––or, in the case of World Of Fire, writing a pure, outer-space action-adventure novel.
World Of Fire is the opening salvo in what I hope is going to be an intensive, long-running bombardment of volumes which will propel its hero Dev Harmer – stretching the artillery metaphor a bit here, but forgive me, it’s nearly Christmas – into all kinds of dangerous situations as he strives to keep the intergalactic peace between humankind and the artificial intelligence race known as Polis+ and not get himself killed in the process. The sequel, World Of Water, is on its way, and I’m managing to replicate the great blaze of creativity that drove me through the first one.
Write it quick and people will read it quick. If that wasn’t the pulp fictioneers’ motto, it should have been. If the author doesn’t hesitate or lose focus, neither will the reader. If you want to make something unputdownable, don’t pause, don’t think twice, just tell the story, and keep telling it until it’s told.
Here you are. The first two paragraphs are optional (by which I mean, not for publication). Obviously.
David Thomas Moore is quite clearly the greatest man who has ever lived and will ever live, a colossus who bestrides the world of publishing and every other world, showering those around him, those lucky enough to know him, with his genius. His talent for just about everything exceeds that of the foremost experts in any field. He also has a beard.
But enough about David Thomas Moore. Here’s a blog piece about my tale for 221 Baker Streets.
[ED: Err not sure this was meant to be included Gittins – have you been at Guy Adams’ drink cabinet again?]
I’m a fan of superheroes.
Always have been.
I was into superheroes long before it was fashionable,long before Marvel movies were raking in billions at the box office and everyone knew who Green Arrow was thanks to the hit TV show. Since the early 1970s I’ve eagerly followed the exploits of comic book costumed folk with super powers. I’ve stuck with them through the lean years, when even the people responsible for writing and drawing stories about them seemed to lose faith and be overwhelmed with a sense of futility and despair, and will continue to stick with them despite the fact they’re now ubiquitous and big business.
I’ve also always been a massive Sherlock Holmes fan. My father read me the Conan Doyle stories when I was little, and the character and his world have stuck with me ever since. Holmes is, I would argue, a superhero himself, a prototype of the caped adventurer who rights wrongs and fights for justice with a loyal sidekick forever accompanying him. Holmes’s super power is his brain, his amazing ability to analyse, deduce and ratiocinate, his unerring eye for the small, telling detail which leads him to unlock mysteries and collar crooks. Like many a superhero he is flawed, sometimes insufferable, his main Achilles heel being his boredom-driven manic depressive episodes and his penchant for pharmaceutical stimulants – but you can still be sure that, come what may, he is staunchly, resolutely on the side of the angels and will never succumb to his dark side.
When I was asked by David Moore to contribute to an anthology of short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes in various different settings and configurations, my immediate thought was to write something which involved super powers. From there it was a short hop to imagining a world where everyone had a power of some sort, a preternatural attribute which they could utilise to varying degrees. There could be people who were extraordinarily strong, people who could fly, people who could swim underwater… The setting would be the Victorian era, exactly as we know it, with this one major twist.
And then I thought, what if Sherlock Holmes was someone who lacked any such power? What if he was a rare anomaly, born vanilla, without the abilities which everyone else took for granted? How would that change him? Would it alter what he does? Would he still be the world’s first and only consulting detective?
Of course he damn well would!
And so I wrote “The Innocent Icarus”. It isn’t my first Holmes outing, not by a long shot. I have written two novels featuring the character (The Stuff Of Nightmares and Gods Of War) with a third (The Thinking Engine) due out in 2015. I have also penned a short story, “The Fallen Financier”, which appeared in George Mann’s Encounters Of Sherlock Holmes anthology, and I am starting work next year on a trilogy which pits Holmes against creatures from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.
“The Innocent Icarus” is, though, I think the sheerest fun I’ve had with a Holmes tale. It’s a fusion of classic detective yarn and superhero fantasy, and thus reconciles my two earliest and most enduring literary passions in a single, unified whole.
You could say it’s a story I’ve been waiting all my life to write.
James Lovegrove (jameslovegrove.com) was born on Christmas Eve 1965 and is the author of more than 40 books. His novels include The Hope, Days, Untied Kingdom, Provender Gleed, the New York Timesbestselling Pantheon series—so far Age Of Ra, The Age Of Zeus, The Age Of Odin, Age Of Aztec, Age Of Voodoo and Age Of Shiva, plus a collection of three novellas, Age Of Godpunk—and Redlaw and Redlaw: Red Eye, the first two volumes in a trilogy about a policeman charged with protecting humans from vampires and vice versa. He has produced two Sherlock Holmes novels, The Stuff Of Nightmares and Gods Of War.
James has sold well over 40 short stories, the majority of them gathered in two collections, Imagined Slights and Diversifications. He has written a four-volume fantasy saga for teenagers, The Clouded World (under the pseudonym Jay Amory), and has produced a dozen short books for readers with reading difficulties, including Wings, Kill Swap, Free Runner, Dead Brigade, and the 5 Lords Of Pain series.
James has been shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the British Fantasy Society Award and the Manchester Book Award. His short story ‘Carry The Moon In My Pocket’ won the 2011 Seiun Award in Japan for Best Translated Short Story.
James’s work has been translated into twelve languages. His journalism has appeared in periodicals as diverse as Literary Review, Interzone and BBC MindGames, and he is a regular reviewer of fiction for the Financial Times and contributes features and reviews about comic books to the magazine Comic Heroes.
He lives with his wife, two sons and cat in Eastbourne, a town famously genteel and favoured by the elderly, but in spite of that he isn’t planning to retire just yet.
James Lovegrove is the author of The Innocent Icarus in the Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets anthology, out now from Abaddon Books!
For more related posts hit the Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets navigation tag at the top of this post.
The next age dawns on 26th March (US & Canada) and 10th April (UK)
£7.99 (UK) ISBN 978-1-78108-180-8
$8.99/$10.99 (US & CAN) ISBN 978-1-78108-181-5
“The kind of complex, action-oriented SF Dan Brown would write if Dan Brown could write” – The Guardian
It’s sold more than 150,000 copies worldwide since 2009 and spawned its own genre of ‘Godpunk’; now the second arc of the best-selling Pantheon series draws to a close with James Lovegrove’s Age of Shiva!
The latest stand-alone title in this action-packed military SF series brings you a world where the multitude of Hindu gods hold sway and a simple comic book artist finds himself trapped in the middle!
Zachary Bramwell, better known as the comics artist Zak Zap, is pushing forty and wondering why his life isn’t as exciting as the lives of the superheroes he draws. Then he’s shanghaied by black-suited goons and flown to Mount Meru, a vast complex built atop an island in the Maldives. There, Zak meets a trio of billionaire businessmen who put him to work designing costumesfor a team of godlike super-powered beings based on the ten avatars of Vishnu from Hindu mythology.
The Ten Avatars battle demons and aliens and seem to be the saviours of a world teetering on collapse. But their presence is itself a harbinger of apocalypse. The Vedic “fourth age” of civilisation, Kali Yuga, is coming to an end, and Zak has a ringside seat for the final, all-out war that threatens the destruction of Earth.
Also in the Pantheon series
A thematic series of related, but stand-alone novels, the Pantheon series addresses the theme of “men versus the gods” in different worlds, with different pantheons, offering different takes. All high-action military SF books, the series has presented an armed uprising against distant but powerful Egyptian divinities, a high-powered slugfest between battle-suited humans and super-heroic Greek gods, and a gritty, intimate firefight between an infantry company and an army of ancient Norse giants.
About the author James Lovegrove published his first novel at the age of 24 and has since had more than 4
0 books out, including The Hope, Escardy Gap (co-written with Peter Crowther), Days, The Foreigners, How The Other Half Lives, Untied Kingdom, Imagined Slights, Worldstorm, Gig and Provender Gleed. His short fiction has appeared in magazines as diverse as Interzone and Nature and in numerous anthologies. He has written extensively for reluctant readers, with titles such as Wings, TheHouse of Lazarus, Ant God, Cold Keep, Kill Swap and Dead Brigade. He has also produced a sequence of teen fantasy novels, the Clouded World series, under the pseudonym Jay Amory. He is a regular reviewer of fiction for the Financial Times and lives in Eastbourne on the south coast of England with his wife Lou, sons Monty and Theo, and cat Ozzy.
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