Hekla’s Children reviewed


Hekla’s Children by James Brogden. Titan £7.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

Quite simply, I was captivated by this novel almost instantly. I admit that some may think I’m somewhat biased: I’ve known James Brogden for many years and have included some of his short stories in the magazines I edited for the British Fantasy Society, as well as publishing a collection of his finely crafted short stories (Evocations, The Alchemy Press). However, and trust me in this, if I hadn’t enjoyed Hekla’s Children I wouldn’t have read it so quickly and you wouldn’t be reading this review.

Nathan is a teacher who has a simple task, guide four teenagers round Sutton Park as part of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. Except that he’s too infatuated with Sue and hangs back observing them from a distance. As the children cross a stream and continue trekking, he sees the terrain alter. The stream is now a river, the ground becomes a wooded hill. Yet within moments the real world returns – all except the four kids.

Continue reading


Alchemy Press book launch


For those going to FantasyCon by the Sea this year, The Alchemy Press launches two anthologies at noon on Saturday 24 September:

Promises to be a great book launch. Many of the contributors will be in attendance.


The Death House reviewed

Death House 02

The Death House by Sarah Pinborough. Gollancz.

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

I’ve been kicking myself (metaphorically of course) for not reading The Death House until now. It’s been sitting on my shelves waiting patiently for its pages to be turned, its words read.

Sarah Pinborough’s science fiction novel is set in a dystopian future/alternate world (it’s not obvious which and it’s not important), in a house that resembles an approved school on an isolated island somewhere far from civilisation. It’s a place where “Defective” children are housed until they die from the illness triggered by their defective genes, a place where there is only one way out – on a gurney, their existence then wiped away. It’s a bleak scenario and yet, despite the death that awaits the inmates, it is a coming-of-age story that bubbles with the promise of life.

Toby is the de facto head boy of Dorm 4. He whiles away the days in semi-boredom, avoiding the attention of Matron and her staff, living for the nights when he is alone, echoing the location’s isolation. The status quo is shattered when a new bunch of Defectives arrive, including the teenage girl Clara. At first he resents her, that she too has discovered the secret of the vitamin pills; soon, though, he becomes besotted. Together, they plan their escape (from a place that no-one, ever, has escaped from).

Sarah Pinborough readily gives away two of her inspirations for this novel: The Lord of the Flies and the Narnia books (there are hints of others). And yes, the children do form tribes, do develop friendships and hatreds. Unlike Lord of the Flies, however, they know their future; know that there is no ship on the horizon to release them from captivity. She is able to enter the heads of the boys with consummate ease, depicting their concerns expertly – no doubt lessons she learned as a teacher.

Neil Gaiman endorses the hardcover edition; Stephen King the paperback. Who am I to disagree with these two giants of the field? The Death House is a thoroughly engaging read (it’s a cliché but I really found it difficult to put the book down when I had to get on with life). Toby, Clara and the others are real people and if you don’t finish this novel with tears welling up then you are probably a robot. A tremendous book and one I have no hesitation in recommending.


Worlds of the Unknown

Spectre Press logo

Worlds of the UNKNOWN is a new magazine that endeavours to emulate the feel of three magazine now no longer with us: the pulp magazine Unknown / Unknown Worlds, the golden years of the digest magazine Fantastic, and the short-lived digest magazine Beyond Fantasy Fiction. So far Spectre Press has produced two Volumes of Worlds of the UNKNOWN.

Spectre Press UW1and2

Volume 1 contains stories by Adrian Cole, Andrew Darlington and Mike Chinn, with artwork by Bob Covington and Jim Pitts, Issue 1 also includes an essay by Mike Ashley about Unknown. The cover art is by Jim Pitts.

Volume 2 contains reprints of Theodore Sturgen‘s ‘IT’ from Unknown; Arthur Machen‘s ‘The Bowmen’ plus one other of his stories to mark 100 years since World War 1; many more original stories; and an article by Jon Harvey about Beyond Fantasy Fiction.  The cover is by Bob Covington who also provided a four-page comic called ‘The Angels of War’.

Both issues are available for £10 plus £1.50 each p&p in the UK. Copies can be obtained by Paypal, using the email jon.harvey @ talktalk.net, or a cheque made out to Jon Harvey, at 56 Mickle Hill, Sandhurst, Berkshire, GU47 8QU.

The publisher (Jon Harvey) is currently organising Volume 3, which contains stories by Andrew Darlington, Marion Pitman plus tales first published in Beyond Fantasy Fiction. Jon states:

 I am looking for more stories in the vein of the three magazines mentioned above.  I am also looking for artists to illustrate various stories and covers.  I have used artists such as Bob Covington, David Fletcher, Fergal Fitzgerald, Russ Nicholson and Jim Pitts in the first two volumes, but I need more artist to help ease the load.  Authors and artists, please contact me at jon.harvey @ talktalk.com.  All copyrights will remain with you, plus original artwork.

If you are interested in a catalogue of Spectre Press publications or you wish to discuss contributions to WOTU magazine, please contact the editor:

jon.harvey @ talktalk.com

New and forthcoming books

Best SFF vol9b

  • Joe Abercrombie – Half the World – Harper £8.99
  • James Brogden — Evocations — The Alchemy Press £10.99
  • Mike Brooks – Dark Run – Del Rey £8.99
  • Eric Brown & Una McCormack – The Baba Yaga – Abaddon £7.99
  • Edgar Cantero – The Supernatural Enhancements – Del Rey £8.99
  • Ernest Cline – Armada – Century £16.99 (16 July)
  • Emily Gee – The Blood Curse – Solaris £7.99
  • Christopher Golden – Star Wars: Dark Disciple – Century £19.99
  • Terry Goodkind – The Law of Nines – Harper £8.99
  • Laurell K Hamilton – Dead Ice – Headline £19.99
  • Andrew Michael Hurley – The Loney – John Murray £12.99 (August)
  • Dave Hutchinson – Europe at Midnight – Solaris £7.99 (November)
  • Paul Kane — Monsters — The Alchemy Press £10.99
  • Drew Karpyshyn – The Scorched Earth – Del Rey £8.99
  • Alex Lamb – Roboteer – Gollancz £14.99 (16 July)
  • Mark Lawrence – The Liar’s Key – Harper £14.99
  • James Luceno – Star Wars: Tarkin – Arrow £8.99
  • KM McKinley – The Iron Ship – Solaris £7.99
  • George Mann – Doctor Who: Engines of War – BBC £7.99
  • Gail Z Martin & Larry N Martin – Iron & Blood – Solaris £7.99
  • George RR Martin, Daniel Abraham & Tommy Patteron – A Game of Thrones (graphic novel volume 4) – Harper £14.99
  • China Mieville – Three Moments of an Explosion – Picador £18.99
  • Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter – The Long Utopia – Doubleday £18.99
  • Jonathan Strahan (ed) – The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (volume 9) – Solaris £13.99
  • Sabaa Tahir – An Ember in the Ashes – Harper £12.99
  • Adrian Tchaikovsky – Children of Time – Tor £18.99
  • JRR Tolkien & Christopher Tolkien – Beowulf – Harper £10.99
  • JRR Tolkien & Christopher Tolkien – The Fall of Arthur – Harper £8.99



New books


Recent (and one forthcoming)  books

  • Joe Abercrombie – Half the World –Harper £12.99
  • Mike Chinn — Give Me These Moments Back — Alchemy Press £9.99
  • James S A Corey – Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves – Arrow £8.99
  • Jan Edwards — Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties — Alchemy Press £6.99
  • Francesca Haig – The Fire Sermon – Harper £12.99
  • Kevin Hearne – Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi – Century £19.99
  • Kameron Hurley – Rapture – Del Rey £8.99
  • Tom Isbell – The Prey – Harper £7.99
  • Emmi Itaranta – Memory of Water – Harper £7.99
  • Tom Lloyd – Old Man’s Ghosts – Gollancz £16.99
  • Peter Newman – The Vagrant –Harper £14.99
  • Naomi Novak – Uprooted – Macmillan £16.99 (May)
  • Justina Robson – Glorious Angels – Gollancz £16.99
  • David A Sutton — Dead Water and Other Weird Tales — Alchemy Press £9.99
  • Adrian Tchaikovsky – Guns of the Dawn – Tor £16.99
  • Adrianne ‘Tex’ Thompson – Medicine for the Dead – Solaris £7.99
  • David Wingrove – The Ocean of Time – Del Rey £14.99
  • David Wingrove – The Empire of Time – Del Rey £8.99


Moriarty Adventures

Hearty congratulations to Alchemy Press editors Mike Chinn and Jan Edwards. Both have stories accepted for The Mammoth Book of Moriarty Adventures edited by Maxim Jakubowski, due this October. The anthology’s contributors include:

  • Jill Braden
  • Steve Cavanagh
  • Mike Chinn
  • David Stuart Davies
  • Vanessa de Sade
  • Jan Edwards
  • Martin Edwards
  • Jürgen Ehlers
  • Kate Ellis
  • G.H. Finn & Rose Biggin
  • Michael Gregorio
  • Peter Guttridge
  • Howard Halstead
  • Rhys Hughes
  • Alison Joseph
  • Claude Lalumière
  • Andrew Lane
  • Ashley R Lister
  • Catherine Lundoff
  • Russel McLean
  • Nikki Magennis
  • Priscilla Masters
  • Keith Moray
  • Amy Myers
  • Barbara Nadel
  • Julie Novakova
  • Christine Poulson
  • Josh Reynolds
  • Thomas Roche
  • David N. Smith & Violet Addison
  • John Soanes
  • Lavie Tidhar
  • Alexandra Townsend
  • L.C. Tyler
  • Conrad Williams
  • Alvaro Zinos-Amaro