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Saturday, 14 May 2016

Guest Post: Iron Fist Blog Tour


It is always a cause for some personal celebration when Andy Briggs releases a new book. I loved his Tarzan series and I can't wait to read Iron Fist, the first book in his new The Inventory series, especially given its brilliant summary:


The Rules: if you find a secret inventory of utterly deadly battle tech. 
1) Do not try it.
 2) Do not tell anyone. 
3) Do NOT let thieves in behind you. 

What’s more secret than top-secret? The Inventory. Home to the deadliest inventions the world isn’t ready for. Invisible camouflage. HoverBoots. Indestructible metals. Plus a giant creature of chaos: war robot Iron Fist. No one has ever broken past the state-of-the-art AI security system. (Seriously, most bad guys have no idea this stuff is even there.)
Problem 1: the security robot wasn’t ready for a gang of kids wandering in. 
Problem 2: they’ve ONLY brought the ruthless Shadow Helix gang in behind them. Seriously dumb, but it’s a bit late for ‘sorry’. 

Say hello to trouble: the Iron Fist is in the wrong hands!

Today I am overjoyed to be welcoming Andy to The Book Zone, as he gives us an introduction to his main character, Dev:



ENTER THE INVENTORY WITH DEV PARKER

Call him Dev, not Devon, which is his full name. He hates that. The only time he hears his full name is when he is in trouble – which is often. That’s not because he’s a trouble causer, he’s just easily bored. All those lessons in school, he already knows that stuff. Or he thinks he does, but has probably forgotten.  How can he learn anything interesting in school when he lives in an underground complex that houses the most advanced and incredible inventions ever made?

He lives with his uncle, Charles Parker, who is the Inventory’s curator. Their relationship is not exactly fun. Uncle Parker is cool mannered and not very talkative especially when Dev keeps asking about his parents. He doesn’t remember them and his uncle never has the time to talk about them. In fact, Dev doesn't know if they’re dead, missing or simply not interested in him. Not that he dwells on it too much. He’s gone beyond worrying about them – why bother when he can strap on a pair of HoverBoots and fly around the Inventory… even if he’s not allowed to touch any of the exhibits.

Breaking those rules drives his Uncle completely bonkers. To enforce his point, Charles Parker has the help of Eema – an artificial intelligent giant metal sphere with an emoji face and a chirpy personality. She is a battle robot, so is armed to the teeth! Despite that, Dev is more than happy to pit his wits against her as he sneaks into forbidden areas of the Inventory.

Dev’s dreams are to leave all of this behind him. There is a big wide world out there, and living underground – even surrounded by amazing stuff – can be boring, especially if you’re not allowed to touch any of it. It’s not as if he has friends. His Uncle’s strict secrecy orders means Dev has never had the opportunity to befriend anybody. Which, as he grows older, becomes more irritating. He’s constantly trying to avoid being picked on by the school thug, Mason, and is tongue-tied when he has the chance to talk to Lot, a girl with an infectious smile that he desperately hopes he’s not developing a crush on.

One final thing to tell you about Dev is that he has a, well some call it an ability, others call it a phenomenon and to others it’s a disability or neurological condition, called synaesthesia. He sees numbers and letters as colours and sounds because his brain scrambles how he senses such things. It’s a strange, and real, affliction. Some sufferers could easily tell you that yellow plus green equals six; the problem for you and I is that it really does. Dev’s condition is a lot more advanced, and something he has turned to his advantage in a very peculiar way…

So, go down to the Inventory yourself and meet Dev in his first adventure: IRON FIST. The further he delves into the world’s greatest secret the more answers he will discover about himself, his parents, his condition and… he might just make a few friends along the way...


@abriggswriter


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Guest Post: Devil's Blood Blog Tour


Four years ago I wrote a review of Black Arts by debut YA writers Andrew Prentice and Jonathan Weil. Black Arts was billed as the first of The Books of Pandemonium, but then book 2 never materialised. Truth be told, I had given up hope of ever seeing it, but then, out of the blue a couple of months ago I spotted the authors tweeting about their new book. Devil's Blood was published a few days ago, and it was well worth the wait and I am delighted to welcome Prentice and Weil to The Book Zone today as part of the Black Arts and Devil's Blood blog tour, to tell us about the Devils of London.

Prentice & Weil on The Devils of London

Our devils were born out of desperation and despair.  In two years we’d written three drafts of our book Black Arts.  Although it had its good bits, the story was still ungainly, overlong and not flying at all.  Following the savage and wise advice of our new editor Simon Mason we trashed the whole lot, keeping only a few chapters and characters.  It was a mightily bleak spot.


We walked and walked, talking through our fresh start.  We had discovered that one of the problems about writing a book with both magic and time travel is that it gets a little complicated.  Magic works in books when it seems natural and easy.  The minute that you have to launch into convoluted explanations about method and mechanics, you tend to lose the reader’s interest.  We went round and round in circles trying to simplify our system.  But nothing worked – that is until we went for a fateful walk down the Regent’s Park Canal.


I can remember the exact spot where everything changed.  It was on the odd, graffiti-covered stretch between Broadway Market and Victoria Park.  Jon and I were discussing Dr Dee – and how he had believed he was summoning devils and angels when he did magic.  

‘What if we used that?’  A simple suggestion.  We both looked at each other – and suddenly, just like that, we were flying again.   The greatest joy of writing as a team is when an idea starts soaring and lifts you both up with it.  The miles disappeared with our talking.

‘What if all magic was done with devils?  You summon them and then they do what you want.  That’s how magic works!’
‘What if some devils got lost?’
‘What if some devils got forgotten?  What if London was full of them?’
‘What if the devils left behind in hell want revenge?’

In that walk, the whole thing (more or less) fell into place.  It’s hard not to believe that a devil of inspiration wasn’t buried somewhere beneath our feet, granting us a sweet moment of clarity.  The walking definitely played a part, but so too does the city where you walk – and that is the essence of our idea.

You must know some places that make you feel a certain way.  Some of these are obvious: a ruined castle, a forest path, the secret corner in your gran’s greenhouse.  But others are more hidden and subtle – but no less powerful.  Cities are full of these places.  Especially London, where the ancient city hides in plain sight. 

There are buried devils everywhere. Alan Moore, Ian Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd have all written compellingly about the city’s psychogeography.  But that really is a complicated word for a very simple thing.  The paths that we take through life affect us.  Your environment shapes you and your experience.  All we’ve done is spice that common truth with a little pinch of Hellfire.

The funny thing was that when we went hunting for lost devils we hardly had to look.  Dig a little beneath the streets and their history and you can find them yourself.  Black Dog really was a ghost that haunted Newgate Prison.  The spirit that we call Lud has had many names over the years, and the London Stone, where Lud lives, can be visited today.  It sits, at pavement level, embedded in the wall of a bank in the City.  Smithfield has been drenched in blood for millennia: Druids held rituals there, Romans held executions, medieval Londoners made it their slaughterhouse (and in a few days time we’ll have a book launch there too.  Let’s hope it’s not too bloody!)  Wherever we looked we found details that made it seem like we were discovering a truth rather than making things up.


Of course we took liberties, and I don’t expect you to believe that there is a giant leech sitting beneath Smithfield market.  All the same, next time that you are out and about in the city where you live, close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine all the lives that have passed along the street where you are walking now.  Their treasure and their trash is buried beneath you, layer after layer after layer.  When you open your eyes again, try not to feel dizzy, because you are looking straight down into the abyss.


Author’s Note:  We have been exploring the devils of London in our tumblr: http://londondevils.tumblr.com/.   Go there to find some more devils that we have dug up while tramping around the city.  The pictures in the article are sketched using Alkahest-infused goggles.



Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Review: Boy X by Dan Smith


Kidnapped and drugged, Ash wakes up on a remote tropical island. His mum - a genetic scientist - has been imprisoned and infected with a deadly virus. Where is he, and what's he doing there? He sets out to cross the jungle to find out and rescue his mother. Soon he realises he's quicker and sharper than before. But there's something else ...why are the animals watching him, and how can he use the jungle to his advantage?


Dan Smith writes great thrillers. I loved his Big Game, with its frantic pace and reluctant hero Oskari saving the US President from the bad guys in the wilds of Finland, and when his new book, Boy X, arrived through my door a while back it jumped straight to the top of my ultra-wobbly TBR pile.

The main protagonist of Boy X is another young teen boy who suddenly finds himself way out of his depth in a fight for survival against highly trained villains who are armed to the teeth. However, poor Ash McCarthy does not have the local knowledge advantages that Oskari had in Big Game: at the beginning of the book he wakes in a strange laboratory with no knowledge of why or how he got there. Add a race against time due to the release of a super-deadly new virus and Ash experience the emergence of strange new abilities, and we have all the ingredients for a superb sci-fi thriller, with Dan Smith as the masterchef bringing them all together. If you have a hunger for fast-paced action stories then this is a meal that will both satisfy your appetite and leave you wanting more.

Dan Smith is also a master at keeping his readers gripped by drip-feeding essential information about the plot and the characters' back-stories. There are no big info dumps or sudden reveals that feel forced or make the reader feel cheated. Despite the sci-fi element and the crazy situation in which they find themselves, Ash and his equally out-of-her-depth new friend Isabel, are real enough for young readers to relate to and they complement each other perfectly.

Dan Smith brings his story to an explosive and satisfying conclusion, but the final chapter leaves the reader with a promise that Ash's story is far from over. This is fabulous as I am certainly hungry for more, and I know many other with feel the same way. My thanks go to the lovely people at Chicken House for sending me a copy of the book.