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Book Review: Karen Memory

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It's French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

I have always wanted to read a book of Elizabeth Bear. In the blogosphere her books are well received, and I read that her Eternal Sky was groundbreaking. With so much praise, you just can't go wrong with one of her books. Now just last month Tor published her latest book, Karen Memory, a imaginative wild western steampunk influenced story. In the last two months I read some very good western books that really got me fired up, and with Karen Memory it just got even more heated. This is a really cool book!

The story picks up readily with Karen Memery, this is not a typo, but precisely how you should speak out the words, there is more! Karen serves as both the protagonist to the story as well as the perspective of the narration, everything is told from her experiences. She currently lives in the city of Seattle and works in Madame Damnable's bordello, Hotel Mon Cherie, as a seamstress, do take note that a seamstress of course is just a different word for something else. In the early parts of the story you get a clear description of the runnings of Hotel Mon Cherie and various other girls, all with the interesting and vivid descriptions of Karen of course. And to be frank, everything is just pitch perfect for the girls of Hotel Mon Cherie, they have protection and are treated fair and square. However such a picture can be shattered in an instant. Because soon a bloodied and injured girl knock on Hotel Mon Cherie seeking help and refuge. This young girl goes by the name of Priya and comes from a rival brothel that is run by Peter Bantle and viscous and ruthless man who is only in to make a profit, as big as possible, and thus exploits everyone, his customers but also his girls. Frustrated by having lost on of his girls and being made the better of by Madame Damnable, Peter swears to get his revenge in any way possible. He is hellbent on getting it ans will go over corpses. Now comes the cool part of the story as Peter has more up his sleeve than could have thought of. Peter has a nifty gadget that allows him to control the minds of other people... But this isn't all that happens in the once so quite city of Seattle. A sherrif comes into the city who is hunting down a criminal. His effort is not enough and therefore he teams up with the kickass heroine of the story, Karen. She is resourcefull and has a no-nonse attitude what more can you wish for?  

The story of Karen Memory really surprised me and I do have to say that what all the other bloggers and reviewers mentioned about Elizabeth Bear's writing skills is more than true. She has created a very cool and highly eventful story with a very unique setting. This brings me directly to the world building that takes place in Karen Memory 

I have read some Weird West stories, those of MIke Resnick come very much to mind here. However those stories do have something different working for them, it feels for me that it is more reigned in, showing alternate history more. For Karen Memory you have to think big and bold. Though all I can say is that it is wild west with steampunk and that might not sound that exciting, but trust me it will blow your socks of. Because in the end it comes down on how you build your world and how you use the elements within that makes it unique. And this is precisely what Elizabeth Bear does. For starters the accent with which our narrator Karen speaks, this is exactly how I would imagine the language to be spoken in that time. Though I have to be honest it did took come extra rereading to get everything. And this first thing just build a very vivid picture because with the use of this language the whole surroundings, be it Hotel Mon Cherie or the other places visited or the character become much more interesting to read about. Added to this you have a whole plethora of steampunk devices and influences to completely finish the world. 

As for the characters. I loved Karen Memory and walking through he thoughts. She is far from dumb, dares to speak her mind and when push comes to shove she will definitely push you back twice as hard. Her narration is both there to bring the story further but what comes with an I perspetive is that you also have some thoughts of the character that are irrelevant to the story, now in the case of Karen's thoughts I didn't have any feeling of this. After the was calm introduction the story picks up pace and it all becomes one whole. 

All in all Karen Memory is a memerable book for sure. When I look back at the book an what my expectations were, Elizabeth Bear went beyond them by far with this story. I am always a big fan of stories with an extra message not everyone does it well but an author of Elizabeth Bear's calibre does a very good job. It might not be obvious on when you are reading the story but if you stop and recollect everything that has happened you will start to appreciate the beauty of the story. A wild western indeed with enough twists and turns to keep you excited and lets not forget a awesome protagonist. 

Guest Blog: Memoirs of a Young Bureaucrat

Guest Blog: Memoirs of a Young Bureaucrat (An Excerpt) by Carrie Patel

 It was in the summer of my twenty-seventh year that I came to Recoletta by train. I would not have left the broad, bright avenues of my own Madina, but the Qadi herself had requested that I represent our fair city’s interests before Recoletta’s Council. Young and ambitious as I was, how could I refuse?

My train departed before dawn. The passenger carriage was a single windowed coach linked to dozens of boxcars for foodstuffs and other cargo. There was but one other traveler within it, an older lady who seemed disinclined to conversation. It was, all in all, a grim portent of my errand.

I chose a compartment near the back of the passenger carriage, slid the curtain shut, and rested upon leather seats that appeared to have seen scant use.

The journey took the better part of a day, stopping as we did at the farming communes that dot the landscape like so many copses of trees. I had heard rumor of the wretchedness and squalor of such places, where people lived under the open sky like wild beasts. Imagine my surprise, then, when I twitch aside the window curtain and behold houses, roads, and every appearance of productive society!

My sleep-fogged eyes were ill prepared for the precise and sturdy stone construction of those buildings, and I wondered, did not these people, perhaps, build their own havens beneath the soil? Our conveyance was pulling away before I could consider the matter further; yet the notion of a universal kinship warmed my soul and stoked my courage for what lay ahead.

We pulled into Recoletta when the sun was but a waning disk on the horizon. The city itself cast a long shadow, full of stern and jagged angles. My colleagues had whispered about the terrible and magnificent verandas of Recoletta, marble fingers rising from the city below to claw at the sky. I caught only a glimpse of them before we passed into a tunnel leading to the city proper.

The train depot was busy even at that late hour, alive with the hiss of locomotive steam and the bustling of laborers loading and unloading cargo. I was met by a Mr. Arnault, the Council’s representative, who informed me that his masters would be glad to receive me in the morning. In the meantime, he suggested that we might partake of the city’s modest diversions together.

Now, I did not trust the look of this fellow—though he was suitably groomed and his manner agreeable, he had the aspect of certain well born rascals I have known. But my repose on the train had quite revived me, and besides, I did not wish to give offense. I consented to his offer.

Mr. Arnault led me through the tunnels and caverns of his city: great, yawning halls where columns of flame rose ensconced in the walls, and window-dotted scarps overlooking a deep chasm. I began to suspect that my host was taking the most circuitous route to our destination, but I did not mind it.

Eventually, we reached a district where the tunnels narrowed and the air became warm and sticky with the mingled odors of fried street fare, factory fumes, and many unwashed bodies. I had to jostle and hurry to stay close to Mr. Arnault; the crowd here was thick and aggressive, seemingly bereft of the social instincts that guide the throngs in Madina. I was relieved when my guide finally led us into the relative shelter of a public house.

The place was quiet compared to the streets outside. Almost before I had removed my coat, Mr. Arnault disappeared and returned with two ales in hand. I took mine gratefully. I had almost finished it by the time I realized that I had not yet eaten.

No sooner had I mentioned this to my host than a great commotion sounded from the tunnels outside. Mr. Arnault sighed and informed me of the cause: riots spilling over from the nearby factory districts. A simple enough matter for the Municipal Police, but one we would do best to avoid for the next few hours.

He apologized profusely, reflecting that he should have foreseen the possibility of trouble, but he had only hoped to show me a proper and hospitable welcome. Such was his embarrassment that I felt compelled to reassure him, and I finished my own beverage as proof of my good spirits.

He ordered refreshments from the barkeep. It was light fare, and it arrived too slowly, but I ate the savory pastries and dried beef strips as they appeared and resolved not to give my host further cause for humiliation.

Yet such was his thirst that our consumption of ale quickly outpaced that of food. Perhaps I should not have tried to keep up with him, but every time he finished his drink, he would look to my glass. If it was not already empty, he would inquire with great solicitude as to my own enjoyment of the food and beverage, affirming that Recoletta’s meager offerings were but a poor substitute to Madina’s superior cuisine, which he had been fortunate to sample once or twice.

In Madina, there is no way to respond to such overtures but to accept more with relish—to do otherwise would insult the host and his hospitality. It was thus that I found my own glass constantly refilled against my better judgment.

I do not know what else transpired during our conversation; only that, after several hours at the public house, Mr. Arnault deemed it safe to venture out once more. He summoned a horse-drawn carriage, and each bump and jostle over the cobblestones threatened to shake loose the product of several hours’ eating and drinking. When he brought me to my temporary lodgings, I collapsed on the bed without even bothering to undress.

The meeting with the Council the next morning was the nadir of my political career. I came to a dark, wood-paneled chamber where the humorless men and women who govern Recoletta sat around an enormous circular table and heard my proposal for revised terms of trade. To my chagrin, however, they appeared already aware of the particulars of my argument, and they surprised me with the speed and strength of their rebuttal. After a mere half hour of discussion, they dismissed me and my proposal.

Mr. Arnault escorted me back to the train depot, and he was once more the very picture of solicitousness. He assured me that the hearing had, in fact, gone much more positively than I imagined, and he encouraged me to return in person to present such matters in the future.

I thanked him most graciously but resolved to leave Recoletta to more formidable diplomats.

Review Round-up February

Review Round-up February

Here are my favorites of February, which books did you enjoy reading the most?



1. Touch by Claire North, Orbit

So what finally remains to said is: Read this book! Claire North's is on a sure fire winning streak. Just as with The First Fifteen Lives, Claire North has gone out of her league with the story of Touch. Touch for me was a definite darker tinge story that The First Fifteen Lives, owing to the chasing and also with the body jumping. Kepler is shown as a very interesting and enjoyable protagonist and has his work cut out for him. One thing that I totally forgot to mention was the control that Claire North has with body jumping, it is easy to jump from person to person, but in all case none of the ghosts do this. The details and bigger picture that Claire North shows with body jumping and inhabiting it, an action reaction sequence makes a very nice whole to the story. And let's not forget the world building in Eastern Europe. Just pitch perfect, a brilliant atmosphere! The story of Touch could readily, no let me rephrase, should readily be opted to be turned in a movie. Forget all the other thrillers, this is one of the biggest things this year. make sure you read this one.  

Read the full review here

2. Those Above by Daniel Polansky, Hodderscape

With Those Above, Daniel Polansky proves himself once more that he is an author to watch out. He is not only a great author when it comes to the dark noir detective genres, but he can also write the classic Epic Fantasy genre very vividly. I might have called him an underdog one time with his Low Town series, not many people have heard of it, and he again has this position within the Epic Fantasy genre. Watch out is all I can say. In Those Above Daniel Polansky hits all the right snares for a terrific Epic Fantasy story and series to be. Introducing enigmatic and likable and diverse protagonist and even though they might act in less savory ways, you will be rooting for them in the end. The immortal Those Above are very nicely portrayed as oppressors and ultimate rulers. You could really see the tension building up all along the story and I think in the second book something will definitely give. Or break. Or explode perhaps. And next to this all comes a complex and dynamic world. As with Daniel Polansky's other books, Those Above once again comes highly recommended. It's out 26st of this February.   

Read the full review here

3. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, Titan/Tor
Which brings me to the following conclusion: WOW! With A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab has really out done herself. With Viscous last year and A Darker Shade of Magic, she is on a winning streak, these book are just plain awesome. V.E. Schwab knows how to write engaging and in this case multidimensional characters, how to construct interesting, appealing and shocking worlds and events to in the end produce an impressive book. A Darker Shade of Magic has this all and much more. This is one of the must reads for 2015. I don't say this very fast and often, but this is already one of my nominees for the best of list at the end of the year. Really you don't want to miss out on this book. 

Read the full review here 

4. Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor
With Guns of the Dawn Adrian Tchaikovsky proves that after his Shadows of the Apt series he still has enough big and cool ideas for many cool books. Guns of the Dawn is something completely different than what he has wrote before but just as great and perhaps even better. I have become a big fan of his writing, it's easy, natural but loaded with details. He tackles some heavy subjects in Guns of the Dawn but doesn't make them feel like a ton. I do have to be honest, I haven't read Jane Austen so all those references were missed by me. All I can say in the end is that I thoroughly enjoyed Guns of the Dawn. The aspect of neighboring countries at war is the biggest one but as expected of Adrian Tchaikovsky he address this in full details, showing a war effort and how it effect each and every one and at the heart a coming of age story of a very strong and likable protagonist: Emily. I so wish this wasn't a standalone! 

Read the full review here

5. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz  

This all combined makes  the story of Firefight is a non stop action packed wet and wild rollercoaster ride that you don't want to miss out on. Though this is marketed as a young adult book I know that the majority if not every adult reader who reads the Reckoners books will enjoy them just as well. Brandon Sanders is a master storyteller and his books should be made compulsory reading material. In Firefight he expands the whole Reckoners universe in full color, choosing a different city to let the story take place was a wise decision as nicely avoided any possible repetition of events in the first book. It allowed Brandon Sanderson to invest time in introducing the new surrounding and new characters that live in Babylon Restored. However as I said a new place doesn't make it a great sequel alone, Brandon Sanderson also invests a lot of time and effort in developing his characters, he does start to blur the lines when it comes to Epics, are there good and bad Epics or is every Epic evil? Many questions are answered but even more are raised, also a hallmark of a good sequel. The wait now will be long as the third book in the Reckoners series, Calamity, will be released in the spring of 2016. But if you haven't picked up this series yet, you have the time to read all three books so far!

Read the full review here

Excerpt: Wastelands 2 Anthology: How the World Became Quiet

How the World Became Quiet: A Post-Human Creation Myth (An Extract) 
by Rachel Swirsky

Part One—The Apocalypse of Trees
During the first million years of its existence, mankind survived five apocalypses without succumbing to extinction. It endured the Apocalypse of Steel, the Apocalypse of Hydrogen, the Apocalypse of Serotonin, and both Apocalypses of Water, the second of which occurred despite certain contracts to the contrary. Mankind also survived the Apocalypse of Grease, which wasn’t a true apocalypse, although it wiped out nearly half of humanity by clogging the gears that ran the densely-packed underwater cities of Lor, but that’s a tale for another time.
Humans laid the foundation for the sixth apocalypse in much the same way they’d triggered the previous ones. Having recovered their ambition after the Apocalypse of Serotonin and rebuilt their populations after the Apocalypse of Grease, they once again embarked on their species’ long term goal to wreak as much havoc as possible on the environment through carelessness and boredom. This time, the trees protested. They devoured buildings, whipped wind into hurricanes between their branches, tangled men into their roots and devoured them as mulch. In retaliation, men chopped down trees, fire-bombed jungles, and released genetically engineered insects to devour tender shoots.
The pitched battle decimated civilians on both sides, but eventually—though infested and rootless—the trees overwhelmed their opposition. Mankind was forced to send its battered representatives to a sacred grove in the middle of the world’s oldest forest and beg for a treaty.
Negotiations went slowly since the trees insisted on communicating through the pitches of the wind in their leaves, which astute linguists played back at 1,000 times normal speed in order to render them comprehensible to human ears. It took a day for a sentence, a week for a paragraph, a month for an entire stipulation.
After ten years, a truce was completed. To demonstrate its significance, it was inked in blood drawn from human victims and printed on the pulped and flattened corpses of trees. The trees agreed to cease their increasing assaults and return forevermore to their previous quiescent vegetable state, in exchange for a single concession: mankind would henceforth sacrifice its genetic heritage and merge with animals to create a new, benevolent sentience with which to populate the globe.
After the final signatures and root-imprints were applied to the treaty, the last thing the trees were heard to say before their leaves returned to being mere producers of chlorophyll was this: At least it should keep them busy for a millennium or two, fighting among themselves.

Book Review: Touch

Touch by Claire North

Kepler had never meant to die this way — viciously beaten to death by a stinking vagrant in a dark back alley. But when reaching out to the murderer for salvation in those last dying moments, a sudden switch takes place.

Now Kepler is looking out through the eyes of the killer himself, staring down at a broken and ruined body lying in the dirt of the alley.

Instead of dying, Kepler has gained the ability to roam from one body to another, to jump into another person’s skin and see through their eyes, live their life -- be it for a few minutes, a few months or a lifetime.

Kepler means these host bodies no harm — and even comes to cherish them intimately like lovers. But when one host, Josephine Cebula, is brutally assassinated, Kepler embarks on a mission to seek the truth — and avenge Josephine’s death.

Last year I read a book by Claire North, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and it was awesome. Plain awesomeness in a book. When I visited Loncon3 last year, Gemma from Orbit notified me that Claire North was publishing another surefire winner in 2015. Something different than Harry August, it was this book that she mentioned, Touch. There was also a big mystery last year about who Claire North was. When it was revealed I was surprised to find out that it was a new pseudonym of Catherine Webb who also writes under Kate Griffin of which I am a big fan, Matthew Swift and Magicals Anonymous are terrific series. But just to get back to Touch, this is a great read, directly in the lines of what I have come to expect of Claire North, highly inventive, touching and a whole lot of fun. But in this book there is something added to it, something that I hadn't seen that much in Harry August, this is a Thriller and with the bold idea behind of "body jumping" it fully comes to work it magic. As was proclaimed early, I can verify it, Touch is another winner. 

What falls directly to note from the start of the story is the fast pacing of it. From the beginning of the assassination of Josephine Cebula right down to the ending it will bring you on the edge of your seat. So as I said, the story picks up with the assassination of Josephine Cebula, one of the character that has a direct focus from the start. But so after this happens you learn that there actually is someone present in the body of Josephine. A presence who is able to jump, not a few feet into the air, no from body to body by touching the person. This entity is known as "Kepler". It remains to be found out what Kepler is, male or female (but I am going to refer to Kepler as he, it makes typing the review easier but it remains to be found out). Kepler is a peaceful "ghost", (ghosts are the people that can jump and inhabit the body of others), he has been riding Josephine's body for a while now and finds this planned assassination strange. He wants answers, why was Josephine the target of assassination? But mover over, Kepler is one of the ghosts that doesn't exploits the people why he inhabits them but helps them further, with studying or other kind of things, steal from the rich give to the poor. He is a philanthropist. Lets get back to it, Kepler only takes on the name Kepler when he jumps into the assassins body and finds a file on "Kepler" with his bodies in their. It might also seem that they weren't only after Josephine... During his investigation Kepler opens up a whole can of worms discovering some truths that were perhaps better not know to him and others of the public. It seems that an organization known as Aquarius was planning something with medication. Medication that could immunize people from being taken over, or that could turn them into ghosts. Kepler also stumbles on another ghost who goes by the name of Galileo, who is dangerous and remains an enigma to everyone... This is just a short explanation of the story but all the events that follow on this direct into link and spilling more would spoil your surprise to this book and some plot twists. The story of Touch is action packed and highly enjoyable to read.

Once again Claire North really surprised me with her story. The whole concept of body jumping was just very cool. And just as with the incarnations of Harry August in The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. She builds on this concept in the fullest, showing the bigger picture but also focusing on the details and it is this that makes the story and idea of body jumping rock solid. It might take a single touch of skin to jump. But there is more. Here are a few things. You do not switch when  person jumps into your body. Instead the "native" personality is put in something of a comatose state and during the time that it hosts a ghost it will draw a blank, he doesn't know what goes on. Also the minds of the native person and ghost aren't linked, which means that memories aren't transferred and this in turn means that meeting a friend of relative of an inhabited person that they can ask questions you don't know the answer to. There for you have brokers... It is these small things, these details that truly completes the story. it's not only laying a foundation but building a complete endless skyscraper on top of it.

One other thing that I found particularly cool about Touch was the world building. the story takes place in our current day I reckon. Most thrillers do take place in either London or some place in America. Well Claire North opted to let the story take place in Europe, and mainly in Eastern Europe: Germany and Slovakia are just two countries among several others that are visited. I don't know what it is but somehow when stories take place in these countries it just inspires so much more, might be history that helps me. Added to this comes a very nice and clear description of the surroundings that help bolster the effect. 

As for the character of the story Kepler. I liked him. As with Harry August, he isn't alone with his gift. I already named him a philanthropist, he wants to do people he possesses good for continuing with their lives, whereas others see the bodies as things to be used for fun, leaving their hosts in more than a state of confusion. It becomes clear all throughout the story that Kepler rather helps people than destroying them. They aren't only current examples but also the history of Kepler and what he did in the past is revealed. Because once you go ghost you... oh wait that doesn't rhyme, but anyway with becoming a ghost you sort of gain immortality, as long as you continue to jump around, so you can imagine that Kepler has an extensive knowledge of the world and everything in it. He speaks many languages just to start with.  

So what finally remains to said is: Read this book! Claire North's is on a sure fire winning streak. Just as with The First Fifteen Lives, Claire North has gone out of her league with the story of Touch. Touch for me was a definite darker tinge story that The First Fifteen Lives, owing to the chasing and also with the body jumping. Kepler is shown as a very interesting and enjoyable protagonist and has his work cut out for him. One thing that I totally forgot to mention was the control that Claire North has with body jumping, it is easy to jump from person to person, but in all case none of the ghosts do this. The details and bigger picture that Claire North shows with body jumping and inhabiting it, an action reaction sequence makes a very nice whole to the story. And let's not forget the world building in Eastern Europe. Just pitch perfect, a brilliant atmosphere! The story of Touch could readily, no let me rephrase, should readily be opted to be turned in a movie. Forget all the other thrillers, this is one of the biggest things this year. make sure you read this one,  

Short Fiction Friday: The Osteomancer's Son

The Osteomancer's Son by Greg van Eekhout, Clarkesworld #101

Last year Greg van Eekhout published his first book in the Daniel Blackland series, California Bones. Which was for me highly enjoyable book and showed a highly inventive new idea in Urban Fantasy: Osteomancy. Special people are able to suck on bones or smoke or digest them in some way and gain special powers associated with those beings. Now I was looking in Clarkesworld issue #101 and I saw that Greg van Eekhout was in it with his story of The Osteomancer's Son. Now the Daniel Blackland series directly came to mind and was hoping to read another blast of a story. Which I got! But I also found out that The Osteomancer's Son isn't actually a prequel to California Bones. It featured as the start of it all! 

In The Osteomancer's Son you are introduced to Daniel Ludeking as a young boy who wonders with his father on the beach and stumble on a bone, and not just an ordinary bone, the bone of a Kraken. Here you learn that Daniel's father isn't an average kind of guy. He is an Osteomancer, a person able to ingest bones and get powers. Daniel's father wouldn't be a Ludeking is he didn't start the process early with Daniel himself and soon Daniel finds the powers of the mighty Kraken raging through his body. From this point on the starts in the deep end of it all and you seen just how nasty the world is.  Because everything is far from roses and sunshine when it comes to the powers of Osteomancers, Daniel looses his father and is tasked by his uncle to visit the lair of the Hierarch, the most powerful Osteomancer alive. In this confrontation there is powerful display of the forces at play and already see a lot of the versatility in between the different sources of the bones. 

After reading this short story, though there was overlap with California Bones, I am once again reminded that this is really cool premise. I also just found out that the sequel to California Bones, Pacific Fire, was published just this January by Tor. I so want to read this book! Greg van Eekhout has really thought of a cool promise and truly makes it come to life in his books. I am glad to see that Greg van Eekhout turned this short story into not one book, but a whole trilogy!

If you are unfamiliar with California Bones, visit this link to Clarkesworld and read the story for free.

Author interview with Mario Routi

Author interview with Mario Routi

Author bio: 
Mario is a cool, mysterious and slightly sloppy guy. He sneaked to the third planet from the sun more or less forty+ years ago, taking advantage of a tender moment between his lovely parents, using them as his Portal.

As a child, he wrestled and boxed every day with his dear brother, but without really hurting each other. During his youth years, he worked hard to persuade friends and teachers that he was just a normal guy who was indeed from this world, and not some dangerous alien.

Submitting to the demands of contemporary society, he was forced to study several stuff, here and there, in order to penetrate the business world, escaping a few years later to become an author.


Hi Mario, welcome over at The Book Plank and thanks for taking you time to answer these few questions.

BP: First off, could you tell us a bit who Mario Routi is? What are your hobbies, likes and dislikes?
MR: I am an alien, trapped in a human body. A cool, slightly sloppy lad in my early forties – I like to think I flow between the Earth and the world I write about, the Land of the White Sun. I enjoy soccer, snooker and bowling. I love animals and dislike whoever dislikes them.

BP: Your Rebecca Newton series is fairly young, the first book was published last year. When did you decide that you wanted to write this series? What gave you the inspiration behind the first book and series?
MR: It's been a few years now. Several paranormal experiences turned the flame on, but one of these was a chance encounter with an old man in a restaurant many years ago.  He read my first adult book, Orizon, also based in world of Rebecca Newton, and claimed that the place was real and that he’d been there!  As well as that, a life-long love of fantasy fiction inspired me to pick up my pen and give my own novel a try.

BP: Prior to writing Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame you wrote one other books, Orizon. Had you gained valuable experience with this book that helped in writing the first Rebecca Newton series?
MR: Yes, because a part of the first book of the Rebecca trilogy is based on Orizon.  As well as that, I learnt a great deal from the process of writing Orizon – discipline, character development, plotting etc to name a few things that I felt I learnt while penning Orizon. 

BP: Writing the beginning of a series must be a daunting task, how did you went about and plan it? Did you make a rough mapping of the general story or did you already have fine details in store for the other books? Or do you just write on the fly?
MR: I did indeed make a rough mapping for the Rebecca Newton series, as the story spans generations and ages and has many interweaving characters and plots.  Once I get started, however, I let myself relax and let the story go where it pleases, all the while checking back that I’m keeping to the rough ‘map’. 

BP: Next to beginning a series, writing THE sequel is hard, you have to keep the reader interested and keep the story moving forward, what is your formula to write a sequel?
MR: I put myself in the shoes of the reader – that’s really important. You have to make sure that you leave the first book in a place when the reader really want to find out how the story progresses.  And then make sure that you give the reader as strong-an-adventure as in the first book.

BP: The sequel to Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame, Rebecca Newton and the Last Oracle is out very soon, if you would have to sell the book with a single sentence, how would it go?
MR: I, like most authors, am bad in selling my own product, and we need lots of space to write. However, if I'd have to choose, I'd use the Publisher's heading: The Epic tale continues and Rebecca's limits are tested to the max.

BP: What has been the hardest part in writing the Rebecca Newton series so far?
MR: Making the characters believable, and more than that, likeable!  I’m proud of the characters I have created and hope others like, or hate where appropriate (!), them too.

BP: Did you encounter any specific problem during you writing?
MR: Working within time limits is always stressful and I always get worried as my copy deadline looms. However, sometimes you just have to get your head down and get on with it!!  

BP: Besides the hardest part, which scene, chapter or character did you enjoy writing about the most?
MR: Battle scenes are my favorites – I love the action, the drama and the emotion behind a battle.  As much as a battle is about the swords and armor, it’s about the emotions behind that fight too. As for characters, Rebecca is obviously my little girl, however, I see some of myself in Turgoth.

BP: There is mythology involved in the Rebecca Newton books, did you have to carry out additional research for it to keep true to some facts?
MR: Most authors need to go through at least some research when their stories include either historical or mythological references, so yes, although I admit that I do twist mythology around, I still carry out basic research and try to not insult the originals.

BP: If you would be given the chance to retract Rebecca Newton and the Last Orcale from publishing to change one final thing, would you do so? If yes which part and why?
MR: I would only change the name of a specific character, it would feel more right, but now it's too late and I'll use this name in a future story.

BP: Everyone enjoys fantasy in their own way. What do you like most about this genre?
MR: You travel in amazing places and meet incredible characters.  You access new, exciting and different worlds and that’s what I love – it’s pure escapism for me.

BP: If you would have to give your top 5 favorite books, which would they be?
MR: When you're talking about Fantasy, you cannot speak of 5 books, but of Sagas. Therefore, my choices would be: The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, A Song of Ice and Fire by George Martin and the Dark Tower by Stephen King.

BP: and just lastly can you give us a sneak peek of what will be instore for the readers of Rebecca Newton and the Last Orcale and possible what we might see in book three?
MR: The Last Oracle is a more Y/A book than The Sacred Flame. It doesn't however loose the Fantasy element, nor the adventure. It's quite romantic, but not enough to be grating. There are a few new characters and the story has a nice twist – which I hope readers will enjoy. In book three, the story goes on another level and "explodes". Many things will happen and several things will change, but neither Fantasy, Sci-Fi, adventure lovers or Y/A readers will be disappointed, as it's very cinematic with vivid descriptions.

BP: Thank you Mario for doing this interview and good luck with your future writing!

Now for the give away!

To celebrate the publication of Rebecca Newton and the Last Oracle, I have a brand new kindle and a copy of the book to give away to one lucky reader. To be in with a chance of winning, simply tweet your answer to the following question to @thebookplank and @MarioRouti using the hashtag #RebeccaNewton: ‘If you were granted one superpower, what would it be?’

It's easy, it's fast, what are you waiting for?