Monday 31 October 2016

666 Anthology Released Today!

I'm pleased to announce the release of 666 from Fantastic Publishing - which includes a story from me along with a host of other fine authors.

Come one come all and enter the realm of the 666 word story.

Imagine the terrifying journey the authors went through to create a story of EXACTLY 666 words...

Then imagine the screams of torment from our editorial dungeons as they found a single typo or a hyphenated word...

This is a collection of devilish, fiendish and downright pant-wetting stories from authors from around the world.

The amazing cover was designed by Dean Samed and Michael Brookes gave us a story for the collection and wrote the foreword.

10% of the proceeds from this book will be donated to the Freedom From Torture charity who do sterling work worldwide reintegrating people back into society after suffering torture themselves.

Buy 666 now from Amazon

Happy Halloween From The Yellow Lady

Unfortunately, this post is late to join the official Halloween festivities, but its shiny new key art (and a bonus version after the story) and light edit pass (well that was the original intention, but a hefty line edit and rewrite in a few sections would be more accurate) means that it's a decent improvement upon the published version and as there are at least 7 billion people who haven't read it yet it's worth sharing :-)

. . .

The Yellow Lady is a ghost story from my first short story anthology - An Odd Quartet (details of the book are after the story). It was based on a ghost story I heard as a young lad on a camping trip and sleeping yards away from the graveyard where the poor woman was buried.


The Yellow Lady

I’d first visited the grave of the Yellow Lady many years before. Behind the screen of threadbare trees, I’d camped on the rough field beside the vast lake. Well, it had seemed vast to me as a child and not so imposing now with older eyes. Time had brought changes to its surroundings, with the once sparse camping site developed into a more commercial and admittedly colourful enterprise.

No modern touch to this small ancient church and attached graveyard, except for a few pale headstones and memorials. Their newness marked them as oddities here. My lack of fear and increased vulnerability to the damp freezing air separated me from the young boy that had nearly wet himself that night almost 30 years ago. The fear might have vanished but a certain fascination remained as I stared down at it.

The grave looked the same as I remembered. Neatly kept with its unusual marker (No proper headstone permitted here - being buried in consecrated ground wasn't through grace, but through grim and determined expediency) worn smooth by the ages, The stout iron cage remained the top poking through the grass as if ornamentation, but according to legend it kept the occupant bound and unable to leave her grave except for one special night per year.

Did the locals still cast fearful glances at the grave and its guardian chapel? Unlike the iron prison, the Chapel wore its age with ill grace. It sagged under the weight of the centuries, the stone of its walls and roof splotches by moss, lichen and neglect. The news of the chapel's abandonment provided the sign I didn't realise I'd been waiting for, to return.

Thirty years ago I’d just turned 11 and had camped here with dozens of other boys my age as part of a youth camp associated with the church we attended as a family. The field where we camped nestled between the stacked stone wall of the graveyard and the pike-infested lake. The tent I shared with three other boys lay within spitting distance of the infamous grave. Although a few days would pass before we learned of that horrifying legend.

The camp followed a familiar design of the time to allow troublesome kids from poor families a glimpse of the world beyond the rough estates for one week out of the year. To my surprise I loved it. The filth-ridden streets, vandalised playgrounds, derelict shops and warehouses provided the usual tableau of my life,  and the surprise of this week in the countryside revealed an aspect of the world I’d previously only read about.

Throughout the day the camp volunteers (as a religious camp these were all brothers from a local monastery, but these monks were a lot more fun than our dour Irish parish priest!) kept us entertained with games. Unless the weather was truly atrocious these physical games always knackered us out. Those running the camp believed that tired children caused fewer problems and to be fair I guess they had the right of it.

We also enjoyed a mostly fun variety of activities, most of which involved the neighbouring lake. The vast lake (as it seemed to us - apart from the sea most of us hadn't bodies of water we couldn't throw a stone or half brick across) drained into an even larger marsh. The marsh was considered even more dangerous than the lake, but its constant fetid odour discouraged us enough to avoid it. Even though we avoided it when the wind turned the sickly scent drifted through the camp.

In the lake, we swam, although only in the designated safe area fenced off by nets. Having never encountered pike (or living fish generally) we joked that there must be a real monster in that lake somewhere for the adults to be concerned. That attitude lasted barely a morning after sneaking away from the group to an unsupervised part of the shore. There we fished with small nets on thin bamboo poles for whatever lurked in this water. I cried out with excitement as I managed to catch a small fish and then fell on my arse as a streamlined and massive shape snatched the fish, net and pole from my grasp.

I gained some wisdom in that moment but never got my net back.

Besides the monsters and physical contests with the monks, we tried scaring each other in the evenings. By the campfire, we munched burned burgers, drank cheap supermarket pop (soda to my American friends) and told ghost stories. Our stories amused the volunteers. As we regained our energy with food and rest our boisterousness increased and they had the thankless task of keeping us in order. They'd developed a routine over time and let us fool around mocking each other's tall tales. The sun long departed and the air chilled we slowed and one of the few monks (only many years later I learned he was no ordinary monk and instead his duties lay with the small chapel on the other side of the stone wall) with a full long beard seized the moment.  He appeared like a shorter Brian Blessed and his voice maintained that impression as he spoke.

"The Yellow Lady had been buried in the small cemetery well beyond the safe glow of that fire. At first, they buried her in a pauper’s grave and outside the consecrated plot." He paused for a moment the fire dancing shadows across his face. "Not anymore. Now she lies encased in an iron casket, with iron spikes driven through the coffin and secured to an iron cage to prevent her from moving. She received no headstone instead her marker was formed from iron in the Celtic form. Iron spikes ornamented the cross."

He paused, waiting until the first of us fidgeted and with a deeper growl in his voice stated, "Her marker was a warning, not a remembrance."

“Why?” We wondered.

Again he paused and softer in tone continued. "No one knows her real name now. Great efforts were made to erase it from history. Even the page including her birth registry was torn out and burned. But that came later. After the trouble that left us with a monster that still haunts us to this day."

I swear if someone had made a noise I would have shat myself.

"The local Lord, Lord Samuel Perrington inherited an estate buried in debt thanks to the many sins of his father. Without tangible assets and not wanting to part with his title - which he believed to be his God-given right." He snorted in amusement as if the many tellings had not diminished his disdain for this self-indulgent foolishness. "Lord Samuel learned of one of the local businessmen (Arthur Taylor - a self-made man earning his fortune through textiles and shrewd investment) who sought to bring his family above their station.

While the new young Lord escaped the scourge of his father's vices (for the most part) he still possessed the underserved arrogance of a title, but he wasn't stupid. The money was his immediate need and this marriage presented the only realistic option to prevent the debt collectors from tearing away his home and possessions. The young lady would gain nothing from this transaction, but her father would gain not only aristocratic patronage and assumed influence but also the possibility of a grandchild - preferably a boy - inheriting the title.

But she didn’t love the Lord, she already loved another. She loved a woodsman and he loved her in return. Even after the marriage ceremony, she continued to meet her true love in secret.

We didn’t care for that part of the story. At ten (or maybe eleven?) years old I hadn’t yet acquired the taste for girls. The old man’s voice carried the story well, and despite the smoochy bit, we remained captivated.

"Inevitably the Lord discovered his wife’s infidelity. And so, on a night like this almost exactly 400 years ago she visited the woodsman’s hut. She found him purple-faced and hanging from the thickest branch. His hands and feet had been cut off and then placed in a basket.

She rushed to her lover’s dangling corpse and screamed to the sky in her grief. The yellow dress that reminded him of summer blossomed with dark stains. She didn't hear the rustle of the ground litter as her husband stepped into view. Silver moonlight accented the expression of purest rage as he battered her to the ground. He ignored the pain of small bones fracturing in his fist as he kept punching her until her pleas for mercy became choking gasps for air.

Above the violence, the woodsman swayed gently in the evening breeze. With a final effort, she looked at her lover's distorted face and allowed herself to fall into eyes now freed from suffering. The slight movement of her head and peace smoothing the past minutes of torture angered the husband further. Snatching the broad dagger from his belt he plunged it deep into her chest unfazed by the splash of warm blood upon his face. Panting with the effort of cutting through her flesh and bone he then cried out with diabolical triumph her heat from the ragged hole in her chest. With rough iron nails and heavy dagger he nailed the cooling heart to the tree and all the while he muttered curses and cruel promises to the Devil himself. 

To this day it is said that you can put your ear against the old weathered tree and hear the heartbeat of the murdered woman. You'll find out for yourselves on our little ghost tour later on."

Fuck that! None of us felt brave enough to test the truth of this and the broad grin across the Monk's face offered little comfort. But the story wasn't quite finished.

"Next the Lord severed her head from her body. It's no easy task cutting a head off a body with only a short blade, but he managed it although it was far from a clean cut. 

He cast the head into the marsh – never to be found. The woman’s body was buried in a pauper’s grave in the grave one hundred yards from where we sat.
A year passed. The Lord found himself a new wife, and with great ceremony they were married. Both merry from the celebrations they took to their bed together for the first and last time.

They were both found dead the next morning by the servants, with a yellow handprint upon their faces.

The next night the parish priest reported seeing the apparition of the Yellow Lady leaving the graveyard and heading towards the marsh, searching for the corpse of her lover. He naturally made the connection with the deaths from the previous night.

However the hand marks had faded with the rising sun. Only he and the servants who summoned him witnessed the prints with their own eyes. So everyone ignored his warnings. Their attitude changed rapidly when more people from the village witnessed the ghost for themselves.

With no natural heirs the Crown appointed a new Lord who duly arrived and was found dead on his first day break. This time people listened to the priest and luckily for them he had a plan.

They exhumed her body and bound her in a coffin made from iron and blessed by the priest himself. The blacksmith then drove iron spikes through the coffin and constructed the formidable metal cross to bind her to the grave. Only on the anniversary of her death could she wander, continuing her search for her head and her lover’s body.

And you know what? The anniversary coincided with the week I stayed at the camp. I remember it being the scariest night of my young life. At every rustle I lay rigid, my eyes frantically scanning the foggy gloom. But of course I lived to see the next day. Although a few of the boys claimed they’d seen the ghost heading towards the lake.

A passing car broke my fixation from the grave, and back to why I'd returned after so long.

Well the story I was told all those years ago contained some truth, but was missing one interesting and valuable fact. The body was buried with what was described as a finely crafted gold and diamond locket. The locket was of a type highly prized at the time, but very rare now. And rare meant valuable.

And valuable was good. It’s how I earned my living.

Many years ago I got myself into a bit of trouble. I owed the wrong people more money than I could lay my hands on. Whilst drowning my sorrows in anticipation of one or both legs being broken I met a funeral director, also trying to drown his sorrows.

From this drunken man I learnt something interesting. Even in these modern times people are often buried with valuables or a treasured item. Usually it’s junk, but often it’s worth fencing.

Wherever possible I focussed on tombs. They’re usually owned by rich people and while they’re not more likely to leave a memento, it is more likely to be worth something.

The other advantage of course is that tombs are generally less effort to get into than digging into a grave. The obituary columns in local newspapers and on the Internet provided me with likely targets. After a while I developed a sense for spotting a target from how the obituaries were written.

I’d known about the locket for years, but I’d kept it safe in case of a rainy day. The regular pickings had been slim for the past couple of months, so the rainy day now arrived.

To dig up a grave requires a lot of effort. This graveyard was secluded, but not enough to make it safe to use a mechanical digger. That left me with the shovel. At least the work helped to keep me warm in the chill air. As the night turned into morning the fog rolled across the graveyard.

The scene reminded me of cheap horror films. I wasn’t spooked. I’ve robbed graves for many years without encountering any ghosts or ghouls. Still the air was cold, colder than I expected.

Thankfully I only had to dig up part of the grave. If I had to dig up the whole grave I would have still have been digging a hole when the sun rose. I only needed to dig enough space to access the coffin. Then I would cut into the coffin and use a flexible grabber to retrieve what I needed.


My spade struck the coffin with a dull clang. I scraped the soil away; the dirt stained red as if soaked in blood. In the thin torch beam I noticed the coffin was rusted. I nodded to myself. I’d hoped that would be the case. Retrieving a cold chisel and hammer from my bag of tools I struck a hole into the coffin.

With a small crowbar I widened the hole. This is the part I preferred old graves to fresher ones. They didn’t smell as bad and were less messy once you delved inside. Someone must have been smiling down on me; I’d dug up the right end. Dropping a chemlight into the hole I spotted the sparkle of the necklace. Exactly what I hoped to see. Within minutes I packed up my tools and was driving my dirty white van back towards London.

* * *

The next day I went to see Tony. He was one of my fences. Over the years I’d learnt it was wise to know a range of contacts. Tony specialised in antiquities, I’d receive a much better price for the locket from him. The others would give me scrap value at best. A shame for a piece like this.

Tony showed excitement when he held the piece. That in itself was unusual. He peered at the locket through his magnifying glass.

“Beautiful workmanship. Sixteenth century I’d say.”

The piece did look pretty. Delicate engravings ornamented the surface. I tried opening the locket, but didn’t find a clasp or opening of any kind. The front surface appeared branded with a Celtic cross.

“It appears to be fused shut. I wonder what’s inside.”

Tony delicately probed at the edges with a tiny tool. I waited impatiently as he worked. I knew he wouldn’t offer a price until he completed his examination. Hurrying him would only reduce the price.
After thirty minutes of his careful ministration the locket revealed its secret. A small lock of dark hair. He pulled the lock free and smiled.

“Love is a grand thing. However this isn’t worth anything.” He cast the hair into the waste bin by his workbench. “This however is worth some money. I’ll give you six grand for it.”

I smiled. We played this game many times before. “I see you still have your sense of humour. Twelve.”

He laughed and the bargaining continued. As expected we agreed on nine thousand. I pocketed the cash and left. I agreed to return later for drinks after I had attended to more immediate business.

* * *

After paying my more immediate debts I returned to Tony’s as promised. I bought a fine bottle of scotch for the drink he wanted. I found him still examining the locket. Even as we sat into the night drinking and chatting he seemed distracted. Finally I gave in and asked him what the problem was.

“It’s the locket.” He answered. “When I first looked at it I sensed something. After I opened it that feeling changed.”


“I don’t know. It felt wrong somehow.”

This was too much for me. I’ve never been one for reflection. I rob graves for a living; it’s not something that would help. I changed the subject and we discussed the ongoing poor fortunes of our football team.

We approached the mellow state that good whisky in good company can bring. The earlier uncomfortable moment was now forgotten. I thought I heard a church bell ring. Strange, the local church hadn’t rung its bells for years.

“Can you feel that?” Tony asked.

“What?” But I understood what he meant. The sudden chill air pressed against my skin.

I smelled something. A stench I’d often encountered. The stink of an open grave. My senses seemed clouded, probably just the drink.

Tony cried out. I looked at his shocked face and then to where he stared. For a moment she entranced me with her ethereal beauty. She wore a plain yellow dress. The dress glowed, casting a pale yellow light across her skin. I had never seen a more beautiful woman.

Her gaze focussed completely on Tony as she drifted towards him. I remained frozen. I didn’t know what to do. As she neared Tony I threw my nearly empty glass at her.

The glass flew straight through her and smashed against the wall. She didn’t appear to notice.
She placed one hand on Tony’s face and he shrieked. I didn’t know a man could make noises like that. I had to do something, so I charged at her. I shouted as loud as I could, trying to distract her.
My arm passed through her. I gasped with the sudden cold.

His shrieks stopped before I turned around. The young woman looked at me and then faded from sight. I rushed to Tony. The yellow handprint on his face, already starting to fade. I checked for signs of life and found none.

How I didn’t panic I don’t know, but somehow I managed to keep my head together. I couldn’t stay here. I wanted to call for an ambulance, but I realised it was too late. He deserved better, but I had to think of my own fate.

Only when I reached one of my bolt holes did it sink in that my friend had been killed by a ghost.

* * *

She came for me the following night about halfway through a bottle of cheaper whisky. The room turning cold gave me some warning, so I was on my feet when she appeared in the room.

I noticed something different about her. Her glow looked more pronounced. She also appeared more solid and around her neck something glittered. The locket. It looked real, not an apparition. It was obviously important to her. I wondered if it would give me some leverage. As she drifted towards me I leapt to one side and snatched the locket from her throat. My hand passed through her, but my fingers caught the locket’s chain.

Then I ran.

* * *

I ran all night, I kept moving hoping to lose her. When dawn finally broke I felt a bit safer.
Tired but alive. I now needed to decide what to do next. I remembered the locket, it had to possess some power over her, and she hadn’t appeared until after the locket had been opened.

The lock of hair. It must mean something.

I made my way across London, when I reached Tony’s place a group of press and curious bystanders were being held back by a handful of uniformed police. Tony’s body had evidently been discovered. I couldn’t get into the building until the police had left.

The day passed slowly. I walked and stopped in every coffee shop trying to stay awake. My head ached with fatigue.

Finally as the afternoon drew to a close the excitement began to die down. The sky had darkened before it looked safe enough to enter the building. Getting in was easy. The police locked the door, but didn’t activate the other security devices. I picked the lock and let myself in.

Naturally she appeared as I rummaged through the waste bin looking for the lock of hair.

Her chill breath brushed my neck. For a second I froze. Do I keep looking and hope to find it in the few seconds it would take for her to reach me? Or do I run?

I ran.

I ran with the bin held tightly. As I fled I continued searching through the trash. She followed me into the empty street. I kept running. The dread chill kept pace with me.

Finally I found the lock of hair. With a cry of triumph I placed the hair into the locket and snapped it shut. Triumphantly I turned, expecting her to be gone.

Unfortunately she remained. But now she stood motionless. Curious. No longer afraid I took the hair from the locket and the moment I did she charged me. Quickly I put the hair back and as I did so she stopped moving.

Now that was an interesting discovery.

* * *

Of course I considered doing the right thing. The correct thing. Now I had this ghost on a leash I could easily return her to her iron coffin and bind her spirit where she belonged. I even started driving down into Surrey.

But a thought stopped me.

An interesting thought. A speculative thought.

How much would a ghost be worth? Then another thought. How much would people pay to look at, or even touch a real ghost?

I turned the van around and headed back into London. After visiting Tony’s place again I helped myself to some choice pieces of jewellery. I only received scrap value for them, but the money provided enough to buy a bigger van. I made sure I bought one where the back opened up onto a flat space I could use as a stage.

And that was how I gave up grave robbing. Most nights I give the opening banter on the stage and then people, young and old, give me a tenner each to see the ghost of the Yellow Lady.
Every night in a different town, but the same in each. Hundreds of people flock to see her. Each of them with a tenner in their hand.

I’ve struck the big time I can tell you. And the sceptics are the best. They keep coming back trying to prove it’s a fake. Every viewing costs them ten pounds. I let them try whatever they want.
They even reported me to the Police, but they found no proof of a fake and provided great advertising for me as well.

Times have never been better.

How does she like it you ask? How would I know? She’s a ghost, not a real person. You can find out for yourself it you want. It will only cost you ten pounds.

. . .

One of the fun aspects of playing with tools like Midjourney is taking advantage of its iterative nature to see some random versions when you're battling with the prompt to get the perfect result. Sometimes a better technique, when you're frustrated and struggling to crafty the correct expression, is to just keep hitting the remaster or regenerate controls.

And that's how this Yellow Lady appeared. While it didn't match the tone I wanted and had some obvious problems it caught my eye. Maybe it will suit a future project, but in the meantime, it still deserved to be seen by a wider world.

Find out more about An Odd Quartet here: 

Sunday 30 October 2016

Tau Ceti Mission - 07.01.2648 - Needle Found

Image Credit:

Seb has found the Visitor ship in this latest report from the Venti probe:

Book Review - In The Beginning by David Hadley

This gem of a read almost passed me by. As a Civ player the concept appealed to me. It takes the idea of a god game to a new level with the conceit that universes can be bought and created to your own specification. When Albert, the lead character, is made redundant he is instructed by his wife to get a hobby, and acquires one to fill his time.

The story follows two intertwining threads. The first is Albert's experience of creating a world and observing it develop. It's written in a lighthearted  style with a lot of gentle humour. I read a lot of grim and epic books, and it's pleasant to read something of a different mould. That's not to say that it lacks depth. The easy going style belies a lot of subtlety in the writing. This is most evident in how Albert has to deal with creation.

It deals with the responsibilities of a creator and the behaviour of the created. It examines the role of religion in the development of a people. It does focus on the negatives of religion more than the positive, so if this sort of thing offensive, you should probably avoid this book. Personally I thought it a witty and fun handling of the problems he faces. It's quite an interesting process watching how much he should intervene with his creation, or to let them develop without interference.

In parallel with the ever encompassing nature of his hobby are the relationships in his real life. In this the story is more mundane, but that works as a contrast to the other thread. Most obvious is his marriage. His wife is now competing with his universe for his attention. His friend's wife wants to have an affair with him. And the universe encroaches on his real life.

I find humour in book's a tricky aspect to get right. It can often be hit or miss, but it worked for me throughout. It's an accessible read, well written, with good pacing. If you fancy something a little different then it's well worth a read.

It’s a God’s life.
Albert Meadows, recently made redundant and tired of his disappointing life, is looking to make a new start and is desperate to find something worthwhile to fill his time.
So, what could be better than creating a brand new universe of his own, in his garden shed?
But, when he introduces intelligent life to his new universe, things don’t turn out as he planned, especially when the tribes on his planet each create their opposing gods in his image.
Now Albert must rescue the people on his creation from themselves and the warring religions they’ve created.
All before his people destroy each other in a war to end all wars over which version of Albert they believe in.

Click here to buy In The Beginning from Amazon

Currently Reading - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des RĂªves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way--a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a "game" to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved--the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them--are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.

But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.

Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.

Click here to buy The Night Circus from Amazon

Friday 28 October 2016

Forced Entry Halloween Sale

My audio drama 'Forced Entry' is on sale with a 50% reduction to only 99p for the Halloween holiday.

Based on the popular short story by Michael Brookes, author of The Cult of Me and Faust 2.0.

A special forces team is called in to handle a hostage situation. Inside they find a sealed basement door and a trail of blood leading to the bedroom.

None of them were prepared for what awaits them inside: Mystery, evil and unimaginable horror...

Running Time 18 mins

Performed by Janet Westwood Wilson, Benjamin Goodman, Liam McCauley and Christopher Jarvis

Adapted and Directed by Christopher Jarvis. Music by Allen Stroud.

Enter the discount code HALLOW15 for a 15% discount on any other items in the store!

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Stand Proud With Sir Winston Churchmouse From the Magic Owl Collection

Sir Winston Churchmouse is one of the featured characters from Katie W. Stewart's 'Famous Animals' series.

The t-shirt is available in children's sizes Small to XL, Ladies size's Small to XXL, and Men's sizes small to XXXL.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Paint Your Own Mini Cthulhu Chess Pieces From Old Ones Productions

3D printed Cthulhu inspired mini sized chess pieces which you can paint yourself.

These custom designed chess pieces would make an ideal gift for any Lovecraft fan.

Note that these pieces are made to order and may take up to 6 weeks to despatch.

This product is for the unpainted pieces only, there is no board included.

Original concept art by Luciana Nedelea and 3D modelling by Sergio Mengual.

The King piece is 1.7 inches / 4.5 cm tall.

The Pawn piece is 0.8 inches / 2.3 cm tall.

Monday 24 October 2016

Try This Fiendish Jigsaw Puzzle

Try this  fiendish 500 piece jigsaw puzzle featuring the stunning cosmological horror painting 'The Space In-between' painting by Luciana Nedelea.

Sunday 23 October 2016

Book Review - Black Pine Creek by David Haynes

I always look forward to the latest release from this author, so much so that any new release of his shoots straight to the top of my TBR list. This latest release did the same, and certainly disappoint.One of the main factors for being such a fan is that he takes a familiar concept, but brings something new.

While reading the book I was struck by a possible new measure for horror books - would it still be a good read with the horror elements removed? And in this case it would. The tale of Scott Draper and his last chance mining operation is an interesting tale in itself. The camaraderie of the characters (with certain exceptions) provides an excellent basis. The characters are well realised with contrasting personalities fitting together to make a greater whole. Not all the team are as richly drawn, and a couple of the lesser characters could maybe had a bit more history.

The horror element is masterly woven throughout. I love horror that builds tension and atmosphere rather relying on cheap shocks, and the author delivers. There's a definite sense of menace around the mining camp, and the evolution of the story. I also liked the fact that the presence isn't revealed too early.The setting is different from his previous books, and the level of research shows from the details.

I enjoyed the pacing, and the quality of the writing is what I've come to expect. He has a real craft to his writing. The author stands as one of my favourite contemporary horror writers, a must read for any fans of the genre.

Gold is all Scott Draper knows. Gold and darkness. A lifetime of mining has broken his life, estranged him from his daughter and left two dead men behind.

One last opportunity might turn things around – an abandoned mine in the icy Alaskan wilderlands. If he can bring his old crew together to help, they could all end up rich.

Draper knows that darkness always follows the gold. What he doesn’t know is that something even darker than his past, something nightmarish and ravenous, is waiting for them all in the shadows of Black Pine Creek.

Click here to buy Black Pine Creek from Amazon

Currently Reading - In The Beginning by David Hadley

It’s a God’s life.
Albert Meadows, recently made redundant and tired of his disappointing life, is looking to make a new start and is desperate to find something worthwhile to fill his time.
So, what could be better than creating a brand new universe of his own, in his garden shed?
But, when he introduces intelligent life to his new universe, things don’t turn out as he planned, especially when the tribes on his planet each create their opposing gods in his image.
Now Albert must rescue the people on his creation from themselves and the warring religions they’ve created.
All before his people destroy each other in a war to end all wars over which version of Albert they believe in.

Click here to buy In The Beginning from Amazon

Tau Ceti Mission - 28.12.2647 - Bursts in the Sky

Seb reports that the Venti probe continues to degrade in this latest post:

It's a Matter of Balance from the Magic Owl Collection

It's all just a matter of balance with this cute t-shirt from the Magic Owl Collection.

Original artwork by Katie W. Stewart.

The t-shirt is available in black or white, and in children's sizes Small to XL, Ladies size's Small to XXL, and Men's sizes small to XXXL.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Five to Five Thousand Challenge - Ian Dingwall

This week's Five to Five Thousand Challenge is taken by Ian Dingwall. He's the senior writer for Elite: Dangerous (the game I work on as my day job) and looks after the GalNet news site for the game. He's also working on that elusive first novel! You can find out more about Elite: Dangerous here:

In Five Years

I think climate change will become an even more pertinent issue, but whether this will spur on efforts to find a solution is another matter. As the issue becomes harder to ignore, the challenge will not be convincing world powers to take action, but finding a way to act together, as a global society, to tackle the issue.

It seems safe to assume that technology will remain a central part of our lives, but I can’t help but wonder if a proportion of people might start to spurn technology, if only to set themselves apart socially.

Many current trends will continue into the near future, I suspect, including the continued rise of monopolistic conglomerates and the technological facilitation of everyday activities and transactions (like using your debit card to swipe through the Tube, for example); the little things that are slowly transforming the world around us.

In Fifty Years

I imagine by this point we’ll have reached a critical juncture with regard to the environment. Assuming a scenario in which climate change is more severe than at present, there will presumably be some advocating off-world colonisation. Whether or not such ideas are perceived as viable will depend to an extent on how much funding has been channelled into space exploration in the intervening years. Meanwhile, global overpopulation will continue to be a significant issue. Resources will dwindle and disease will almost certainly become more prevalent, not least due to the emergence of new antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

On a more positive note, I think electric cars will almost certainly have become commonplace, and perhaps even self-driven cars. Personally, I’d love to see a transport system like the one depicted in Minority Report – reliable, safe, and environmentally sound.

Generally speaking, we have a compulsion to move away from the values and conventions of our forebears. The self-centric values of the 1980s were in some respects a reaction to the utopian idealism of the 1960s and 1970s, so in societal terms I think we’ll see the emergence of a more reflective and less superficial culture in the next fifty years.

In five hundred years

When it comes to the far future, it’s tempting to imagine that the issues facing the present will have been overcome. If I’m optimistic about the future, it’s an optimism born of pragmatism – after all, the challenges facing us in the present are so significant, in five hundred years humanity will surely either have overcome them or perished.

I think in the next 500 years it could become possible to transfer a human consciousness into a computer, giving rise to an age of transhumanism. Naturally, such a development would have a transformative effect on civilisation. Would we embrace such a future, or would we find the reality of a non-biological existence abhorrent?

The development of artificial intelligence, which could also feasibly take place within the next 500 years, would be no less transformative, and raise just as many social and ethical questions. Personally, I lean towards the optimistic and assume that an artificial intelligence of our own creation wouldn’t perceive us as an enemy...although that’s not to suggest it would regard us benevolently, either.

In five thousand years

Since we’re now firmly in crystal ball territory, I’ll be a little less reserved in my predictions.

In five thousand years I think we could be sharing our solar system with a second, non-biological society – one that emerged from our experiments with artificial intelligence. Or perhaps this society, unhindered by biological constraints, will have set off into space, leaving us behind. Alternatively, biological life might have died out entirely – the result of either a cosmic catastrophe or a disaster of our own making. Our species might exist only in a transhuman state, in which case we too would be free to set off into space.

I think we’ll be less enthusiastic about space colonisation than we might currently imagine. Human beings will always need a connection to the natural world, I suspect – to see a blue sky overhead and feel the rain on their cheeks – and may baulk at the idea of living in space stations and off-world outposts.

But perhaps I’m simply being unimaginative. Perhaps terraforming will have become a reality, and we’ll be able to walk through fields of verdant grass on Mars. Only time will tell.

If you'd like to take part in the Five to Five Thousand Challenge then get in touch - you can email me at

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Nightmare Chess Set from Old Ones Productions

A hand-painted, horror themed chess set with pieces representing some of the classic scares from the genre.

The pieces are all metal, hand painted in fine detail with felt bottomed bases. The pieces are laid as follows: ghosts are the pawns, spooky stones are the rooks, killer clowns as the knights, plague doctors as the bishops, banshees for the queens and the reaper as the king

The set comes with a hand crafted leather board in red and black (to match the pieces) with a green trim.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Book Review - Angel Manor by Chantal Noordeloos

This is some damn fine horror. The author takes the somewhat familiar concept of a haunted house and cranks it up a notch. I usually prefer atmospheric horror to gorey stories, but the two are exquisitely balanced to make for a terrifying read.

It opens in spectacular fashion, and so providing some of the bloody history of the house, but also to set up the core mystery threading through the whole story. We're then taken to modern times and Freya's inheritance of the same house. Although it settles down compared to the opening scene, it quickly builds pace with only the most minor faltering to the conclusion.

The author writes with an accessible style that carries the tale. The emotion and events are told in crisp detail, without getting too bogged down so it flows well. The characters are well drawn, and I especially appreciated the perspectives of the spirits involved. The main characters are well portrayed, with appreciable depth. However some of the later characters (the medium and her entourage in particular) could have done with some fleshing out.

To call it a haunted house story does it a disservice. While it is true on the face of, it's built up through layers of different influences, which combine to something you can get your teeth into. I think I appreciated this most of all the good aspects of the book. It wasn't simple, but had nuances to it that allowed for a greater breadth of responses from the characters. How they tackled the adversity also stood out from the usual horror fare.

As we approached the end I did have a building gripe that the core mystery wasn't revealed, or at least given more substance. However this changed with the last couple of chapters and it struck me that maybe it would have been better to save the revelation. I think it deserved more than the wrap up it received, although it did do justice for the main character, but I do hope that the history of this aspect is explored more fully in future books.

Overall though, this is a fantastic horror read. It does well in shades of grey choices and influences, rather than a rigid black and white. It's very well written and well worth the time of any fans of the genre.

A beautiful house – with a dark and deadly secret.

When Freya inherits her mother's childhood home, she sees it as an opportunity. A chance for a new life with her best friends, as they convert the crumbling mansion into an exclusive hotel.

Instead, they'll be lucky to escape with their lives.

As the first hammers tear through the bricked up entrances, a dark, terrible and ancient evil stirs beneath the house. An evil that has already laid claim to Freya and her companions' souls.

Click here to buy Angel Manor from Amazon

Currently Reading - Black Pine Creek by David Haynes

Gold is all Scott Draper knows. Gold and darkness. A lifetime of mining has broken his life, estranged him from his daughter and left two dead men behind.

One last opportunity might turn things around – an abandoned mine in the icy Alaskan wilderlands. If he can bring his old crew together to help, they could all end up rich.

Draper knows that darkness always follows the gold. What he doesn’t know is that something even darker than his past, something nightmarish and ravenous, is waiting for them all in the shadows of Black Pine Creek.

Click here to buy Black Pine Creek from Amazon

Monday 17 October 2016

Guest Post - The Ten Greatest, Terrible, Beautiful, Ugly Movies by Jesse Teller

To celebrate the release of his latest book 'Chaste' Jesse Teller provides us with a guest post about his Ten Greatest, Terrible, Beautiful, Ugly Movies:


Let’s talk about horror movies.

Let’s talk about the terrible horror movies. There is no place in this conversation for classics like The Exorcist. We are not interested in The Shining or anything Freddy, Jason, or Michael. I’m not ready to talk about any of them because those are good movies. Today, we are looking at the terrible movies that some of us love, some of us abhor, and others, like myself, can’t get enough of. Let’s talk about the ten greatest B (or C, D and F) horror movies ever made.

I have a crew made up of four guys and myself. We call ourselves Bad Movie Inc. We have everything a club should have: a President, Chris; a Vice President, Matt; a Secretary, a different Matt; a Treasurer, Joe; and me, the Sergeant-at-Arms. We get together and watch the worst movies we can find because no one else will watch them with us, (except my wife, she is cool) and because we can see the value in things like these.

I love these kinds of movies because these people didn’t let anyone tell them that they couldn’t do it. I am an indie writer. I published my book myself. These moviemakers knew no one was going to make their movies, and they did it themselves. A few of these movies were made by big houses that will throw out whatever. A lot of these movies were made with big budgets with poor planning and bad writing. But most of these movies were home projects put together by groups who wanted to get their work out, no matter what that meant. That, I can respect.

You can’t judge a piece of art by other pieces. You have to judge a piece by what it is meant to be. Photo realistic painting is amazing, but you can’t call Picasso crap because his work is not as realistic as Zhi Lin’s Five Capital Punishments of China. Taylor Swift is not trying to be Mozart. She is trying to make pop music. And as pop music goes, she is nailing it. That is what makes her work good music. She is shooting for a result, and she is hitting it. These movies are not trying to be Citizen Kane. These filmmakers are trying to make bad horror movies. And if they are trying to achieve that goal, they have reached it. In that way, these movies are fine art.

I will share with you now the ten greatest, terrible, beautiful, ugly movies I have ever seen—special movies I think everyone who writes or does any creative work should watch.

10. Re-Animator: Ok, the thing is this. Don’t ask any questions—that will get you in trouble. The minute you start asking questions, everything falls apart. Don’t ask how the severed head keeps blood flowing through itself. Don’t ask any of the thousands of questions about possibility or reason that this movie begs. Just lay back and let go, like slipping into a warm bath. That’s what you should do. Like a warm bath. Actually, just take a bath and skip the movie.

9. Zombeavers: This is a wonderful movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The subject matter is plain by the title. A group of college students out in a cabin in the woods are attacked by Zombie Beavers. It has a pretty big budget, I think. And it is blessed with the greatest ending to any movie I have ever seen. Wait until you get there. It’s worth watching the movie to get to the ending. It’s genius.

8. I Am Omega: Let me read you the description on the back of this movie. Yes, I own it. “The Lone Survivor of a deadly plague is doomed to an eternal battle with mutant creatures that control the earth.” Flesh-eating mutants? Sign me up. This movie is so bad that it made me wish I didn’t have eyes. But then, I would have heard it, which I’m not sure is any better. A great bad movie should make you think about stepping in front of a bus. This one is that movie. Good luck.

7. Decadent Evil: Don’t need to say much about this one. Again, I will read you the description. This description is why the eight pack was bought for me, I think. This is amazing. “A vampire named Morella feasts upon her strip club clientele while housing her ex-lover Marvin part human/part reptile in a bird cage.” Run out and get it. It is so much worse than it sounds.

6. Children of the Corn III Urban Harvest: This franchise will not die. After this movie, it maybe should have. The secretary of Bad Movie Inc. has the job of researching every movie we watch. He said that in 2017, they are coming out with Children of the Corn IX. Can’t wait to have them all.
5. Sorrow Creek: Not really sure what happens in this movie. Cursed town kills a bunch of college students. Lots of really bad acting. Lots of really great fun. If you are seeking an action-packed movie, just don’t. The bulk of the movie takes place in a house, and the murders take place outside. There is a really cool thing that happens to the car, though. That part is kind of creepy. Check it out. It’s terrible.

4. The Dead Sleep: Maybe you shouldn’t watch this one. I don't know. I bought it this summer. It’s October and I have already watched it five times. Each time, I think, “This is the time I’m going to rip my eyes out.” But I never do. The daughter is not a bad actor. Thirty-six of the fifty lines that the wife is given are just saying the husband’s name over and over. It is so worth the watch. Settle in for a great movie. Bring a book.

3. Troll II: This is actually a cult classic. If you are talking about bad movies, you have to say this name. It is about goblins. There is not a troll in the entire movie. Look for the character Creedence. She is marvelous. This movie is not for vegetarians. Chris, the President of Bad Movie Inc., is a vegetarian. Evidently, they are monsters. And by the way, coffee is the devil’s drink, stick to milk.

2. Meridian: This movie is so bad that I am pretty sure Secretary Matt stole it so he would never have to watch it again. It is right now under his mattress, or buried in his yard. He may have melted it down into a smaller chunk so he could flush it. When I said we were going to get it and watch it a second time, he yelled “No!” This is the guy who brought Troll 2 to the group. Muscle through it and get to the end. It will have you scratching your head, and wishing cameras hadn’t been invented.

1. Redneck Carnage: Without a doubt, the best movie on the list. I have seen this movie ten times. It was filmed by Count Zee. I went to high school with this guy. He wrote, directed, produced, edited, and did the catering for this film, I think. He is a genius. When he made this movie, he was trying to make a cheesy horror movie. He knew what he had, and he knew what he was making.

Good luck with this list. I hope you have as much fun with it as I did, and maybe you can find a group of people like Bad Movie Inc. to enjoy them with.

Chaste: A Tale from Perilisc
by Jesse Teller

When her devout parents died, Cheryl turned her back on her god. Years of denial and self-loathing have defeated her. Her life consists of taking orders and succumbing to abuse. A group of strangers stops in Chaste for the night, but an unnamed threat is preying on the town. Tragic deaths have become more and more frequent. Cheryl wants to protect these travelers, expose the evil force, and save her fellow citizens, but she must find a way to believe in hope.

Buy Chaste now from Amazon




Sunday 16 October 2016

Tau Ceti Mission - 04.08.2647 - Awake Again

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Seb reports in after a 200 years long sleep, and the Venti probe isn't in good shape:

Book Review - The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

I found this book to be a bit of a mixed bag. The world it's set in is well thought out, and is well realised. It's a dystopian future with large corporations running most of the food (and other) production. The Kingdom of Thailand is different, trying to balance what it can gain from these corporations, while also trying to maintain their independence. The setting provides a lot of colour, and for me was the best aspect of the book.

The plot is one of political intrigue, some moves with guile, others with violence. This felt a bit muddled to me, and the ending in particular felt too abrupt. There's a number of threads which weave between each other, and while many were resolved, overall I was unsatisfied with the conclusion. It's a very bleak world, and the plot follows that theme.

The story was adequately supported by its cast. There's a good breadth of people, each are well realised and contribute something different to the story. They also reflect the dark nature of the setting, and for the most part aren't very likeable. If you're easily offended by sex scenes then you might want to give this a miss - as with the rest of the book, it's pretty brutal.

The writing itself is good, combined with the rich setting did enough to keep me reading. However it felt lacking by the end. An interesting read, but not quite enough to recommend.

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

Click here to buy The Windup Girl from Amazon

Saturday 15 October 2016

Five to Five Thousand Challenge - Neal Asher

This week's Five to Five Thousand Challenge comes from  Neal Asher, one of the UK's leading science fiction authors. See what he thinks the future will hold for us below:


The next 5 years

Computers will of course get faster and memory storage smaller, but you don’t have to be an SF writer to know that. Self-drive cars will become more prevalent, but what will slow that innovation is not the technology capable of doing this, but its durability and reliability as regards the legal ramifications. A hardware or software failure is not such a problem on your desk as it would be while driving through a crowded city or doing 70 down a motorway. More people will be recording the tedium of their lives to the social media via wearable cams and drones – I so look forward to that. And commercial space flight will take more baby steps. In all I see nothing ground-breaking, just the steady advance of technological change, and more toys for Joe Normal.

The next 50 years

Wheelchairs will be museum items. It will now be possible to reconnect spinal nerves either by re-growing them or with hardware implants. Prosthetics will be as good as if not better than the lost limb or eye. The possibility will be there for lens replacements to have computer displays, telescopic vision, night vision and other visual enhancements. Prosthetic limbs will have all feedback senses – touch, temperature etc. The impact of meta-materials will be evident in thousands of different ways: power storage will have advanced considerably perhaps giving home owners energy independence, energy generation will be implicit in every technology – anywhere there is movement, light or temperature changes. Self-cleaning paints, frictionless screens and windows, knives that stay sharp … thousands of small things that will in total change the way people live. Every home will have a 3D printer and bespoke items will be common either from them or from small 3D printing factories.
By now I expect the commercial development of near space, maybe a privately owned space station and some zero-gravity manufacturing. Perhaps something called the Musk foundation will still be working towards establishing a base on Mars. Quite possibly we’ll have the start of a Moon base, though maybe not commercial.

The first fusion reactor will come online – a costly white elephant that holds great promise for the future, always the future. Meanwhile the numerous other forms of energy generation and storage will be supplanting the initial need. However, demand will keep on growing.

Life spans will be on average 20 years longer. Most cancers that killed 50 years ago will be either curable or manageable, but this will have revealed a whole host of other maladies. Just as curing tuberculosis and other diseases a 100 years ago revealed cancer as a prime killer. Inroads will have been made into dementia, senility … both biologically and by implants. This same implant technology will be impacting in the computer world, with people using the first forms/stages of a mental modem (or aug!).

Artificial intelligence will be much in use for controlling many aspects of our lives, and still a debate will rage about what exactly it is. It will impinge on the professional world with the first AI lawyers being onine by the end of this 50 years. Robots will be common both across all manufacturing, in hospitals, in the military, but still no more than toys to the general public. Our entire socio-political system will be undergoing a radical change. Old definitions of right and left will be sliding into irrelevance, while whether Earth’s regime becomes something horribly totalitarian is … unknown.    
The next 500 years

Hotels and factories will crowd Earth orbit. Colonies will be established both on the Moon and Mars and on the Jovian moons. Fusion will be a workable reality, while massive solar arrays also capture energy from the sun and transmit it to Earth and elsewhere. Probes sent from Earth will be reaching the near stars, while conversations have been started with extra-terrestrial intelligences. The human lifespan will be potentially infinite – the human body being repairable in every way down to the genetic level. However accident and mischance will remain. Prosthetics will be available for every organ. Transference of the human mind into some other substrate will be a reality – you can have your Golem body, or just lose yourself forever in a virtual reality. Humanoid robots will be common and indistinguishable from base-format humans, and still the debate will rage about what exactly AI is. Somebody will be experimenting with an Alcubierre Drive or similar.  

The next 5,000 years

The human race will be unrecognisable to us now. Old debates about what artificial intelligence might be will have changed. The question now will be about what it is to be human. To separate a ‘human’ from its technology will be impossible. There are ‘humans’ now who are thousands of years old. The Solar System will be fully colonized, busy with ships, while space elevators transit from the surface of Earth, and Mars, to near orbit. The terraforming of Mars will have reached an intermediate stage, but no further action taken since it is easier to adjust humans to live in any environment, rather than change the environment itself. Humans will swim in the subterranean sea of Europa and fly in the upper gas clouds of Jupiter. Missions to the near stars will have arrived and data on alien life will be arriving all the time, some incorporated into virtual realities, some actually created in massive biomes scattered throughout the Solar System. Someone will be considering how to link up the giant solar capture plants into something more permanent, and there will be talk of an old idea by a scientist called Dyson. Someone else, working in data archaeology, will have found this, and be laughing fit to burst.

About Neal Asher

Neal Asher lives sometimes in England, sometimes in Crete and often at a keyboard. Having over twenty books published he has been accused of overproduction (despite spending far too much time ranting on the internet, walking and kayaking, and drinking too much wine) but doesn’t intend to slow down just yet. 

On the cusp of a black hole, the future of the Polity hangs in the balance. Several forces are now pursuing the rogue AI Penny Royal, and the Brockle is the most dangerous of all. This criminal swarm-robot AI has escaped its confinement and is upgrading itself, becoming ever more powerful in anticipation of a deadly showdown. Events escalate aboard Factory Station Room 101, the war factory that birthed Penny Royal. Here, humans, alien prador, and an assassin drone struggle to survive amidst insane AIs and technology gone wild. The situation is further complicated by the unexpected arrival of the Weaver. The Weaver is the last of the Atheter, resurrected from a race that suicided two million years ago. But why would Penny Royal want an Atheter here? And what could it contribute to the dark AI's plans? And beyond the war factory, a black hole conceals a tantalising secret - one that could destroy the entire Polity. Infinity Engine is the third and final novel in the Transformation series, by bestselling science fiction author Neal Asher, following Dark Intelligence and War Factory.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Magic Owl Collection - Reach for the Stars T-shirt

Reach for the stars and see who you find with this t-shirt from the Magic Owl Collection.

Original artwork by Katie W. Stewart.

The t-shirt is available in black or white, and in children's sizes Small to XL, Ladies size's Small to XXL, and Men's sizes small to XXXL.

Old Ones Productions - Cthulhu Chess T-Shirt

Insanity is your opening move with this Cthulhu chess set t-shirt.

Available in unisex sizes small to XXXL.

Original artwork by Luciana Nedelea.

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Magic Owl Collection - Keep on Flying Mug

A brew is just the thing to keep on flying with this mug from the Magic Owl Collection.

Original artwork by Katie W. Stewart.

Book Review - Proxima by Stephen Baxter

This is some damn fine science fiction. It ticked all the right boxes for me for what I consider to make essential sci-fi reading. So much so that it's one of those reviews where I get to list all the good things, without having to worry about the negative. A rare please :-)

For me science fiction is at it's best when tackling big questions, or for tight character led stories, and we are fortunate in having both here. There are a few big issues being tackled here, such as how humanity tackles resource scarcity post significant climate change. It looks at how we expand into the Solar System, from a practical, and from political perspectives. And perhaps the main one is how we explore, and then colonise another star system.

In answering these challenges with well researched consequence the author builds a believable world encompassing humanity's future. Although the binary nature of the politics does lack the nuance you'd expect for such events. Beyond that he constructs an alien world that is plausible and fascinating. The alien ecology is drawn with respectable detail and I loved the main life forms of the builders. They struck me as a novel creation, and one that managed to feel alien, as well as understandable.

There's a strong blend of characters here, including human and AI. For the human characters Yuri really stood out for me. He possessed a practicality, but also a sense of being out of his own time that appealed to me. Even better are the various AI characters, they each had their own characteristics that demonstrated being of a different order of intelligence, and personality, but also differentiated between each other. In particular the robot companion added some feeling to the colonisation threads.

Set against all this is a somewhat esoteric mystery relating to a discovered energy source, and some trapdoors. The applications of these are explored, but their meaning is only hinted at in this book. I've already bought the next book in the hopes of finding out more!

The very far future: The galaxy is a drifting wreck of black holes, neutron stars, and chill white dwarfs. The age of star formation is long past. Yet there is life here, feeding off the energies of the stellar remnants, and there is mind, a tremendous galaxy-spanning intelligence each of whose thoughts lasts a hundred thousand years. And this mind cradles memories of a long-gone age when a more compact universe was full of light... The 27th century: Proxima Centauri, an undistinguished red dwarf star, is the nearest star to our sun. How would it be to live on such a world?

Click here to buy Proxima from Amazon