Eek! I’ve been so busy zooming around on publicity missions that I forgot to post anything here about Black Light Express, which was officially published in the UK on 6th October. It’s the first sequel to Railhead, and was tricky to write. In addition to the first book’s vast interstellar network of railway stations inhabited by a diverse bunch of human beings, artificial intelligences and sentient insects, Zen and Nova have discovered a way onto another network, still more vast, inhabited by… well, read Black Light Express and find out! Not only that, but the events of Railhead have led to all kinds of upheavals in the Network Empire. Threnody finds herself Empress – but for how long? Not all the god-like Guardians think Empress Threnody is a good idea, and out on their icy branch-line worlds the Prell family are plotting plots and scheming schemes. Meanwhile, Chandni Hansa, a character so minor that in Railhead she was only seen through the lid of a freezer in a cryogenic prison, has surprised me by waking up and demanding a part in the story for herself…
Black Light Express is published in the UK by Oxford University Press, and available from all good bookshops.
Official publication day is 6th October, but copies of Black Light Express are already being sighted in the wild here in the UK. Here’s the cover, designed by Jo Cameron and Holly Fulbrook at Oxford University Press, using some of the artwork Ian McQue did to mark the publication of the first book.
Black Light Express is the sequel to Railhead, and it picks up pretty much where the first book left off, with Zen and Nova discovering that the interstellar railway known as the Great Network, which has allowed human civilisation to expand across hundreds of different worlds, is actually far bigger and stranger than they had been led to believe. It follows them on their journeys to strange alien stations, and also focuses on some of the characters they left behind, as the events of the first book lead to a power struggle in the Network Empire. There are new characters, too. Chandni Hansa, who was only a name in Railhead (she helped Raven with his plans and was deep-frozen in a cryogenic prison for her troubles) surprised me by being defrosted and becoming one of the protagonists in this story. There are also new trains, new planets, fresh trouble with the almost all-powerful Guardians, and some very heavily armed dinosaurs. I’ll be writing more about it here over the next few weeks, but here’s an early review from Reading Zone.
And if you haven’t read Railhead yet, the paperback is out now too, and also wrapped in lovely Ian McQue-ness…
I’m just back from a World Tour of Suffolk and Norfolk, in which I talked about Railhead to pupils at Culford School in Bury St Edmunds, the City of Norwich School, and Reepham High School. I was also part of the Norfolk Children’s Book Festival, organised by the Norwich School and held in Norwich’s beautiful cathedral. Here are me and fellow author Ruth Eastham signing books in a windy cloister. (We had so many to sign that I didn’t have time to say more than a quick hello to the great Jonathan Stroud, who took this photo).
The books I’m signing are the new UK paperback edition of RAILHEAD, which Oxford University Press made sure was available for these gigs. It should be in the shops by now, too. It’s one of those rare occasions where the paperback looks just as good as the hardback, if not better. It still has the title printed on the page-edges, and designer Jo Cameron and her colleagues at OUP have used Ian McQue’s artwork on the front, while his pictures of Zen and a Hive Monk are featured on the insides of the front and back covers.
So if you haven’t read RAILHEAD yet and you’d like to, hurry to your nearest bookshop! (Or just buy it online.) Recommended price is £6.99.
Finally, HUGE thanks to Lynn, Tom, Marilyn, Matt, and Minty from the Norfolk Children’s Book Centre, who drove me around, organised book sales, and provided tea and cake. If you find yourself in Norfolk, you should seek out their fascinating shop.