We Know Where We’re Goin

Here’s a short excerpt from the beginning of my story We Know Where We’re Goin, which appears in the new anthology End of the Road, edited by Jonathan Oliver, from Solaris Books.

Photo: @thesolitarybee
From the camp at Frunt End I liked ter look back sumtimes the way we’d come, an see the Road stretchin away from me down into the low lands. Strate as a measurin stick it lay across the ruffness and muddle o them wild places. But instead o feet an inches it was marked with my ‘memberins, and the graves an birthin places o my family. 

I could ‘member back to when I was just a bitty girl an we was pushin the Road thru kindly country, along a wide valley with woods an green hills on eyther side an a river windin down its middle like a silvry snake. There was plenty o time in them days fer me an the other kids ter lark an laze along them shady river banks while the growed-ups discuxed how best ter get the Road across, an the smiths an carpinters got busy buildin the bridges that was goin ter carry it. 

But that was all so long back that I could scarcely see that green valley now from up at Frunt End; jus the far twistins o that river sumtimes, shinin faintly thru blue distance an white ruffs o mist.  Past few years we’d bin climbin agin, up stony steeps where nort but black pines grew, towards high mountins that walled off the sky.  The huntin parties had ter go long miles ter gather all the food we needid, an there was scarce enough forage fer the piggs nor grazin fer the cattle nor timber fer makin the gas to fuel our trucks an diggas. The goin was so bad the Road had ter be laid in zig-zags some places, tho each ziggin an zaggin section of it was still strate as a ruler, so Foreman Skrevening sed it did not deviate from Rightchus Strateness…  
End of the Road also features stories by Lavie Tidhar, S.L. Grey, Ian Whates, Jay Caselberg, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Zen Cho, Sophia McDougall, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Anil Menon, Rio Youers, Vandana Singh, Paul Meloy, Adam Nevill and Helen Marshall. 
It’s available from all good booksellers, or as a digital download here.

The Library of Birmingham and the End of the Road

The last stop on my busy long weekend, after the YLG conference and BristolCon, was back in Birmingham, where they have a fantastic new library, known in the children’s book world as ‘McIntyre’s Hatbox’…

It’s an amazing building, and when I was there on Monday, it was packed with people. Since this is Half Term week the library has been running a Young Readers Festival, which was why I’d been invited along to talk about me life ‘n’ works. I was expecting an audience of teenagers, but of course teenagers come with younger brothers and sisters and parents who happened to be passing saw something was going on and brought their children in, so I ended up with quite a lot of tiny listeners. It seemed to go all right, though: I talked about Mortal Engines, Goblins, Murderous Maths and Horrible Histories, and mentioned Oliver and the Seawigs too.  Then some book signing, and back on the train to Devon.

Photos by @LibraryofBham

It’s been a very busy month, what with one event and another, so I’ve decided that I won’t be going to the World Fantasy Convention which is happening this week in Brighton. It’s a pity, since I signed up for it years ago when it was first announced, but I need some time at home, and I’m writing for a younger audience nowadays, who probably won’t be much in evidence at WFC. Still, if you are there, I hope you have a wonderful time. Look out for Anderida Books in the dealers’ room – they may have some signed editions of my stuff, and lots of other goodies too.

Also, Solaris Books will be launching their new anthology The End of the Road, a collection of weird and wonderful short stories linked by the theme of roads. One of them is my own effort, We Know Where We’re Goin, a coming-of-age story set in a ramshackle society devoted to the building of a long, straight road. It also has a wonderful, black-and-white cover…

Macaque Attack!

Like Gareth L Powell’s previous novel, The Recollection, Ack Ack Macaque is a brisk, entertaining read that fizzes with wild ideas.  Unlike The Recollection, it’s completely bonkers…
The titular primate flies a Spitfire and fights Nazi ninjas in a demented virtual reality game version of World War 2, just as he did in the short story of the same name, which originally appeared in Interzone in 2007 (and was voted ‘story of the year’ by that magazine’s readers). You can also find it in the collection of stories called The Last Reef.
In the story, the players and designers of the Ack Ack Macaque game seemed to live in the future of our world, but the novel is set in the year 2053 in a parallel one, where Britain and France joined forces in 1953 to form a ‘European Commonwealth’ under the British monarchy. It’s just as implausible as setting as the never-ending dogfights and zeppelin raids inside the game (and I fear it may scupper any hope of selling French translation rights) but it is entertainingly fleshed out and makes an interestingly off-kilter backdrop for this ripping yarn about murder, mayhem and monkeys.  
Most writers would consider that a fighter ace macaque and a parallel reality would be enough big ideas for one book, but Gareth L Powell obviously has big ideas to spare, and garnishes his endlessly twisting thriller plot with brain-stealing serial killers, virtual worlds, attempted coups, cyborgs, the launch of a Mars probe, personality swaps, looming nuclear war, and giant airships which function as independent city-states.  Everyone talks in boiler-plated action movie clichés, and it builds towards a climactic showdown with an evil megalomaniac in the best James Bond tradition.   (And all this, mind, in a book that doesn’t run much over 300 pages…) It could all be quite exhausting, but it’s done with such obvious enthusiasm that it’s impossible not to be carried along by it.
As usual in Gareth L Powell’s work, romantic love is an important theme – there are two love stories in this book, one between student activist Julie and prince-on-the-run Merovech, the other between Victoria Valois and her estranged and now sort-of-dead husband Paul – but all the human actors are pushed slightly out of the limelight by the irrepressible figure of Ack Ack Macaque himself, the gun-toting, cigar-chomping monkey who escapes from his virtual world early on and goes on to steal all the book’s major scenes.  
He also seems to have escaped into our world now. He has his own Twitter account, and an Ack Ack Macaque prequel drawn by Nick Dyer will appear in the next issue of  2000AD comic (available from 12th December at UK newsagents, or in digital form here). It will be interesting to see where he goes next…
Ack Ack Macaque will be published by Solaris Books in January 2013 (but December 2012 in the U.S and Canada). You can find out more on Gareth’s website.