I’ve a few more Death Ray articles left to put up here, really a bare handful. Here’s one of the last, a review of Charlie Higson’s really rather good zombie book, The Enemy.


Charlie Higson

Ex-Fastshow member leaves behind the antics of young James Bond, sets out to frighten children with thrilling zombie horror, mostly succeeds.

Like a lot of modern zombies, those in The Enemy are not dead, but diseased, like those in 28 Days Later and such. But where the adult protagonists of such fiction have to deal with the collapse of their world, the loss of their loved ones and the end of conveniently sited coffee shops, the kids in the enemy have to cope with their parents trying to eat them. It’s a hugely effective way of scaring the doo-doo right out of young-ish backsides, we expect more than a few nightmares as the result of this one.

The book, the first of a new series for the Young James Bond scribe, begins in Waitrose, where a gang of kids are struggling to survive some time after a mysterious plague killed most of the adults and turned the remainder into monsters. Led by the weary but capable teen Arran and his deputy Maxie, the gang decide to team up with the local Morrison’s kids to trek to Buckingham Palace after a messenger arrives from there, promising them an earthly paradise. Naturally, the journey is hard, and the new lad hasn’t exactly been telling the truth.

There’s enough action and scares in The Enemy to keep even the most jaded teen horror fan enthralled, while Higson writes with practised ease, moving his cast from one peril to the next, from massed adult attacks to an assault by diseased chimpanzees, finally to the rising of a zombie army under the command of a football fan whose mind is less rotted than most. If Death Ray were a more conservative publication, we’d no doubt be outraged by the book’s violence, but we were weaned on this stuff, and here it serves a purpose: despite some mildly wanton behaviour on the part of the children (smashing things up, rampant graffiti) it actually portrays youngsters in a very positive light. These are kids who band together to survive, who protect one another, sacrifice themselves for each other and are trying to build a new world from the ashes of the old, uncertain if they’re going to live another day, or if they’ll remain uninfected once they too become adult even if they dos. It’s a mirror image of Lord of the Flies, a blood smeared one, but it holds a kinder reflection of children; Higson’s kids are responsible and brave (he pointedly has one character talk about the rougher kids effectively wiping themselves out by acting like savages).

It’s perfect for teens, reminding us of the Tower King, a similar tale told in the 1980’s relaunch of Eagle, but it is way too scary for smaller children, the idea of powerlessness in the face of adult strength (though more than one overcomes this) or that of your parents turning on you is the kind that doles out long-lasting shivers with abandon – these are close to home horrors.

And it is, under its talk of Waitrose and Morrison’s kids banding together, a trifle middle-class, a little bit 70s Survivors, perhaps. Groups of nasty, bad children would remain, though his point that those who co-operated would perhaps fare better is a valid one, ne’er do wells would survive through raiding the better organised brainboxes we’d say (room for this in sequels, not doubt).

Higson does a good job, in the main, of rooting the story in the real world (he walked the route the children take, and London is meticulously described) but here and there its fantasy gets a bit out of hand and undermines the effect – a troglodytic, uninfected adult succumbing, vampire like, to the sun, and the idea that everyone over the age of fourteen becomes ill is rather specific when physical development differs from individual to individual This is a book for bright kids, and bright kids will spot that. Minor flaws, though. A gripping, and, peculiarly, uplifting, read.

I probably take more pictures of natural sights in autumn at any other time. We have some exciting weather around Hebden Bridge during the season, with conditions that range from the summery to the wintery and everything in between. It is often stormy. Provided I’m dressed appropriately, there’s little I find more invigorating than being on my own in the middle of nowhere, being blasted by freezing wind and rain. That I enjoy it is fortunate, because by any sane man’s definition Yorkshire’s climate is awful.

Here are a few pictures of weathery stuff, and a bonus deer.


Season’s first snow, Saturday 21st November, 2015.


Leaves stacked like Pringles by flooding, Friday 20th November, 2015.


The River Calder in full spate. The usual level is two metres lower than this. The picture was taken from my kitchen window. Luckily, it never floods where we live. Monday, 9th November 2015.


Roe stag against the sky. Now the leaves have fallen, it’s much easier to spot deer. Shortly before I saw this, Magnus and I started a group of three, and saw another trio some way off down the hill. Friday 20th November, 2015.

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The Emperor’s Railroad cover reveal

Posted: November 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

Barnes and Noble’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog have an exclusive reveal of the cover for my upcoming Tor.com novella, The Emperor’s Railroad. Exclusive until now, that is, because I pinched it to show you. Hehehehe.


That there’s Quinn, a vagabond knight in a post-apocalyptic America 1,000 years from now overrun by zombies, ancient machines and strange beasts. In coming months there’ll be plenty more about this new world of mine coming down the line (look! A railway metaphor). Until then, follow the link to the B&N blog for a generous excerpt

The Emperor’s Railroad will be released on April 16th, 2016, at Tor.com.

81FWmsjEISL._SL1500_Champion of Mars, still 99p/$1.53 on Kindle


The futility of childhood in the face of the sea

Posted: November 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


Earlier this year I returned with my son to the campsite of my childhood holidays. As an early teen it was a haven of peace for me. There I did a great deal of formative thinking staring at the sea, so it is an important place I wished to share.

The bay, Hell’s Mouth, represented a closing in of the world as much as a broadening, and this sense intensified upon my return. Now I can accurately gauge how big the beach is, I know exactly where it is in relation to everywhere else. I understand how it was formed, from what, and when. On learned knowledge I overlay my own experience. The same man runs it, many decades older, now ancient. The campsite is dirtier, the beach cleaner. Like my own potential, it is all so much smaller, and yet the sea remains seemingly boundless, and the sound of the surf pounding the sand still awakens an atavistic yearning for something I have not identified and probably never will. Read the rest of this entry »

Shining a light on the Pharos

Posted: November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


The artwork for Pharos was painted by the very talented Neil Roberts. I need to get this framed for my wall!

Cripes, with headlines like that it’s no wonder I’m not a journalist any more.

I’ve had a few questions about Pharos. I’ve also seen posts online that I thought I’d comment on here. I can’t say much, but I’m going to say this:

Are there lots of Nightlords in Pharos, or a few?


Are they fighting just the Ultramarines or other legions too?

There are members of other legions present (like Polux. He’s on the cover!). It is the time of Imperium Secundus, after all.

Does it all take place on Sotha, or across Imperium Secundus?

Both (a contradictory statement. Read into that what you will).

Are there any primarchs in it?

Of course.

Will characters you’ve written about before appear, like Kellendvar and Kellenkir, or Lucretius Corvo?

Yes. I won’t say which, and I’m not saying anything about their stories.

So there you are! If you want to ask any questions, then fire away either here or on my Facebook Page. (Go on! Go and like it). The less specific they are, the more likely I am to be able to answer them.

81FWmsjEISL._SL1500_Champion of Mars, still 99p/$1.53 on Kindle

A Little Bit of Hobby: Crusader Warlord

Posted: November 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

IMG_3254You know I love my painting, right? It helps me unwind after writing and dealing with the small atomic whirlwind that is my son. When I relax I have to be doing something, I can’t just sit about. I have this deep fear that life is wasting. Painting models allows me to take the load of my feet and my brain. I’m still doing something creative, but it uses parts of the old grey matter entirely different to those I employ for hours a day in writing. It’s meditation with a stick in hand.

Time’s been tighter than a gnat’s bum recently, so I’ve not managed to get much done. I’ve been painting 1/72 scale models for Bolt Action, but my attention wanders easily, and last week it lit upon my Saga models. I play Saga at least every fortnight with my dad, so the figures deserve a lick of the old colourful, plastic-impregnated water. Grey plastic armies are dull.

This is a Crusader Warlord and attendant I painted for my dad. When I model warlords for Saga, I usually put hornblowers and standard bearers on the base, like with this Saxon. This helps the leaders stand out and justifies the whopping five attacks they get in the game.

I enjoy the reading and research associated with historical gaming. You’ll notice I’ve avoided the traditional white with red cross that crusaders are usually depicted as wearing as they didn’t often wear this. Instead we see the beginnings of medieval heraldry at this time. Likewise, many crusade games I see pictures of take place on a desert battlefield, whereas much of the Holy Land was and is fertile (it’s not called the land of milk and honey for nothing), so I’ve modelled the base with a light soil and plentiful grass.

I’m really, really fussy about what models I use. These Norman Knights by Conquest Games meet my pernickety standards. Their metal models are not to my liking, being too much on the bobble-headed side, but these plastics are well proportioned and sculpted. The equipment they have is perhaps a little old fashioned for the period and they’re not wearing the surcoats knights adopted when fighting in the east to keep the sun off their armour, but otherwise they’re eminently suitable, reasonably priced at £20 for a box of fifteen, and very nice to paint.

81FWmsjEISL._SL1500_Champion of Mars, still 99p/$1.53 on Kindle