Oooh shiny!Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is available online for free! It’s for a limited time only, so hurry if you want to download it or read it online. USA Today describes it as “Delightful…Inventively horrific…[It] draws equally from George Lucas, Monty Python, Doctor Who, and John Milton… The chimerical stuff of nightmare and daydream.” I love it. Croup and Vandemar are such memorable villains, and the world of London Below is fascinating. The only thing I don’t like about it is that I get a bit tired of reading in books like this by English writers how wonderful London is. Don’t get me wrong, it is an interesting place, but there are other cities which are just as full of quirky little bits of history and narrative possibilities and it would be nice to hear about some of them for a change.

Gaiman’s new novel, The Graveyard Book comes out next Tuesday. Apparently it’s a homage to The Jungle Book, which appeals to me since I loved Kipling as a child. I’m also a major Gaiman fan, having devoured the Sandman series and his novels. It’s a wonder I get any writing done at all when there are so many good books in the world to read.

Since I posted about buying Nylon Angel by Marrianne de Pierres, I may as well follow up with a short review of it. It’s a cyberpunk novel, which as far as I know has no connection whatsoever with the foot fetish website, which I found by accident when googling the book. It is set in Australia in the near(ish) future. The main character, Parrish Plessis, works as a bodyguard in ‘The Tert’, a rough area on the outskirts of a city called Viva on the East coast. She is just trying to survive and keep “her own patch of poison”, but when a journalist named Razz Retribution is murdered, Parrish becomes embroiled in a turf war between rival gang lords. In her desire to join the elusive group known as the Cabal Coomera and escape her controlling, abusive employer, she has to deal not only with ordinary violence, but also strange, possibly supernatural events, or “spirit stuff”.

It makes a nice change to read some genre fiction set in Australia. Personally I don’t think there’s enough of it out there as yet, and I plan to be part of the solution if I can persuade some publishers to take on some more of my own stories.

Nylon Angel is fast- paced and exciting. It is full of well-choreographed action scenes, including the mandatory motorcycle chase. Parrish’s voice, in particular the slang terms she uses, takes a bit of getting used to, but after a couple of chapters I was immersed enough in her world to make sense of it for the most part. De Pierres avoids making her heroine too perfect to be believable. Parrish is scarred, both physically and emotionally, by her past, and, cool and sexy though she is, she frequently makes mistakes, making her easier for the reader to relate to.

This is not a comment on the writing itself, but the character on the cover doesn’t look at all the way I pictured Parrish from the description in the book. She doesn’t have Parrish’s dreadlocks, or the practical but less sexy touches like her miner’s headlamp. I suppose the publishers must have decided that all cyberpunk heroines should look like a generic version of Trinity from The Matrix.

Aside from the setting, Nylon Angel is not particularly original, but it is a good example of what it is, ie. an easy-to-read cyberpunk adventure. It’s also a real page-turner. I let two cups of tea go cold finishing the last few chapters. I will definitely pick up the next book in the series. I also may check out the role playing game based on the novel.

This week I’m spending some time at Gen Con. It’s high time we had another big convention in Brisvegas. Yesterday I went to some very interesting panel discussions about writing with Ian Irvine, Sean Williams and Marianne de Pierres.

I haven’t read anything by Ian Irvine or Marianne de Pierres before, but I’ve just picked up a copy of Nylon Angel, the first of her Parrish Plessis cyberpunk series, which is now teetering at the top of the enormous pile of soon-to-be-read books on my bedside table.

I’ve been a fan of Sean Williams for some years now, so it was exciting to meet him, and I found his ‘ten and a half commandments for writing’ very helpful. This morning I’ve been poking about on his website and found this, which also looks useful. By the way, is it just me, or does he look a bit like Simon Pegg?

I’m feeling very inspired right now. There will be some more short stories coming soon…