Booktopia SF & Fantasy Buzz
October 2009 | Edition Five

Dear SF & Fantasy Readers,

What an incredible month October is for Science Fiction and Fantasy! There were some HUGE releases this month so listen close because you don't want to miss out:

The biggest news has to be the release of And Another Thing..., the sixth Hitchhiker's Guide book, written by Eoin Colfer. Anticipated with equal parts excitement and trepidation, we can now all finally read it for ourselves and make up our own minds.

There's a new Terry Pratchett to keep us all out of mischief for a little while and the stunning sequel to one of last years most explosive young adult novels, The Hunger Games. There are also some brilliant literary novels that cross over beautifully into Science Fiction and Fantasy and, in the wake of the Booker Prize announcement, I've delved into the vault to feature some Speculative Fiction novels that have been past winners or were shortlisted for the award.

This months crop of Australian SF and Fantasy is world class, as usual, with the new works from Sam Bowring and Karen Brooks worth particular attention. From overseas, Stephen Baxter's latest science fiction novel, Adrian Tchaikovsky's new fantasy epic and Scott Westerfeld's steam punk masterpiece are all highlights.

Don't miss your chance to WIN a complete set of the wonderful Gollancz Space Opera Series or to put your orders in for the impending release of The Gathering Storm, the first part of the concluding volume of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

And there are plenty more great surprises in this October newsletter, so get stuck in and, as always, every book mentioned is 20% off!

Happy Reading!

Richard Bilkey
SF & Fantasy Buzz
AND ANOTHER THING... by Eoin Colfer

Deep breaths everyone.

The announcement last year that Douglas Adams' widow, Jane Belson, had sanctioned a sixth instalment to the mega-cult classic Hitchhikers series, was met with a range of emotions by devotees across the world. From unbridled joy and Beeblebroxian confidence, to a more Arthur Dent-like cautious optimism, tinged with dread, and all the way through to pure, Marvinesque cynicism, even outrage. I mean, once-in-a-lifetime genius only comes around, well, once in a lifetime, doesn't it? Even the most fair minded fan has to admit that it would take the Heart of Gold's Infinite Improbability Drive itself to calculate the  probability of writing a sequel that does justice to the original series. And no one was more aware of the bistromathic complexities of the project than the author chosen for this suicide mission: Eoin Colfer.

Author of the bestselling Artemis Fowl series of young adult novels, Colfer was actually a very good choice. His own books overflow with a lively imagination and an energetic humour quite obviously inspired by his own early readings of Douglas Adams. Colfer himself admits to being "semi-outraged that anyone should be allowed to tamper with this incredible series" when he was asked to take on the job but the opportunity was too exciting to turn down (can you imagine passing that up?). He was determined that "this will be the best thing I have ever written" and on that measure, I have to agree - Eoin Colfer really has outdone himself on this one.

But no one's interested in a comparison between this book and Colfer's other writing. The big question is: How does it stack up against the greatest comic science fiction series of all time? And the answer is: remarkably well (you can let that deep breath out now). In fact, it far surpassed my own expectations and, while it goes without saying that this is not the book that Douglas himself would have written (though it is worth noting that he did plan to write a sixth volume), Eoin Colfer has managed to channel enough of Adam's distinctive style, humour and brilliance to ensure And Another Thing... is a recognisable and worthy addition to the series.

This was a giant balancing act that required Colfer to:

1: trust his own authorial instincts while respecting the characters and universe created by Adams
2: faithfully reproduce Adams' trademark prose without falling into lifeless mimicry, or worse, blatant sycophancy
3: perhaps most difficult of all, summon up a storyline from the inescapably apocalyptic conclusion of Mostly Harmless without decreasing the integrity of earlier adventures in any way.

Top marks for 1 and 2 - Colfer thoroughly deserves a round of Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters from all of us in recognition of a job well done. One reason for his success was his confidence to make the book his own, injecting his own wit and style. On number 3... well, that was a pretty tough assignment but I think he's done an admirable job here too. I don't think it will be giving too much away to reveal that the crew are saved (in the nick of time) from the second demolition of Earth by Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged - the accidentally immortal alien amusing himself for eternity by insulting every being in history.

So, the wait is over. And Another Thing... is here and all that's left is for you to do is make up your own mind. As they say down at the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation: Share and Enjoy!

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And Another Thing...
RRP: $39.95 Booktopia Price $31.95


Terry Pratchett's sparkling wit and extraordinary imagination have made him the master of the Comedy Fantasy genre for the last 25 years. His recent diagnosis of Alzheimers has meant that every new book is welcomed as possibly the last. But they are also publicly scrutinised for signs that he is losing his formidable talent. Well, there's nothing to see here folks. Unseen Academicals is Prachett at his sharp-witted best.

Ankh-Morpork is, of course, home to the best-fed, overly-rested, but undoubtedly most powerful wizards on the disc. However, a lucrative old bequeathment is in danger of being cut off, threatening to reduce their usual 9 square meals to a miserable 3, with a selection of only 3 cheeses for afters. Under the terms of the bequeathment the Wizards must regularly compete in a game of foot-the-ball, the loutish, uncivilised but not quite illegal sport of the streets, where the winners are usually the men still standing at the end of the match with more than half their usual allotment of fingers/ears/noses/kneecaps. It's been nearly twenty years since their last match and unless they enter a team before that anniversary the funding will lapse.

The ridiculously non-athletic wizards are unexpectedly aided by several young workers in the university, including Trev Likely, son of a famous footballer, Glenda Sugarbean, a wonderful cook, but terribly bossy, and the real hero, Mr Nutt, whose murky past looks almost as bleak as his future.

Pratchett has always juggled multiple themes in his books. Sometimes (as with some of his more recent books) the delivery of his main message is lost in the noise of so many other plots and side-issues. His best novels have managed to seamlessly weave the sub-plots, romances and character developments with the underlying satire, all of which have made his books so special. Happily, "Unseen Academicals" manages to integrate its myriad of sub-plots, detours and Pratchettisms into a brilliant parody of the old underdog sports cliché. It is paced brilliantly, and the climax is as evocative and powerful as anything Pratchett has written. You can feel the crowd, the noise, the tension and excitement.

All in all a return to form for Pratchett. Once again he has managed to provide something fresh and original, which after 37 Discworld books, is quite a feat in itself.

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Unseen Academicals
RRP: $49.95 Booktopia Price $39.95

CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins

The last thing I expected this year was to find a young adult series that affected me as strongly as Patrick Ness' incredible Chaos Walking books. And, more surprising still, was finding a yet another young adult series where the sequel managed to match, even surpass the brilliance of the original.

Catching Fire is the intense follow up to last year's word-of-mouth best seller The Hunger Games. Set in a far-future, dystopic America known as Panem, the series is narrated by teenage Katniss Everdeen, forced to fight for her life in an unforgiving and bloodthirsty post-apocalyptic version of Survivor. And, before you all start quoting books and movies based on the very same fight-to-the-death reality TV show plot, trust me when I say you've never seen a story like this one before.  

Panem is divided into 12 Districts, each responsible for a different industry and ruled over with absolute authority by the Capitol. The populations of the 12 Districts scratch a living on meagre rations while the citizens of the Capitol enjoy a pampered lifestyle of careless excess. On top of the brutal policing of the Districts, the Capitol suppresses thoughts of rebellion through the annual staging of the Hunger Games. Every year a boy and a girl are chosen by lottery from each district and pitched against each other in a televised death match with only one winner. The entertainment highlight of the year for the Capitol also serves as a yearly reminder to the serfs in the districts that they are powerless, even to protect their children from the might of the government. As you can see, the Hunger Games are much more than a simple set-up for an action story; Suzanne Collins has created a subtle and twisted political thriller that doesn't pull any punches.

Katniss lives in District 12, a coal mining town and one of the poorest regions in Panem. As there is obviously a sequel I don't think I'm giving too much away to say that Katniss is selected to enter the Hunger Games and manages to survive through Book 1. But the defiant manner of her survival has angered the government and lit a spark of rebellion in some of the other districts. But as a Hunger Games champion, Katniss is now a celebrity and the government must be cautious in the way they treat her or risk inciting a revolution. It is this political manoeuvring that is at the heart of Catching Fire and Collins draws it out beautifully, lifting the series up to another level as Katniss  begins to realise that her life is no longer her own, she has become a symbol for something far greater.  

Catching Fire not only extends upon the political aspects of The Hunger Games, it also throws Katniss' personal life into even greater turmoil. Katniss is a tough and resourceful girl, with a ruthlessness practicality born from years of hunting for her mother and sister. But, like most teenagers, the affairs of the heart are a painful confusion to her. Unlike most teenagers, however, her personal relationships have become highly politicised and even if she was able to interpret her own feelings, she no longer has the luxury of choosing for herself.

The Hunger Games' unrelenting brutality in the arena, placed so startlingly against the wilful ignorance and casual indifference of the Capitol, had such an impact on me that  it was hard to imagine how Suzanne Collins could maintain the intensity in Catching Fire. She has not only matched it but taken it to a new level. This is not only young adult writing at its very strongest but some of the most compelling speculative fiction in years. A must read.

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Catching Fire
RRP: $18.99 Booktopia Price $15.50

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The Hunger Games
RRP: $17.99 Booktopia Price $14.50

Science Fiction and Fantasy have been marginalised over the last few decades, excluded from the realms of "high literature" in the minds of many readers and critics. In a recent article for New Scientist, entitled Science fiction: The stories of now, Californian SF author Kim Stanley Robinson accused the Booker Prize judges, and the literary establishment as a whole, of ignoring some of the most important, socially relevant novels of our time simply because their speculative settings or technological themes pigeon-hole them into the unfashionable genre of science fiction. He goes on to list some potential Booker Prize winners from the ranks of British SF that were never even considered because of this genre bias (check out Science Fiction and the Booker Prize in the side panel for more info).
Personally, I am forever frustrated by people who stubbornly assert that they never read Science Fiction and then, in their next breath, claim Nineteen Eighty Four, Brave New World or The Handmaid's Tale in their list of favourite books. Obviously science fiction and fantasy have an image problem; not only are some of the best new works being ignored, those that do become critical successes are dissociated from the genre, increasing the perception that it is a lower form of literature. 

Much of the problem lies in the arbitrary nature of genre classification in the first place and we have seen the growing us of the term "speculative fiction" to try to avoid the stigma of an unfashionable genre. I don't see why we shouldn't be trying to revive the literary reputation of these genres in their own right, however. So this month I want to draw attention to some wonderful new books that will deservedly receive a lot of critical attention without necessarily being recognised for what they truly are: literary science fiction and fantasy.

Andrew McGahan

In Wonders of a Godless World
former Miles Franklin winner Andrew McGahan has essentially written a fable, albeit a fable of  planetary scope and  awe-inspiring grandeur. At the heart of this expansive novel lies a beguilingly simple message: life is all the more precious because it is brief. 
It is not an original theme by any means: the contemplation of our own mortality has ever been a central concern of literature, from Achilles to Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged. From the sublime poetry of John Keats to our popular fascination with vampires, our need to accept that one day we will die has always preoccupied our imagination. It is a theme that is particularly well served, however, by the special ability of science fiction and fantasy to explore the possibility of life without death.

Tolkein's Numenorean Kings saw their longevity decrease as successive generations clung ever more desperately to life. Kim Stanley Robinson's Martian colonisers found that the gerontological treatments that prolonged their bodily lives were unable to protect their identities against inevitable memory loss. Wonders of a Godless World, unfolding within the walls of an insane asylum, charts the  dehumanising effect of immortality with exquisite precision. 

Set on a unnamed volcanic island Wonders of a Godless World is told from the perspective of the Orphan, retarded from birth and adopted by the hospital in which her mother died. She earns her keep by cleaning and doing odd jobs around the wards, spending much of her time amongst the island's benignly insane. The arrival of a comatose foreigner disrupts the relative peace of the hospital as the patients begin to react strangely to the foreigner's presence and the Orphan soon discovers she can communicate telepathically with the mysterious newcomer.

Leaving their physical bodies behind, the foreigner introduces the Orphan to the natural wonders of the world beyond her tiny island home and tells her his own incredible history. He also awakens the Orphan to her own extraordinary powers and encourages her to practice and develop them, despite the unintended consequences for their fellow residents.  

Delving deep into the earth sciences and beautifully exploring the seemingly miraculous connection between the planet and the life it sustains, Wonders of a Godless World is a heady, exhilarating story and a brilliant dissection of what makes us, and keeps us, human.

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Wonders of a Godless World
RRP: $32.99 Booktopia Price $26.39
  Margaret Atwood

I listed in my intro above the only novel in history to win both the Booker Prize and the Arthur C. Clarke Award: Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Yet even after receiving this dual honour, Atwood herself has claimed that her writing is not science fiction, a genre she once scornfully referred to as "talking squids in outer space". She prefers the more refined term 'speculative fiction' for her own work - a semantic distinction that she has since clarified and softened.

As Ursula Le Guin lamented in her recent review of The Year of the Flood, "She [Atwood] doesn't want the literary bigots to shove her into the literary ghetto." While Atwood has since conceded that some of her books could be considered science fiction, it's a shame that a five-time Booker shortlisted author would ever  feel the need to so carefully avoid classification in the genre.

Oryx and Crake (shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2003) was perhaps Atwood's most overtly science-fiction novel. A scathing satire on the perils of genetic engineering and unchecked corporate power, it predicted a dystopian future of ecological and societal collapse. The Year of the Flood revisits this bleak vision for our world and examines it from a slightly different angle. 

Familiarisation with Oryx and Crake will certainly help you get your bearings more quickly and is certainly recommended but not required to fully appreciate this incredible novel. It is enough to know that it is set in the mid - late 21st Century in North America after a genetically engineered plague has wiped out most of humanity.
Oryx and Crake was primarily a satire, laying bare the political, moral and environmental consequences of current capitalistic and technological trends. It was the apocalyptic events themselves, and their disturbing plausibility, that Atwood was focussing on. The Year of the Flood zooms in to follow three female survivors of the 'Waterless Flood'; Ren, Toby and Amanda. The events themselves are less important in this novel than these three women and the way they respond to the devastation and lack of hope for their world.
In both the pornographic pre-plague society and its savage aftermath, strong relationships based on love and loyalty shine like beacons. For Ren, Toby and Amanda, it is all that is left and all the more beautiful because of it.
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The Year of the Flood
RRP: $45.00 Booktopia Price $36.00
Audrey Niffenegger

Six years after the release of Audrey Niffenegger's first novel, The Time Traveller's Wife, it is still on best-seller lists and is one of the most popular books for reading groups around the world.

It is usually classified as science fiction for its time travelling premise. Niffenegger uses 'chrono-displacement' as a metaphor for both the way two people can feel like they've known each other all their lives and also for the way a partner might disappear emotionally and mentally to dwell on stressful events in their past or concerns for their future.

In Her Fearful Symmetry Niffenegger once again turns to a speculative trope to serve as a relationship metaphor. This time she has written a ghost story. The ghost in question is Elspeth, an American rare book dealer living (no longer) in London, opposite the sprawling Highgate Cemetery. She has left everything to her nieces, Valentina and Julia, twin sisters and daughters of her own estranged twin. The only catch is that they have to live in her apartment for one year. But Elspeth's ghost is also tied to the apartment and as she grows in strength her motivations become more ominous.

Elspeth has also left behind her lover Robert, a PhD student writing a thesis on Highgate Cemetery. He helps the two nieces settle in and eventually falls in love with the 'nicer' sister, Valentina. But with the obsessive ghost of Elspeth haunting them all and the controlling force of Julia keeping Valentina from achieving her own independence, the blossoming affection between the two is trapped, like they are, in the apartment.

Downstairs Martin is also trapped. His agoraphobia and OCD have driven away his wife and left him alone in his apartment. His story of mental illness is perhaps the most compelling of them all and also shows us a more compassionate side to the dominating, selfish Julia, who finds herself compelled to help her neighbour.

With the majestic but brooding presence of Highgate Cemetery as the constant background and the truth about Elspeth's estrangement from her sister simmering beneath the surface, this is a rich and often disturbing novel about the fine line between obsession and love.

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Her Fearful Symmetry
RRP: $32.95 Booktopia Price $26.95
  Douglas Coupland

The title refers back immediately to Coupland's era-defining debut novel Generation X. Released in 1991, it became a rallying cry for an entire generation before, ironically, being taken over by the consumer branding and marketing that it had railed against.

Generation A is set in a near future belonging to the children of Generation X. Consumerism has hit its peak and social isolation is as global as online gaming. Addiction is coupled closely to the loneliness felt by the world's youth - addiction to food, drink, drugs, the internet, and any number of things offered in this age of mega-consumerism. And, like Prozac for Generation X, there is a chemical remedy ready to meet the demand; the drug Solon becomes wildly popular for its ability to relieve feelings of loneliness.  

On top of the social isolation and soulless consumerism, Generation A have another concern more acute problem than their Gen X parents had to deal with: environmental collapse. Coupland uses one particular, apparently innocuous event to stand for broader environmental degradation. Bees have gone extinct and with their passing comes a whole range of unconsidered impacts from the loss of honey to the loss of heroin (bees are needed to pollinate poppies).

Mirroring the structure of Generation X, Generation A follows five characters from different walks of life and, this time, different nationalities: Canada, the US, Sri Lanka, France and New Zealand. The five are all brought together after they are each miraculously stung by bees. Enjoying celebrity status for their unlikely moment of minor pain, everyone wants to know where the bees are and why were these five lucky people chosen to be stung?

For Coupland this is an opportunity to bring together his characters, shocked out of their hypnotic material existence by the bee stings, and have them exchange stories about their disenchanted lives. This format will be familiar to readers of Generation X and, while it doesn't quite work as naturally as it did in that book, the modern fables they share are hilarious, poignant and often surprisingly consoling.

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Generation A
RRP: $32.95 Booktopia Price $26.50
PROPHECY'S RUIN by Sam Bowring

Sam Bowring has already made a name for himself as a stand up comedian and comic writer for television. He has also previously released a very funny children's book called The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures. This new story, his first book for an adult audience, is not the comic fantasy you might expect from his résumé so far. Prophecy's Ruin is a dark, introspective fantasy with a lot of dramatic and psychological muscle. It is also very well balanced, with some excitingly choreographed action scenes, intelligently scripted politics, and a cast of refreshingly subtle characters.

The darkness vs light motif is ages old. For example, in last month's SF & Fantasy Buzz I reviewed a new book called Darkborn that played beautifully on the division between night and day to create a fascinating world of parallel societies. Prophecy's Ruin takes place in a world physically split into the light and the dark, in a geographical manifestation of a war between the gods themselves. Long ago the gods of the light and of darkness took sides against each other and broke the Great Well of Souls in two, forcing every living creature to move entirely into the sun-drenched kingdom of Kainordas or slink perpetually amongst the shadowlands of Fenvarrow. A long stalemate has been reached and the front line between the armies of Kainordas and Fenvarrow has remained relatively stable.

The heart of the story, and the truly interesting creation, is a young boy prophecised to end the war. His birth, in the last remaining neutral zone in the world, is discovered by both sides who quickly try to claim him as their own in the hope that he will end the war in their favour. Arriving together, however, the opposing mages battle over the boy and unintentionally rip the child's soul in two: his light side residing in one body, his dark side in another, new body. They retreat, each taking a child back to their homeland where the boys grow up into powerful but incomplete young men.

Bowring does a marvellous job fleshing out the parallel natures of the two boys as they grow, learning that they are one day destined to face each other and decide the fate of their world. This is far from a simple good versus evil story, exploring instead the dangers inherent in trying to reduce the world to such basic binaries. This is high class fantasy writing and an exciting new talent to follow. I can't wait for books 2 & 3.

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Prophecy's Ruin
RRP: $19.99 Booktopia Price $15.99


This is the first book of a planned duology called Fisherman's Children which follows on, some ten years later, from her debut series Kingmaker, Kingbreaker. That series followed the young mage Asher as he tried to make his way in a world divided along racial boundaries. Asher is an Olken, one of the dark haired natives of Lur who live as second class citizens in their own homeland beneath the blond haired immigrants, the Doranens. The two races are distinguished also by the magic they can perform and it is the Doranen's superiority in this field that they feel entitles them to higher status. Through the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series, however, Asher is revealed to be the most powerful Orken in history, capable also of wielding Doranen magic. One consequence of the events of the previous series was to break down the class system and raise Orkens to the same social status as the Doranens.

Now Asher and his wife Danthe have two children, a son Rafel and daughter Deenie, and The Prodigal Mage is their story. Like their father they both seem able to practise Orken and Doranen magic and there are high hopes for their futures. Rafel, in particular, is keen to make his mark and prove himself worthy of his parentage. From a young age he has wished to travel beyond the boundaries of Lur. Barl's Wall, the natural mountain barrier that enclosed and protected Lur from the outside world, fell in the Mage Wars of his father's time and expeditions are being sent to search for Lost Dorana. Rafel is determined to join them despite the danger.

The Prodigal Mage is not a book to jump into without first reading the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duet as all the best bits require good knowledge of the back story, especially the cliff-hanger ending. Even for those who are up to speed, this is a slower book, taking time to explore Rafel and Deenie's coming of age and instil them as the heroes in this story. The book is also largely a set up for the sequel and in this it does an amazing job.

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The Prodigal Mage
RRP: $22.99 Booktopia Price $18.50

by Karen Brooks

As an avid reader, this is the kind of book you always search for. That indefinably different story that spirits you away completely and immerses you in another life. You breathe foreign air when you open the pages. You speak in unlearned languages. And you feel the tug and flow of magic stirring inside of you.

Tallow transports you to a version of renaissance Venice, a city criss-crossed with canals and brought to vibrant life by Carnivàle. But it is a city trying to forget a magical history and stubbornly attempting to ignore the supernatural boundary known as the Limen that encloses it. The Estrattore, a race descended from the old gods themselves, possessed the ability to extract essences, emotions and thoughts, from anything they touch, and manipulate them. Once revered and widely consulted on all matters, the rise to power of the Church saw that reverence turn to suspicion and fear. Demonised and hunted down, a few survivors managed to escape into the forbidding Limen where they remain hidden.

A child is born in the Limen, however, and smuggled out into the city where it might be safe from evil powers that would see all Estrattore wiped out. Placed in the hands of a simple candlemaker named Pillar, the child grows up learning the trade. But as young Tallow reaches puberty things begin to go wrong. Tallow's candles begin to have strange effects on the people who use them. As Tallow's powers are revealed so does their danger of discovery and there are many different people on the look out for an Estrattore, all for their own reasons and none of them good.

Karen Brooks does a superb job of building this story layer by layer, carefully crafting a tangled web of motivations and manipulations that makes it impossible to trust anyone fully. Even the most well-meaning characters have other factors pushing and pulling them in directions they don't want to go. Tallow's story is full of heartbreak and betrayal as even the most generous of actions can have disastrous consequences. But far from being a morose book, Tallow is a joy to read. The story constantly surprises and impresses and the scene is set for an exceptional trilogy. 

Do not miss this one!

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RRP: $19.99 Booktopia Price $15.99


This is the third and final book in the award winning Rondo Trilogy from Australia's most prolific and successful children's fantasy writer Emily Rodda. Rondo is a world that exists entirely within a antique music box, passed down for generations and now in the possession of Leo Zifkak. His cousin Mimi owns the key, an oval pendant that is also a family heirloom. Together they entered the world of Rondo and discovered two of their ancestors already living there: great-great-uncle Henry, or Hal, and his brother George, or Spoiler. While Hal is regarded as a hero in Rondo for his defeat of the Blue Queen, Spoiler helped the evil Queen into power in the first place.

Twice Leo and Mimi have entered Rondo and helped Hal stop the Blue Queen from regaining power. Now they are needed once again as the Blue Queen makes her last, desperate effort to take control of the world. This time she has an enchanted dragon to help her take revenge on everyone who has ever stood in her way. But Leo, Mimi and Hal have the seven best witches and wizards in Rondo to help them and an audacious plan to defeat her once and for all. The only question is, is Leo strong enough to do what's required?

As with all Emily Rodda's fantasy stories, Battle for Rondo overflows with magic, suspense, danger and excitement. She is a master at creating visually stunning worlds and memorable characters that leap from the page and capture children's imaginations around the world. Perfect reading from 8+

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Battle for Rondo
RRP: $34.99 Booktopia Price $27.99

by Simon Higgins

Moonshadow is fast, silent and deadly. He is also gifted with a rare shinobi technique known as 'The Eye of the Beast', the ability to merge his mind with animals, to see through their eyes and control them. Fresh from success on his first mission, Moonshadow and his new companion Snowhawk are on a routine spying mission when they are summoned on an urgent mission to serve as guards for the White Nun, one of the Grey Light Order's most revered elders.

But his recent victory has earned him a dangerous and determined enemy—the power hungry and determined Silver Wolf. The young pair soon find themselves hunted by a team of assassins with powers and abilities even more deadly than their own. Higgins delivers thrilling, stylish fight sequences that will satisfy any young anime fan.

Moonshadow is a terrific hero; honourable and disciplined, he nevertheless struggles with the conflicting lessons of his teachers and with his own insecurities, including his confusing feelings for the beautiful but temperamental Snowhawk. Snowhawk has issues of her own to deal with too. Brought up in the brutal clan Fuma, her skill and toughness were hard one. Even as she begins to trust Moonshadow and the other members of the Grey Light Order, she struggles to control the rage that threatens to overcome her in the heat of battle.

Just like the first book in the Moonshadow series, Eye of the Beast, this book's major strength is its foundation in authentic Japanese mythology, history and culture. Higgins’ own personal passion for Japanese martial arts shines brightly, bringing greater depth to the characters and their historically based medieval world. A perfect formula for 12+ boys and girls, mixing the best elements of anime, fantasy, spy thrillers and medieval action.

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The Wrath of Silver Wolf
RRP: $16.95 Booktopia Price $13.50
Stephen Baxter

Ark has already been described by one reviewer as perhaps Baxter's masterpiece. It is certainly an extraordinary work of science fiction and one of the most evocative and compelling explorations of the Generation Ship concept ever written.
Ark is the sequel to Flood, Baxter's post-climate change nightmare scenario where rising sea levels just keep rising. Set in the 2040's as internally displaced refugees migrate inland from the inundated Pacific and Atlantic US coasts, Flood documents with high realism the political and social impacts of catastrophic climate change. But there are rumours of a secret project - a star ship for a select few to flee Earth and start again in a distant solar system.

The star ship, or Ark, is constructed under the utmost secrecy, its destination a terrestrial extra-solar planet some 22 light years away. When they finally reach Earth II, however, it is barely habitable, raising the question: do they stay on Earth II, do they keep looking for another planet, or do they return home to Earth in the hope that a solution has been found?

The power of Ark is in the human realism. The power of humanity to engineer technical solutions to their self-created problems is never in doubt but human error, pride and factional politics is as destructive in Baxter's future as it is in today's world.

Intelligent, incisive and absorbing, Ark is hard science fiction at its literary best.

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RRP: $35.00 Booktopia Price $28.00
  Neal Asher

First things first, Orbus is the third book in Asher's Spatterjay series. Even fans familiar with Asher's broader Polity Universe will miss out on too much back story to follow the action. It's worth going back and doing the reading though because Orbus is probably the best book he's written so far. 
Neal Asher has always written action packed space operas that rocket along at great pace and lack nothing in imagination. An entertaining mix of military sci-fi and cyberpunk, Asher has built up a distinctive and intricate vision of the future in his Polity Universe. However, the constant action and dynamic nature of his storylines often made it difficult to achieve great depth with his characters or take time to explore the richness of their environment. In Orbus Asher has refined his writing, incorporating much more description and character into the action itself. The result is a sense of heightened action and a more polished, enjoyable read.

The book jumps between a number of viewpoints, different characters all converging on a planetary wasteland known as The Graveyard lying between the Polity and the Prador Third Kingdom. The scene is set for a monumental confrontation as Asher has gathered together some of his best characters: the Old Captain, Orbus, and his masochistic crew; Vrell, the Prador, powerfully mutated by the Spatterjay virus; the Prador king, Oberon; Golgoroth, a Prador legend, prowling through the devastation of The Graveyard; and Sniper, the constantly entertaining old war drone. 

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RRP: $34.99 Booktopia Price $28.00

Fahrenheit 451: Graphic Novel 
by Ray Bradbury & Tim Hamilton

It's been 56 years since the publication of Ray Bradbury's brilliant critique on book censorship and, even today, many of the issues he raised are still relevant. The degenerative effects of mass media and the dangers of creeping revisionism are as pressing in today's info-bite world as they were at the beginning of the Cold War. Now Tim Hamilton has adapted it into a visually stunning graphic novel that brings new energy to the iconic story.
There is an irony in the graphic novel format; after all, in the novel, it was the ever increasing popular appetite for more easily digestible forms of media such as television that enabled the first instances of book censorship to slide by without notice. After that it was a slippery slope to institutionalised censorship:

"Books, so the damned snobbish critics said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said. But the public, knowing what it wanted, spinning happily, let the comic books survive."

But to call Tim Hamilton's graphic interpretation a "comic book" would be grossly inappropriate. His muted colours are punctuated by the bright, vivid illustrations of flame, capturing equally the thrill and horror of the burning. The well chosen dialogue captures the raw essence of the text and Hamilton's thoughtful composition brings Bradbury's dystopia to immediate, atmospheric life.

Ray Bradbury, himself an old Buck Rogers fan, hopes the graphic novel format will attract new readers and encourage them to go a step further and read the book in its original form. And what better compliment can an author hope for than to see their own book reverse the very trend it warned against.

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Fahrenheit 451: Graphic Novel
RRP: $27.99 Booktopia Price $22.50
Ryder Windham & Peter Vilmur

Intended to be the ultimate resource and guide to the world's favourite Sith Lord, The Complete Vader
explores every aspect of Vader-lore, from his role in the original movies all the way through to the comic books, novels and beyond into  mainstream popular culture. 
The Complete Vader comprehensively charts his life from slave boy to Sith Lord, covering all the cannon from the movies to the expanded Star Wars universe. But it goes further, analysing the impact Vader has had as one of the most iconic villains in cinema. One of the most copied, parodied and mimicked characters of all time, Vader's instantly recognisable image and voice are everywhere, from mugs to bedspreads and from  Lego to Monopoly figurines - his impact on the popular imagination is almost unparalleled. 

This 192-page tribute is lusciously illustrated with hundreds of photos and special gatefold spreads. It's a fascinating look at one of the world's most enduring cinema figures.

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The Complete Vader
RRP: $69.99 Booktopia Price $55.99
  Una McCormack

Based on the Deep Space Nine episode "Cardassians", The Never Ending Sacrifice, is told from the perspective of an orphan Cardassian boy named Rugal. Adopted by a Bajoran couple, it is discovered that his real parents are alive and that his father is in fact a Cardassian government official.

Sent to live with his true family on their home planet, Rugal struggles to fit into the strict Cardassian society, wishing only to escape and return to his Bajoran home.

Told against the backdrop of the Dominion War, Una McCormack does something quite special and unique for a Star Trek novel - this is a character story and a cultural examination that also provides a wonderful non-human perspective on events from the television series. Rugal is a strong and complex character, all the more interesting for the distinctly un-human aspects of his nature.

For Star Trek fans looking for something a little different, this is a terrific new story.

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The Never Ending Sacrifice
RRP: $14.95 Booktopia Price $11.95

Dacre Stoker is the great grand nephew of Bram and, before you ask, no he doesn't need the money. For the Stoker family, Dracula was a bit of a pain to grow up with - can you imagine the jokes he must have had to put up with a Halloween? But with vampires becoming about as frightening as an emo with overbite these days, it was time to restore a bit of uncle Bram's terror to the cannon.

Dracula: The Un-dead was actually the original working title for Bram Stoker's book and this sequel has been pulled together from the prodigious notes he left behind. These included abandoned plot lines and detailed back stories for all the characters, with a number who didn't make the final cut. Dacre Stoker and co-author, Dracula historian Ian Hunt, have been able to create from this rich source material a chilling horror story that honours the style and imagination of Bram Stoker while being immediately accessible to the modern reader.

25 years after Dracula crumbled to dust, Quincey Harker, the grown son of Jonathan and Mina, leaves law school in London to become an actor. He stumbles across a struggling production of Dracula, a theatrical recreation of his own family's horrific experiences in Transylvania (in a sentimental twist, the show is directed and produced by Bram Stoker himself). Becoming involved, Quincey is plunged into a terrible world his parents had kept secret from him. But before he can confront them his father and other members of the band that defeated the vampire begin to turn up brutally murdered. Someone, or something, is hunting down everyone involved in Dracula's destruction.

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Dracula: The Undead
RRP: $32.99 Booktopia Price $26.95
Adrian Tchaikovsky

This is the third book in one of the most refreshingly original series of recent years. Shadows of the Apt is based on the concept of insect "kinden" - human races possessing various insect characteristics that are manifested through their behaviour and through special ancestral abilities. For example, the Ant kinden construct disciplined military city states with their ability to link minds while the Mantis kinden are a remote warrior race, unparalleled killing machines. 
This beautifully simple concept opens up endless opportunities with the entire insect kingdom from which to draw inspiration. Already, within three books Tchaikovsky, has compiled an impressive array of kinden, including spiders, beetles, flies, dragonflies, scorpions, moths, bees and the all-conquering wasps. The list grows with each book and the only danger is that there may be too much variety to keep track of. So far, however, he has executed this idea with total class, weaving elements of epic fantasy and steam punk, magic and engineering, and military battles and espionage to produce a series of books with something for every fantasy reader.

Blood of the Mantis follows the incredible Dragonfly Falling, a book that thoroughly deserves mentioning as one of the strongest fantasy stories of the last decade. By comparison Blood of the Mantis is subtler and more intricate, its action centred around covert espionage rather than epic battle scenes. He manages the cloak and dagger world as well, if not better than the military set pieces. Tchaikovsky's writing sweeps you along and leaves you desperate for more. Truly a series not to be missed.   

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Blood of the Mantis
RRP: $21.99 Booktopia Price $17.50
  Steven Erikson

Well, it's almost over. Malazan Book of the Fallen. the series that gave new meaning to the term 'epic fantasy', has reached its penultimate volume. Although it's probably more accurate to say that Dust of Dreams is part one of an immense closing episode to be completed by the release of The Crippled God in 2010. 
It's impossible to sum up the vast, twisting myriad of subplots and character movements and if you haven't read the first eight books you're wasting your time starting with this one (though if you are a fan of epic fantasy and have not yet picked up a Malazan novel, start with Gardens of the Moon - it's an experience you won't regret). What I can say is that there is a huge convergence of many different groups to a single, monumental battle that dwarfs anything that has come before in this series, or indeed in any epic fantasy series I have ever come across. There are huge casualties too, though Erikson keeps us on the dge of our seats with a cliffhanger ending as many important characters are left unaccounted for at the end.

The entire Malazan enterprise can only be described as ambitious and it is to Erikson's eternal credit that he has managed to keep the bohemeth chained for so long. And, while many threads do start to come together in Dust of Dreams, there are also a number of new characters and plot directions introduced and it seems foolishly optimistic to expect them all to be tied up nicely at the end of the final book. Robert Jordan fans will find this a familiar feeling, especially when you learn that Erikson has been contracted to write a further nine novels in the Malazan universe. It appears he is going to keep a few cards up his leave to draw us into a new series. Well, as long as he keeps writing so majestically, why would you want to stop reading them?

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Dust of Dreams
RRP: $39.95 Booktopia Price $31.95
Charlaine Harris

A Touch of Dead is a collection of five short stories featuring the increasingly popular telepathic waitress, Sookie Stackhouse. 

The stories (Fairy Dust, Dracula Night, One Word Answer, Lucky, and Gift Wrap) have all previously been published in various anthologies but never together in one volume, making it easier (and cheaper) to read them all. 

If you are a already a devoted fan of the Sookie Stackhouse books, these  wonderful bite-size vignettes are a real treat. For those of you who have only just been introduced to Sookie through the T.V. series True Blood, this is a great taster to try before leaping into the full length novels.

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A Touch of Dead
RRP: $29.99 Booktopia Price $23.99
  Richelle Mead

Book 2 of the new Dark Swan series by Richelle Mead. Storm Born was one of the better urban fantasy releases of last year and there will be many readers eager for the sequel.

Thorn Queen  picks up where Storm Born left off, with our heroine and shaman for hire, Eugenie (bad name, good character) settling into her reluctant role as the Queen of Thorn Land. Understandably,  Eugenie is finding running an other world kingdom very difficult but her real-world boyfriend, Kiyo, ain't making it any easier now his pregnant ex-girlfriend is back on the scene. If it wasn't enough to be responsible for rebuilding a tattered kingdom and finding out your first born is destined to destroy humanity, having to be nice to your partner's ex might just about tip the scales.

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Thorn Queen
RRP: $21.95 Booktopia Price $16.50
Kat Richardson
Harper Blaine was a regular P.I. until she died. Brought back to life two minutes later she woke up with the ability to walk the line between the living and the dead.

Vanished, the fourth book in the Greywalker series finds Seattle's best paranormal detective taking a job in London to help out some pushy local vamps. The trip offers an opportunity to follow up on some other cases though, in particular her own father's mysterious death. But there are some dangerous demons in her past and while her investigations may shed more light on her own special abilities, there are some skeletons in the closet you don't want to disturb.

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RRP: $22.99 Booktopia Price $18.50
  Jenna Black

Morgan Kingsley has just proved that even the best of us get it wrong sometimes. When an exorcism goes horribly wrong the victim's family takes Morgan for everything she has. 
But financial ruin  is the least of her worries. When a severed human hand is sent to Morgan, she discovers she has a dangerous enemy bent on destroying her and everyone in her life.  

Then there is the ongoing issue of her own possession - quite an embarrrassing condition for America's best exorcist. The constant battle to suppress her demon and his lustful urges is straining under all the pressure.

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Speak of the Devil
RRP: $19.99 Booktopia Price $15.99
LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld

This really is something special.

We all know that WWI was sparked by the assassination of Austrian Arch Duke Ferdinand. This much remains the same in this monumental steam punk adventure - but in Westerfeld's imagination the allied forces are armed not with tanks, battleships and aircraft but with genetically created megabeasts. Using Darwin's discoveries of natural selection and (in this timeline at least) DNA, great hybrid animals have been bred to stand in for all manner of technologies, from a lizard-and-bird communication system to the Leviathan itself, a monstrous sperm whale airship.  

The Austro-Hungarian-German scientists haven't been idle either, developing steam technology to a very advanced state. Their armies boast mightily armed walking machines and dirigibles. It's the Darwinists versus the Clankers, bio-tech against steam punk on a breathtaking scale that will completely blow you away - and I haven't even mentioned the illustrations by the incredible Kieth Thompson!  

Fantasy, and steam punk in particular, is a genre that benefits greatly from the illustrations and it is a pity that there are so few illustrated novels around. Stewart and Riddell showed how enchanting it could be with the Edge Chronicles and the Far Flung Adventures. D.M. Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo books spoiled its readers with intricate illustrations that leap off the page. Kieth Thompson has provided 50 stunning ink drawings that bring the richly bizarre world of Leviathan to vivid life. Books like these, where the story and the illustrations enhance each other, become treasures, so strongly can they stir our imagination.

But this book is not all glitzy steam-punk invention and fancy artwork. At the heart of Leviathan are two characters as memorable as Tom and Hester from Mortal Engines or Lyra and Will from His Dark Materials. Aleks is the son of the assassinated Arch Duke Ferdinand, robbed of his chance at the throne and on the run from his enemies in a Stormwalker with a loyal band of followers. Deryn is a girl masquerading as a boy to join the British navy as a midshipman on the Battlebeast Leviathan. When their paths cross they are forced to rely upon each other despite their differences - a Clanker and a Darwinist, both hiding secrets.

Make sure you check out an extract and look at the book trailer.

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RRP: $29.95 Booktopia Price $23.96
Kristin Cashore

Described as a companion book to last year's New York Times bestselling novel, Graceling, Fire is a prequel of sorts, based 30 years beforehand. There is only one overlapping character, however, so the book stands alone extremely strongly.
Across the mountains from the Seven Kingdoms, in the wild Dells, monsters exist - though not in the form we may imagine them. While shaped like familiar creatures, monsters are gorgeously adorned in luscious colours and with the ability to control the mind of humans. Fire half-human, the last remaining monster in human form - exquisitely beautiful but feared above all others.

But, while Fire is a monster in body and in her ability to control human minds, she is also determined to make amends for the sins of her monster father and the damage he did to the royal family of the Dells.

Like Graceling there is a powerful romance at the heart of this teen-crossover but the heroine does not lose her identity or shift her life's purpose to suit her lover. This is a more mature romance, for older teens, and Fire is a very well drawn character. Fans of Tamora Pierce will be glad to find another writer to get very excited about.

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RRP: $32.99 Booktopia Price $26.50
  John Lenahan

Connor's father is a bit strange - a professor in dead languages, fluent in ancient Gaelic, he doesn't just seem to study the past, sometimes Connor think he's actually from the past. There's his collection of traditional weaponry, for example, that he makes Connor practise with before he gets his allowance. To top it all off, he only has one hand - a handicap he lives with well, but never talks about.
Then one day a woman and a soldier on horseback appear at their front door. Claiming to be his aunt, Connor barely has time to register surprise that his father had a sister all along before she tries to kill him. Most boys have to put up with a pinch on the cheeks from their aunts but a spear hurled at your chest is beyond the limits of tolerable family behaviour. Connor's about to find out, however, that his family history is more dangerous than he ever imagined. 

Based (loosely) on traditional Celtic mythology, Shadowmagic takes young adult readers and adults alike on a rollicking and wryly humorous adventure into Tir na Nog, the Land of Eternal Youth. It's a world where the trees have attitude and your relatives might just want to sacrifice you in accordance with an ancient prophecy, but, hey, you can't choose your family can you?

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RRP: $24.99 Booktopia Price $19.99
by Paul B. Thompson

The Anvil of Time series has been a wonderful addition to the Dragonlance cannon. Through the device of the time-travelling Journeyman, the series ventures back into the obscure (and often conflicted) history and legends of Krynn. In The Forest King Paul B. Thompson uncovers the truth behind the mythic figure of Balif - no easy task considering the conflicting accounts of his life as they are recorded in existing Dragonlance books. Thompson does a good job though, pumping out a great story and even managing to introduce historical elements of the Elven Exiles trilogy and the Barbarian trilogy. We also learn a lot about the origins of the Kender race which made an interesting side note.

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The Forest King
RRP: $14.95
Booktopia Price $11.95

by Ed Greenwood

The final book in one of Ed Greenwood's more peripheral additions to the Forgotten Realms series, The Knights of Myth Drannor attempts to fill in the back story of this group of adventurers. Being a prequel series we already largely knew how events would have to end so this series was predominantly interested in character development, exploring the events that first brought the Knights of Myth Drannor together and shaped their future. Greenwood fans will find some interesting new information and Vangerdahast stands out as the star character but this is certainly not the series to introduce new readers to Forgotten Realms.
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The Sword Niever Sleeps
RRP: $14.95
Booktopia Price $11.95

by Rosemary Jones

A stand alone Forgotten Realms novel that brings a refreshingly different tone and style to game-inspired novels. Set in the graveyard in the city of Waterdeep, we are introduced to Sophorea Carver and her family. The family get their name from their work, carving gravestones. When someone's plans for vengeance threaten to unleash a horde of undead on the people of Waterdeep, Sophorea and an out-of-town wizard, Gustin Bone, try to prevent the catastrophe.  
Rosemary Jones is a terrific writer, bringing much more humour and depth than is typical in Forgotten Realms books. City of the Dead balances a great ghost story, good action and some wonderful characters all with a light tone that makes it hard to put the book down. This is an absolute treasure and Rosemary Jones is a fantasy writer to follow.

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City of the Dead
RRP: $14.95
Booktopia Price $11.95
In This Issue

Books of the Month



Literary Cross-overs

Aussie SF & Fantasy

Best International Science Fiction

Fahrenheit 451 Graphic Novel

New Star Wars and Star Trek

Dracula Returns

Best New Fantasy

Best New Urban Fantasy

New Steam Punk 

Best New Young Adult

Wizards off the Coast

Coming Up in November

Speculative Fiction & The Booker Prize


Booktopia Buzz
Food & Drink
Mind, Body Spirit

Click here to update your newsletter preferences so you can receive the new 0-5s Buzz and the 6-12s Buzz.


We have three sets of the incredible GOLLANCZ SPACE OPERA SERIES to give away this month. To be eligible for entry all you need to do is purchase two or more books mentioned in this edition of the SF and Fantasy Buzz. Once you have completed your purchase you will be given an order number. To enter the competition you just send us an email with your order number and the answer to this question:

Which author has just written the new Hitchhikers Guide Book?

Put your order number and the answer in the body of the email and send it to:


The winners will notified by email.

Click on the GOLLANCZ SPACE OPERA SERIES titles below to order:
Arthur C. Clark
RRP: $22.99, Booktopia price: $18.50
Paul Mcauley
RRP: $22.99, Booktopia price: $18.50
Larry Niven
RRP: $22.99, Booktopia price: $18.50
Adam Roberts
RRP: $22.99, Booktopia price: $18.50
Greg Bear
RRP: $22.99, Booktopia price: $18.50
Poul Anderson
RRP: $22.99, Booktopia price: $18.50
Alastair Reynolds
RRP: $22.99, Booktopia price: $18.50
Dan Simmons
RRP: $22.99, Booktopia price: $18.50
M. John Harrison
RRP: $22.99, Booktopia price: $18.50
Olaf Stapledon
RRP: $22.99, Booktopia price: $18.50


This month's movers and shakers in the world of SF & Fantasy.

Click on the titles below to order
Jane Austen &
Ben H. Withers
RRP: $24.95, Booktopia price: $19.95
Ursula Le Guin
RRP: $32.99, Booktopia price: $28.95
Kim Stanley Robinson
RRP: $32.99, Booktopia price: $28.95
Michelle Zink
RRP: $24.99, Booktopia price: $19.95
Celine Kiernan
RRP: $19.99, Booktopia price: $15.99
Suzanne Collins
RRP: $17.99, Booktopia price: $14.50
Alex Bell
RRP: $32.99, Booktopia price: $28.95
Alison Sinclair
RRP: $27.50, Booktopia price: $21.95
Iain Banks
RRP: $32.99, Booktopia price: $28.95
Amanda Downum
RRP: $19.99, Booktopia price: $15.99

Coming up in November

Finally it is upon us! The final chapter of one of fantasy's most popular series of all time. The Gathering Storm is part one of the final trilogy in The Wheel of Time. Brandon Sanderson has used Robert Jordan's exhaustive notes to give us all the closure we so desperately crave. Order your copy now!

The Gathering Storm
RRP: $35.00
Booktopia price: $28.00

Other November releases include a new Stephen King that is somewhat of a return to his early days, a release of a comedy-horror cult classic not previously seen in Australia by David Wong, an incredible graphic novel reworking of Peter Piper from the mind of Bill Willingham and a terrific new steam punk adventure by Cherie Priest

Click on the titles below to order
Robert Jordan
RRP: $35.00, Booktopia price: $28.00
Robert Jordan
RRP: $49.99, Booktopia price: $39.99
Stephen King
RRP: $34.99, Booktopia price: $27.99
David Wong
RRP: $39.95, Booktopia price: $33.95
Bill Willingham
RRP: $45.00, Booktopia price: $36.00
Cherie Priest
RRP: $22.99, Booktopia price: $18.50
Speculative Fiction and the Booker Prize

Science Fiction and Fantasy have always struggled for literary acceptance. Much of the problem has always been the narrow boundaries and stereotypes placed around the genres. So, here's my selection of Booker shortlisted novels that contain elements of Science Fiction or Fantasy that may have slipped under the radar:

Click on the titles below to order
Salman Rushdie
Winner - 1981
RRP: $14.95
Booktopia Price $11.96
Doris Lessing
Shortlist - 1981
RRP: $27.99
Booktopia Price $22.50
Margaret Atwood
Shortlist - 1986
RRP: $24.95
Booktopia Price $19.95
Ben Okri
Winner - 1991
RRP: $14.95
Booktopia Price $11.96
Julian Barnes
Shortlist - 1998
RRP: $24.95
Booktopia Price $19.95
Margaret Atwood
Shortlist - 2003
RRP: $24.95
Booktopia Price $19.95
David Mitchell
Shortlist - 2004
RRP: $24.95
Booktopia Price $19.95
Sarah Waters
Shortlist - 2009
RRP: $32.99
Booktopia Price $26.39