“The Empty Throne” by Bernard Cornwell (HarperCollins, 2015)

The Empty Throne

In the eighth installment of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales, with King Alfred now gone and buried, readers might think the series would be winding down, but it is quite the opposite. Æthelred, the current ruler of Mercia, lies on his deathbed with no legitimate heir, and an empty throne sits awaiting a new ruler.

Uhtred of Bebbanburg was thought mortally wounded at the end of The Pagan Lord, and now he is still alive, but not necessarily well. His grievous wound is very slowly healing, meanwhile he has to work with his son and men to make sure the church and those in power don’t elect who they want to rule. Uhtred has a powerful leader, Æthelflaed, in mind not just because she is a lover, but also because she is well liked by Mercia and is sister to King Edward of Wessex.

In addition to elect new rulers, Uhtred is also on the hunt for his sword that was taken from him and is purported to be in the hands of Bishop Asser who is somewhere deep in the heart of Wales. And then at some point he’s going to end up in a big battle with some Vikings.

In true Cornwell fashion, The Empty Throne has it all for a gripping historical fiction novel and fans will rejoice while new readers will have no problem getting hooked as the author keeps them clued in to everything going on.

Originally written on January 28, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Empty Throne from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“The Sculptor” by Scott McCloud (First Second, 2015)

Scott McCloud’s new graphic novel door-stopper has a little bit of something for everyone, especially if you’re the creative type. It’s about a relationship . . . and about art and creating . . . and what it means to be successful and remembered . . . and what it means when you die and are forgotten . . . and why we all exist on this little planet in a giant universe and what’s the point of it all. The story is real and emotional and moving; you simply won’t be able to put it down.

David Smith is an artist, a sculptor, who loses himself in his work and really feels he’s going to make it one of these days, but he’s out of money and losing hope pretty fast. After having a conversation with a deceased family member he strikes up a deal with death and is able to create art with his bare hands. Now he feels he can create the art he has wanted to for so long, with no inhibitions, and will finally become the renowned artist he has always wanted to be. But because this is real life, even with a supernatural slant, things still don’t always go his way.

Then there is Meg, a pretty girl who has helped David along when he was destitute and who he is quickly falling in love with, but isn’t sure if she is interested in him. He has also made a promise not to tell her he loves her until she can do the same to him.

McCloud is clearly pulling a lot from past real-life experiences with The Sculptor to create a story that any reader and follow and related to and be moved by. It is art in many forms that whisks you away and never lets you go.

Originally written on January 10, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Sculptor from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden Files, will be publishing a new urban fantasy series in fall 2015.

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GUEST POST: Looking Back on Arthur C. Clarke’s Predictions

Born almost 100 years ago, Arthur C. Clarke showed an interest in space travel and futuristic ideas from a very early age, which later manifested into predictions that captivated the general public. He began writing science fiction as a teenager, and his works became immensely popular as his career progressed, culminating with the 1964 screenplay 2001: A Space Odyssey, largely considered his most popular work. Throughout his career, Arthur C. Clarke made many futuristic predictions about life and technology, an astounding number of which have come true and are now considered essential to life in the 21st century.

In a 1964 BBC interview titled “Horizon,” Clarke admitted that it was difficult and virtually impossible to accurately predict the future, but that any prediction that did not seem astounding could not possibly be true. He went on to predict that, by the year 2000, communication satellites (what we now call satellite internet) would make it possible for people to communicate instantaneously, regardless of their distance or exact location. He believed telecommunication would make travel and commuting unnecessary for business, except for cases of pleasure, and might even allow a doctor in England to perform surgery on a patient in New Zealand.

Clarke also predicted that this global telecommunication would be highlighted by receiving and transmitting devices that would be so minute every person could carry one in their pocket and believed that one day everyone would be reachable anywhere in the world by simply dialing a sequence of numbers (sound familiar yet?). Clarke even predicted that with global positioning systems, no one would ever need to be lost again. He felt that one day all this information, and more, would be instantaneously available at anyone’s fingertips.

Clarke went on to predict the invention of the replicator, which would be able to produce a copy of anything almost instantaneously. This is especially chilling given the recent rise of 3D printing and how prominent it is becoming as a major technological breakthrough. Today, 3D printers are allowing people to download and print hundreds of thousands of items, ranging from very simple to extremely complex – like food.

Clarke believed that one day artificial intelligence would surpass biological intelligence. Although he believed that organic evolution may be nearing its end, inorganic evolution would rise thousands of times more rapidly than anything produced biologically. He predicted the invention of a machine that would directly record information to the brain, allowing users to learn languages overnight, become skilled laborers in an instant, or relive forgotten memories from long ago. Although this has not yet come to pass, many scientists now believe that the rise of artificial intelligence will be something humanity must deal with within the next generation.

With regard to space travel, Clarke believed that people could be cryogenically frozen in order to travel long distances in space. He was adamant that one day man would be capable of terraforming Mars, and eventually colonize new planets to the point that humans would no longer need need to live in isolated habitats.

Clarke admitted and emphasized the inability of anyone to make completely accurate predictions about the future, and many of his own predictions have not yet come to pass, including super chimpanzees or men colonizing the moon. However, given how many of his predictions have been true, one can only wonder how many of his “failed” predictions are simply on the edge of the horizon. The first human stepping foot on Mars could be only a few years away, and his predictions of terraforming may not be far behind. However viewed, his technological foresight is undeniable and the accuracy of his predictions can only be viewed in the light of the future.

Kate Voss

You might also like these other guest posts from Kate Voss:

Top 5 Ray Bradbury Books

Wizard of Oz Spinoffs

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Top Five Novels That Make Great Holiday Gifts

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Writing Goals for 2015

So for 2015, here are the projects and goals I’m hoping to get started and/or completed.

  1. Olague: Complete some beginning writing with my novel Olague. I’m still working on research, plotting and characterization, but my goal is to have some piece of writing to start off the novel completed by the end of the year, whether it’s the start of the first chapter, or the prologue, or something to kick off the novel. Ideally, I’d love to work on Olague for Nanowrimo, but with how busy my life is these days with a taxing job and a toddler, that isn’t very likely. But I hope to have most of the planning side of the novel done and some writing begun by the time the year is out, and then to get stuck into some heavy writing come 2016.
  2. Ostium: I’ve had this podcast series project that I’ve been kicking around for the last six months. The first draft of the first episode is written and needs to get finished up and polished and then I’d love to get the first episode recorded and released by the end of the year.
  3. Write Stories: My goal for the year is to get two short stories written. I got one started late last year that I want to get completed and maybe edited and start submitting by the end of the year. And then I’ve got another story idea I’ve been wanting to get down for the last couple of years and I feel 2015 is the year I’m actually going to write the sucker. Here’s hoping.
  4. Submit Stories: Continue submitting stories all around and lets see if we can get another one published somewhere.
  5. Bookbanter: It’s time the Bookbanter page had a bit of a face-lift and a new look. I’ve had the same theme on there since I started the WordPress page, so it’s time for a new look and to present access to my writing first and foremost, and then my reviews and interviewing, and make it all around more user friendly.
  6. Facebook: It’s time for a schism of sorts. I need to separate all the writing stuff from my actual personal Facebook page. So at some point I’ll be creating a professional page on Facebook for all my writing and Bookbanter stuff and then just have my personal Facebook account for, you know, personal stuff, like pics and videos of my kid; the usual.
  7. Et. Al.: Anything else I get done in relation to my writing is all pure bonus baby!