If you tend to get strange looks when you tell people about the book you’re reading, if you’ve ever finished a particularly good, completely crazy novel only to have your shoulders slump with the realisation that it’ll be hard to find another book like that, if you wish more authors ignored genre boundaries, then check out Angry Robot, a small British-based publisher of genre fiction, “dedicated to the best in modern adult science fiction, fantasy and everything inbetween”.
Of course, there are plenty of larger, more prestigious genre-fiction publishers out there, but what makes Angry Robot worth a longer look, other than their attention-grabbing name, is that they’re not simply interested in the genres known for defying the mainstream. Sci fi, fantasy and horror have developed their own mainstreams, the comfortable ruts of conventional plots and tropes that, while still entertaining, might be lacking in imagination for those who read this stuff all the time. That’s why Angry Robot is looking for “[n]ew heroes and new settings, or maybe just reinventing the wheel, we’re not fussed – if there’s an energy in a book that gets us jumping up and down, we’re all over it.” They’re offering something unconventional to those who already read what’s considered unconventional – “a couple of surprises even for us jaded old read-it-alls”. Genre-crossover is their specialty, and in general they want books that can give readers a “[h]eightened experience – an intensity, extremity or just a way of treating plot or situation in a way we’ve not come across before”.
I wish there was a specific word for that kind of reading experience, because I’d use it all the time. Or, if this publisher lives up to its ambitions, I could just say something like “I want to read something that Angry Robot would publish”.
The first Angry Robot books to draw my attention were their editions of Moxyland and Zoo City by South African author Lauren Beukes. Moxyland is a cyberpunk novel set in Cape Town, Zoo City an urban fantasy set in Joburg and they’re both so slick and punky I wouldn’t hesitate to mention Beukes in the same breath as William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. Unfortunately Lauren Beukes was the only name I recognised in Angry Robot’s list of authors, but because their mission is to publish the best of “SF, F and WTF?!” I decided to stop being so picky and let them do the introductions.
I encountered talents such Aliette de Bodard, author of Servant of the Underworld, a dark fantasy novel based in Aztec culture, and the first in a series entitled Obsidian and Blood. The second book, Harbinger of the Storm, will be released in January next year. Other potential gems include The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar, a metafictional steampunk novel, and City of Dreams and Nightmare by Ian Whates, an urban fantasy set in a vertical city.
You can browse Angry Robot’s titles on their website, read samples from their publications and shop at their eBook store where you can buy DRM-free titles. Their books, in both hardcopy and eBook format, are also available on Book Depository. Which reminds me of another thing that’s so cool about them – their books are very reasonably priced. A few titles, including Servant of the Undead, are also available as eBooks, which Book Depository is currently selling for $3.06 – R22 for South Africans. [Edit: Unfortunately my attempt at buying an Angry Robot eBook from Book Depository was unsuccessful. The download didn’t work, the order was cancelled, and the eBooks have now been removed from the inventory. However, you can still buy them from Angry Robot or Amazon].
And last, but particularly exciting is the fact that Angry Robot is looking for recruits for their robot army, to spread the word about awesome new books, authors and events. So if you have a website or blog about books and genre fiction in particular, sign up and, if recruited, you can get free books, interviews and features, as well as Angry Robot news for your website, before it gets distributed to the general media. And of course there’s the simple satisfaction of making sure that the best in weird imagination is getting the exposure it deserves.