Giveaway: Gridlinked by Neal Asher

Guys, I need to clear some space on my shelves, so I’ll be giving a few books free to good homes. Can you help me out?

First on the list is Gridlinked by Neal Asher (2001), book one in the Agent Cormac series.


Blurb on the back:

A technician passing through the runcible of Samarkand at a fraction below light speed causes a fusion explosion that kills thousands and obliterates a terraforming project. Earth Central sends agent Cormac to investigate.

Cormac must find a resolution without the support of the AI grid, for thirty years of being gridlinked have left him devoid of humanity. But he does have the help of Shuriken, a throwing star with a mind of its own, as well as Golem combat androids and the ambivalently motivated ‘dracomen’. And he’ll need all the help he can get as he’s being tracked by a vicious psychopath, backed by augmented mercenaries and a killing machine called Mr Crane…

To enter:
1. Follow me on Facebook or Twitter.
2. Leave a comment on this post (and leave the name or Twitter handle you used to follow me, if it differs from the one you use here).

– I plan to do several of these, so for budget reasons this giveaway is currently limited to South Africa.
– Entries close at midnight on Thursday 4 June.
– The winner will be selected randomly and announced on Friday.

I have to thank the good people at the South African offices of Pan Macmillan for sending me this book years ago, and offer my apologies for not getting around to reading it. Hopefully it’ll go to someone more appreciative :)

Gridlinked detail

Beautiful Redemption Winner!

And the winner of Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is…



I’ve emailed Victoria and will send off her prize as soon as I have the address. Thanks to those who entered, and happy reading everyone!

Winners! – Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

And the winners of the two copies of Revenge by Yoko Ogawa are:

Bontle (international) and Widdershins (USA/Canada)!

Congratulations guys, your prizes will be on their way to you soon :) Thanks again to Picador for sponsoring a giveaway, and to everyone who entered. I hope you’ll get another chance to read Ogawa’s work.

Review and Giveaway of Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Revenge by Yoko IgawaTitle: Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales
Author: Yoko Ogawa
29 January 2013
Pubisher: Picador
literary fiction, short stories
eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 8/10

I googled a bit of information on Yoko Ogawa when I started writing this review, and I was impressed but not too surprised to learn that she has won every major Japanese literary award and has published over twenty works of fiction and non-fiction. Revenge undoubtedly showcases the skills of a talented, experienced author. When I read “Afternoon at the Bakery”, the first of the “Eleven Dark Tales” in this collection, I was stunned. It’s a devastating kind of story, like many of the stories here – very calm and quiet, with sudden stabs of shock and pain, like a surgical knife slid quickly but gently into the heart of an unsuspecting victim. A simple narrative draws you in – one sunny afternoon, a woman walks to the bakery to buy two strawberry shortcakes for her son’s birthday. For some reason, the shop is empty – there are no customers, and no one behind the counter. The woman is not in a rush, so she sits down to wait for the pastry chef. Soon, another woman comes in, and they make small talk. “How old is [your son]?” the second woman asks. The first woman replies with this:

Six. He’ll always be six. He’s dead.

She tells us about her son’s death twelve years ago, and how she kept the strawberry shortcake they were meant to share one his birthday and watched it rot. When her husband told her to throw it out, she react violently:

I threw it in his face. Mold and crumbs covered his hair and his cheeks, and a terrible smell filled the room. It was like breathing in death.

I fell in love with Ogawa’s writing in this story. I know it’s translated, but it’s still superb – elegant and hypnotic, with details that tease your senses (I’m thinking of the mention of vanilla, strawberries, cream and the warmth of birthday-candle flames) or cut right into your heart and lungs. It’s the kind of thing that makes you pause to consider or savour what you’ve just read.

“Afternoon at the Bakery” remained my favourite Revenge story (I think I got attached, since it was the first), but with such a wonderful writing style, the others certainly did not disappoint. Ogawa’s great talent, it seems, lies in her absolutely exquisite details and the skilful ways in which she uses them. Most of the stories have rather odd plots. In “Old Mrs J”, the creepy old landlady of an apartment complex finds hand-shaped carrots growing in her vegetable garden. In “Sewing for the Heart” a woman asks a specialist bag maker to sew a bag for her heart, which is particularly delicate because it beats outside of her body. In “Welcome to the Museum of Torture”, a young woman takes a walk after her boyfriend leaves her, and ends up going on a tour through a museum of torture, imagining how she might use some of the devices on her boyfriend.

Besides the plots, there are many beautiful, quaint, tragic or bizarre details within the stories. In “Fruit Juice”, the narrator describes the way that the events of the story he just related “sank into a hole at the bottom of my sea of memories” giving the reader a vague sense that he’s lost something important but inexplicable. Another character describes a woman’s voice as having “an impressive coldness to it – I could almost imagine its tone freezing my ear drum”.

But the most impressive details are the ones that can’t really be quoted and are difficult to write about because they are scattered within and across stories, linking characters and tales, reminding us of sinister things, exposing eerie truths, or revealing the conclusions to earlier stories that ended ambiguously. The strawberry shortcake and the bakery from the first story are mentioned in a later narrative, and the reminder gives an ominous feel to the current tale. We learn about a character’s murder in one story, and when people are looking for him or mention him in later stories we recall why he was killed and the gruesome way in which he died. There are many elements of horror, entwined with the drama unfolding between the characters.

With these tiny but memorable details, Ogawa delicately links lives and stories, creating an unusual kind of novel composed of separate tales. It’s an interesting form; my only problem with it is that one or two of the stories are a bit dull, and seem to be there largely to provide links for others. But for the most part it works beautifully. Although most of the characters never meet each other, the events and artefacts of their lives join them and form a coherent whole for the reader.  There is also one notable recurring character – an obscure writer – who appears in several of the stories. We learn that she has actually written some of them, although whether we read her versions or the real-life events on which they are based is unclear. The book is enjoyably vague in that way – it’s not the kind of novel that offers answers or meaning or easy conclusions; instead it taunts and delights you with its intricacies. Ogawa has said that “one of the fundamental values of fiction is its power to express the inexplicable and the absurd” (Q&A with Yoko Ogawa) and I think that’s exactly what she does with Revenge.

Another notable thing is that almost all the characters are unnamed (a trademark of Ogawa’s according to the Q&A just referenced). The only characters with anything akin to names are Mrs J and Dr Y, and both are secondary characters. Every story is intimately narrated in the first person, and it can sometimes be unclear how old the “I” is or whether they are male or female. The location is completely anonymous too – there are no place names, no landmarks; the novel could be set in any well-developed country. The only suggestion that it might take place in Japan, where Ogawa lives, is that characters sometimes bow to each other in greeting or thanks.

Unencumbered by these specifics, the novel seems almost ghostly, and reading it can be a rather strange and hypnotic experience. But I like it a lot. It’s so well done, that names and places aren’t necessary. It’s a pensive rather than exciting read, but it’s the kind of book that can teach you to appreciate the qualities of good writing, particularly the way writers can manipulate certain elements of a story in order to leave an impression on the reader. Most authors can only dream of writing something this evocative, or writing a sentence or crafting an image that etches itself into the read. Yoko Ogawa is one of the few who can, and I’m glad to have found her.



Now, I my thoughts on Revenge have convinced you that it’s worth reading because I’m giving away two copies on Violin in a Void. One has been generously provided by Gabrielle Gantz at Picador, for residents of the USA and Canada. And since I don’t want everyone else to miss out on a chance to get a copy, I am providing one as well, via Book Depository. Here are the details:

  • To enter, follow me via email (sign-up on the homepage), WordPress or Twitter (@Violin_InA_Void) and leave a comment on this post. Be sure to mention whether you’re from the USA/Canada or the rest of the world.
  • The USA/Canada copy will be sent to the USA/Canada winner by Picador.
  • I will be sending a copy to the second winner via Book Depository, so you are only eligible if they ship to your country.
  • This giveaway will last for two weeks and ends at midnight (GMT+3) on 12 February.
  • I will choose the winners using, and contact them on 13 February for their addresses. Both winners will be announced in a blog post shortly thereafter.

Thanks so much to Picador for sponsoring a giveaway, and good luck to all those who enter!

Bel Dame Apocrypha eBook Giveaway!

Night Shade Books, my favourite sff and horror publisher, is being particularly awesome with a giveaway of the first two books in Bel Dame Apocrypha series. You might recall that I reviewed the award-winning God’s War earlier this year, and was very impressed with the writing, world-building and character relationships. I’m reading book two, entitled Infidel, at the moment and plan to post a review soon-ish. The final book, Rapture, is coming out on November 6, so Night Shade Books has left you with no excuse not to check this series out.

Here are the details, copied from the email I got from them:

In anticipation of the forthcoming release of Rapture, Kameron Hurley’s bone-shattering conclusion to the epic Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy, that’s exactly what Night Shade Books is giving away. We don’t want you to miss out on any of the “smart, dark, visceral and wonderfully, hectically entertaining” action of this trilogy! So we are giving away the first two titles in the series, the 2012 Nebula Award-nominated God’s War and the awesome Infidel, absolutely free!


And, once you’re hooked (as we know you will be), be sure to pick up the exciting conclusion, Rapture, available 11/6/12!


Don’t believe the hype? Find out FREE for yourself. Just send an email to Night Shade will return fire with an email giving you the info you need to download the files for God’s War and Infidel. Both Epub and Mobi files are available.


Rapture is available for pre-order from many of your favorite retailers!

Jeyn Roberts on her debut Dark Inside and a giveaway!

Jeyn (pronounced “jen”) Roberts grew up in Saskatoon, Canada. She started writing at an early age, but when she was twenty-one she moved to Vancouver with dreams of being a rock star. For the next several years she played in an alternative/punk band called Missing Mile. A former singer, songwriter, actress, bicycle courier, tree planter—Jeyn graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Writing and Psychology. Shortly afterwards, she moved to England, where she received her MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. An avid traveller, she’s been around the world, including teaching in a high school in South Korea and writing novels in her flat in Vancouver. She’s taken some time out to chat with me about her latest addition to the YA dystopian genre, Dark Inside.

Welcome Jeyn, and thanks for joining me on Violin in a Void.
You’re a new writer on the YA scene, but there already seems to be a lot of excitement about Dark Inside. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the novel?

Sure. What can I say about myself? I love to travel and explore. I’ve been lucky enough to live in three different countries in the past decade. I’m hoping that number grows because I love learning about new cultures. I hate to sit still. I love being outdoors. And I like to do animal rescue work when I have free time.

Dark Inside is my first novel. One day everything is normal. Then the earthquakes begin and a terrible evil is unleashed. Overnight, the darkness inside is released and people are turned into crazy killers. No one is safe. Mason, Aries, Clementine and Michael are four teenagers who are just trying to stay alive. This is their story.

Macmillan is marketing Dark Inside as dystopian fiction, although I would call it apocalyptic, as it’s not about a dystopian society but rather about the destruction of society altogether. What drew you to this genre, this kind of story?

I think it’s very terrifying. For me, isolation is quite possibly the scariest thing around. It’s even scarier when there’s nowhere to run and hide.  What happens when the people who are supposed to keep you safe are gone? It’s also the sociological aspect. How will people behave when there are no more rules? I find it all fascinating.

The catastrophic earthquakes and psychological changes of Dark Inside leave behind survivors of all ages. However, the story is told from the perspectives of teenagers and almost all the major characters are adolescents as well. What made you choose their perspectives, their experiences over other possibilities?

I really just like writing for teens. There are so many great YA books on the market right now. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of it? One of my teachers once summed it up perfectly. She said there will always be someone inside of us, pushing towards the surface, with a story that needs to be told. I guess all my inner voices are teenagers.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing style and the structure of the novel? For example, the narrative is composed of five voices – Mason, Aries, Clementine, Michael, and a mystery voice whose chapters are labelled ‘Nothing’.

I don’t particularly think I have a certain writing style. I tend to write in all styles. Currently I’m working on a first person/present novel.  But when I was in the early stages of Dark Inside, this is what felt right. ‘Nothing’ was the first character I created. But then Mason and Aries came along. Clementine and Michael followed. I liked being able to have them in all parts of North America because I felt their journey would be the most important part.

With its mass destruction coupled with tragic but hopeful human stories, I think Dark Inside would be an incredible experience on the big screen, especially for YA fans. Would you be interested in a film adaptation?

I sure would! Currently I have a film agent (the same agent who sold The Hunger Games).  So hopefully there will be a movie in the future.

The novel leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the how, why and what next of this apocalyptic scenario, and the ending feels like another beginning. Does this mean that there’s a sequel in the works? If so, is there anything you can tell us about it?
There is indeed a sequel in the works.  It will be out next spring. I’m currently working on the final edits. Personally I think it’s even better than the first book. You’ll get to learn a lot more about each character, and quite possibly learn the identity of Nothing. There are some great new characters including a university student named Raj and a failed leader called Ryder. But that’s all I’m giving away. Don’t want to spoil it!

Will the next novel pick up where Dark Inside ends? Should readers get ready to witness the rise of a new, dystopian society created by the humans who’ve been transformed by the darkness within them?

The next book picks up three months after Dark Inside ends. It’s close to Christmas but no one is feeling very festive. Everyone is trying to adjust to this brand new world. The Baggers are starting to rebuild society and forcing survivors to work for them. They are rounding up people into camps and killing everyone who refuses to obey. Relationships are being formed and broken. There’s even a bit of romance.

Thanks so much for the interview Jeyn!

Jeyn’s been on a blog tour since 22 September, and if you want to know more, take a look at the tour schedule, where you’ll find all the relevant dates and the urls of some great YA blogs.

You can also find Jeyn online:


Dark Inside is out now. US readers will have to wait until 1 November before they can buy it in print, but the Kindle edition is already selling on Amazon. If you’re interested, you can read my review of the novel here.

And now for the bit you’ve all been waiting so patiently for – the giveaway! Macmillan Children’s Books is giving away two copies of Dark Inside to Violin in a Void readers.

To enter:
1. Follow Violin in a Void via WordPress, email (sign-up in the sidebar) or Twitter (@Violin_InA_Void).
2. Leave a comment on this post.

Terms and Conditions
This competition is open internationally.
Entries close on Sunday 9 October at 12pm GMT+2. The winners will be announced on Monday, after being selected using
Following by any means other than the three listed above doesn’t count, and I check all entries.
The prizes are sponsored by Macmillan Children’s Books, and as a result I will be passing the winners’ postal addresses on to my contact there so that they may send you your books. Distribution of the prizes is therefore the responsibility of the publisher.

Good luck everyone!