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THE MODERN WORLD - the third CASTLE book

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Steph Swainston
Posted on Thursday, February 08, 2007 - 03:50 am:   

Proofs of THE MODERN WORLD, the third Castle book, are available now and I have three to give away.

You can find the details on my website.

THE MODERN WORLD cover
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Saturday, April 07, 2007 - 02:37 am:   

Here's the blurb:

The Emperor San and his Circle of immortals lead the people of the Fourlands in their endless struggle against the terrifying, alien Insects that threaten to annihilate them. A war for survival has long since become a grinding war of containment. But now Frost, the Circle's architect, unveils a visionary plan to break the stalemate and finally defeat the Insects.

Jant, the Emperor's winged messenger, has more immediate concerns. Lightning, the Circle's archer and Jant's best friend, asks him to find his rebellious teenage daughter who has disappeared in the sprawling city of Hacilith. Jant starts a search that takes him into his past, through the criminal underworld, across the bizarre worlds of the Shift, and to the very limits of temptation. The girl is seventeen and beautiful but if Jant so much as touches her, Lightning will kill him. Will curiosity be the death of Jant?

As Jant struggles with his newly-found conscience, Frost's plan produces shocking results. The Fourlands suddenly faces a greater threat than ever before. Can the Circle survive the dawn of a new, modern world?
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Kiran Patel
Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - 04:10 am:   

Hi Steph,

I'm a long time fan, first time discussion-board user.

I'm currently sitting in front of two of my favourite things, and would just like to complain about how like buses you authors are. Nothing for 2 (ish) years and then I receive 'The Modern World' and 'Black Man' in the same week. Typical!

Seriously though, thank you for being half of my favourite authors, and in advance for making the next four weeks so enjoyable.

Just a small proofy-type point. There are two mistakes on the back cover: China Mieville's quote doesn't start with a " ' ", and as far as i know austereweirdness isn't one word. Just fyi.

Thanks, Kiran
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Myk Marten Mulreany
Posted on Friday, May 25, 2007 - 01:27 pm:   

Hi Steph.

Literally just finished reading after getting the book on Tuesday; I couldn’t put it down! A fantastic end to this Castle saga, especially loved the twist at the end, though for the benefit of others, I’ll keep my mouth shut.

I’ve been an avid fan since the first book and have been desperate for the Modern World since the release and my subsequent ravenous consumption of No Present Like Time. This one, I think, is my favourite.

Can’t wait to see what else you have in store for us.

Regards,

Marten
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Saturday, May 26, 2007 - 08:54 am:   

Hi Marten

Thanks -- I'm glad you enjoyed it and I'm even happier that you think this is the best of the three. I wanted to take time to put down some of the background to the Fourlands I knew but hadn't mentioned before.

The ending... it just had to be that way...
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Saturday, May 26, 2007 - 09:08 am:   

Hi Kiran

Yes, the typos on the cover: I've passed these on to my editor and they'll be corrected for the paperback. Thanks for looking out.

And thanks for your feedback too... I feel more like a motorcycle in heavy traffic than like a bus. There is a long tailback behind the juggernaut of Richard Morgan, that's for sure.

Richard is a nice guy, you will know if you ever meet him. And I think BLACK MAN is his best book to date.

There are a lot more true-to-life touches in BLACK MAN than the previous novels. I especially liked the description of arak: a white avalanche as it mixes with the water. I also appreciate Morgan's talent for languages, and the globe-trotting.

But, you know, I studied hunter-gatherers and human evolution at university so the BLACK MAN tenet is a bit much for me to swallow, unfortunately. And the blurb makes the plot sound oddly similar to BLADE RUNNER...
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richard morgan
Posted on Sunday, May 27, 2007 - 05:06 pm:   

Thanks, Steph - I'm blushing now....

Something to help wash down the Black Man tenet, if it's sticking: you could look at it like this:

what the Variant Thirteen programmes actually go ahead and produce in vitro is *conceptually* intended to resemble a more extremely violent early human - but it doesn't necessarily have an actual basis in the historical and evolutionary record. It's not like a Jurassic Park thing, where they actually find the DNA and extract it - these guys in the Thirteen programmes just extrapolate a genetic modification based on theory, and tweak it to fit their rather unpleasant purposes. After that, the mythology, both state sponsored and street level home-grown, would set in of its own accord. People - including some of the thirteens themselves - end up *believing* that these guys are a returned form of early human, because it suits their prejudices/love of tabloid simplicity/visceral tendency/sense of self. But none of these beliefs necessarily make it so.

Hope that aids digestion :-)

In truth, if Richard Wrangham's theories about reducing area thirteen in humans are right, (and Matt Ridley makes a persuasive if abbreviated case in that direction) then the individuals he's talking about probably wouldn't, for example, have had the high levels of intelligence I envisaged in the novel - in a basic environment, if you're bigger and tougher than everyone else, you tend not to need to be smarter as well. That's why I covered my ass so carefully in the acknowledgments. But one way or another, however far you take it, it is a lovely theory.

Just got through reading the DVD extras on your website - you absolutely have to do a Jant-in-Hacilith novel at some point, this stuff is beautiful.
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Conrad Albert
Posted on Sunday, May 27, 2007 - 05:08 pm:   

I got the same 2 books as above (Modern World and Black Man) the same day too, and I read first The Modern World and absolutely loved it. Excellent book, though I hope there will be more Castle books set after it.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2007 - 01:15 pm:   

Hello, Conrad
Glad to hear you enjoyed The Modern World. Yes, I do intend to write another Castle book set after it, although the next novel will be set some time earlier.
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Conrad Albert
Posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2007 - 07:14 pm:   

Anything about the Fourlands, even without Jant as narrator (though I really like him because he is such a wonderfully complex chracter), and I would buy on publication the first edition whether UK or US whichever is first...

I reread No Present Like Time too, and I will rereard The Year of Our War (this one I reread a while ago also), and I cannot decide which is my favourite. Technically I think TMW is the best in terms of pacing, alternating stories, viewpoints, it is the most balanced definitely, but TYOW was the first to introduce me to this wonderful world, and NPLT has the "first contact" plot, first contact at least for Jant and company, and I love such stories, so I cannot really decide, I think that all 3 are excellent, excellent books
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Lawrence Wang
Posted on Monday, June 04, 2007 - 02:55 am:   

Just shut the book. My mind is literally abuzz. My thoughts are a quagmire of 'What's and 'How's and more importantly, the sheer potential and future that lies ahead for the Fourlands (technically Fivelands). Lightning's decision has deconstructed everything I loved about the Castle and its immortals...and I absolutely love it. I can't WAIT to read of Jant and the Fourland's future. Please, let the next novel not be too far away, because I might go mad in the meantime. Though madness will not prevent me from reading it.

Each novel continues to reveal more and more about San that I find absolutely fascinating. He's a bit like Ultimate X-men's Professor Xavier...he appears the omniscient, wise and just leader but there are dark dark depths that are only slowly being revealed. The confrontation with the Vermiform shed a whole new light, and while I was expecting it...it still blew me away.

My only real complaint of this entire novel is that the Shift was experienced so slightly! The Gabbleratchet was great but far too brief.

I await eagerly, perhaps drooling, for more. How will Cyan cope? How will Rayne cope? Will Wrenn recover? And what of Jant? The past three novels have not been kind on him...he's losing so many close comrades and familiar faces. Lucky he's Rhydanne, or otherwise he'd go mad.


**SPOILER**

I do hope that Wrenn continues to play a part...introduced and suddenly torn away. What with S's departure and everything I am thinking Jant's going to need a friendly face.

**END SPOILERS**
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Luke Warhurst
Posted on Wednesday, June 06, 2007 - 11:38 am:   

I just finished reading The Modern World and thoroughly enjoyed it. The novel raises more questions than it answers and this is a good thing. I hope that we will eventually learn more about San, and see how his relationship with the members of the Circle will develop in future novels.

I found the detailed military description somewhat hard going (sorry) but the personal trials and tribulations of Jant, Lightning and his daughter, and Frost kept the pages turning. For me, The Modern World was at its best, and most insightful, entertaining, and profound, when it focused closely on individuals rather than on the broader struggle between the fourlands and the insects.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - 01:36 pm:   

Hello, Luke

Glad you liked Frost. And Cyan too – doesn’t she show how an upbringing both authoritarian and deficient can lead to disaster?

Different readers like different things so I’m certainly not upset if you prefer one element to another. Personally, I do much prefer writing about the relationships than about the battles (although I really love doing the battles research). The reason why I started writing Castle in the first place was to have somewhere to put observations of characters. In a lot of my pre-publication writing (and there is reams of this, for some examples see my website), action always happened 'off stage' but some people found that a bit frustrating.

The next Castle book won’t have Insects in it at all. It will be a Rhydanne love story (itself a strange concept) set against a clash of cultures which turns nasty.

More about San, his past, and how the immortals’ view of him develops in future years will rise out of subsequent stories. As you know, I don’t like long passages of straight explanation – because I could quite easily write hundreds of thousands of words on the Fourlands without putting any story in! – but you will eventually be able to piece together much more about San.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - 01:48 pm:   

Hello, Lawrence

If you think the last three novels haven’t been kind on Jant, you should wait until you read the next one! ;-) But then you’ll be able to understand more of why Jant turned out the way he has and see the influences in his past that have caused him to become rebellious, careless and an addict.

I’m glad you’ve noticed that Rhydanne have different cognition. Very few people seem to pick up on this and it can be difficult for Jant to show this – as far as he’s concerned he thinks normally, it’s everyone else who gets upset about strange things.

Your comparison of San with Xavier is interesting. I’ve thought about it myself in the past. Both bring together ‘talented’ people, organise them, and set up a team that forms a line of defence, every character to use their own strengths. San is a manager – he knows to let the Eszai get on with their jobs and he doesn’t interfere with giving orders. After all, they have more recent combat experience than he does.

The difference between San and Xavier is important. It’s the fact that immortality (career) is thrown open to the talents rather than ‘heroes’ having intrinsic ability. It is equality of opportunity, which leads to very intense competition, just as it does in our world (like in the Olympics or high-flying careers). You don’t get that in the X-Men where superpowers are innate! Most fantasy is just as conservative, with innate magical powers or 'noble blood' or whatever being what sets the heroes apart.

‘Intrinsic’ is a word that Michael Moorcock seemed inordinately fond of in his ‘Eternal Champion’ books, and it used to annoy the hell out of me. The fact that someone is born special (i.e. a hero) didn’t seem to give anybody else a chance and their special status never seemed to be deserved. So I have a system based on merit instead.

So in the Fourlands -- yes, technically Fivelands but no Fourlander will adopt that name ;-) -- they have this ‘American Dream’: work hard enough and you’ll succeed. San maintains an fair playing field, but as he runs the circuit of the Circle he can take their immortality away so no wonder they’re all shit scared – apart from S. As he shows at the ending -- a deconstruction of the Castle's theme, as you said.

Anyway, it’s good to see San actually moving in The Modern World, rather than sitting in papal splendour in the Castle. One wonders if the Throne Room floor will be made Vermiform-proof after this. Or maybe it was already…
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - 02:49 pm:   

Hello, Richard

Well, given that I can’t argue. There can’t be a genetically modified human that’s the same as an original early human ‘resurrected’. Check. But prejudices will lead to such names being used. Fair enough.

While reading, I was wondering what sort of hominids thirteens were supposed to be. I remember a female character (Carmen?) saying: ‘you can’t turn the clock back 20,000 years’. Well, I would have made it 50K or even more… But if it’s just background, it doesn’t really matter.

Glad you liked the ‘out-takes’. Yes, I would do a ‘Jant in Hacilith’ novel were it wanted. Seven years in which Jant is trying to survive in a very different environment from Darkling and has no idea how he will end up. There’s a lot there I haven’t said yet, how the Bowyers hunted down the Wheel gang, Layce’s story, and so on…
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richard morgan
Posted on Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - 05:02 pm:   

Yeah, the times are pretty vague - sort of a speed-read, bluff, stab and hope approach to the science, which is, I have to confess, pretty standard for me.

The shrinkage of brain size seems to have taken place, as you say, over about the last 50,000 years (mesolithic to now), though some of that apparently has to do with changes in body size as well. Ridley talks (presumably on Wrangham's behalf) about a steep decline in brain capacity over the last 15,000 years and indexes this to the arrival of denser, more "civilised" human settlements. So we're talking modern humans by this stage - nothing that would look too out of place dressed in black at the ICA.

In fact, my previous general understanding was that crop-based societies only really showed up about 7 to 10k ago, but I don't know if that's still the state-of-the-art arch/anth picture. I guess in any case you'd have a more gradual slide from hunter gathering to mixed subsistence and then to a more purely agricultural base, with the increasingly dense settlement tendency Ridley talks about coming as corollary. End result, I figure if we go back about 20k, we're safely past the earliest dense settlements and Ridley's 15k marker, thus definitely into "not-yet-bred-out-for-safety" times.

What I remember very clearly from previous reading is an account of skeletons found on one of these early agriculture sites, whose poor condition and relative youth at time of death suggested that this brave new agricultural age must have been pretty hellish by comparison to the hunter gatherer paradise before (echoes of the Eden story, eh???). I have this vision in my mind of the original thirteens, the guys like Marsalis, picking up their flints and spears, saying "fuck this for a game of skittles" and marching off into a sunset of life, liberty and the pursuit of largeish edible animals.....
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richard morgan
Posted on Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - 05:33 pm:   

Interesting point you make about the trade-off between character development and battle scenes. In the overall scheme of the Castle stories so far that's been largely a zero sum game, in that space for one means less space for the other. But that's only because the enemy is the insects, who obviously aren't up for much character development and are (from the human point of view) an immediate, absolute evil that has to be fought.

Where conflict is human on human, the game changes because it's often the development of character that intensifies the violence of the confrontations. Think of the gun fights in the Leone westerns - the intensity of those "battles" is derived not from the violence itself but from the run up to it, the building blocks of human interaction as they start to come apart under pressure. One of the most intense moments in the first Lord of the Rings movie was for me the near clash between Boromir and Aragorn when Frodo (dick that he is) drops the ring in the snow. Aragorn faces Boromir down, and you only see afterwards that he has his hand on his sword, ready to cut the guy down if he can't break his will instead. The fact that both A and B are recognisably human, recognisably sympathetic, is what makes that scene so powerful.

I think this is one of the things I most liked about No Present Like Time - there the conflicts were (with one notable exception) human on human, and the character development fed directly into the violence as and when it erupted. In YOOW, I crowed over the character work, and enjoyed the battle scenes, but these were identifiably different dynamics, like separate courses in a meal. In NPLT, there was a running continuity. For the same reasons I'm dying for the Rhydanne love story turned nasty, and would love to see Jant-in-Hacilith one day fleshed out....
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Steph
Posted on Sunday, July 22, 2007 - 02:03 pm:   

Richard, did you ever get that spider tattoo?
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Jody OHalloran
Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2007 - 08:36 am:   

Hi Steph,

Long time reader, first time poster.

I loved the book. Just one little question, hopefully trying to avoid any spoilers for anybody else who hasn't read it yet..

Why was the Vermiform so concerned about helping rescue Jant & **** from the Shift? She doesn't really seem to care about the Fourlands or its inhabitants from her other appearances.

Thanks for the books!
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Steph
Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2007 - 07:58 am:   

Hello Jodie

I'm going to answer your post on a new thread: The Castle Books - Spoilers Galore!

That's where to go to talk with big, juicy spoilers.
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Nicl
New member
Username: Nicl

Post Number: 1
Registered: 07-2008
Posted on Thursday, July 03, 2008 - 06:57 am:   

Hey Steph,

I've been trying to buy the Modern World for some time now but it's really hard to get hold of! I've been to my local stores and its not even being sold direct on amazon :-(

I'm sure I saw it in my local stores (in Oxford) some time ago - even some signed copies, but I was doing finals then so no time for reading! - but now I can't find it anywhere. So I was just wondering if there is a supply or printing problem or if it is just me?

Anyway, I'm a big fan and keep up the good work,

Thanks,

Nic
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Steph_swainston
New member
Username: Steph_swainston

Post Number: 56
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Thursday, July 03, 2008 - 08:21 am:   

Nic,

No, it's not just you... The Modern World has sold out! That is to say, the publishers don't have any hardbacks left in stock, and for some reason we have months to wait for the publication of the paperback.

However, there are sellers on amazon.co.uk selling 'used and new' - or drop me a line through my website contacts page, I may be able to sort you a copy:

http://www.stephswainston.co.uk/contact

I hope your finals went well & you're now living it up in olde Oxford town.

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