Few novels in recent months have crossed my desk for review and been snatched up with as much enthusiasm as Clockwork Angels, a collaboration between legendary Canadian rock band Rush and prolific SF author Kevin J. Anderson. While novelisation’s of rock albums are few and far between – giving this project a certain fascination right off the bat – my enthusiasm was guaranteed for the reason that Anderson’s novel and the exquisite illustrations by graphic artist Hugh Syme take the lyrics and broad narrative of Rush’s latest album as their inspiration, forging a beautifully illustrated work of fiction that draws on many of the philosophical, humanitarian and libertarian ideas that lyricist Neil Peart has been working with and evolving through the band’s music over some four decades.
 
Author Ray Bradbury, best know for his iconic science fiction and fantasy novels The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes and especially Fahrenheit 451, has died at the age of 91 after a lengthy illness. Throughout his long writing career, Bradbury produced hundreds of short stories, nearly fifty books, numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays and screenplays.
 
Dan Simmons’ latest novel, Flashback (July 2011), is “[a] provocative novel set in a future that seems scarily possible,” proving “why Dan Simmons is one of our most exciting and versatile writers." So says the publicist anyway. Dan Simmons is one of our most exciting and versatile writers, but sadly Flashback doesn’t prove that. And yes, Flashback is a provocative novel, but it doesn’t provoke because the dystopian future Simmons describes is "scarily possible", but because it expresses a political bias that renders much of this novel little more than propaganda for the Right side of politics.
 
The Orion Publishing Group has announced that the third edition of the essential science fiction reference work, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, will be released online in 2012 and will be completely free. This is a gigantic work (overwhelming in a good way) and will undoubtedly be a fascinating reference point to explore online. If you want to know more about science fiction, there's enough information in the original volumes to keep you intrigued for a millennia. This is great news for science fiction scholars and fans alike.
 
While we usually restrict ourselves to articles on science fiction and fantasy films, books and TV, I can’t pass up this opportunity to reveal details of Apple’s “latest creation” just announced by Steve Jobs. I woke up amazingly early in Australia to watch Steve Job's presentation and give you the news first.
 
Ursula K. Le Guin, a science fiction and fantasy writer most famous for her Earthsea trilogy, The left hand of darkness and The dispossessed, is taking on Google’s right to scan and sell millions of books online after the search engine giant reached an agreement with the US Authors Guild. According to The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, Ursula Le Guin has submitted a petition to a US judge signed by 365 other writers opposing the legal settlement. The petition asks the judge to exempt the US from a revised legal settlement reached between Google and US authors and publishers.
 
If you're a fan of the science fiction writer John Wyndham, most famous for his novel The Day of the Triffids, and believe that there’s nothing more to enjoy, you may well be mistaken (or perhaps not?). More than 41 years after his death, Penguin has published a new John Wyndham novel called Plan for Chaos. According to the Irish Times, Liverpool University Press, holders of the Wyndham archive, published Plan to Chaos last year as a specialist book with a high price tag but has now released it to mainstream booksellers. Wyndham wrote Plan for Chaos in 1951, just before he wrote his walking plant masterpiece, The Day of the Triffids.
 
Death has been kind to the everlasting memory of Philip K. Dick (1928-1982), one of the most influential and perhaps also one of the most eccentric authors of the twentieth century. Since his untimely death at the age of 53 there's been nothing short of an explosion of interest in the man and his work and as each year passes, his remarkable influence on other writers, in cinema and mainstream culture becomes more apparent. Such posthumous success and wide-reaching influence is unprecedented for any previous writer of science fiction and it's further evidence that Death has a genius for irony: only in the afterlife has Phil Dick enjoyed the wide success he deserved and craved throughout his life!
 
First published in 1988, the biography Don't Panic: Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has been revised and refreshed to cover the feature film (unfortunately not as successful as fans hoped), Adams' untimely death in 2001, and the publication of the sixth novel by Eoin Colfer, And Another Thing. It also covers the 30th anniversary of the novel that kick-started Adams' rise to stardom, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Hitchhiker's was 30 years old in October 2009.
 
Science fiction authors have long been outcasts from the literary world, in some cases critics using the worst examples of the genre as ammunition against it. Unfortunately though, at times even science fiction authors themselves can turn on their own kind: "Science fiction is rockets, chemicals and talking squids in outer space,” mocked Margaret Atwood (The Guardian, 28 January 2009), one of her many attempts to convince people that she is not a science fiction author, even though one of her most famous novels, A Handmaid's Tale, is exactly that.
 
There’s a better than average chance that you’re asking yourself two questions right now: who the hell is Chris Beckett and what is the Edge Hill Short Story Prize? Until we received the press release announcing Chris’ win, I must confess I’d not heard of the author or the competition. So now you’re probably asking a third question: why announce this win at all?
 
The 68th World Science Fiction Convention (Aussiecon 4) will be held in Melbourne, Australia from 2 to 6 September 2010. The acclaimed US science fiction writer, Kim Stanley Robinson, most famous for his Mars novels, will be the Guest of Honour. Kim Stanley Robinson won a Nebula Award for Red Mars in 1993 and Hugo Awards for Green Mars in 1994 and Blue Mars in 1997.
 
If there's a god watching over the universe in which James Murdoch wrote Gray Apocalypse, his debut novel of men in black and alien conspiracy, I suspect that god looks a lot like author Matthew Reilly (Ice Station, Area 7, Temple). I have to say it's only a suspicion as I've only ever managed to get through a couple of paragraphs of Reilly’s popular potboilers. Reilly is an amiable author with no illusions about the literary merit of his fiction and a confidence born of hard won success to care less about such trivial considerations as literary merit. But in the end it's a matter of taste and conspiracy theories, alien or otherwise, simply ain’t mine.
 
More successfully than any other novel I've read recently, Bernard Beckett's Genesis epitomises the investigative ideal of science fiction. By any standards it's a short novel and at 150 pages is perhaps more truly a novella, but in a genre given to overinflated, ponderous tomes screaming out for an editor wielding a samurai sword, there's a refreshing efficiency to Beckett’s writing. Nothing is superfluous, nothing wasted.
 
On balance it’s difficult not to recommend Nick Harkaway’s debut novel, The Gone-Away World, as its one significant flaw is outweighed by its many virtues. Here is a novel bursting with originality and deserving of praise for its ambitious scope. Harkaway writes with an obvious delight in the English language and the courage and mastery to bend the written word to his will. Unafraid to take risks, the risks pay off more often than not.
 
Earlier this year we chatted with Philip K. Dick’s fifth wife, Tessa, about the forthcoming biopic of her husband. Starring Paul Giamatti in the role of Phil Dick and with a screenplay by Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), The Owl in Daylight promises to interweave an account of Dick’s life with elements of his fiction. By all accounts the movie will focus on events in the 1970s, in particular Dick’s infamous visionary experiences of March 1974 when he claimed to have been contacted by an extraterrestrial force called VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System) via a beam of pink light.
 
Just when you thought it was safe to visit your local bookstore, a sixth book from Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series is being released. Titled “And another thing…” the new book will be published by Penguin in October 2009.
 
I've just finished reading William Gibson's latest novel Spook Country, a fragmented, leisurely paced, ultimately unsatisfying intelligence thriller about a group of disparate characters searching for a mysterious cargo container from Iraq. While it does feature present day virtual reality technology and GPS, there's not an ounce of real science fiction in it - no matter what William Gibson would have you believe.
 
Robert Charles Wilson’s Darwinia is as near perfect as fiction comes. It’s literary, intelligent and entertaining in equal measure. Rarely does a writer get it this right. Wilson’s characters are complex and believable, the prose is frequently beautiful, and he has an eye for original imagery wrapped up in an exquisitely apt turn of phrase: consider how the urbane but amoral Timothy Crane slides into the ranks of Washington’s elite “like a gilded suppository”.
 
With a career spanning two decades, British writer Peter F. Hamilton is one of today’s most prominent authors in the science fiction field. He is renowned worldwide for his production of complex and vibrant space opera novels, and with over a dozen acclaimed books under his belt, he’s showing no signs of slowing down.