Cheeseburger Gothic

Ghost Fleet. PW Singer and August Cole

Posted August 25, 2015 into Books by John Birmingham

Short review.

I loved it. If you enjoyed the Tom Clancy school of the 1980s and would like to see them redone with modern and future technology, just go buy it.

Longer, more considered review.

It's lucky Tom Clancy wasn't able to put hyperlinks all the way through his books. Not in the early years, anyway. This is what they would look like. A military thriller in which every mention of weapons technology is hyperlinked to an explanatory source. But even more than that, there are hundreds of other inexplicable links which break up the experience of just letting the story carry you along. It's an artefact of the authors' deeper purpose — to spin a cautionary tale for policymakers as much as for readers. But seriously, I really didn't need the footnote explaining how Arnold Palmer had been commissioned to design that golf course on which Marine Corps Osprey's were setting down. Just land the damn aircraft and start blowing things up. Sheesh.

I bring this up before even getting to what Ghost Fleet is about because those footnotes are going to piss a lot of people off. I tried to turn them off on my Kobo but couldn't find the appropriate checkbox. Maybe it would be easier on a Kindle or an iPad.

That minor aggravation aside (I stopped noticing them the same way we train ourselves not to see banner ads online) and with all the usual caveats, I really did enjoy this book.

Ghost Fleet is very Red Storm Rising, one of my favourite Tom Clancy books. It's set in the near future, the exact date being left vague, but feeling like twenty years out to me. That's long enough to bring a lot of cutting edge technology into the mainstream, but not so far removed from our present concerns as to morph into science fiction. China is ascendant, but the Communist Party has been swept away. The emergent hyperpower is ruled by a nationalist cabal of billionaire tycoons and the military. The US is not just in relative decline; a series of foreign policy misadventures and economic travails find it in absolute decline. China's ruling clique, which styles itself as the Directorate, discovers vast reserves of natural gas on the floor of the Pacific in an area still controlled by America. They decide the time has come for Washington to learn a few ugly realities about the new blanace of power. Or what the old Sovs would have called 'the correlation of forces'.

And so we come to the point, or rather the first point of this novel, a tour de force of just how US could be driven out of the Pacific in our lifetimes. The Chinese plan is not far removed from scenarios being war gamed by all of the great powers right now. The guilty pleasure of Ghost Fleet is seeing the scenario-building worked out in narrative form.

Like Clancy, Singer and Cole deploy a broad canvas with a lot of storytellers. They do return to a couple of favourites however, a Navy captain who fights his LCS out of Pearl Harbor when the Pacific Fleet is attacked there, his old man, a retired Navy chief petty officer who is recalled to service with thousands of other old salts when the 7th Fleet is destroyed, a female Marine who turns insurgent when Hawaii is invaded, a Chinese-American scientist whose research holds the key to a counter-attack, and one of my particular favourites a British-Australian billionaire turned space pirate. (Seriously, this character is great fun and provides the only comic relief in an otherwise pretty serious endeavour). There are dozens of others.

No it's not Tolstoy. It doesn't even make a pretense at being fine writing. A lot of the secondary characters are just Lego pieces to click into place when building the story, and although the writers take some time with their favourite characters to fill out their back stories and emotional lives, it's largely a paint by numbers exercise.

So fucking what. You don't judge these books by the standards of Tolstoy. You judge them on their own merits, and I judged Ghost Fleet to be such enormous fun that I decided to take a day off work to finish reading it in one big, guilty binge. It helped that I had a bit of a hangover after the Melbourne Writers Festival. I was able to convince myself I would not have done any worthwhile work on my own books. Also, it made me think I should really write some more stuff like this.

A lot of the pacing, character, and formatting problems (those hyperlinks!) fall away as the story begins to accelerate under its own momentum. By the time the US has put together its counterstrike (the second real point of the book) most of the lumpiness of the early narrative has smoothed out and it's a fast run to a very satisfying conclusion.

I enjoyed it. I'm happy to recommend the purchase.

Amazon affiliate link. (Hardback. But go the ebook).

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War

64 Responses to ‘Ghost Fleet. PW Singer and August Cole’

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted August 25, 2015
Are you coming the raw prawn with me?? Arnold Palmer was commissioned to design a golf course on which Marine Corps Osprey's were setting down??

If true, that rocks my world, mate. Rocks my fucking world.

GhostSwirv ducks in to say...

Posted August 25, 2015

Not only was Arnold Palmer commissioned to design a golf course for Osprey training but Mario Andretti was tasked to design a race track for Abrams M1A2 Tanks to take on Russian T-14s, on-loan from the Ukrainians ... and Mark Spitz was called upon to design a cluster of Olympic-sized swimming pools for HALO SEAL insertions - but somehow the design parameters where not explained properly and that programme was unexpectantly terminated.

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Aaron would have you know...

Posted August 25, 2015
I heartily endorse your desire to write more military thrillers. And call the hero Tolstoy.

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Blarkon mumbles...

Posted August 25, 2015
"Also, it made me think I should really write some more stuff like this."
Fuck Yes. Who cares about characterization if there is an F22 skimming the waves with big arse ship splosions in the background on the cover?

NBlob reckons...

Posted August 25, 2015
+1

damian mutters...

Posted August 25, 2015
I think the beginning of the SF&F immersion I've taken on in recent years has been to work out whether I'd like to write it. Whereas maybe what I really want to write is more along the lines of Alastair Maclean (I lost patience with the 80s era guys in the 90s). Getting the balance of ingredients right is probably the main thing. Terse, double-fisted prose. Or something, no idea really and time burns like a fuse.

Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted August 27, 2015
Damian, if you can possibly break into writing through any other genre then for the love of God, go do that.
Don't get wrapped up in the mindless insanity of science fiction. Especially not after the spectacle which took place last weekend.

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Sudragon mutters...

Posted August 25, 2015
It's not available on Amazon.com.au. It is, however, over on Google play.

Peter in the bleachers would have you know...

Posted August 25, 2015
Also at iBooks. I re-read Red Storm Rising about 3 months ago. I'd forgotten how much I had enjoyed it back in the late 80's

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Murphy_of_Missouri mumbles...

Posted August 25, 2015
Didn't Ralph Peters essentially write this novel back in the 1990s? Of course the bad guy was Japan, of all folks, not China. But it featured the same declining United States of America as the plucky come back kid.

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Aaron mumbles...

Posted August 26, 2015
I have seen loads floating around in book shops, very similar plot but because explodey goodness who cares.
I need to re read red storm rising, with some grilled meat on the side. Ahhh....

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Sudragon asserts...

Posted August 26, 2015
And I turn on ABC and there's Peter Singer talking about the War on Isis....

damian asserts...

Posted August 30, 2015
What program was that? That would be a cracker, and it'll still be available to download.

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Dick puts forth...

Posted August 26, 2015
I read an article on this book yesterday. I believe whilst it is a novel, the authors are seriously also trying to role play a definitely possible outcome, and they are qualified to do so apparently.

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ChrisB has opinions thus...

Posted August 26, 2015
Looks like my Sunday is now set...thanks JB

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Aaron puts forth...

Posted August 26, 2015
The appeal for me is not so much the explodey but the interesting ideas of how to take out a powerful opponent like the USA. A classic example was the war 2006 book, a combined Mid East force taking on the west using an air denial strategy. It sounded good anyway. Red storm had some good bits like that as well.

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Sudragon asserts...

Posted August 26, 2015
The trick is to write a book about a Superpower clash that isn't 400 pages of the extremely short period of time between 'launch warning' and 'earth-shattering ka-boom'

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TexasTeaserPony would have you know...

Posted August 27, 2015
First, should the Master write more military SF? Absolutely. It's his highest and best use.

Second, Murph, you may be thinking-I think-of another Clancy book in which the US did have a dust up with Japan--remember when Japan Inc was scaring the shit out of some people? Clancy wrote a book to capitalize on that happy time.

Peters wrote a really excellent book called The Red Army--highly recommended for nostalgic Cold Warriors--in which a Warsaw Pact invasion of Germany is told from a Soviet point of view. The ending was interesting, to say the least. Highly recommended. Peters is currently doing a series of truly remarkable historical novels of various campaigns and battles of the US Civil War. His Cain at Gettysburg puts Shaara's Killer Angels to shame.

Red Storm Rising was the best of all the various efforts to try to write a WWIII book. So, with our Master's recc, I'll be buying and reading Ghost Fleet on tonight's trip to left coast. Thanks for that, Lord and Master.

As a footnote, Clancy wrote one where the US and NATO smacked the PRC around--we were helping Russia as I recall. He wrote a lot of stuff. As time passed, it got pretty same-same.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted August 27, 2015
That Japan book featured an airliner slamming into Congress. I recall TC having to explain why he wasn't responsible for 911

Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted August 27, 2015
I remember very clearly back in the 1990s that everyone thought that Japan was the dominant future Asian power followed by a host of regional follow ons and that we, the United States of America were, doomed.

In an International Relations class at Park University (what do you get when you spell Park backwards) I basically stated that I thought their market growth was unsustainable and that regular predictions of U.S. collapse were just as regularly disproven. The instructor, an adjunct and my first encounter with one after two years of college, was convinced I was wrong. Well, history vindicated me with the collapse of the Tiger Economies and here in a bit I suspect when China implodes history will vindicate me again.






Dave W has opinions thus...

Posted August 27, 2015
I think you raise an interesting point, Mr Murphy.
When I lived in the UK for a few years, I was staggered and impressed at just how important the country is. From the outside we get the impression that the place is crap and really is just a faded superpower. From the inside, though, it's startling just how influential and necessary (from a manufacturing, research and facilitation/financial perspective- probably militarily too) the UK remains. I suspect the same is true of the US.
I'd say that reports of their deaths are greatly exaggerated.

Brother PorkChop ducks in to say...

Posted August 28, 2015
Murph, you really think the PRC will go the same way as Japan and more recently, Korea? I would disagree, at least with the way it stands ATM. I studied Japan's economics and politics in the 80s when it was all Japan Inc. and Japan As No.1. I didn't agree with it then for Japan - too far, too fast and too naive. The PRC is a different beast and looks very much to the future and very long term strategies. Looked at the rare earth stats on ownership? Gold as well. It is at best uncertain and at worst, quite scary.

NBlob puts forth...

Posted August 29, 2015
i miss the rambling geopolitic sessions we used to have in the old burger. Yeah the carpet was sticky and you wouldn't crap in the bathroom if you could avoid it, but geeze we tackled some big issues. Not so much with the "which ap on my iWatch do I like most."

Murphy_of_Missouri would have you know...

Posted August 31, 2015
Their demographic ticking time bomb will do them in. I'm not overly worried about China in the near term, at least over the next fifty years.

NBlob would have you know...

Posted September 1, 2015
The demographic issue will have interesting consequences, for me more interesting will be the shake out from the Ehrlich collapse of the natural systems (breathable air & potable water) economic concentration & disparity and GM tinkering. Each of these pressures have more than enough inertia to destabilise the People's Republic how they interplay will be intriguing.

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damian ducks in to say...

Posted August 30, 2015
Just Testing

damian puts forth...

Posted August 30, 2015
*takes a small bow*

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted August 30, 2015
Gold star.

NBlob reckons...

Posted August 31, 2015
You know what's gunna happen now.

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HAVOCK21 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 28, 2015
FK ME YES!!!!

its about time...thats YOU and TC..well he can't but you have no fkn excuse!...I'M BUYING IT!...got some time on me hands.
OH...and BTW. FKN NOT FKN HAPPY ABOUT MELB, but mum and dad come first...old boys been pretty crook!

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted August 29, 2015
Spend every minute with him you can comrade. Bung him in the shotgun seat while you do your chores. Once he's gone you'll regret every chance you had & didn't. I know I do.

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted August 30, 2015
+1

AuntyLou has opinions thus...

Posted August 30, 2015
Missed the chance with Mum. Dad is living with us at the mo...trying to find the good stuff amongst the day to day dross. Grateful for the chance. Thinking of you and yours Havs (PS I know you don't know me from Adam but I am claiming a degree of Burgerhood which I am probably not entitled to but proud of nonetheless.)

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted August 31, 2015
If you identify as a burger, you're Burger enough for me.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted October 4, 2015
NBlob does not speak for the entire cartel. It takes more than self identification of Burgerosity. It takes a cash donation to me. Upon receiving said cash donation I will provide a certificate of Burgerhood.

AuntyLou mumbles...

Posted October 4, 2015
Okay PNB! If you are willing to disclosed your contact details to some strange old lady on the interwebs...I am sure we can come to some arrangement. Or I can buy you a drink next time you come to BrisVegas. But I would really like that certificate! It can sit proudly between my Bronze swimming certificate & my BA (Bugger All) degree.

NBlob reckons...

Posted October 5, 2015
Don't do it AuntyLou, it'll be nothing but pen!s enlarging Nigerian princes from here to eternity.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted October 6, 2015
Yeah, but she will also get a cool certificate.

AuntyLou puts forth...

Posted October 7, 2015
Look...if PNB can throw in the name of that one food I must never eat in order to lose unsightly belly fat and a job that I can do from home & earn thousands of dollars only working an hour or two - I think we have a deal!

NBlob mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2015
And another innocent falls to PNB's charm. The most distressing aspect is the propensity for PNB to be a "gateway" pundit to worse, far worse. Like GreyBread. Despite what the nuns tell you it's not that one toke on a joint and next thing your addicted to crack, but rather PNB erodes the standards by which you judge, loosens the scope of acceptable, broadens what is tenable. Then GreyBread seems rakish, daring even. Then that's the ball game.

AuntyLou puts forth...

Posted October 7, 2015
Quite some time since I have been called "innocent"! I have a tendency to be the somewhat wayward oldie in many groups. While I may have met my match in this crowd I reckon I could give the standard loosening of PNB & GB a run for the money! Play ball!!

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted October 8, 2015
Blob, the kind of "standards" you champion are the hobgoblin of little minds. I don't really know what that means, but it sounds intellectually pompous, thereby achieving my sophistic goals while simultaneously proving your point. I mean, come on, how cool is that?

Lou, we have a deal. I will begin preparing your custom certificate.

AuntyLou is gonna tell you...

Posted October 8, 2015
Yeah...no idea what you said PNB but...way cool! Sorry Mr Blob - like all women (ooh! gender stereotype alert!) I am a sucker for the bad boys! So looking forward to my custom certificate and lots more chats with my official Burgermates! (Please be aware that the exclamation mark is my punctuation mark of choice! It is used with gay- in the old fashioned sense- abandon. Please assume no particular level of excitement!!!)

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted October 9, 2015
Excessive punctuation use will jeopardize your Burgerhood.

AuntyLou is gonna tell you...

Posted October 9, 2015
Damn. And I thought I was solid.

NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted October 9, 2015
When he says "we have a deal" I'd urge you to engage counsel, count your fingers and pay very close attention to the fine print. Unrelated; you do have an arm, leg & first born?

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pedrogb has opinions thus...

Posted August 29, 2015
Saw an article on it online, thought about it, but after your post JB I bought the ebook version.As a long time fan of miltary SF, anything by Tom Clancy, (and showing my vintage now) James Cobb or Eric L Harry I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would recommend it.

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Steve mumbles...

Posted August 29, 2015
I finished reading it yesterday, and enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Red Storm Rising.
I honestly doubt that China would let itself get into a shooting war with the US. When you owe the bank a million dollars and can't pay, you have a problem. When you owe the bank a billion dollars and can't pay, the bank has a problem. China's biggest financial assets is its US debt holdings, which are in the hundreds of billions, if not trillions, and these would become worthless overnight if a shooting war started.

Nocturnalist mumbles...

Posted October 3, 2015
The version I've heard for the post-GFC world is "When you owe the bank a thousand dollars and you can't pay, you have a problem. When you owe the bank a million dollars and you can't pay, the bank has a problem. When you owe the bank a billion dollars and you can't pay, the government has a problem."

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted October 8, 2015
Heavens no, when you owe the bank or a government many billions of dollars the creditor/debtor relationship transforms into a partnership.

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sibeen swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 29, 2015
So, just finished the book. For all the wrap JB gave it I must state that I just didn't love it. I didn't hate it, but love was still far away.
The disinterest started fairly early. For a book that was supposedly thoroughly researched there was a line near the beginning where China's monopoly on rare earth minerals is one of the tipping points for their ascendancy. Thing is, rare earth minerals just aren't that rare. In fact they are reasonably common. There's shitloads just lying around. I could dig up some in my backyard, not cheaply, but I could do it.
That sort of crap just turned me off.
As a China vs USA novel, it really didn't do that for me as well. I was hoping for a new and improved "Invasion" by Eric Harry. It didn't even come close. If you want visceral blood, guts, strategy, etc, the Harry novel wins in a canter.

Sibeen gives this book a big pfft.


NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted August 30, 2015
I've had a similar experience in a number of otherwise entirely adequate yarns. Page 5 or 6 some hand-waving or a clumsy Maguffin unsettles me for the rest of the yarn, meaning I never properly engage and find myself @ page 300, still unengaged.

HAVOCK21 mutters...

Posted August 31, 2015
yall....remember that Sibeeeen is an engineer!..OK.....JUST SAYIN!.." fkn ducks for cover"

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John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted August 30, 2015
Turn off the italics!

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robW ducks in to say...

Posted August 31, 2015
Ditto on the footnotes, they drove me crazy. When I read the book like you I was instantly reminded of Clancy, but not just Clancy. It reminded me wistfully of Birmingham's earlier work. I thought of writing him a note asking why he [Birmingham] didn't write more along those lines, but then realized he isn't my book bitch. *sigh*

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 11, 2015
I adore footnotes. And endnotes.

NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 11, 2015
& book bitches

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted October 12, 2015
It has been my honor to be acquainted with a number of fine authors. None can be characterized as my "book bitch." If they were, then Doctor Funk and the Leather Pirates From Planet Love would be a published novel today.

And I take this opportunity to point out to the literary Powers That Be that there still is no AoT sequel (although long promised) and no fourth novel in the Nantucket series (never promised, but certainly something that needs to be done: I mean, seriously Steve, how cool would it be to jump a couple of generations ahead to a quasi steampunk world where the Wolf Queen of the Steppes seeks a reckoning?).

And Dean - you can stop writing those Odd Thomas novels. Please.

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TexasTeaserPony reckons...

Posted August 31, 2015
Invasion *was* awesome.

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S.M. Stirling asserts...

Posted October 3, 2015
I've got two objections to this scenario, one general and one specific.
General first: when was the last time two major industrialized nation-states seriously fought each straight up -- not through proxies, but head-to-head with mainforce units of their own national forces?
Answer -- 1945.
When was the last time nuclear weapons were used?
Answer -- 1945.
This is not a coincidence. It's now 70 years since the last Great Power war, and the reason is simple: anyone who can field major forces can build nukes, and nobody will accept a major defeat without escalating.
Shortly thereafter, we all go into the stratosphere, as fallout.
As the saying went in the 1980's, NATO's strategy for WWIII was: we fight with conventional weapons until we start to lose, then we fight with tactical(*) nukes until we start to lose, then we blow up the world.
Same-same here.
The -specific- objection is on the next rock.

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S.M. Stirling has opinions thus...

Posted October 3, 2015
OK, specific objection:
"China Rising" stories are so 2005. Rather like "Japan will eat our lunch" stories are so 1985, only it's not so generally obvious yet.
As usual, near-future SF focuses on yesterday's problem.
China has just run bugsplat into the "high middle income trap" and shows no signs of being able to to get out. To progress beyond that they'd need structural reforms so deep that even Japan hasn't gotten around to them seriously yet.
More fundamentally, like the Japanese and Koreans (and the Taiwanese and Singaporeans and other East Asians) the Chinese have effectively stopped having babies. Their urban TFR's are about 1 -- among the lowest in the world. This is not a matter of government policy; they're not having babies because they don't -want- to have babies.
What's more, like Taiwan (and following in Japan's wake) they're getting into the "more and more women refuse to marry" trap too; this pattern is common in East Asia once a certain development threshold is hit, starting among the upper-middle-class in urban areas and spreading. China is in the earlier stages but it's unmistakable. It's a consequence of uneven cultural modernization, and particularly devastating in cultures with a long tradition of universal marriage.
Add in the grotesque male-female imbalance in the younger generations, and you do not have a formula for a dynamic superpower. Countries with declining, (and rapidly aging) populations tend to become conservative, risk-averse and inward-looking, with a general attitude of grumpy depression.
Here's a graphic of Taiwan's population "pyramid", which as you can see has a distinctly non-pyramidal shape these days. Urban China's is about the same, and China is now majority-urban, with the countryside increasingly hollowing out and almost no young farmers.
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/graphics/population/TW_popgraph%202014.bmp

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Collected Warren Ellis for a buck

Posted June 10, 2015 into Books by John Birmingham

I've never seen Warren Ellis speak, but he does write great essays. I remember reading one of his at Vice.com, after Hurricane Sandy hit New York. It was about the slow, almost absent minded collapse of civilisation.

A team of researchers from Penn State have recently released work showing how they can compare rainfall records on stalagmites in Belize to Mayan political history. They found, in fact, that severe weather events contributed directly to the breakage of the Mayan political machine, and even the collapse of its greatest cities. Which would seem obvious, perhaps, but here we are. Looking at the marks left by rain on stone and mapping them to the end of cities.

I can imagine, in fact, walking through an Old New York, looking at the dark, greedy smears left by floodwaters at high tide on the fronts of brownstones and banks and divining from them the dates when Manhattan died by inches. Wondering which of these eroded tidal lines was the one where people realized that climate change wasn’t a joke or a trick, but the new future, a thousand miles wide and coming for them at a hundred miles an hour.

Every single one of the green, bloated bodies washed up on America’s shore was loved by someone, and cheated out of years by a broken machine.

I'm hoping to find it or something like it in Cunning Plans, a collection of his speeches, and an honest to goddamned steal for one lousy buck. It's ebook only. You can get it from the Beast of Bezos here.

Or here via Smashwords, my prefered choice even though I don't get a piece of the action from them.

6 Responses to ‘Collected Warren Ellis for a buck’

Blarkon is gonna tell you...

Posted June 10, 2015
I collect everything Ellis writes.
One day we'll convince you to read Transmetropolitan.
If only Agents of H.A.T.E would be made into a Marvel Movie.

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 10, 2015
Happy to buy at Amzon clicking through from your site but no link in the text I could find.
Love Mr Ellis work, so cheery and light hearted, a poetry of kittens and flowers.
Blarkon Nextwave will never see a celluloid screen. Ellis's black muse would puncture the eyeballs of any who tried.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted June 10, 2015
Is there no little Amazon ad for you? Down the bottom? Just above Smashwords?

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 10, 2015
"I'm hoping to find it or something like it in Cunning Plans, a collection of his speeches, and an honest to goddamned steal for one lousy buck. It's ebook only. You can get it from the Beast of Bezos here"
no just words no link or ad.there is a link for smashwords when I click on Or here via Smashwords,

insomniac mutters...

Posted June 10, 2015
If you have an ad blocker on then you don't see the ad. At work I see no ad but at home its all okey dokey

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Surtac is gonna tell you...

Posted June 11, 2015

Like Blarkon, I devour everything I can find by Ellis so grabbed this as soon as he tweeted a link

Biggest emotional reaction to a graphic story I've had in the last 40 years came in Trees issue 8, written by Ellis. It hit me like a punch to the gut.

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Great Reviews of Dave 2

Posted June 3, 2015 into Books by John Birmingham

With the US/UK publication of RESISTANCE this week, the reviews are starting to come in and two in particular caught my eye. My Bookish Ways followed up an insightful critique of EMERGENCE with an even more astute reading of Dave's character (or lack thereof) in the second installment.

"You already know that Dave isn’t stupid. In fact, he’s far from it, higher education and all. Except… there’s a self-loathing aspect that drives Dave to do stupid things, and once he starts, it’s awful hard for him to quit." (Emphasis added.)

I was really taken by MBW's reading of Dave in that way. If you've finished the whole series/season you'd know just accurate the self-loathing diagnosis is, but youd have to infer it from his behaviour before the revelations in New York.

The second review I really liked was in One Book Two, the work of a couple of women who read in tandem and them toss their reactions to the story back and forth. I've seen this a bit with reviews/recaps of TV shows like Game of Thrones, and of course it was the defining architecture the movie reviews by Siskel & Ebert, and Stratton & Pomeranz - but I haven't come across it in book reviewing before. (Perhaps I should get out less?)

The thing I really appreciated about it was the way the format allows the reviewers to push against each other. It address the main problem I've always had with reviews; they're entirely subjective exercises in pretending to be objective readings of a topic. 1B2's Dave review is that most rare of all things for a writer – useful. I took a lot away from it that I can apply in writing Season 2.

You can read the whole thing here. It's worth the jump just to bookmark the site for future reference.

12 Responses to ‘Great Reviews of Dave 2 ’

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted June 3, 2015
Yes, I thought you especially would like it.

GhostSwirv has opinions thus...

Posted June 3, 2015

JB - With the reviewers describing Professor X Boylan as ... "an interesting character, obviously brilliant, cowardly attorney wordsmith and funny without meaning to be funny" ... is this a great example of the heights of fictional writing you have achieved or does it say much more about your keen skills of observation?

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Surtac mumbles...

Posted June 3, 2015
Yes. Read it after seeing your tweet about it and I agree about the format. The to-and-fro aspect really does make it an interesting discussion.

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sibeen has opinions thus...

Posted June 3, 2015
Professor X Boylan, attorney at law, is an interesting character. He’s obviously brilliant, but he’s also an attorney, which makes him a wordsmith.
Christ, I threw up in my mouth just a little reading that.

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MickH has opinions thus...

Posted June 3, 2015
Actually I can't agree. I think that Dave is extremely stupid, Homer Simpson stupid. In fact I picture homer as Dave when I read. Woo Hoo!

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Rhino reckons...

Posted June 5, 2015
Someone just listed #TheDave on Larry Corriea's FB page as a great read while his fanboys wait for the next MHI book. Should get the signal boosted. Lots of comments agreeing that it is good stuff.

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Ale X ducks in to say...

Posted June 9, 2015
John, (did not know where to post this) my wife and I have demolished the first three novels (I hope you don't loathe us for only buying one copy of each book and sharing it - it is not like stealing GoT (which we don't do) really, it's not). We thought that your next champion should take down a monster with her Victor lawnmower. She could simply swing it at a monster that pops up on the back lawn at 8am on a Saturday morning and "thock" off goes the head as the blades connect. It would be a completely impractical weapon, and a wee bit interesting as the mower stopped running on two stroke, and started running on monster gore. I will leave it with you. Thank you for the great entertainment. Bring on "Deliverance - where a sliveen warrior jumps out in the backwoods of america and is made to oink like a pig by the locals".

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted June 9, 2015
Ale, I'm glad you liked it. Tell your friends. As for the mower, maybe a ride-on?

Ale X would have you know...

Posted June 10, 2015
A ride on could work. Perhaps a rear wheel drive ride-on with a big heavy bastard driving it. A silly junior rancor jumps out in front of him - he and the mower topple backwards, but as it is a rear-wheel drive mower, the champion-to-be drives into said rancor and thock, thock, thock - a champion is born. I can imagine the ride-on purrrrring (idling) just before battle. The champion might be able to pick it up and use if like a head-ge trimmer (ha ha, Dad joke). sorry.

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Ixion28 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16, 2015
I've enjoyed the Dave books a lot, but will I get smacked in the mouth if I ask what's become of "Stalin's Hammer: Cairo"?

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Respond to 'Great Reviews of Dave 2 '

Nice write up of Emergence

Posted May 14, 2015 into Books by John Birmingham

2 Responses to ‘Nice write up of Emergence’

w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted May 14, 2015
Great review!

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Murphy mutters...

Posted May 15, 2015
Just boosted via FB.
Because you don't use anymore, after getting me addicted to it.
You bastard.
Oh, it also made the SFSignal links for the day, a welcome change from the usual derp which ends up there these days.

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Respond to 'Nice write up of Emergence'

Dave III. Release the Spoilers

Posted May 11, 2015 into Books by John Birmingham

[Warning, for US and UK readers, this thread contains SPOILERS for all three Hooper books]

When we first met Dave he was a little the worse for wear. I often tell people we meet him on his hands and knees beside a helipad, throwing up corn chips and tequila for breakfast. But of course we don't. He's already in J2's chopper and his regurgitated breakfast is just a memory. It was an image so strong that even though I didn't write it, I recall it vividly.

Dave does his own misremembering, of course. He spends a good deal of the next 350 000 words misremembering his life and just who is responsible for it. If there is a point at which the story actually begins it's not with him on his hands and knees vomitting up the remains of an epic debauch. It's when he's strapped into the chopper and flying out to the rig. Trapped. Confined. Running on rails laid down by circumstance. It's where we learn that it's not morning in Dave Hooper's America. Life ain't all Doritos and Mescal.

As J2 flies out across the Gulf he imagines himself flying towards his boys, Toby and Jack, descending from the skies as an avenging hero. (Although WTF he'd be avenging besides his own inability/refusal to send an alimony cheque isn't mentioned.)

It's all foreshadowing.

From that moment on I knew where the series was going to end. On the edge of the Atlantic, far to the north, with Dave coming to the rescue of his family. Well, of his boys anyway. Annie's fate was always uncertain, and right up until I turned in the final draft, there was no garauntee she'd still be with us.

What was certain though – Dave is an unreliable narrator, and the ex-wife we meet through his recall is not necessarily a fair and accurate portrait of the woman herself. That's probably why, in the end, Annie O'Halloran is still with us. It seemed unfair to leave readers with only Dave's impression of her. Karin lets us know he hasn't been entirely truthful about their marriage, not even to himself, but that wasn't nearly enough to redress the balance. So Annie lives, and I'm happy with that. She, along with Karin, is more than a match for him.

As to the Scooby Gang, do they have a future? We lost a fan favourite in Zach. And I'll tell you now, he's not coming back. Igor is still drawing breath, but he's in bad shape. Heath and Emmeline have work to do in long and fruitful story arcs ahead of them.

But then so does Compton/Compt'n.

And what of Dave's lawyer, X Boylan? Well, it's not pure random coincidence that he happens to be stranded in the same city as Jellybean Johnson. And those other champions? Are there more of them? I do seem to recall Karin speculating on that very point. She thought there might be twelve of them, a champion for every Realm. It's gives a fellow to wondering just how a douchebag Messiah like Dave might bring these apostles togther.

I'm happy to let you know that I already have three longform novels planned and plotted for Season Two of The Dave. Stronghold, Citadel and Empire. With the world built in Season One, it's my intent to make each of the new novels stand alone titles, within a longer developing story arc. It should be possible to read them out of order and still make sense of the greater plot. Although, of course, you'll get a much better deal working through them as they're meant to be read.

I'll throw open the spoilers threads now, with a general forum below, and more specific topics through the week. If there is a topic you particularly wanted addressed, just say so.

82 Responses to ‘Dave III. Release the Spoilers’

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 11, 2015
I see Dave and Threshy as parallel characters, both transmogrified and struggling with new realities that demand more from them than they were designed to give. From the beginning, this has been their joint story. Am I imagining this structure?

And I just loved the Demons of Buttcracke County tie-in at the end. It brought the whole thing - from concept to final fruition - full circle.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 11, 2015
You are spot on about Dave and Threshy. They both have their heroes journey to go on. Although, to be honest, I didn't realise that until about halfway through the second book. Threshy was originally just comic relief. It was only when he ate Compton's brains that I clued in to what a powerful driver of the story he could be. He still makes me LOL but.

insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2015
That's what I thought when I read Emergence, but as I read Resistance and Ascendance I felt that Threshy was more parallel to Boylan and not so much Dave any more, and when Threshy was about to start his piece to TV and said "People of Earth", that just confirmed it for me and even though I was on the train at the time, I lol'd, and that you also had Threshy giggling to himself didn't help.

I also lol'd at the Albrechtson reference towards the end. That was gold.

There was one part that is a little confusing. Early on, Threshy refers to Karin as Agent Romanoff. Later, Dave does the same thing on two occasions. I don't know of any connection between Threshy and Dave (other than the parallelnessness of their stories) that would make them both say it. I think I'm also missing whatever cultural reference Agent Romanoff refers to, which may be part of my confusion.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2015
Threshy, remember, is initially embiggened as Thresh-Trev'r, after ingesting the brains of a semi moronic mall rat. Somebody who would have a lot of time for reading comics. Dave, OTOH, would have seen the Marvel movies with his boys, and possibly by himself. They'd both be aware of the Black Widow/Agent Romanov character.

insomniac asserts...

Posted May 11, 2015
ok, I understands now, thanks

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Surtac reckons...

Posted May 11, 2015

The combination of Compton's thinkings and Trevor's speech patterns is absolute comedy gold. I find I have to read each bit at least twice to get the full meaning and effect.

And I must agree with PNB's mention of the Buttecracke tie-in. I Lol'ed as soon as I realised the connection.

But I still can't find my copy of the book that has that story in it. So I can't yet re-read it in the wider context. Any plans to publish that one electronically at some point, John?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 11, 2015
I have two version's of Buttecracke. The 'short' 6000 words story that was published in an anthology, and a 24000 word unfinished ebook. I'm not entirely sure what to do with the ebook. Both Murph and my agent think it's fraught because I'd be a white guy, writing a black woman, which is apparently wrong in some people's eyes.

Rob mutters...

Posted May 11, 2015

maybe get Colson Whitehead to edit/rewrite it?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2015
Yeah, it would be politically dangerous, but the same danger attached to your depiction of Igor; you didn't promote any gay stereotypes writing him, at least none that I noticed.

American writers are most at risk of offensive racial depictions. You ain't American, and so have a better chance of avoiding stereotypes, even positive ones, that white Americans automatically fall into. It was your depiction of race issues in the AoT series that drew me to your work in the first place. The collision or racial attitudes during WWII with future race relations was completely fresh and hell of good read.

Your agent and Murph are right to urge caution. But I think if anyone can bring Sheriff Sheila May Robertson to life, you can.

In any event, the issue appears to be moot. You did bring her to life. She is one of The Twelve. I realize the story has left the Sky Lords, like the Wave before them, behind. But you've set up a huge fucking battle with The Twelve assembled like the Avengers. That has to happen, right?

Sheriff Robertson is one of The Twelve. Apparently so is "Mr." Johnson. What possible "other agency" could he be working for or with? And what the hell kind of demon floats?

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 11, 2015
I really, really love Sheriff Shiela May Robertson. Even if I can't publish Buttecracke in it's own right, I'll find some way of doing her justice.

HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted May 11, 2015
PNB..I totally fkn thought Avengers and its gotta take place in the under realm as well!

Therbs mumbles...

Posted May 11, 2015
To me, "Buttecracke" will always be the radio play version done at the Opry House by Bedes and co. That was great..

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 11, 2015
I deeply resent and regret not having been there to see it.

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 11, 2015
The difference between Igor and the Sheriff is that Igor is purposely designed to be The Antistereotype. He is a man who happens to like sleeping with other men, preferable one at a time, definitely the one he is married to.

The Sheriff, on the other hand . . . it is just begging for the insanity that roils the science fiction community to come right to this very doorstep. One would have a better time hitting themselves in the head with a ten pound sledge.
Or we can play the game, "How Fast will Scalzi throw me under the bus?"
Personally, I'd rather not.




Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted May 11, 2015
The "science fiction community" isn't really relevant here. Reacting to the "community"'s whining, wild gesticulating and frothing at the keyboard is tantamount to the GOP kowtowing to climate change deniers.

Okay, not a good analogy. But I maintain that it doesn't matter what that "community" has to say. What matters is the integrity and honesty of the character.


Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted May 12, 2015
Given John's numerous contacts in the community, it seems best not to antagonize them.
In my personal opinion, the only way to move forward with Buttecracke, or the Sheriff for that matter, would be to handle her in the same manner as we have Igor. She'd need to be The Antistereotype. Maybe she becomes that after her ascension. More probably what needs to happen is a serious retcon of the character.

Rhino ducks in to say...

Posted May 15, 2015
Fuck all of this. Would it be a good story? If yes then fuck the perpetually outraged.
Only thing worse than external censoring is self censoring.

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Murphy mutters...

Posted May 11, 2015
I'm just glad we got to have a couple of scenes at a Cracker Barrel.
And it would be great if we could get someone to work up a graphic like the Hunn taking a blood spraying bite out of the apple for The Battle of the Apple Hoodies and Shirts.
We need to get some merch going for this franchise.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Therbs asserts...

Posted May 11, 2015

The development of Jellybean is going to be interesting. Another agency has him and that not necessarily need be Trinder's crew. I'm assuming his handgun is now enchanted and the monster he slotted will have some handy powers to give him; could be one of those ones which zombiefies people. Lots of fun there.

While Dave hasn't yet been stripped down raw and reforged to his potential there's lots of fucked up Dave to enjoy even if he doesn't go through the fire and come out as a true hero. Threshy is just all kinds of fun as well as being an important plot driver. At what point does the Low Queen see him as a threat and will that realisation make him flee, run to the humans for salvation, offering them all the juice on the realms? Then a confrontation with Dave? Man, the next series has all sorts of possibilities.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 11, 2015
Jellybean killed a Revenant Master - an unaligned necromancer with the power to raise the dead and force them to do it's bidding. So yes, now, Jellybean can do that too.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2015
And yeah, there's still plenty o' fucked up Dave tot go around. That was one of the major challenges in this series; having him grow, but not so quickly that he became a conventional hero and we lost the fun of having Bad Dave to go tear-assing around town with.Somewhere in my editor's notes for book two or three there is a complaint that Dave is still behaving like a fuckwit, when he should have moved well beyond that by now. They were right, but I'd like to think there's a part of Dave that will always be a bit of a fuckwit.

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted May 11, 2015
I was reading a column by a bloke tasked with writing some sitcom scripts. He started by watching a lot of the best and most successful sitcoms over the decades. He saw there was a pretty strict and unvarying format. They have some mildly or strongly fucked up characters. There is an opening scene which underlines this. After this, a problem is introduced which, after some missteps, is resolved. Then the final comic scene seems to solely function to reassure the viewer that, despite the 'journey' of that episode, they are still exactly the same likeable fuck ups that they were in the opening scene. That there has been zero personal growth. I thought that was a fun and true observation that is a bit unique to that format.

Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted May 11, 2015

I reckon the end of this whole thing would be when Dave is rid of his fuckwittery. Who wants Dave to be Captain Clean?

Huh?

I only hear crickets.

works with computers, kills monsters. would have you know...

Posted May 11, 2015
JB, does this mean there's gonna be 13 superfriends? 12 clan-aligned an one zombiemaster?

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2015
That would be so, if Revenant Masters were the only freelance fiends.

Sly puts forth...

Posted May 13, 2015
Dave is a fuckwit! I just starting book 2 and it's proving to be a great read just as the first was (and all your previous books) but at times I'm tempted to stop because Dave is an arsehole and just so unlikable.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 13, 2015
He is a bad man. There's no denying that. But he'll meet his match.

Sly ducks in to say...

Posted May 13, 2015
It is an interesting experience following a character that I'm rootin' for and hoping his moment of redemption comes so he becomes the altruistic good guy who triumphs over the bad guys while at the same time wishing that someone would take his head off with a chainsaw and take his powers. Years of reading and watching that common narrative of outsider becoming the savior has conditioned my expectations.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 13, 2015
This is an interesting enough topic that I'm thinking of breaking it out into a stand alone entry. But given you're only at the start of book 2, to avoid spoilers I'll just say that Dave becomes increasingly surrounded by strong characters, especially women, who are disinclined to take any shit from him.

Rob asserts...

Posted May 13, 2015

I actually really liked Dave Hooper. He would have to be one of the few people with an engineering degree I would like hang out with. But then maybe I see alot of myself in Dave, being slightly useless, quite like getting drunk at loud bars and not growing up any time soon if I can help it.

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Rob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 11, 2015


I really loved the ending in the book 3. I had to go have a cigarette and break half way through reading it. Partly because it was genuinely tense, and partly because I didn't want the book to end.

Certainly Threshy is a metaphor for knowledge is power. And the queen might need see evolution of thought and industrial knowledge as anything more than to win her her ongoing battle with the other realms. Threshy's boss had to evolve too and accept that we were men not food. I think a notated version of the books should be released, with a special section of where the references come from , (might be a good blog entry). 1. Use of 'shame spiral' was first mentioned in the episode of the Simpsons where Springfield decide to all act like Bart Simpon after listening to a new age guru. Whats your name son? Ruditiger. We must be like little Ruditger here. 'His names Bart' his name isnt important'.... .

also loved the return of the words 'Surrender Monkeys.' that was fkn awesome.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted May 11, 2015
Yeah, the ending was tense. I thought the good guys might actually lose. John is more than capable of doing that.

And then... and then.... deus ex American housewife cum magica chainsaw.

I would happily spend weeks here just talking about how cool that was - and is.

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted May 11, 2015
The ending was excellent. It ended well but also felt like it hadn't ended at all because you were able to see that there was a whole lot more story to come. There's a certain sense of relief that it's not all over.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted May 11, 2015
Yes, an even better ending for that reason. The sad closing of a good read whipped away by the delicious expectation of more to come. I get the same sort of feeling after an Emberverse or Destroyermen novel. Flints early 1632 series did it, too.

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Anthony puts forth...

Posted May 11, 2015

A couple of questions about the "magic" weapons. Do the guns and chainsaw still need reloading/refuelling? Do those wielding them require the same level of fuel that Dave and Karin do? They're less physically demanding weapons to use.

I did like the ending of book III.- given Dave's personality I always figured that there was more to Dave's wife than Dave's description of her.

Murphy would have you know...

Posted May 11, 2015
Speaking as the weapons consultant, I suspect that firearms and other powered weapons consume the same type of ammo/fuel as before. It is the process of being loaded/fueled and fired/employed which gives the weapon additional capability.

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Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2015

I have a question about Dave's secret sauce capability. It struck me when I first noticed it (well before Emmeline's little tete-a-tete about it with Dave on the plane) that it might have been a shout-out to the old Marvel Comics character Mandrill, who had the ability to control women via pheromones. And Mandrill was in some ways not unlike The Dave, being a misogynistic bastard who was quite capable of taking sexual advantage of his chemical 'conquests'.

And then when all of the Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow references started appearing, I remembered that the use of pheromones to subjugate members of the Black Widow Program also got a mention in Natasha's fictional back-story.

(Yes - I was a Marvel comics geek in the 70s and 80s, but things have been revised and retconned in those universes so often since that I really don't know anymore what's canon there and what's not.)

Anyway, I'm just curious as to where Dave's irrestibility came from and where that aspect might be going.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 11, 2015
Dave's secret sauce is pheremonal and it has a very simple explanation. But I'm not telling you.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 11, 2015
No connection to the Marvel canon though.

Surtac would have you know...

Posted May 11, 2015
Actually, I'm re-reading Ascendance again and you may have actually told me, buried in dialogue. :)
But of course I could be wrong.

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Me thinkings mumbles...

Posted May 11, 2015
John, a great trilogy. Great humour and a none stop can't put it down vibe. And great of a mainstream publisher to put the three books out so close together.
Can we please have more of The Dave (and friends)?Soon?

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 11, 2015
Thank you, me. Yes, you may have some more. Another three next year.

Wayne asserts...

Posted May 11, 2015
Excellent news, though a year is a long time to wait ;(

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2015
Haha. I'm going to show this comment to my publishers when they worry about exhausting the market.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted May 12, 2015
What an interesting concern. I've never heard of a drug dealer worrying about exhausting the addict appetite for the product. Perhaps the risk of overdose removing a customer from the list, but there is no risk of overdose in this situation.

Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2015
That's what I think. It needs to be approached from the point of view of soap opera junkies. Not that this is soap quality, it just drags you in, wanting more of The Dave. Then again you don't want a Game Of Thrones prisoner author mentality to producing the story. Is six books a year too much taking into account drafts, fixes and final editing?

HAVOCK21 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 12, 2015
well we didnt say he was fkn smart!

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Daniel reckons...

Posted May 11, 2015
Hi John, great news on another trilogy. Can't wait.Speaking of trilogies, any word on new Stalin's Hammer? I've been hanging out for more sweet sweet alt history.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 11, 2015
Daniel, I have more written, but my rival international publishers have to sort out global rights.

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Wayne mutters...

Posted May 11, 2015
Perhaps it is time to self publish some of the shorts if your contracts permit

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sibeen has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2015
"People of Earth"
<font color="#333333">It's dead man. I'm not sure it can be resurrected. </font><font color="#333333">
</font><font color="#333333">OK, onto the books. Fred...from Angel. That's cruel man, just cruel.</font>

sibeen mumbles...

Posted May 11, 2015
Be fucked if I know what happened there.
If anything, after I mentioned "People of Earth" the font colour should have turned into 666.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 12, 2015
Perhaps you should not have mentioned "People of Earth" without prior clearance.

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2015
I mentioned "People of Earth" yesterday, and again now fuck it. Should I be worried.?What evil will befall me? Will ms insomniac be concerned when i give her a lingering goodbye this morning?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 12, 2015
You mentioned it yesterday, too? I missed that. How unfortunate.

Therbs puts forth...

Posted May 12, 2015
Paul, your warnings have gone unheeded. You need goons. Yes, goons. The kind who'll foul the offender's coffee, interrupt their sentences, make them late for the train and disrupt their tv reception.

insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted May 12, 2015
Yes, I blatantly wrote under your initial comment. I was unaware of the prior clearance rule, and now that I am aware, I don't care and shall continue to flout.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted May 12, 2015
You have my permission to do so.

Carry on.

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GhostSwirv is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2015

Great ride JB - thoroughly enjoyed Ascendance, made all the more special by my good lady wife driving the family to the Monster-In-Laws on Mother's Day so I could read the last chapter in the car - tried to convince my Grymm-In-Law, err father-in-law to give you a burl but he gave up on Matthew Reilly so no win there for your nefarious literary utterances.

I love how its Karin and not Dave who figures out that his kids are in danger - he's soooo bizzzaayyyy partying, feeling sorry for himself and signing contracts, while under the influence of TheBoylan, that he hasn't even given any thought to the idea his own kids might be in peril - even blame-throwing Emmerline for not knowing when he should've been onto it himself.

As for the Sky Lords - I still hope and pray their out there somewhere - what I reckon is that when Dave moves into superluminal speed and seems to come against a barrier of sorts the Sky Lords OverRealm is on the other side.

So sad about Zach but what a way to go - up to your neck in serious bad guys when you give them a hand-grenade enema.

Finally - as Melbourne was listed as a Designated Target that it would be really very cool JB if one the Twelve Champions was a Hipster Dufus from Brunswick - a chai latte sipping dude with a teak detachable Pool Cue that turns in a Magic Javelin or Spear and when in two pieces its used as a pair of nun-chuks.



Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted May 13, 2015
Love it. What a great idea. And, if he's from Melbourne, why not - while you're at it - make him 2nd generation Greek?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 13, 2015
I don't mind this idea at all.

GhostSwirv reckons...

Posted May 13, 2015

We could call the Pool Cue ... Cyril.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted May 13, 2015
No. The enchanted pool cue has to be named Stavros.

GhostSwirv reckons...

Posted May 13, 2015

Esteemed Professor X, if that is your 'guaranteed to be a sure-fire monetised legal position' ... then who am I to argue.

she_jedi asserts...

Posted May 15, 2015
OMG Stavros. *High five*.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted May 16, 2015
One of my favorite characters from an alternate Birmingham universe.

GhostSwirv would have you know...

Posted May 16, 2015

You do realise that with the current fiscal crisis in the Non-Birmingham Universe we call 'Reality' - The President of Greece is considering annexation of certain suburbs of Melbourne, (largest greek city outside of Athens), with a view to engaging 'Stavros' and his Champion ... Elias, to battle the Hordes of the EU and restore Greece to its natural state of 'awe & disorder'.

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Russ mumbles...

Posted May 12, 2015

G'day JB

Love your work - couldn't put it down. Congratulations!

A couple of questions though:

1. The Dave understood the Sliveen's thoughts after his massive munchies attack. Will he will take on aspects of the Sliveen's personality/thinkings similar Threshy, albeit in a reduced capacity as The Dave seems not to be terribly empathetic?

2. Is The Dave's ability to 'super-warp' the key to him getting into the Underworld without using the Masters of the Ways as required by the Horde?

Just wondering what we might look forward to in the next season of The Dave.

Cheers

Russ


John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 13, 2015
Great questions, Russ. No, Dave won't take on the Sliveen's personality. Once he's digested the delicious braaaainz, they're gone.
As for the warp ability, you might very well think that, but I couldn't possibly comment.

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Sparty is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2015
Ascendance was excellent. Scenes like the one armed cop concentrating slapping a mag home kept it real in a world of super heroes. Its also been an interesting publishing approach - "Dave" is a hard person to stay with across multiple books (whatever else he is -he is still an absolute w*%ker) - I think everyone at the cheeseburger trusts you to deliver at the end (and the couch summary by Karin was superb - so economical but pretty much revised the whole book in a sentence), but so many people in general seem to fail to grasp the concept of the unreliable narrator, I wonder if spreading it across three books was a risk for wider readership? (ie one big book people continue with even if they lose a little patience with the protagonist, making a choice to buy a second or third volume is a different dynamic).

But that's a publishing question - I enjoyed the hell out of all three!
My real question - how do ISIS treat all this?


John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted May 13, 2015
All reasonable corners, Spartacus. Especially with the reveal of Annie's actual nature coming so late in the piece. Inevitably there will be some readers who just don't get it. That happens with every book. Oh, how I recall with jolly fondness the hate mate from some American readers about the 'USS Hillary Clinton.'You just gotta ignore it and punch on.

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Wayne reckons...

Posted May 13, 2015
John I wanted to say that you have pulled off a perfect balance of horror, action and amazing comedy in this series of books. They are easily the best I have ever read in mixing this combination. The popular culture references are great and I loved seeing the Fred references in particular.
I hope someone has optioned the movie or TV rights already as I was picturing the translation to screen space as I was reading.
Best regards and I have to say I would love to see the next trilogy published earlier than next year. The mainstream publishers have to get their head around how the world has changed and those of us who are used to binge watching our favourite shows are starting to expect it of our books as well.
Cheers,
Wayne Cosshall

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Adam ducks in to say...

Posted May 13, 2015
It's odd. Just finished reading this. Took a bit of a delay between book 1 and 2 (I read 2 & 3 within about 2 days this week literally finishing it a few minutes ago).
I think the only thing for me reading this was the sense that it wasn't entirely self contained. The series is quite intense, I think the timeline from 1 to 3 is maybe 4 or 5 days, possibly a week. So Dave changing too much might work for a movie, but because the plan is to have this go out longer, it would seem somewhat strange for Dave to make such a massive change so quickly.
But the sense I got when reading 3 was that it was going to finish with him just beating back the horde at Pat's place. My thinkings keep getting stuck on the sense that it was literally just the beginning. Which just made it slightly unsatisfying. Didn't get any closure on Guyuk or Compt'n other than they've run away, ahem, sorry tactically retreated.
At least it's only 7 monthish before the next installment. Which I can look forward to (damn Dresden Files taking so long).

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 13, 2015
Adam, you're thinking is spot on. There is more to come. This series starts with Dave demonstrating his lack of fitness for parenthood. And perhaps even personhood. He's just shot a six month bonus on hookers and blow to stop his ex-wife getting it and spending it on school fees and the like. Then he sits there, hungover, feeling sorry for himself because his boys have a low opinion of him. His 'journey', such as it is, had to be a return those boys, and maybe to his former wife. At least to reconcile if not to return things to how they once were.That's Dave's story, but the bigger story is the return of magic and monsters to the world and, yes, you are right, that will go on for a while yet. There is a lot more to this story world. Some of it will come out in ebooks seen from the points of view of supporting characters. Some will told in future novels. I'm building a whole world to live in here.

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WarDog mumbles...

Posted May 14, 2015
John, thanks.
These 3 have been bursting with all the humour from your Semper days, cut and polished by a couple of decades of field time.
Loved every second. And am so very very happy that there will be more.

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Surtac asserts...

Posted May 15, 2015

Really happy with The Dave books so far and very happy that there will be more (when can we expect to see the ebooks?).

But something struck me yesterday, which begs a question that in context is spoilerish. I've been reading 'The Administration of Fear' by Paul Virilio, a French philosopher. His title is an homage to Graham Greene's novel 'The Ministry of Fear' and the content is essentially an analysis and reading of the modern world that recognises that what you have given us in the Dave's universe as Compton's playbook for destroying civilisation is real and achievable. In combination with other stuff I've been reading lately, it's starting to scare ne sh*tlless about the future that my daughters will have to grow up in.

Anyway, my question is: what can you share about your research for this set of stories? What books and/or other resources have influenced the overall shape of The Dave's story so far? Other than Dr Who and the monsters vs technology aspects, what has shaped the worldview that anchors this set of stories?

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted May 15, 2015
I feel like civilisation is going down the toilet at present. Is the current situation similar to other civilisations that collapsed, and how would we know without contemporary records?

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 15, 2015
Great question, Tac. I'll answer it in a stand alone thread is his weekend.

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John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 15, 2015
'this weekend'
Stupid autocorrect.

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she_jedi reckons...

Posted May 15, 2015
Not since Matthew Reilly bumped off Fox have I been so enraged and grief stricken and frankly pissed off at an author as when you killed Zach. I was visiting a friend in Townsville at the time and I had to explain to her what had triggered the howl of rage when I finished the book and didn't even have the catharsis of hurling it across the room in frustration because I was reading the digital version on my iPad.

Being a long standing BFF she just nodded and said "So, he's not your favourite author anymore?" Then I was forced to calm down and admit that maybe, yes, you were still my favourite author, but I was very very disappointed in you and maybe I needed to go work on my essay for Uni for a bit and try to get some perspective. So my poor lecturer has copped a rage filled feminist screed about how the women of the emerging middle class in the 19th century totally got screwed over by the patriarchy with the notion of the "angel in the house" and being legally their husband's property with no rights as an individual, and it's all your fault. (Not the patriarchy bit, just the screed.) Just sayin'.

Anyway, I really really loved this. I've spent the trilogy barracking for Dave and rolling my eyes at his fuckwittery, but the scene where Karin strips his soul bare for all the Scooby gang to see while Dave just weeps into his hands was heartbreaking. In that moment you really see the broken child inside Dave, and get an inkling of how so much of his fuckwittery stems from his inability to deal with his guilt and grief, and the drive to run away from the responsibility of dealing with it. The hookers and blow behaviour, in that context, smacks of self medicating on a truly destructive level. In the first novel I found his aversion to guns and the military odd for the knuckle dragging frat boy he defaults to, but of course it all makes tragic sense now.

And of course, cannot wait for the next season, and the ebooks, and anything else you care to write about in this universe. There were so many funny, clever lines in this book, but the two that stand out for me was the espresso martini one, and "you were going to apologise to the world's most dangerous gay man." Just delightful.

I also find myself grieving a little for the original Thresh, subsumed under Trevor and Compton but still there and terrified. But Threshy as a character is just such a hoot. In his way he's also going through Dave levels of fuckwittery, at least from the Horde's perspective. It makes the parallels between Dave and Threshy really enjoyable to watch, because neither character is one we should really like or want to see succeed, but we do both of these things anyway. I long for the day when Dave and Threshy come face to face. That will be epic.

Two quick questions: Is it too late to submit fan fiction? And will you be doing a book signing somewhere soon? I need to complete my set of signed analogue versions :)

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Some Dude reckons...

Posted May 26, 2015
I just finished Dave #3.
Needs moar fkn dragons.
That is all.

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Respond to 'Dave III. Release the Spoilers'

Spoiler Thread. RESISTANCE

Posted March 5, 2015 into Books by John Birmingham

I’ll open this general spoiler thread by welcoming everyone who's finished RESISTANCE and warning off those who have not. Heere be Monstrs. Like, in the next par. So bugger off if you are not ready to deal with them.

Professor Boylan is correct. RESISTANCE, indeed this whole season of The Dave is about transformation. Not just Dave, but everyone around him. Some, like Compton, transform violently and radically. Others, like Dave, resist the very notion of change. Our little friend Threshy becomes a study of ceaseless transformation, and yet remains forever shaped by his initial experience of change. (I'll write more abiout that soon, in a more technical entry on voice and PoV).

Some characters remain as they ever were, but our understanding of them shifts. Emmeline and Igor exemplify this process. Others are the rocks upon which waves of change can break without ever altering the underlying truth of that individual. Yes, Captain Heath, we’re looking at you.

With RESISTANCE this series found its voice. It isn’t radically different from EMERGENCE but Dave’s vioce is more confident, even as he himself is less sure of things. As Orin wrote last week, you just can’t help but love the big, dumb lug. No matter how hard he makes it. And man, he makes it hard. I sometimes channel my own worst instincts through Dave, and more than once in this book I found myself pausing to ask, seriously? Would he?

Of course he would. He’s Dave.

The most fun I had in this volume? Apart from channeling Professor X Boylan? Dave’s LA party. (And many of the Prof's best lines had to be cut lest he steal every fucking scene he was in)

That party chapter ran much longer and was way more self indulgent in the first draft. Left to my own devices I’d do entire books about nothing but Dave having his idea of fun.

The scene I had been most looking forward to? The battle of Omaha.

Interviewing George RR Martin for the Herald a couple of years back, he told me about the genesis of Game of Thrones. He was sitting at his kitchen table in his undies, on a sweltering day, writing some sci fi TV thing. To escape the heat, he imagined a frozen scene, a woodland world, with a giant wolf. That was enough. He was away.

Dave was, in part, written to allow me to describe an army of orcs being caught in the kill box of a B-52.

I have to dip my lid to Murph at this point. It was he who suggested the surprising character development for Igor. A development which proves a challenge for Dave. One he fails dismally. The publishers loved it and I think it allowed RESISTANCE to grow into a story that was stronger than EMERGENCE because it gave Dave a chance to grow into somebody stronger than the man we first meet.

Sure, he fails. But that’s The Dave.

I’ll open some specific threads in the next few days. There's lots to discuss. Threshy. Guyuk. Karin Varatchevksy. And Dave's special way with the ladies. Plenty more fanfic to come too.

48 Responses to ‘Spoiler Thread. RESISTANCE’

Some Dude reckons...

Posted March 5, 2015
Totes. I mean, yes.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted March 5, 2015
Ha. I see what you did there.

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Sparty reckons...

Posted March 5, 2015
"Interviewing George RR Martin"
Now that's probably the coolest sentence you've ever written ;-)

I'm glad the horde have adapted - assuming they will now pop up in small groups among civilian centres -very hard to deal with in most countries- we'll need to take the fight to them.

I'm glad to see that the RAF is leading on Draken kills

I know why you've limited the number of characters where we see their POV but I'd love to be in the head of a Typhoon Pilot as they incept a Dragon over London etc

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted March 6, 2015
I'd love to see something like that too, but I can't write it because of the built in PoV restrictions. This is the brilliance of fanfic.Get to it.

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Some Dude mutters...

Posted March 6, 2015
"Game Of Thrones" introduced fkn dragons at the end of season one, but didnae do much with 'em in season 2. There be fkn dragons at the end of "Emergence", but bugger all fkn dragons in "Resistance". Want moar fkn dragons in "Ascendance", JB, with beaucoup fkn splosions.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted March 6, 2015
There will be Drakonen. Eventually.

Murphy mumbles...

Posted March 6, 2015
I suspect, without really knowing, that the Drakonen have their own agenda.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted March 6, 2015
"Okay, everyone. Simmer down. Simmer down. Approval of the agenda is on the table. Opened Session, Item No. 1: Burn everything. Any comment? Any revisions? No? Good. Item No. 2: Eat what is left. Comment? No? Okay, the Board Chair has moved for approval of the agenda. Do I have a second? Yes? Okay, it is moved to approve the agenda as written. Resolution passes 3 in favor, 1 against with 1 abstention."

Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted March 6, 2015
That reads like the script for a reality cooking show, "My Fkn Kitchen Fkn Dragon Fkn Rules".

Rhino mumbles...

Posted March 7, 2015
"Simmer down". I see what you did there.

NBlob mumbles...

Posted March 7, 2015
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ybmPHD7FPcQ<font face="Helvetica">?</font>

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted March 6, 2015
"many of the Prof's best lines had to be cut lest he steal every fucking scene he was in"

And that's a bad thing?

Glad we can finally talk about this openly. The differences between Emergence and Resistance are worth discussing. I view these first volumes - of what simply must be a much longer series - as a three course meal. Emergence was the appetizer: simple, but delightful, insisting that the reader want more. Resistance
is a far more complex main course, offering more of everything with an
extra helping of ultra cool (Threshy's transformation and Dave's
solution to the Karen problem are nothing less than ultra cool). Ascendance promises to be a dessert that ties the two courses together. And the anticipation alone is delicious.

Personally
speaking, I am hoping for something savory with sharp and bitter flavor
profiles rather than something merely sweet. If I want sweet I'll read
a John Ringo space opera.

I think I speak for all except NBlob
when I say that there is general interest about your writing process.
For example, I was surprised and delighted that Boylan survived the
Battle of Omaha. Tell us true, John: did you flirt with the idea of
killing the character and having his brain sucked out by the thresh? You
set it up for that, but seemed to change your mind.

Not that I'm
complaining. We all love the character and are hoping he survives to
make deals beyond the Gates of Hell. Or in Los Angeles.

Lasciate ogni speranza, tutti coloro che essere in lite e dibattere qui!

NBlob reckons...

Posted March 6, 2015
So I want the Deux to remain concealed in the machina, the golden goose to continue laying those eggs. Explorative surgery ain't always a good thing.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted March 6, 2015
Who doesn't want that? Perhaps it is best that some mysteries remain thus.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted March 6, 2015
Who am I kidding? I wanna know. Everything.

Bondiboy66 puts forth...

Posted March 6, 2015
Particularly if your brains get sucked out like the dregs of a cheap slurpie...or not.

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 6, 2015
Best scenes?
At the Cracker Barrel!

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted March 6, 2015
There is some bitterness coming in book three. As for Professor X Boylan, by the time I got to the Cracker Barrel I knew he'd be hanging around for at least a little while longer.

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Murphy_of_Missouri would have you know...

Posted March 6, 2015
"Always good to get a mention in The Dispatches. Thank you, my liege.
Anti-Stereotypes.
I think it is important to mention them. We have two.
We have Zach Allen, who is religious without caricature or being overly zealous. It is just one part of his personality.
The same, most notably, can be said for Igor. Yes, he is gay, and the attitude everyone has is so what. He isn't drag queen gay, or any of the other overly used stereotypes. He is a warrior who loves men, one in particular.
And naturally, that fucks with Dave's head so severely. It is good juicy fun without launching off into a thousand sermons about it.
If only there were more examples like those two instead of what we usually get served elsewhere in the genre.
Respects,<\/div>
Murph
On the Outer Marches

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted March 6, 2015
Another fave scene involved Zach and his quietly judgmental, reluctantly forgiving faith. The bit where Dave approaches him after the confrontation with Igor. Zach wrote that scene. I just typed it out for him. It was amazing to watch it come out on the screen and to see how Dave had no answer for him.

NBlob reckons...

Posted March 6, 2015
That. Right there. One of the big differences between Australian & USA, or perhaps more specifically New York humour. Seinfeld, Woody Allen & countless others take one nice little idea and beat it to death. Ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Where as Australians will make a sideways nod to something and move on. One of the best examples of this was the film The Castle when Steve (the ideas man) arrives home off camera on his dirt bike, then appears in frame carrying a ludicrously large bird cage.

she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted March 6, 2015
That whole scene was quietly agonising to read. I found myself in vigorous, judgmental agreement with Zach, even though I'm a godless heathen, yet crying on the inside for Dave.

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Yank Across The Sea asserts...

Posted March 6, 2015
I happen to live in Omaha! Can't wait till I get a copy of that book in the States.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted March 6, 2015
Oops! Sorry about messing up your home town!

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 6, 2015
We probably shouldn't tell him about the ironic decision to nuke the home of Strategic Air Command, should we?

Yank Across The Sea mumbles...

Posted March 7, 2015
Technically it's called STRATCOM or Strategic Command now. But a nuke on American soil sounds rather like over kill to me. Any president who did drop one on American soil can kiss any chance of reelection goodbye.

Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted March 7, 2015
If he wasn't eaten first.

Yank Across The Sea mutters...

Posted March 7, 2015
I would say that they would have to be pretty stupid and desperate to want to eat a politicians. Not that we would miss them if they did mind you.

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Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted March 6, 2015
The evolution of the monsters and their first attempt to manipulate human tech would be an interesting take on war accelerating development. Plenty of room for mashing their 'magic' and tech particularly with Threshy's new brainz. Also can other Thresh do the same thing? Eat the brains of tank drivers, tech engineers etc. Lots of possibilities.

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JG would have you know...

Posted March 6, 2015
I finished Resistance last night and wow, once again, what can I say other than that it was anazing, JB. Loved it. I like your astute, overarching summary here about the series. Transformation is the central theme. A terrific cast, full of outrageous humour, action galore, horror, and intrigue. The twists were a delight and I love the way you end chapters, JB... always page turners. What a mix. Ingenious. Congrats to you too, Murph. Joanna

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DarrenBloomfield mutters...

Posted March 6, 2015
"That party chapter ran much longer and was way more self indulgent in the first draft. "
I seem to recall some tweeting from you back then, battling rhetorically with yourself about tradeoffs between length and fun on the one hand and taking forward and contributing to a story arc on the other.
It was probs this chapter...
IMHO you got it pretty right!

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted March 6, 2015
Nope. I want to read the party chapter in all its bloated, decandent Davish glory.

Including the X lines that hit the cutting room floor.

I sense a nascent eBook here, dontcha know, eh?

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 6, 2015
There was a centerfold.
It was cut from the final edit.

You are welcome.

Anthony mutters...

Posted March 6, 2015
Is the world ready for a Boylan centrefold?

NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 7, 2015
What has been seen cannot be un-seen. Thank you Murph.

Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted March 7, 2015
My work on this thread is done.

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Brother PorkChop ducks in to say...

Posted March 6, 2015
I think Threshy is going to change sides and moon over the Thresh-a-licious Russian chick. In fatc as I work for a gambling organisation, I might run a book on it, except JB and Murph bets will not be accepted.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted March 6, 2015
"Gambling organization" is code for "Russian Mafia" to my ears.

Brother PorkChop has opinions thus...

Posted March 6, 2015
medlenno

Brother PorkChop mutters...

Posted March 6, 2015
YA ub'yu tebya

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Lulu ducks in to say...

Posted March 6, 2015
Oh, so you're familiar with Crown Casino then?

Brother PorkChop asserts...

Posted March 6, 2015
No, not Crown. Did some work there a while ago. Seedy joint.

she_jedi puts forth...

Posted March 6, 2015
*Cough* I won't mention I work for their Perth casino then :)

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Rhino is gonna tell you...

Posted March 7, 2015
All I wanna know is when does Caitlyn show up?

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Some Dude mutters...

Posted March 7, 2015
I was expecting The Dave and the mega-lightning ultra babe Russian assassin to go at it hammer and tongs, not because they wanted to kill each other as befits a taut political thriller, but because they were both smothered in the super sexytime sauce and could not keep their hands off each other. The basic outcome would still be the same: a dalliance with The Dave, waving his weapon about, ending in détente.

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GhostSwirv swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 7, 2015


Ahhh Rhino - I too wonder what would Caitlyn do in this situation - could she handle Karen - could she handle Dave?

Sadly I think warp speed trumps Echelon training any day.

Thoroughly enjoyed Resistance JB - now itching to see how you further transform Dave into the man he needs to be - if only to make peace with himself let alone everyone else he's pissed off along the way.

A terrific set with the Darth Grymm Mastermind outwitting Dave and company all the way - very much looking forward to seeing how the final confrontation between the Callings and the Horde plays itself out - can imagine a Suicide Squad of Mercs launching an assault on the UnderRealms.

As for Threshrend - what a bitchin' character - Compton finally gets to be the macho hero his Id has always dreamed of - except its for the wrong side of humanity - and doesn't he relish the opportunity to avenge himself.

Sky Lords - any chance perhaps - no hint or residue in Resistance - but I hope they make an appearance in - oh wait, no - I just had a terrible thought - almost too monstrous to contemplate ...

Professor X Boylan isn't human at all ... he's a manifestation of man ... he's a Sky Lord skylarking and messing about with the Realms - cos if that were true - that would be just - so, so you JB?

GhostSwirv over and out on duty - my shift on #HordeWatch

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Sparty would have you know...

Posted March 7, 2015
GhostSwirv " think warp speed trumps Echelon"
<font color="#333333">It does, but Caitlin would just take him to the sack, not let him come up for air (or a refuel) and once he was out of warp fuel, take him down.....</font>

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pinchageek mutters...

Posted April 27, 2015
I think Dave and Kaz should take off and nuke the place from orbit, its the only way to be sure............and nice nod to Kill Bill there JB, all I can see is Uma when I think of Kaz !!!

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Respond to 'Spoiler Thread. RESISTANCE'