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Jon Courtenay (Jonathan) Grimwood

Jon Courtenay GrimwoodJon Courtenay Grimwood grew up in the Far East, Britain and Scandinavia. Apart from writing novels he works for magazines and newspapers. For five years he wrote a monthly review column for The Guardian. JCG’s novels Felaheen and End of the World Blues, won the BSFA Award for Best Novel. He has been shortlisted twice for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award, the August Derleth Award, and the John W Campbell Memorial Award. He is married to the journalist and novelist Sam Baker, editor of Red. They divide their time between London and Winchester. Learn more at JCG’s website. Read Marion’s interview with Jon Courtenay Grimwood.

Marion chats with Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Jon Courtenay Grimwood was born in Malta and grew up in Southeast Asia, Norway and Britain. He won the British Science Fiction Association Award for best novel in 2003, for Felaheen, the third book in his ARABESK trilogy, and again in 2006 for End of the World Blues. His work has been described as post-cyberpunk and “alternate future.” Confounding the labelists, Grimwood has set his current trilogy, THE ACTS OF THE ASSASSINI, in an alternate 15th-century Venice. Book Two, The Outcast Blade, was released today, and Grimwood is working on the final volume. He took time out of his busy writing schedule to answer some questions about the series, and the process of writing, for Fantasy Literature.

[Warning: If you haven’t read Book One, Read More

Arabesk

Arabesk — (2001-2003) Publisher: Part mystery, part speculative fiction, and wholly unforgettable, Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s celebrated Arabesk series portrays the dark, hard-boiled story of a man out to prove his innocence in an alternate world where the facts aren’t always the same as the truth… and murder isn’t the worst that can happen. It’s a twenty-first century hauntingly familiar — and yet startlingly different from our own. Here the United States brokered a deal that ended World War I, and the Ottoman Empire never collapsed. And lording it over all sits the complex, seductive, and bloodthirsty North African metropolis of El Iskandryia. Almost nothing is what it seems to be in El Isk, and Ashraf Bey is no exception. Neither the rich Ottoman aristocrat everyone thinks he is, nor the minor street criminal once shipped off to prison when he fell foul of his Chinese Triad employers — the fact is that Raf has as little idea who he is as anyone else. With few clues and no money, all Raf has is a surname hinting at noble heritage and an arranged marriage to a woman who hates him. But nothing Ashraf al Mansur learns about himself is as unexpected — or as terrifying — as the brutal murder he’s accused of committing. Now, as a hunted man with the welfare of a precocious young girl in his irresponsible hands, Raf must race after a killer through an unforgiving city as foreign to him as the truth he’ll uncover about himself.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood Arabesk 1. Pashazade 2. Effendi 3. Felaheen Jon Courtenay Grimwood Arabesk 1. Pashazade 2. Effendi 3. Felaheen Jon Courtenay Grimwood Arabesk 1. Pashazade 2. Effendi 3. Felaheen

ARABESK: How to get the reader to suspend disbelief

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ARABESK: Pashazade, Effendi and Felaheen
In this review, I’m going to write about the willing suspension of disbelief. Perhaps more precisely, I’m writing about the intersection of world-building and the willing suspension of disbelief. Enter Jon Courtenay Grimwood and the ARABESK trilogy: Pashazade, Effendi and Felaheen.

In Grimwood’s world, the Ottoman Empire never collapsed. Woodrow Wilson brokered peace between London and Berlin in 1915, World War II never happened, and the major world powers seem to be Germany, France, the USA and the Empire. This alternate timeline stretches a few decades beyond current time, but in terms of fashion and technology, there’s nothing the science fiction reader won’t recognize. It’s the social, political ... Read More

The Assassini

The Assassini — (2011-2013) Publisher: In the depths of night, customs officers board a galley in a harbor and overpower its guards.  In the hold they find oil and silver, and a naked boy chained to the bulkhead. Stunningly beautiful but half-starved, the boy has no name. The officers break the boy’s chains to rescue him, but he escapes… Venice is at the height of its power. In theory Duke Marco commands. But Marco is a simpleton so his aunt and uncle rule in his stead. They command the seas, tax the colonies, and, like those in power before them, fear assassins better than their own… In a side chapel, Marco’s fifteen-year old cousin prays for deliverance from her forced marriage. It is her bad fortune to be there when Mamluk pirates break in to steal a chalice, but it is the Mamluks’ good luck — they kidnap her… In the gardens beside the chapel, Atilo, the Duke’s chief assassin, prepares to kill his latest victim. Having cut the man’s throat, he turns back, having heard a noise, and finds a boy crouched over the dying man, drinking blood from the wound. The speed with which the boy dodges a dagger and scales a wall stuns Atilo. And the assassin knows he has to find the boy… Not to kill him, but because he’s finally found what he thought he would never find. Someone fit to be his apprentice…

Jon Courtenay Grimwood The Assassini 1. The Fallen BladeJon Courtenay Grimwood The Assassini 1. The Fallen Blade 2. The Outcast Bladefantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

The Fallen Blade: A wild, improbable adventure in Renaissance Europe

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The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

CLASSIFICATION: Combining alternate history with the supernatural, The Fallen Blade is kind of like Jasper Kent’s Twelve and Thirteen Years Later crossed with Anne Rice’s vampires and Underworld’s lycans, written in the style of Glen Cook.

FORMAT/INFO: The Fallen Blade is 464 pages long divided over two Parts, sixty-three numbered chapters, and an Epilogue. Also includes a map, the Millioni family tree, Dramatis Personae, an interview with the author, and an excerp... Read More

The Outcast Blade: Good news and bad news

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The Outcast Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

I have good news and bad news about The Outcast Blade, the second book in Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s ACTS OF THE ASSASSINI series.

The good news is that the book is as captivating as its predecessor, The Fallen Blade. It’s a heady brew of magic, military strategy, politics, mystery, betrayal and love. Grimwood’s descriptions of Venice are grounded rather than lyrical, creating a living city that is gritty and fantastical, beautiful and frightening, breathing in history and breathing out magic.

Stone steps disappearing under dark water were a common occurrence in Venice, where such runs helped adjust for tidal differences. Most of the water steps in the island city were algae-green and slippery underfoot. The steps up to t... Read More

The Exiled Blade: A satisfying finish to an imaginative series

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The Exiled Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

But the real battle was with himself. All the battles that really mattered were with yourself.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood ends The Exiled Blade, book three in his Acts of the Assassini series, with a spectacular three-act battle, and a wedding. This is a pleasing, sad, and haunting ending to his alternate history fifteenth century Venetian tale, where political intrigue and martial prowess function side by side with shape-shifters, demons and magic.

At the end of the second book, The Outcast Blade, Duchess Alexa, Regent of Venice, had prevailed over Duke Alonzo and was preparing to have him exiled. Giulietta and Tycho, the demon-orphan hero of the trilogy, were together, and were happy. It didn’t seem like there was anywhere left for the third book to go, but by page 36 Grimwood has pulverized Gi... Read More

Stamping Butterflies: Comes together too late

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Stamping Butterflies by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

I  picked up John Courtenay Grimwood’s Stamping Butterflies because Marion thinks so highly of his work and I thought a stand-alone novel which has just been released in audio format would be an ideal introduction to the author. While I found much to admire about Grimwood’s style, I didn’t enjoy Stamping Butterflies as much as I expect to enjoy some of his other work.

The non-linear three-pronged plot of Stamping Butterflies is ambitious. One part takes place in modern-day United States where Gene Newman, the charismatic U.S. President, refuses to collaborate on a space mission with the Chinese until their government addresses its human rights issues. A sniper, concerned about a Chinese-Ame... Read More

End of the World Blues: Grimwood is a superb stylist

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End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Roger Zelazny, on top of writing a number of immensely popular books and stories, was one of the genre’s great stylists, with noir minimalism utilized in nearly all his works. He was likewise predictable for his main characters, often world-weary men with personal issues who find themselves facing situations they would rather avoid. I have come to think of Jon Courtenay Grimwood, who bases his fiction on these two same elements, as a successor to Zelazny, but significantly upgraded for the (post-) modern world. An exemplary text, his End of the World Blues (2006) possesses a sophisticated sense of noir that does not lack for eye-kicks (to borrow a phrase from Read More

The Last Banquet: A feast of emotions

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The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood (pseudonym of Jon Courtenay Grimwood)

Jean-Marie Charles d’Aumont is first and foremost a chef. Even the title chef is a gross understatement. Jean-Marie is a connoisseur on an adventure to taste as many different things as he can in his lifetime. As The Last Banquet opens up, we find Jean-Marie as an orphan sitting by a dung heap munching on beetles. With each beetle consumed, he notes that they often taste like what they’d consumed prior to being eaten. There’s a very wry, subtle humor throughout the story, and it shines in the beginning where Jean-Marie eats a beetle before a nearby man can ask him to share, as if everyone eats beetles.

Jean-Marie will eat anything he can get his hands on — frog, loris, snake, dog, cat, lion, you name it, he’s eaten it, raw or cooked. Intermittently throughout the book, Grimwood has placed entries of J... Read More

More speculative fiction by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Napoleonika — (1997-2000) Grimwood’s note: Written between 1993-1995 at a kitchen table in Tottenham, North London, neoAddix was eventually published by New English Library, part of Hodder, in January 1997 (having spent over a year gathering dust at Gollancz, then in the middle of a take over). Marketed by NEL as a cyber noir ultra-shocker, described by Maxim as featuring a ‘plutonium-density plot’ & categorised by Dick Jude of Forbidden Planet fame as ‘weirdshit’, this was the book on which I learnt to write. (Well, began to learn. So take that into account.) This is, sadly, the cut-version I sent to NEL since I’ve lost the files for the original, longer book. Contains sex, violence, drugs, clichés, DOS prompts, modems that beep at you and other things that may now be unacceptable. This is not an advertisement. Simply an observation.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood 1. NeoAddix (1997) 2. Lucifer's Dragon (1998) 3. ReMix (1999) 4. Red Robe (2000) Jon Courtenay Grimwood 1. NeoAddix (1997) 2. Lucifer's Dragon (1998) 3. ReMix (1999) 4. Red Robe (2000) Jon Courtenay Grimwood 1. NeoAddix (1997) 2. Lucifer's Dragon (1998) 3. ReMix (1999) 4. Red Robe (2000) Jon Courtenay Grimwood 1. NeoAddix (1997) 2. Lucifer's Dragon (1998) 3. ReMix (1999) 4. Red Robe (2000)


Stand-alones:

Jon Courtenay Grimwood 9Tail Fox9Tail Fox — (2005) Publisher: Sergeant Bobby Zha of the SFPD is desperate to find out who murdered him. But he also needs the answers to some other questions. Like, why is he in another man’s body? Why is someone trying to kill him, again… And why is he being haunted by a nine-tailed Celestial fox? From the shell-shattered ruins of Stalingrad in 1942 to the present-day politics of San Francisco’s Chinatown, 9Tail Fox is evocative of place and crystal-clear in its depiction of character.


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