A Different Kingdom (1993) by Paul Kearney

After enjoying Paul Kearney’s 2016 Oxford-based tale ‘The Wolf in the Attic’, I sought out this earlier work by him. ‘A Different Kingdom’ was first published in 1993, and republished by Solaris in 2014. It tells the story of Michael, a young boy growing up on a rural farm in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. In the woods near the farm, Michael begins to witness things he can’t explain. Are there strange creatures living in the woods, or does Michael just have an overactive imagination?

‘It is a last breathing space, a final look around at the soon-to-be-felled woods, the rush-choked bottom meadows, the fields with the wild flowers that have seeded for a thousand years and which knew the feet of the Druids.’ (Loc 118)

 

This is a fairly dark fairy tale which includes some of the standard tropes found in many fantasy stories: a young “hero” sets out on a quest to find a lost family member, he travels through a strange land, and is both helped and hindered by the characters he meets on his journey. He must stay ahead of the dark forces pursuing him, leading to a final confrontation with the “villain” of the book. What separates ‘A Different Kingdom’ from other, similar stories is Paul Kearney’s writing.

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Fairyland (1995) by Paul McAuley

“The man runs in a desperate zig-zag scramble, waving his arms as if trying to swat something. People scatter – they know what’s about to happen. The man has been targeted by a hornet, a small, self-powered micro-missile guided by scent to a specific target.” (p.267) 

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Paul McAuley’s 1995 novel Fairyland had been on my radar for a while until a laudatory tweet by author Adam Roberts convinced me to buy a copy. It is the 150th title to join Gollancz’s SF Masterworks collection. It was also the first novel published by Gollancz to win the Arthur C. Clarke Award, back in 1996. Here is the author talking about the book in an interview posted on the SF Gateway website’s blog:  Continue reading