This month, we publish not only The Air War, Adrian Tchaikovsky's eagerly-awaited next instalment in the Shadows of the Apt series, but fabulous new reissues of his Blood of the Mantis and Salute the Dark. Here's a FREE extract of THE AIR WAR! To find out more about the series, the man and the writing, we decided to ask a few searching questions, below. Also, to catch up on the series with our Shadows of the Apts re-reads, by Sci-Fi-London.com's Robert Grant, please click HERE.
1. AS AN AUTHOR, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE FAN MOMENT?
I think I should certainly mention the hardworking fans who have put together a wiki for the series, which is great. Also the person who saw me at Eastercon and said I had crazy eyebrows.
2. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHARACTER IN THE AIR WAR AND WHY?
It’s a difficult call. My favourite pre-existing character must be Taki the Fly-kinden pilot, whose book this is (that’s her on Alan Brooks’ excellent cover), but the book introduces quite a few new faces, as befits the beginning of the third and final plot arc of the series. The Air War has one very strong theme, which is basically to tell the story of a very new kind of conflict from every point of view. Hence we spend time with a number of different groups of protagonists, all of whom are, I hope, presented in a sympathetic manner, and most of whole are trying to kill each other. So we have some Fly-kinden factory girls in the Empire who go from making trousers on a factory line to becoming soldiers in the Wasp army, and we have some new students in Collegium who have to deal not only with the war coming to their city, but what war is turning their city into. And then there’s a truly deranged mad scientist who was great fun to write, and a deadly spy sent by the Moth-kinden into the Empire … there’s just too many, really.
3. THE MAGIC SYSTEM IN YOUR BOOKS IS WONDERFULLY UNIQUE. CAN YOU EXPLAIN IT?
There are two sorts of magic in Shadows of the Apt, the magic, and the other magic that nobody thinks about as magic. This isn’t even looking at the steampunky technology that is surely as mad as magic, that the Apt can use and the Inapt can’t. The Inapt instead get the magic magic, which has been in decline for centuries (for reasons much speculated about, and which just might get revealed in the last book…) Magic used to be the great force in the world, and those kinden who could master it basically ran everything – frequently not very well. However, there was a general revolution of the Apt against the Inapt, using newly-minted technologies such as the crossbow, and now magic is mostly a spent force. The key thing about it is that it is not scientifically verifiable – it is affected by belief and mental state. Hence the Apt not only can’t use it, but find it very hard to even credit it. Magic tends to produce effects like concealment, curses, instilling of negative emotions and the like, and its effects can usually be explained away after the fact. The truly great magics of yesteryear are gone.
The other ‘magic’ is the Art, which is completely ubiquitous, and allows the Insect-kinden to access their insect nature. Individuals can gain various abilities that connect with their insect totem – so Wasps can sting and fly, Mantids can grow spines on their arms to fight with and similar. Other Art abilities are more intangible – the ability of Beetles to endure more than others, for example, or a Fly’s sense for danger. The Art is accepted as simple, provable fact by all, and nobody, not Apt nor Inapt, thinks of it as magical, despite the fact that the abilities it grants are absolutely supernatural from the point of view of the real world.
4. CAN YOU HINT AT THE BIGGEST SURPRISE FOR READERS IN THIS BOOK (WITHOUT SPOILERS)?
I think the overall scale of the war will surprise people. This isn’t an epic fantasy war such as the genre normally sees. The pace of the technology (that has been picking up since book two (Dragonfly Falling) has by now basically overtaken the strategic understandings of both sides – the Empire and the Lowlands are constantly trying to adjust to what their artificers can give them, and all throughout the book there’s a complex chess game of measure and countermeasure as both sides continue to try and outdo the other.
5. IS THERE AN INSECT KINDEN YOU WISH YOU’D INCLUDED IN THE SERIES BUT DIDN’T? OR DID YOU CONSIDER INCLUDING AN INSECT KINDEN, BUT THEN DECIDED NOT TO? WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THEIR CHARACTERISTICS?
Oh yes. Somewhere in the Aleth jungles to the South there are outposts of the Ichneumon kinden. I could never find any reason to go look at them in the main narrative, although a short story may find them there. Suffice to say, and as anyone familiar with the insects would expect, they are extremely nasty.