Dave Higgins writes speculative fiction, often with a dark edge. Despite forays into the mundane worlds of law and IT, he was unable to completely escape the liminal zone between mystery and horror.
Born in the least mystically significant part of Wiltshire, England, and raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, a plush altar to the Dark Lord Cthulhu, and many shelves of books.
It’s rumoured he writes out of a fear that he will otherwise run out of things to read.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I read compulsively. I will strain to read distant notices through heavy rain. I will even read the same cereal packet I read yesterday.
So, one of the greatest joys for me is the thought that somewhere out there someone like me will have one more thing to read.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I went to a Church of England primary, so was asked to re-write Bible stories in different settings; I can remember rewriting at least one of them as a play set in space, but cannot remember which parable it was. I can remember writing my own stories too, but not what they were about.
I do remember starting a book when I was 11 or 12 (if I acknowledged a distinction between novels and short stories then, I cannot recall which I intended). It opened with the protagonist in a five-sided temple-like room, wondering how he got there, realising it was a dream, then finding evidence it might not be. I produced a first chapter before I ran out of steam. Given the similarity to Lovecraft combined with the theme of ancient knowledge bleeding across time in his work I am not sure now whether to see it as early evidence of interest in speculative fiction or of a cthonic conspiracy revealing itself only to my unconscious.
Reuse, Reduce, Recycle shouldn’t include people
Normally, freezing to death in deep space is pretty permanent. But Engineer Josie Stein was just defrosted a thousand years in the future, aboard the U.F.S. Greenstar, a recycled spaceship on a mission to stop the self-destructive aliens of the galaxy from wiping themselves out.
If that wasn’t enough, she’s immediately elected captain. The last captain’s success rate was one hundred and sixty-seven alien species extinct to zero saved, so she can’t really do any worse. But how can she deal with aliens when she can no longer understand her own species?
Inspired by Star Trek and Buck Rogers, Greenstar is a funny, action-packed take on the future, filled with strange aliens and neurotic characters.
Lovecraft and his successors show a world where human civilisation is only a thin veneer over black seas of ignorance. But what of those who wear their own averageness like a veneer? Neither drawn toward the horror by academic curiosity nor driven their by society, but unmoored by a mundane secret.
Twelve tales of overtly normal people coming adrift in an incomprehensible universe.
Like the science-fiction serials it pays homage to, Greenstar generated promotional content and deleted scenes. Greenstar Special Features gathers them all in one place, so you don't have to risk the lower decks in search of the BetaSnax Story-in-a-Pill versions.
Contains four short stories and three sets of crew diaries.
The Frontier: the line between civilisation and the unknown where pioneers rely on a strong will and a dead eye not big city laws.
A land where your sweat makes a place yours, whatever a map says; where a badge doesn't make a sheriff better than anyone else; where the divide between legend and reality isn't where it seems.
Nine tales showcasing the grit and adventure that built the frontier.
Collects every part of the swords-and-sorcery serial. Plagued by nightmares of shifting stone and ancient evil, Absolution Kobb journeys to the northern edge of civilisation. Most treat him with disdain and ill-trust, but two people see his quest as a way to better their own lives.
Some are born to advantage, privilege. Edmond was born to village idiots who put his points into Luck. They knew an opportunity to win the lottery when they saw it. Edmond dreams of being a hero and scholar. Impossible goals when your Intelligence and Wisdom couldn’t be lower. Is Edmond nothing but a walking rabbit’s foot? Will his parents’ dreams of fortune come true? It’s all just a roll away.
What if you really had to start again from scratch?
After saving Earth for the second time, Josie thought she finally had time to deal with personal business. But a trap in the Greenstar's engines meant she really got away from it all.
Trapped in a featureless void, she discovers that even being the first woman in a new universe won't protect her from having to solve everyone else's problems.
Collects parts 1 - 9 of the serial. Plagued by nightmares of shifting stone and ancient evil, Absolution Kobb, Reverend Militant of the Order of the Maker, journeys to the northern edge of civilisation.
Most treat him with disdain and ill-trust. But Anessa Tanton sees a way out of her village.
Josie foiled a scheming, homicidal AI. She saved the Earth from the Kalmari. But nothing is good enough for Burger Supreme: they think a ray forcing everyone to have a conscience is a bad thing.
Dispatching Vesta Hartman, a captain with two itchy trigger fingers and everything to prove, Burger Supreme want the Greenstar brought to justice at any cost. Even if it means turning it to powder first.
Humanity’s best hope is a wicker spaceship.
Josie Stein woke up a thousand years in the future and was immediately elected captain of the U.F.S. Greenstar, a recycled spaceship on a mission to stop the aliens of the galaxy from wiping themselves out.
Now homicidal aliens have set their sights on Earth. How can the ramshackle Greenstar possibly stand in their way?
on Feb. 16, 2013
This novel is about a boy who discovers he has magical powers and is taken to a school for the gifted. It is a testament to Cypert's world-building that I did not think of the comparison to Harry Potter until I was over three-quarters of the way through the book.
This is the first volume of the Scapemaker series. The story opens with a series of unusual events which reveal that Matthew Namely has the power to enter the dream world. His powers can be dangerous, to both himself and others, so he is enrolled in Scapemaker, one of a several schools for those capable of interacting with dreams. While he is still attempting to come to terms with another world parallel to the mundane his best friend is killed and his father left in a coma. When his father is blamed for murder and the loss of a mystical artefact, Matthew sets out to prove him innocent.
The magical system in this book is interesting and internally consistent, and is placed within a believable adaptation of the modern world; while there are fantastical elements such as gremlins and dragons, they are only part of magical society, and there are sound reasons for them not to interact with the mundane world.
The plot is engaging with a good balance of serious magical threats and mundane teenage problems. It advances at a good pace without seeming rushed.
The characterisation is mixed. Most of the main characters have distinct believable personalities; the two potential love interests are particularly well realised, and make full use of the potential of a world in which a person's physical appearance can vary between the mundane and dream worlds. However, Cypert often tells the reader what a character is like instead of letting their dialogue and actions show their character. Combined with heavy use of adjectives and complex speech verbs, this counteracts the effect of otherwise solid work.
The point of view is often centred on Matthew but sometimes strays between several other characters within the same scene, or adopts an entirely external view. In some scenes the narrator is omniscient, and some early scenes use divine irony, whereas in others even a character's words are hidden from the narrator. Along with the didactic style of the writing this often makes Cypert's choice to share information or not very obvious to the detriment of immersion.
As an additional consideration for British English speakers, these stylistic issues made the use of American English more than usually noticeable.
Overall I enjoyed this novel, and will probably read the rest of the series. However, the ideas were let down by a lack of editing.
I received a free copy of this book from the author.
Urgus the Scribe
on March 01, 2013
Rather than include exerts from in-world historical texts or other common world building techniques Boyle writes about the daily events as they happen and leaves the reader to deduce much of the background. This adds greatly to both the impression that this is a record from a larger world and that the narrator has the unthinking prejudices and ignorance of a real person.
The novel tells the story of the Gatherers, a tribe of vassal warriors charged with collecting taxes from other subjugated states by a classical empire. As the story proceeds the Gatherers uncover a potential rebellion which may actually be an invasion. With the empire rotten with decadence and the forces ranged against them divided by hidden agendas the Gatherers are forced to change not only their role in the empire but their very way of life.
The eponymous scribe is the only Gatherer who can write. He is also a lecher and a coward. At the start of the book he is attached to the personal staff of Hector, chieftain of the Gatherers and arguably the hero of the story, a position Urgus struggles to keep as the story proceeds. Apart from the epilogue, the story is told in as series of extracts from his scrolls, so is filled with examples of self-justification and prejudice. However, Boyle successfully describes events clearly enough that the reader can deduce other possible interpretations and produces a more sympathetic character than many fantasy heroes.
Even filtered through Urgus’ perceptions the other major characters are described with similar depth and credibility.
With an empire more interested in violent arena games and fashion than maintaining its power it would be easy to draw parallels with the Roman Empire. However, the other nations are different from the Goths and Vandals, making the possible collapse more than a retelling of the sack of Rome. The scale, both geographically and narratively, is also quite small emphasising personality over history.
Overall I enjoyed this novel greatly, and foresee rereading it in the future. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys well-constructed low fantasy or believably flawed protagonists.
The Sixth Discipline
on March 15, 2013
Unlike some stories that culture clash as a motif, this novel both features action by characters from each culture in both cultures and portrays neither culture as ultimately lesser to the other.
The book tells the story of Ran-Del Jahanpur, a warrior from a forest tribe that focus on mental discipline and aim to live in tune with nature. He is kidnapped by Baron Hayden, a noble from a technologically advanced city, who keeps him prisoner, but otherwise treats him as an honoured guest. Despite the empathy granted by his training, Ran-Del struggles to understand both the Baron's plans and the society that holds him.
With a plot that moves back and forth between the forest and the city, the novel skilfully balances the benefits and disadvantages of psychic and technological solutions and the cultures that have grown up around them.
I found Ran-Del to be a well-developed character. His social and moral choices are sometimes better and sometimes worse than others, making him neither the noble savage or the uncultured rural. He also displays an entirely believable assumption that, having grown up feeling if people are lying himself, everyone will know that he is telling the truth if he denies wrongdoing.
The other main characters have similar depth, each displaying a personal reaction to the facets of other culture that they meet. This complexity of response makes both the growing friendships and fledgling rivalries more meaningful and the sudden elevation of a minor character to significance more believable.
The speed and ease with which Ran-Del became able to function in the city seemed unrealistically fast. However this is mostly due to the elision of the repeated little conflicts that is common to most stories dealing with potential integration into an alien culture, and is preferable to too much exposition of the differences.
on March 22, 2013
This short story has some moments of exquisite prose, reminding me in style – if not in content – of the works of Gail Carriger.
Set 14 years before Legend Unleashed, this short story tells of a formative moment in the life of Temperance Levinthal. With her father just committed to an asylum and her brother refusing to sacrifice his dream of university and a life, eight-year-old Temperance must handle alone both the mental collapse of her mother and the negative reactions of her schoolmates.
Although it is very short, the main characters are all developed enough to have distinct personalities and to evoke sympathy. Temperance’s struggle to deal with the gossip and stigma around her father’s mental state seemed particularly realistic. The background description is similarly well expanded.
The revelation to Temperance of a world of magic beyond this one was an excellent piece of understated and plausible storytelling. However this element was not followed up in any way, leaving me unsatisfied. I have not read Legend Unleashed but suspect it is resolved there.
My copy also included a preview of Legend Unleashed of generous length; I did not read this as I dislike intensely being unable to finish a book.
Overall I enjoyed this work on a technical level but was left unsatisfied by the plot. It reads more like a prequel than a stand-alone work so I would recommend reading it after Legend Unleashed.
I received a free copy of this story.
The Story of Albert Ross
on May 10, 2013
Although it is set in a single room with only one character, this story does not lack for conflict.
Albert Ross spends most of his days in his flat watching television, passively consuming. Until one night the broadcasts start to raise very personal issues.
The book is written in a relatively stylised third-person voice, reminiscent of voice-overs from the early eighties. While this is quite noticeable for the first few paragraphs, it is very skilfully handled and fits perfectly with a story revolving around a habitual viewer.
Albert starts as another forgettable average man, rendered only as a cipher by his self-isolation, However, as the programs flicker past, the events on screen and his reactions mimic the interactions of more populous works showing the reader how he is unique, and building sympathy.
Despite the very short length of the work (14 pages), the plot shifts between comedy and horror without becoming rushed. However, the story does feel quite short; more of a great appetiser than a whole meal.
The reader will probably guess what is happening before Albert; however the characterisation and style are strong enough to draw the reader to the end.
Overall I enjoyed this book and would recommend it subject to the caveat that – unless you only ever read in short bursts – you will need another book to hand to start when this ends.
I received a free copy of this book.