Saturday, September 15, 2018

Stephen Aryan

Stephen Aryan is the award winning author of the Age of Darkness trilogy (Battlemage, Bloodmage, Chaosmage) published by Orbit books.

A second trilogy, the Age of Dread, starts with Mageborn. Aryan's new book, the second book of the trilogy, is Magefall.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Aryan's reply:
I tend to read a mix of SFF books and then something non-fiction. Sometimes this is an autobiography and sometimes it’s a book about something that has caught my interest.

A non-fiction book I recently read is called Why We Sleep - The New Science of Sleep by Matthew Walker. Professor Walker is a neuroscientist of renown and there are a number of talks on YouTube and other places if you want to take a look. But this book, which was an international bestseller, focuses on the importance of getting enough sleep.

The book contains some shocking and quite eye-opening facts about sleep. We spend a large portion of our life asleep and putting dreams aside for now (another section of the book does look at them), part of the book focuses on what sleep does for the human body and the human mind. It repairs the body in so many ways I never realised. It rebuilds our immune system and helps us to fight infections and disease. Our brain goes through a number of different phases while we’re asleep, processing memories, sorting them into sections like a computer archiving files. But then there’s the other side that no one really talks about. The damage, the life-threatening damage over a long period of time, of not getting enough sleep. The book does a deep dive into the dangers of not getting enough sleep.

At school we’re taught about the human body in biology and how to remain healthy through diet, exercise and so on. But no one taught me about sleep. Ever. There’s a common misconception that teenagers are lazy because they spend a lot of time in bed. There’s actually a very good scientific reason for this from a growth perspective, and while some teenagers make take it to the extreme, it’s actually important they sleep more.

As well as exploring the science behind the power of sleep and what it does for individuals the book looks at the serious impact of not getting enough sleep. More traffic accidents on the road are caused by a lack of sleep than drugs and alcohol. Just think about that for a minute. Cars and lorries drifting into lanes, ploughing into other cars, causing multiple car pile-ups. That’s just one gut-punch in the book. Here’s another one. Men who routinely sleep 5 hours a night or less have significantly smaller testicles than those who sleep 8 hours or more. They will also have a level of testosterone in their body that is the equivalent of someone ten years their senior, ageing them and reducing virility. There is an equivalent in women’s reproduction as well for those who regularly sleep less.

This book provides fascinating insight into why every single person should sleep between 7-8 hours a night, regardless of age, and the benefits of doing so for the body and the brain. There are still many scientific discoveries to make in the arena of sleep but this book lifts the veil on many of the latest.

A slightly lighter read from before this book was The Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding. This is the fourth and last book in the Ketty Jay series, so I will try to talk about it without spoilers.

Imagine if Firefly had continued but instead of Mal and the Serenity, you had a Captain called Frey and an airship called the Ketty Jay. That’s the basic set up. They are a diverse crew of pirates, all of whom came to the ship for their own reasons, and now they’re kind of stuck there, getting involved with dangerous jobs to earn a living.

Somehow this disparate group always find a way to work together to complete the mission, but not in the way you might expect or with the ideal outcome. It’s brilliant fast paced fun because a lot of the crew don’t really like each other and they don’t have much in common. One thing that Chris Wooding excels at is characterisation. The ship has a cast of about eight characters (plus a ship’s cat who has his own story arc across the series!) but Wooding spends plenty of time with all of them so that you know each intimately. Some of them aren’t very nice people, everyone is multi-layered, and that’s realistic and ultimately human. But they all try to be good and do the right thing in their own way. Of course what one person thinks of as good can sometimes make for an uncomfortable read. Despite that you become invested in the fate of all of the characters and really care about them.

The whole series is a fantastic action romp through a bright and colourful universe that is both familiar and alien. They’re perfect books for a holiday read, by which I mean, you need to be able to sit down and read, uninterrupted, for several hours at a time as once you get started you will not want to stop. The pace doesn’t slow down and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Visit Stephen Aryan's website.

My Book, The Movie: Battlemage.

The Page 69 Test: Battlemage.

--Marshal Zeringue