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Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but grew up in Katy, Texas. His interest in writing came from hearing about the books his older brother was reading and then attempting to mimic them on paper, though when his brother became interested in Stephen King and the stories written for Robert’s elementary school class developed a correspondingly high body count it did cause something of a ruckus. He later attended the University of Texas at Austin and, like a lot of its alumni, was unable to leave the charms of the city and resides there currently.

Marion chats with Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett lives in Austin, Texas with his family. He is the author of Mr Shivers, The Company Man and, most recently, The Troupe. Bennett is currently working on this fourth novel, but he generously gave some time to Fantasy Literature and answered some questions for us. We hope you'll read Read More

Marion chats with Robert Jackson Bennett (again)

American Elsewhere is Robert Jackson Bennett’s fourth novel. Every book by Bennett is a little bit different; American Elsewhere (which I’ve reviewed) is a meditation on the American self-image, the myth of the frontier; a suspenseful family drama and a crackling good SF/horror story. Currently Bennett is on a book tour for American Elsewhere, and at work on his fifth project, but he set aside some time to discuss books and writing with me. And he graciously signed a copy of American Elsewhere which I'll be giving to one of you.
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Robert Jackson Bennett talks CITY OF BLADES

Since the publication of Mr. Shivers in 2010, award winning writer Robert Jackson Bennett has not looked back. He has won the Shirley Jackson award twice, once for Mr. Shivers and once again for American Elsewhere in 2013. His current series is the brilliant second-world fantasy THE DIVINE CITIES. Bennett’s work is wildly imaginative and heart-breakingly human. City of Stairs introduced us to The Continent, a collection of conquered city-states still mourning their fall from glory, and the island nation of Saypur, who rebelled against the slavery imposed by the Continent and became conquerors themselves. In the seco... Read More

Robert Jackson Bennett talks DIVINE CITIES

Robert Jackson Bennett first came to our attention in 2010 with his Depression-era dark fantasy Mr. Shivers. He won the Shirley Jackson Award for that book. He has since published The Company Man (which won an Edgar Award and a special citation from the Philip K. Dick award), The Troupe and American Elsewhere, which garnered him another Shirley Jackson Award. The first book in his breath-taking DIVINE CITIES trilogy, Read More

Robert Jackson Bennett returns to FanLit to talk about FOUNDERS

Robert Jackson Bennett returns for a record-setting fifth interview with Fantasy Literature. He sat down with Bill and Marion to talk about his new release Foundryside, the first in his brand new THE FOUNDERS TRILOGY. Three commenters (U.S. only) chosen at random will receive a free copy of Foundryside.

Bill and Marion: Your last work, THE DIVINE CITIES trilogy, received a slew of critical acclaim, including a Hugo nomination for Best Series. Did that affect at all your decision to make FOUNDERS TRILOGY a multiple book series? In any case, can you tell us a little bit about the conceptual and structural differences between a stand-alone and a multi-book story and if/how it affects your writing process?

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Mr. Shivers: Bennett is masterful at creating atmosphere

Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett

Depression-era America in the Dust Bowl must have seemed like living through the apocalypse. The very earth was drying up and blowing away. Nothing would grow and the rain never came. There was no food, families were disintegrating, and death stalked the land. This is the setting for Mr. Shivers, a first novel by Robert Jackson Bennett.

Upon reading the first several chapters of Mr. Shivers, one forms a mental image of the author: old and craggy, a face like a few miles of dirt road, hard and sad. It’s something of a shock to see the fresh-faced young man who gives a Mona Lisa smile from the book jacket. He looks more like a college student than like the cross between John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy one would suspect of having written this bleak prose. Indeed, Mr. Shivers Read More

The Company Man: Almost a fable

The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett

“I am a messenger . . . sent from afar.”

Robert Jackson Bennett is the author of Mr. Shivers, the best dark fantasy novel that I’ve read in a long time. Bennett delivers again with The Company Man, a detective noir science fiction novel set in a North America that is both familiar and radically changed.

The year is 1919. The city of Evesden perches on the shore of Washington State’s Puget Sound, a precarious balance of wealth and desperate poverty. The city holds the McNaughton Company’s corporate headquarters and many of its factories, and McNaughton patents have changed the world. They invented the airships that circle the globe, harnessed lightning, and with their new invention, The Siblings, are scratching at the door of... Read More

The Troupe: Why isn’t everyone reading this guy?

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett: why isn’t everyone reading this guy? Here is an authentic voice with an original vision, a uniquely American dark fantasist who can weave the three Fates into the Great Depression and fairies into a story about vaudeville. With The Troupe, Bennett moves closer to the setting and milieu he created so well in his first novel, Mr. Shivers. The Troupe is a long story with a rich cast, a powerful coming-of-age tale entwined with a traditional fantasy quest.

George Carole is a sixteen-year-old piano virtuoso, a spoiled and arrogant young man. George ran away from his home in Rinton, Kansas a few months ago and has been playing piano at the Otterman Theater. Now he’s leaving the theater to find a specific vaudeville act, the Silenus Troupe. George is convinced, from information his grandmother gav... Read More

American Elsewhere: Classical mythology meets American paranoia

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

I confess I had my doubts about American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett. I’ve read all three of his previous novels and he hasn’t let me down yet, but the mix of elements in his latest one left me feeling skeptical. It just seemed like too much: rural horror; a Stepford-like village; quantum weirdness; tentacled inter-dimensional creatures; a secret government lab; people who aren’t what they seem; Elder gods; classical mythology; muscle cars, hidden files and video footage; a pink moon.

I’m pleased to report that Bennett pulls it off once again.

Wink is a town in New Mexico, nestled among the canyons and pine forests at the foot of a mesa. Wink does not show up on any map, atlas, or even, presumably, on Google Earth. When you are in the town limits, the moon is pink. Most people, however, will never find that out, because a very few outsiders ever make it ... Read More

City of Stairs: A glorious, mind-bending mash-up

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs is a glorious, mind-bending mash-up; part second-world fantasy, part political thriller and part murder mystery. Shara Thivani and her “secretary” Sigrud are my two new favorite action heroes.

Robert Jackson Bennett once again, has taken a conventional sub-genre and made it original, creating an experience that reads like an actual sociological thriller set in another, magical world.

Shara Thivani is a junior ambassador from the Saypuri islands – at least, that is her cover. She comes to Bulikov, the City of Stairs, on the Continent, to investigate the murder of Saypuri citizen and her friend, Professor Pangyui, who was found beaten to death in his office in the Bulikov University.

Relations between the Continentals and the Saypuri are… well, tense. For millennia, the Continentals, aided by myste... Read More

City of Blades: Inspiring and heartbreaking

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

Marion: City of Blades is the second book in Robert Jackson Bennett’s THE DIVINE CITIES series, which tells several sides of the story of a major international cultural conflict. Saypur, a civilization that has been oppressed by the Continent for centuries, rose up and subdued its oppressors by killing their gods. In the wake of the Saypuri revolution and its conquest of the Continent, all of the Continental Divinities have vanished, and magic no longer works… usually.

City of Blades, Bennett’s follow-up to City of Stairs, takes place five years after the events of the first book. Voortya, the Divinity of War, was the first god ... Read More

City of Miracles: A perfect ending!

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

Bill: I think it’s going to be impossible to review City of Miracles (2017) without reference to events from Robert Jackson Bennett’s first two books in the series (City of Stairs, City of Blades). or without discussing the major precipitating event (no real pangs of guilt here; that event is also detailed in the official bookseller summary), so consider this your fair warning: There be spoilers ahead!

Bennett picks up the story years after the close of book two, with Sigrud off in lumberjack country, haunted by the past and waiting desperately to be called back... Read More

Foundryside: Come for the action and characters, stay for the depth

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Bill: Robert Jackson Bennett hit the trifecta, as far as I was concerned, with his DIVINE CITIES trilogy. I placed each book pretty much immediately on my respective best-of-the-year lists as I finished them, and then, once the trilogy was completed, put the whole thing on my best-of-the-decade list. So it would be more than a little unfair to expect his newest novel, Foundryside (2018), to match that experience. But like a younger sibling following after a genius older sister or brother, Foundryside finds its own kind of greatness, a no-less pleasing but more “moderate” greatness if you’ll allow the seeming paradox. Even, I’d say, a stealthy greatness, the kind that sneaks up on you while you thought you were just reading some... Read More

Shorefall: Come for the heists and explosions, stay for the debates

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Once upon a time there was a small group of uber-powerful folks who truly messed up the world. Luckily that was ages, sorry, I mean, Ages, ago. But now one of those ancient badass power users is potentially going to return and hoo boy is the world in trouble if he gathers all his power yet again. Thank the gods for the plucky group of scruffy underdogs who are definitely not a fellowship and who have decided to risk their lives to prevent the Dark Power’s rise. Anyone? Bueller?

OK, yes. We’ve all heard it before. So you might be forgiven if, upon learning that Robert Jackson Bennett’s newest title, Shorefall (sequel to the fantastic Foundryside), is about a... Read More

Locklands: Concludes one of the best series of the last decade

Locklands by Robert Jackson Bennett

In Locklands, Robert Jackson Bennett closes out his FOUNDERS TRILOGY in epic style, raising the stakes to literally “all of creation” and upping his characters’ (some of them) power levels to god-like heights, all while managing to keep the story grounded in the personal thanks to Jackson’s typically sharp characterization. Being the concluding novel, two things should be obvious: one, you need to have read the prior ones and two, there will be inevitable spoilers for those prior books.

Eight years have passed since the events of Shorefall, and they haven’t been good ones for our characters. The sort of collective-AI intelligence Tevanne, thanks to its forcible “twinning... Read More

Vigilance: A fierce satire that didn’t quite hit the mark for us

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett’s newest work, 2019’s Vigilance, is a slim (under 200 pages) but densely satirical take-down of modern American society. Set in 2030, Bennett details an America well into its decline:
There’d been a mass migration of the younger generations and immigrants out of America throughout the 2020s, leaving the nation saddled with an older generation that couldn’t work but was entitled to steadily advancing medical technology that kept them all alive for far longer than any economist had ever predicted. The elderly population ate up whatever national budgets remained like locusts devouring corn ... America stopped doing everything. Except television.
And the most popular show on television? Vigilance — a reality game show born after the “5... Read More

In the Shadows of Men: The ghosts are the least horrific element here

In the Shadows of Men by Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett has become one of my must-read authors, a view arising from his brilliant DIVINE CITIES trilogy and only confirmed by his nearly as brilliant THE FOUNDERS TRILOGY. Both are fantasy works, but Bennett also turns his craft toward horror as well, and that craft is indeed evident in his newest novella, In the Shadows of Men (2020), a taut, concise work that unnerves in more ways than one.

The brothers Pugh — one our unnamed narrator, the other his older brother Bear — are near the end of their line. For the youngest, it’s been “thirty-nine days since my wife left and she packed our little girl into her car and said she couldn’t stand it anymore, she just wanted to go someplace where everything wasn... Read More

Dark Duets: A horror anthology

Dark Duets edited by Christopher Golden

Christopher Golden explains in his introduction to Dark Duets that writing is a solitary occupation right up until that moment an alchemical reaction takes place and a bolt of inspiration simultaneously strikes two writers who are friends. Golden has found that the results of collaboration are often fascinating and sometimes magical, as when Stephen King and Peter Straub teamed up to write The Talisman. Writing is an intimate, very personal process, Golden says, and finding someone to share it with is difficult but exciting. Golden therefore undertook to create a book full of such difficult, mag... Read More