Michael Cobley

Mike Cobley was born in Leicester, 1959, to an English father and a Scottish mother, the kind of bedrock contrast which, he says, still serves to highlight the value of differences and the strength that comes from their combination.

After his family spent a few years in Australia, he went to school in Clydebank, followed by the University of Strathclyde (to study engineering,) where he ended up writing a scurrilous column of polemic for the student newspaper. From that small seed the urge to tell stories of a fabulous nature unfolded and he began to write with a serious intention in 1986.

After getting several short stories published in various small press SF magazines, he made his first professional sale was to the Other Edens anthology in 1988, followed by more small press appearances leading to another pro-sale to Interzone in 1992.After a few more years writing shorts and a couple of abortive novels, he was introduced to John Parker  who agreed to take him on as a client.

Soon after that came Mike’s first novel sale, the Shadowkings Trilogy, which was published by Simon & Schuster between 2001 and 2005: SHADOWKINGSSHADOWGOD and SHADOWMASQUE.

Mike’s space opera trilogy, collectively entitled Humanity’s Fire — SEEDS OF EARTHTHE ORPHANED WORLDS and THE ASCENDANT STARS — was published by Orbit Books UK between 2009 and 2011. Foreign editions of the trilogy have appeared in France, Germany, and at the end of 2012 in the USA.

Also, short stories have continued to appear most recently in PS Publishing‘s acclaimed Postscripts Magazine, and in Newcon Press’ Conflicts anthology.

After some deliberation, Mike decided it was at last time to tell a story which had been lurking in note-form for over 25 years. It took the form of a standalone novel entitled, ANCESTRAL MACHINES, set in the universe of Humanity’s Fire. It was published in 2016.

Agent Contact: John Berlyne


Humanity’s Fire Series

  5. SPLINTERED SUNS (Stand-Alone)

Shadowkings Trilogy




  • SEEDS OF EARTH (UK, Germany, France, Poland, US)
  • THE ORPHANED WORLDS (UK, US, Germany, Poland)
  • THE ASCENDANT STARS (UK, US, Germany, Poland)
  • Humanity's Fire Series (Audio Editions)
  • Shadowkings Series (Audio Editions)



Humanity's Fire Series:
- SPLINTERED SUNS - Orbit (US, 2018)
- SPLINTERED SUNS - Orbit (UK, 2018)
- THE ASCENDANT STARS - Storytel (Poland, Audio, 2014 - Wschodzące gwiazdy)
- THE ORPHANED WORLDS - Storytel (Poland, Audio, 2014 - Osierocone światy)
- SEEDS OF EARTH - Storytel (Poland, Audio, 2013 - Ziarna Ziemi)
- ANCESTRAL MACHINES - Heyne (Germany, 2017 - Die Jäger des Lichts)
- THE ASCENDANT STARS - MAG (Poland, 2014 - Wschodzące gwiazdy)
- THE ORPHANED WORLDS - MAG (Poland, 2014 - Osierocone światy)
- SEEDS OF EARTH - MAG (Poland, 2013 - Ziarna Ziemi)
- THE ASCENDANT STARS - Orbit (US, 2012)
- THE ORPHANED WORLDS - Orbit (US, 2012)
- THE ASCENDANT STARS - Heyne (Germany, 2012 - Die Ahnen der Sterne)
- SEEDS OF EARTH - Orbit (US, 2012)
- THE ASCENDANT STARS - Audible (Audio, 2011)
- THE ORPHANED WORLDS - Audible (Audio, 2011)
- SEEDS OF EARTH - Audible (Audio, 2011)
- THE ASCENDANT STARS - Orbit (UK, 2011)
- THE ORPHANED WORLDS - Heyne (Germany, 2011 - Waisen des Alls)
- SEEDS OF EARTH - Bragelonne (France, 2011 - L'Ombre de la Longue Nuit)
- SEEDS OF EARTH - Heyne (Germany, 2010 - Die Saar der Erde)
- SEEDS OF EARTH Orbit (UK, 2009)

Shadowkings Trilogy:

- SHADOWMASQUE - JABberwocky (eBook, 2014)
- SHADOWGOD - JABberwocky (eBook, 2014)
- SHADOWKINGS - JABberwocky (eBook, 2014)
- SHADOWMASQUE - Audible (Audio, 2013)
- SHADOWGOD - Audible (Audio, 2013)
- SHADOWKINGS - Audible (Audio, 2013)
- SHADOWMASQUE - Heyne (Germany, 2006 - Schattenkrieger)
- SHADOWGOD - Heyne (Germany, 2005 - Schattengötter)
- SHADOWKINGS - Heyne (Germany, 2005 - Schattenkönige)
- SHADOWMASQUE - Simon & Schuster (UK, 2005)
- SHADOWGOD - Simon & Schuster (UK, 2003)
- SHADOWKINGS - Simon & Schuster (UK, 2002)




      ‘Michael Cobley writes vast, sprawling space opera in the wide-screen tradition of Iain M Banks, replete with mega-starships, exotic alien worlds, artfully rendered extraterrestrial species and much swashbuckling derring-do, all carried off with an up-to-the minute political sensibility… a thrilling action adventure… SPLINTERED SUNS is a page-turner with a high-octane sense of wonder, full of gloriously described technology and fabulous settings.’Guardian

      ‘[H]uge fun’SFX


      ‘There’s a grand tradition within SF of galaxy-wide, aeon-spanning scenarios, with escalating magnitudes of scale and concomitant ramping up of narrative tension, and Michael Cobley’s Humanity’s Fire series is the latest example… Cobley excels at presenting his thoroughly lived-in future with a slew of technological marvels and an engaging cast of characters.’ Guardian

      ‘Cobley wastes no time in flaunting his honed, merciless skills… a plethora of clever neologisms… Cobley is taking the techniques pioneered by van Vogt, Charles Harness and other bold visionaries and ramping them up for a purely twenty-first-century kind of SF that others such as Paul McAuley, Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod have hitherto essayed… Cobley takes all these characters, plus others, and pushes them along a non-stop, unrelenting, madcap set of adventures. The brio and joy of this storytelling is contagious. Here is a space opera which unashamedly honors the roots of the genre while expanding the remit of the mode. To convey his incredible narrative thrust and whacked-out panache, I would have to say that the book is like Ringworld retold by Basil Wolverton, or perhaps some John W. Campbell-penned 1930s adventure rejiggered by Jodorowsky along the lines of The Incal. A predominant feature of Cobley’s storytelling is an exuberant humor, a kind of high spirits that is exactly the opposite of so much of the ultra-serious gravitas seen in other space operas… If you want a rousing space adventure full of sense of wonder that is also ideationally challenging, then you need look no further than ANCESTRAL MACHINE.’ Locus

      ‘If you want some solid sci-fi with cracking, fully-rounded characters backed up with solid prose alongside dialogue in fairly dark future, then Michael’s Humanity’s Fire series has probably already been on your radar for quite some time… a book that has cracking action, quirky humour as well as people that you really care about. Back this up with a cracking overall arc makes this perhaps the best book set in this world for me. Magic.’ Falcata Times

      ‘This is an absolute cracker of a space opera, fast-paced despite being over 400 pages, with both the personal level – Pyke and his crewmates desperately trying to save themselves and also being inexorably drawn into a greater struggle – and the large scale (entire planets destroyed, the misuse of power and how tyrants craft their vile states and hold onto power through a mix of lies and violence, an origin going back millennia), the larger scale exciting the imagination, the personal scale keeping it nicely relatable, with characters we genuinely care about.’ Forbidden Planet


      ‘Cobley’s first trilogy was fantasy and his second hard SF, but what they share is a dark vision of humanity pitched against vast forces; the plight of strong individuals caught up in titanic struggles and fighting for what they see as a just cause. THE ASCENDANT STARS is the culminating book in the Humanity’s Fire trilogy, a space opera of mind-bending depth and scope which sets complexly thought-out alien races and chilling cyborg armies against humans riven by competing political philosophies and agendas. The result is a marvellously readable examination of people under extreme stress, a convincing depiction of startlingly alien aliens, and a mature political analysis often lacking in the genre. Cobley expertly juggles multiple plot-lines and brings them to thematically satisfying conclusions while providing the landmark trilogy with a thrilling finale.’ Guardian

      ‘All in all, this is an excellent space opera, full of imagination and invention. The human characters are mostly likeable and the inhuman ones send a shiver down the spine, especially the ones with machine parts and the parasites. There is a pleasing familiarity to much of it for those well-read in the genre and even for those who only do their Science Fiction on film and television. The writing is crisp and clear throughout and it all leads beautifully to a glorious conclusion… I highly recommend the series. Michael Cobley has added a fine piece of work to a grand tradition and I think old E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith is lying tranquil in his grave.’ SF Crowsnest


      ‘Fast and exciting… an excellent middle book in the trilogy, expanding on SEEDS OF EARTH and setting everything in place for a thrilling conclusion’ Waterstone’s Book Quarterly

      ‘Few writers attempt the tricky crossover from high fantasy to hard science fiction. Cobley’s first books were the Shadowkings series; with the Humanity’s Fire science fiction trilogy, he has successfully transported his dark visions to the wide-screen baroque sub-genre… Cobley combines a fast-paced plot of great scope and complexity with the convincing smaller-scale stories of the human protagonists. He’s also skilful at explicating the knotty machinations of political intrigue. Space opera has never been in more capable hands.’ Guardian

      Cobley writes energetic space opera, rarely dallying with sentiment and mostly assaulting the reader with exotic locations and sudden skirmishes. There are joyous moments of invention but overall there’s too much going on… Fortunately, as the saga progresses, THE ORPHANED WORLDS begins knotting some of the threads together – it still feels like an over-shaken can of fizzy diet Banks…’ SFX

      THE ORPHANED WORLDS delivers a whole lot of action, adventure and politics on a canvas even bigger than the first novel! … picks things up without holding its breath and delivers very much more of the same sensawunda that I got from the first book… very enjoyable and delivers a good story on a huge canvas with more than its fair share of great scenes and interesting developments.’ Walker of Worlds

      ‘Cobley has given himself a number of plates to keep spinning, following the adventures of numerous key characters spread across half the galaxy, but keep them spinning he does, and the story fairly zips along. In the best tradition of the second book of a trilogy, things look pretty bleak at the end, but with the prospect of the lost tribes of humanity uniting for the first time, with powerful allies to aid them, you can’t help but feel it will all turn out for the best. Enjoyable twisty-turny space opera that packs a mighty punch… Roll on book three…’ BookGeeks


      ‘Proper galaxy-spanning space opera.’Iain M. Banks

      ‘… a complex, finely detailed thriller-cum-space opera… SEEDS OF EARTH has everything: well-realised extraterrestrials, scheming artificial intelligences, set-piece space battles and bizarre technology from the dawn of the galaxy. The first book of the trilogy is also a convincing portrayal of political machinations and the plight of individuals caught up in events beyond their comprehension.’ Guardian

      ‘Fantastic Imagination. Cobley’s series opener is certainly ambitious.’ Founding Fields

      ‘… this is a great hunky juggernaut of a Space Opera novel. It is a confident book, not entirely without its flaws, but one that should be greeted with enthusiasm by fans of Peter F Hamilton and Iain M Banks.’ SFF World

      ‘I am seriously impressed with scale and scope of SEEDS OF EARTH… Cobley has a strong confident voice with an intriguing and different tale to tell.’ NextReads

      ‘Cobley’s debut, first published in the U.K. in 2009, is a well-constructed space opera with a sense of vast scope, populated with an array of beautifully differentiated intelligences both organic and artificial… this is a thick and satisfying 10-course meal of starchy pageantry, meaty characters, bitter losses, and sweet romance.’ Publishers Weekly

      ‘… there are merciless alien invaders, lost human colonies, mysterious secrets of the ancients… all the ingredients for a gripping science-fiction adventure that combines the traditions of the field with a deft contemporary touch… What’s not to like?’ Guardian (#2)

      ‘The story is huge, complex and moves between its varied cast with assured purpose… a tightly plotted, action packed epic that leaves you wanting more.’ SciFi Now

      ‘… this is a compelling and impressive book… There are many interesting ideas in SEEDS OF EARTH… there are a number of aspects of Seeds of Earth that strongly evoked other space opera writers – Iain M. Banks, Ken McLeod and Peter F. Hamilton… a really good, enjoyable and compelling book, written with verve and more than a little humour, which allows it to transcend its influences and overcome its weaknesses. I confess I can’t wait for the next one in the series.’ BookGeeks

      ‘… a very entertaining read, albeit a light, golden age-like space opera with echoes of Kevin Anderson’s Seven Suns saga and Charles Sheffield’s Builders series… there is a lot of depth to be found in Michael Cobley’s richly imagined universe, the characters beg deeper exploration, and the series as a whole possesses tremendous potential. So, I am very curious about where the series will go from here and hope the author can take Humanity’s Fire to the next level in the sequel. In short, Michael Cobley’s SEEDS OF EARTH is highly recommended… Hugely enjoyable…’ Fantasy Book Critic

      ‘… a good, solid space opera with convincing world-building, multiple characters to drive the story along, a smattering of humour, info-dumping to skip over as quickly as possible, and intrigue, shenanigans and derring-do.’ British Fantasy Society, Prism

      ‘… old school with a large cast of characters and a diverse and wonderfully vibrant phalanx of ideas that makes for a great read and excellent starting point… full of ideas that ooze cool…’ King of the Nerds

      ‘… lots of new and believable societies, space and ground battles and terrorism, technologies, sentient robots and AIs. It moves fast, has splendid non sequiturs, is breathtaking in which things people just accept and which they find difficult to take and provides surprising insight into the necessity for deviousness in the political classes. Best of all are all the subtle little references to other well known science fiction epics. Well done Mr Cobley.’ BookGeek


      ‘… unconventional high fantasy trilogy… [Cobley] has taken traditional sword and sorcery to some new and perhaps uncomfortable places… Once again Mike has succeeded in producing an unusually dark and claustrophobic piece of work, though it is a lot less bleak than its predecessors. It is also a lot less convoluted with the battle lines more clearly drawn.’ Infinity Plus

      ‘[Cobley] drew the characters with verve and style, encouraging the reader to participate in the story he was unfolding. The plot was complex but clearly spun out, providing tantalising teasers at the end of each episode, which made me want to skip ahead to the next time that particular thread was picked up and woven. In my opinion, a clear winner for Michael Cobley.’ SF Crowsnest

      ‘There is plenty here to keep any fans of high fantasy happy. The familiar elements are here, but don’t worry about them feeling borrowed or contrived. Cobley has presented his own fantasy world and characters, well rounded, fully explored and absorbing.’ Eternal Night

      ‘Cobley seems to have captured much of the dark bent of [Robert E.] Howard in the Shadowkings series.’ Trashotron


      ‘It is also one of the most gritty, grimy and evocative fantasy worlds. The author’s description bring to mind an easily visualisation of the places his characters visit (and, in the case of the docks of Scallow, the stench of this world). There’s none of the sanitised fairytale fantasy world here… If your idea of fantasy is C.S. Lewis this is probably not your cup of tea, but if you want a rugged more realistic depiction of a dark ages world with magic thrown in then I would suggest you go out and buy book one, read it and then move straight into this volume.’ Eternal Night

      SHADOWKINGS, was brutal, cruel and realistic in a way genre usually avoids. SHADOWGOD, his second, is not only lighter, it is better written and makes good use of the world Cobley has created… writing to rival David Gemmell.’ Guardian (Jon Courtenay-Grimwood)


      ‘… impressively unpleasant first fantasy novel… If it were not for its unrelenting bleakness, SHADOWKINGS would be a fairly standard story of apocalyptic evil and heroic good–Cobley has a sense, however, of how bad a battlefield or a ruined town smells, and his dark magic is appropriately sinister.’ Roz Kaveney

      ‘… a pacey action and adventure story, packed with battles, rescues and political double-dealing… a refreshing and believable take on the Fight Against Insurmountable Evil Foes sub-genre, without dispensing with any of the familiar staples that make the genre what it is.’ Infinity Plus

      ‘This is a dark tale, hope being in short supply for most of the book. But it introduces a very real world for Mr. Cobley to tell his story, and the events and characters feel a lot more realistic than I’ve read in many fantasy epics over the years… it’s not going to be the book to read if you like your fantasy to be rolling green fields and everyone lives happily ever after… But, if you like the sound of a story based in a more unpleasant situation, where the struggle is somehow more believable then I can recommend this book to you.’ Eternal Night