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Liz Bourke

Sleeps With Monsters: Being and Belonging

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers’ first novel, was a tale of found family in the small confines of a spaceship. Its inclusive generosity and gentle reinvention of some very old space opera tropes made it something of a modern classic. An attractive debut—so attractive, in fact, that I was worried that Chambers’ next novel wouldn’t be able to live up to the promise of the first.

[I may have been wrong to worry.]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Narrative Isolation: After Atlas by Emma Newman

I very nearly want to call After Atlas a sequel to Emma Newman’s well-received Planetfall. But that would stretch semantic logic to breaking point: although After Atlas takes place in the same universe as Planetfall and is in part enriched for the reader who knows some of Planetfall’s details, it not only takes place on an entirely different planet and features an entirely different cast, but in absolute chronological terms, its events precede that of Planetfall’s. Moreover, its events don’t affect Planetfall’s, either. (Although one is given to suspect there will be a third novel that relies on the events of both of these.)

Earth, forty years after Atlas and its religious-visionary leader left to seek their truths in a different solar system. Carlos Moreno was an infant when Atlas left, left behind by his mother. His father didn’t do such a great job of raising him, and he ended up in a religious cult called the Circle run by a man called Alejandro Casales. For a while, at least — before he ended up indentured to one of the corporate governments that run the planet for most of the rest of his natural life. Now Carlos is an investigator, a really good one, but his life is a tightrope walk between adding more debt on to his indenture and the small pleasures that make life more than merely survivable.

Then Alejandro Casales dies. Thanks to complicated politics, Carlos is the only acceptable person to investigate the mystery of his death. There’s more to Casales’ apparent murder than meets the eye — and more to the Circle, some quarter-century on from when Carlos left it, than meets the eye as well. The world’s been hiding more than one secret about Atlas since its departure, and Carlos, more or less by accident, ends up investigating his way right into the middle of it.

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Sleeps With Monsters: Monsters of the Mundane

Two recent Publishing offerings each, in their own way, are interested in monsters. They have monsters for protagonists, protagonists who operate in worlds that are in their own ways utterly monstrous and yet undeniably familiar. Cassandra Khaw’s Hammers on Bone is a little more obvious about its monsters than Laurie Penny’s Everything Belongs To The Future. But it’s fascinating to read them back to back and see the parallels.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Obsession Without Resolution: The Burning Light by Bradley P. Beaulieu and Rob Ziegler

To be honest, I’m not sure I know what to make of The Burning Light. It’s well-written. It’s tense up until the conclusion. And then it leaves me completely unsatisfied with its lack of catharsis.

Bradley P. Beaulieu is perhaps best known for his fantasy novels, while Rob Ziegler has one science fiction novel in print and another forthcoming. The Burning Light is a seamless piece of collaboration, with a distinct voice of its own.

Colonel Melody Chu is a ruthless—and disgraced—government operative. Exiled with a small team to the flooded ruins of New York City, her job is to end the threat posed by something called the Light. The Light is like a drug, or an epidemic: its users become addicted, ever more strung out and ever more disconnected from the mind-network that human civilisation presently relies upon. It’s a high that burns people out, that kills. Chu lost her sister to the Light, and she’s dedicated her life since to its eradication.

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Elizabeth Bear Answers Eight Questions

Welcome back to the eBook Club! October’s pick is Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts, book 1 in the Eternal Sky epic fantasy trilogy. The following interview with Bear was originally published in February 2014 as part of the Sleeps with Monsters column.

Today we’re joined by the amazing Elizabeth Bear, who has graciously agreed to answer some questions. Bear is the author of over twenty novels and more short fiction than I dare to count—some of which is available in her collections The Chains That You Refuse (Night Shade Books, 2006), and Shoggoths in Bloom (Prime, 2013). She’s a winner of the 2005 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and Hugo Awards in 2008 and 2009 for her short story “Tideline” and the novelette “Shoggoths in Bloom,” among other accolades.

Many of her novels feature highly in my list of all-time favourites (and I’m really looking forward to her next one due, The Steles of the Sky) so I’m thrilled to be able to interrogate her here today. Without further ado, then, let’s get to the questions!

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Romance Found Unseen: A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Kai Ashante Wilson’s short novel A Taste of Honey is just as beautiful and peculiar and painful as his much-lauded The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. A Taste of Honey is set elsewhere in the same world, and while it doesn’t share the same characters or themes, it touches—slantwise—on some of the same concerns.

Aqib bmg Sadiqi is a fourth cousin to the royal family of Great Olorum, younger son and chosen heir to the Master of Beasts. An embassy from Daluça has lately come to Great Olorum, and Aqib finds himself caught up in a scandalous—and dangerous, for in Great Olorum sexual relationships between men are forbidden, as against the Saintly Canon—whirlwind romance with a handsome Daluçan soldier called Lucrio. They have met only ten days before Lucrio will return home with the rest of his embassy: how can their romance possibly last?

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Sleeps With Monsters: Fun’s Important

If you follow my Twitter feed, you might have noticed me talking about my mental health in the last while. Sometimes, things get bad. It can be sudden and unpredictable: one week I’m rolling along, perfectly all right, and the next I’m besieged by visions of walking into traffic.* (Or my throat closes up with panic, or I feel exhausted and worthless. Or I can’t make decisions, because everything is too much. Things like that.)

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Wings Gleaming Like Beaten Bronze: Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky Trilogy

Welcome back to the eBook Club! October’s pick is Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts, book 1 in the Eternal Sky epic fantasy trilogy.

“Better a storm crow than a carrion bird.”

This is not a review. The Powers That Be here at have asked me to write about Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy as a whole now that it’s available in its entirety for your reading pleasure. Because I love it, you see. I love it so much, now that it is done, that the small criticisms I may have had for the middle book fade into insignificance: it has the kind of conclusion that raises up everything that has gone before, that adds fresh meanings to previous events in the light of new knowledge, new developments, new triumphs and griefs.

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Betrayal and Revenge: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom is Leigh Bardugo’s fifth novel. It’s also the second volume of the Six of Crows duology, following on from last year’s well-received Six of Crows. Six of Crows was part travelogue and part caper—in its travelogue, reminiscent of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel books, albeit without the sex; in its caper, a more murderous Leverage or Hustle.

Crooked Kingdom ditches the travelogue in favour of locating itself firmly within the city of Ketterdam, an analogue of Early Modern Amsterdam where commerce is quite literally the highest god, and where criminality is just as common among the wealthy as among the poor. Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off the heist of their lives, but they were double-crossed by their employer, who’s only one of many people who want to get their hands on the boy Brekker’s crew kidnapped/rescued—and the knowledge in his head.

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Same Old Kingdom: Goldenhand by Garth Nix

Garth Nix has had a long career as a writer of Young Adult novels, and one that has deservedly won him many plaudits. His “Old Kingdom” novels have many adherents, particular among SFF readers. Goldenhand is the fifth novel in this series, providing a direct sequel to Abhorsen. (Clariel, its immediate predecessor in publication order, takes place some several hundred years previously.)

So let’s talk about the “Old Kingdom” novels, for it’s difficult to discuss Goldenhand without at least touching on what has come before. The “Old Kingdom” is a place of magic, threatened by Free Magic creatures and by the Dead, and separated from Ancelstierre—an unmagical country that resembles interwar England—by a well-guarded wall. In the Old Kingdom, the power of the Charter tames Free Magic. Without the Charter, life would be even more dangerous.

[Spoilers ahead.]

The Battle After Victory: Impersonations by Walter Jon Williams

Several years ago—don’t ask me exactly how many: dates are a little fuzzy—I came across a fascinating space opera trilogy. “Dread Empire’s Fall,” it was called, set in a rigidly hierarchical empire where humans were just one of many alien species, and where status outweighed competence every single time. At least until civil war (the Naxid War) broke out in the Praxis, as the empire was called, and it became just a little important to have people who could win battles, when there were battles that needed winning.

Walter Jon Williams’ Impersonations takes place after the events of the “Dread Empire’s Fall” trilogy. The Naxid War has ended, partly due to the actions of Captain the Lady Caroline Sula. Winning a battle against orders didn’t exactly endear Caro to her superiors, though, so Captain the Lady Sula finds herself exiled to a backwater planet with neither military nor economic importance: a nowhere posting. That posting is Earth, with whose culture Caro has long been fascinated. For her, it’s not the hardship post it might otherwise be.

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Sleeps With Monsters: Fran Wilde Answers Nine Questions

Fran Wilde made history with her debut novel, Updraft. It was the first novel to be nominated for both the Nebula Best Novel Award and the Andre Norton Award. It went on to win the Norton, and also to win the Compton Crook Award—a pretty impressive start to a novel-writing career.

I really enjoyed Updraft. I enjoyed its sequel, Cloudbound (just out from Tor Books) even more. But if you’re not yet ready to give them a chance, well, the author herself has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about books, wings, writers, and shenanigans…

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Where to Start with the Works of Elizabeth Bear

Welcome back to the eBook Club! October’s pick is Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts, book 1 in the Eternal Sky epic fantasy trilogy. A prolific writer, Bear has written in a number of other genres, from Lovecraftian to steampunk—so where do you want to start?

Elizabeth Bear is a frighteningly prolific writer. In a novel-writing career that’s just about to enter its second decade, she’s published twenty solo novels, three novellas and mosaic novel in her New Amsterdam series, one trilogy co-authored with Sarah Monette, and two collections of short fiction—which do not, by the way, collect all her extant short fiction. She’s collected a John W. Campbell Award and two Hugo Awards for her fiction, putting her in a fairly small club…

…and she keeps writing more. Which means if you haven’t been reading her stuff all along, you might feel a bit daunted trying to figure out where to start. Because the thing about Bear? She’s not just a prolific writer. She’s a writer who jumps subgenres, and sometimes styles, from book to book and series to series, and absolutely in her short fiction. She’s always trying something new.

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Finding the Humanity in Epic Fantasy: Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

Welcome to the eBook Club! October’s pick is Range of Ghosts, the first book in the Eternal Sky trilogy. You have until Sunday, October 9th to get your FREE ebook copy—but first, here’s what makes this epic fantasy series stand out from the pack!

I said once—probably more than once, actually, but at least once where it’s written down—that Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts was the epic fantasy I’d been waiting my whole life to read. And never knew that I’d spent my whole life lacking it until I read it at long last.

The epic fantasy I grew up reading was Raymond E. Feist and Robert Jordan, Janny Wurts and Star Wars tie-ins (I account them epic fantasy, by style), Stephen Donaldson (I wince to look back on my desperation) and Terry Goodkind (who did have female characters, which when I was thirteen made up for a number of his other flaws). When I say grew up reading, I mean that period between age eleven and age fifteen, or thereabouts: the period during which I formed a lot of my impressions, conscious and subconscious, of what epic fantasy was and what it could be. At the time, I didn’t have reliable (or, until I was fourteen, any) access to the internet, and Irish bookshops didn’t exactly stock a vast range of SFF genre fiction. The epic fantasy I read in those days, though I only realise it now I look back, left me oddly unsatisfied: left me with an itch that needed scratching. So I kept looking for the next author, the next book, the next thing that would finally, finally scratch that itch.

[And then, Range of Ghosts.]