A Fresh Perspective: Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi

This essay, on Zoe’s Tale, is the fourth installment in an on-going retrospective of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series. Previous installments have covered Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. The latest volume in the series, The End of All Things, is currently available from Tor Books.

Zoe’s Tale is a unique entry in the series, in the sense that it isn’t so much an original story as a a retelling of The Last Colony from the perspective of Zoe Boutin-Perry. Zoe, as you may recall, is the biological daughter of the traitor and scientist Charles Boutin, who offered the Obin consciousness in exchange for a war to destroy the Colonial Union. With Boutin’s death, Zoe became the adopted daughter of John Perry and Jane Sagan.

She also became a goddess-like figure to the Obin, who the Colonial Union have now gifted with the fruits of Boutin’s research in exchange for a treaty of peace and mutual assistance. As such, the Obin insisted that the treaty include access to Zoe. The Colonial Union acquiesced, agreeing that two Obin could record Zoe’s life and experiences (as well as guard her person). These recordings would then be shared with the rest of their species, who may have gained consciousness, but have had no experience of consciousness. Zoe’s Tale thus not only retells the story of The Last Colony, but explores the struggles of a teenage girl coming to terms with being a something in addition to a someone.

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Radiance

Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

But her latest film, which investigates the disappearance of a diving colony on a watery Venus populated by island-sized alien creatures, will be her last. Though her crew limps home to earth and her story is preserved by the colony’s last survivor, Severin will never return.

Told using techniques from reality TV, classic film, gossip magazines, and meta-fictional narrative, Catherynne M. Valente’s Radiance is a solar system-spanning story of love, exploration, family, loss, quantum physics, and silent film—available October 20th from Tor Books.

[Read an excerpt]

I’m Henry V8, I Am, I Am

“During class today I accidentally wrote down HENRY V8 instead of Henry VIII,” artist hattedhedgehog wrote on Tumblr, “and so…” it led to this amazing mashup. So, clearly the next step is to see Henry’s wives, living and dead, as The Wives! Or would Anne Boleyn make a better Furiosa?

Afternoon Roundup brings you silent Star Wars characters who deserve spinoffs, Peter Capaldi’s Christmas special companion, and someone who truly understands the sadness of “The End.”

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Malazan Reread of the Fallen: The Wurms of Blearmouth, Part One

Welcome to the Malazan Reread of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda, and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll begin our coverage of The Wurms of Blearmouth.

A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing. Note: The summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

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Series: Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Rereading Shannara: The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 1-3

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to the first installment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Today, as we embark on this journey through the Elvish lands—from Arborlon to the Bloodfire—we will meet Lauren, a young elf who makes a devastating discovery; the Dagda Mor and his two cronies, the Reaper and the Changeling, who want nothing more than to fill the Four Lands with bloodthirsty demons, and eke out some delicious revenge on the elves who banished them; and three members of the Elven royal family, princes Ander and Arion Elessedil and their father, Eventine. Who won’t we meet? Any of the principal protagonists. We’ll get to Wil, Amberle, and Alannon over the coming weeks.

One of the most remarkable things about Elfstones, especially when compared to its predecessor, The Sword of Shannara, is how it eschews so much of the traditional epic fantasy introductory narrative, which makes this part of the reread particularly fun.

But, enough! Onwards to join Lauren and the other Chosen in the Gardens of Life.

[Click to check the Ellcrys for signs of rot…]

Series: Rereading Shannara

Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them

In the early 1800’s, on a Hebridean beach in Scotland, the sea exposed an ancient treasure cache: 93 chessmen carved from walrus ivory. Norse netsuke, each face individual, each full of quirks, the Lewis Chessmen are probably the most famous chess pieces in the world. Harry played Wizard’s Chess with them in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Housed at the British Museum, they are among its most visited and beloved objects.

Questions abounded: Who carved them? Where? Nancy Marie Brown’s Ivory Vikings explores these mysteries by connecting medieval Icelandic sagas with modern archaeology, art history, forensics, and the history of board games. In the process, Ivory Vikings presents a vivid history of the 400 years when the Vikings ruled the North Atlantic, and the sea-road connected countries and islands we think of as far apart and culturally distinct: Norway and Scotland, Ireland and Iceland, and Greenland and North America.

The story of the Lewis chessmen explains the economic lure behind the Viking voyages to the west in the 800s and 900s. And finally, it brings from the shadows an extraordinarily talented woman artist of the twelfth century: Margret the Adroit of Iceland.

Nancy Marie Brown’s Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them is available September 1 from St. Martin’s Press.

[Read an excerpt!]

Is Time Travel Possible in The Wheel of Time?

The plot of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is built, appropriately, upon a foundation of causal loops, with the majority of the action propelled by prophecy. What I mean is: Information travels back from the future and the response to that information creates the events that generate that very same future information. An arbitrary man, Rand al’Thor, must fight the universal embodiment of evil not because he wants to, but because he has been seen as doing so in the future. Thus do the personal motivations of millions of people within this fantasy world bend towards this unknown sheepherder.

Considering how inherent the manipulation of time is to the story of The Wheel of Time, it’s interesting that we don’t see any of the characters directly utilize time travel to fulfill their goals. Or do we? Throughout the series we see four, maybe five, types of time manipulation demonstrated by the characters, but can any of them be used to travel through time? And more specifically, can any of them be used to travel back in time and undo a great wrong, like the boring into the Dark One’s prison?

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A Whole New Living Room! A New Fantastic Point of View

Cory Doctorow shared this fabulous piece of home decor! Tonio de Roover looked at the common sofa and asked: “How can this become awesome?” and answered that question by turning it into a magic carpet. Check out out more of de Roover’s work here!

Morning Roundup brings you the first of presumably all the accolades for Mad Max: Fury Road, all the praise for Andrew Garfield, and some hopeful findings from the world of television watching!

[Plus, wildlife documentaries and MURDER.]

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “This Side of Paradise”

“This Side of Paradise”
Written by Nathan Butler and D.C. Fontana
Directed by Ralph Senensky
Season 1, Episode 25
Production episode 6149-25
Original air date: March 2, 1967
Stardate: 3417.3

Captain’s log. The Enterprise arrives at the colony on Omicron Ceti III. The planet is bathed in Berthold rays, a form of radiation that is new to the Federation, so they don’t know its full effects, but extended exposure disintegrates living tissue. It is unlikely that there are any survivors of the colony—led by Elias Sandoval—a likelihood that is increased by the complete lack of response to Uhura’s hails.

However, Kirk beams down a landing party—Spock assures him that limited exposure is safe—including himself, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, DeSalle, and Kelowitz. The settlement is intact, but there’s no sign of any habitation. Kirk waxes rhapsodic on the tragedy of these people travelling all this way, including a year in space to reach the planet, only to die.

And then three people from the colony, including Sandoval, show up alive and well, and doesn’t Kirk feel foolish? Sandoval thinks they came because their subspace radio is on the fritz.

[What can you expect from a simpering, devil-eared freak?]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

The Fifth Dragon

Tor.com is pleased to present Ian McDonald’s “The Fifth Dragon” to celebrate the forthcoming September publication of Luna: New Moon. “The Fifth Dragon” was originally published in Reach For Infinity, a 2014 anthology from Solaris Books, edited by Jonathan Strahan, of stories about humanity taking its first steps off of Earth.

From Niall Alexander’s review of Reach For Infinity: “The Fifth Dragon” is about a pair of new moon workers, Achi and Adriana, who find comfort in this alien place in one another’s company, only to learn that their time together is strictly limited. ‘The Fifth Dragon’ flies back and forth between their first days as a pair and their final moments as friends, underscoring that the end of everything is inevitable.

[Read “The Fifth Dragon” by Ian McDonald]

Literary Sword-and-Sorcery: The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson

Kai Ashante Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is, if you haven’t been paying attention, the very first novella to emerge from Tor.com Publishing. As to be expected from the author of “The Devil in America,” it’s complex, powerfully written piece of work, with an ending whose ambiguity only adds to its curious impact.

I say novella—but let’s be honest, the ARC I have clocks in at 208 pages. We’re really talking something closer to a short novel. And Kai Ashante Wilson has packed those pages with the worldbuilding of a much longer work. The world of The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps feels big. It feels deep. It feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface: There’s as much depth of field here as there is in many trilogies, for all that the narration stays tightly focused on one character.

[Read more]

Sorcerer to the Crown

The fate of English magic lies in their hands…

In Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England’s first African Sorcerer Royal. He leads the eminent Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, but a malicious faction seeks to remove him by fair means or foul. Meanwhile, the Society is failing its vital duty—to keep stable the levels of magic within His Majesty’s lands. The Fairy Court is blocking its supply, straining England’s dangerously declining magical stores. And now the government is demanding to use this scarce resource in its war with France.

Ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman is desperate to escape the school where she’s drudged all her life, and a visit by the beleaguered Sorcerer Royal seems the perfect opportunity. For Prunella has just stumbled upon English magic’s greatest discovery in centuries—and she intends to make the most of it.

At his wits’ end, the last thing Zachariah needs is a female magical prodigy! But together, they might just change the nature of sorcery, in Britain and beyond.

The first installment in the Sorcerer Royal series, Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown is available September 1 from Ace Books (US) and September 10 from Pan Macmillan (UK).

[Read an excerpt!]

The Wheel of Time Reread Redux: The Great Hunt, Part 15

Intrigue! Deception! Suspicious feats of juggling! This Wheel of Time Reread Redux has got it all!

Today’s Redux post will cover Chapters 25 and 26 of The Great Hunt, originally reread in this post.

All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.)

The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay!

All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And now, the post!

[“Is there anyone at this court who isn’t my enemy?” “Not if I can help it.”]

Series: The Wheel of Time Reread

The Complete Wheel of Time is $44.99 For This Weekend Only!

For this forthcoming Labor Day weekend—and only this weekend—Tor Books is making the complete Wheel of Time series available in ebook for only $44.99!

The Wheel of Time Companion is only two months away from release and is, in the words of Wheel of Time series editor, “an alphabetized adjunct that will allow the reader to check on characters, locations, herbs, kinship structures and many other things that appear in the series.” It’s an ideal volume to electronically pore through for specific terms, and interested readers would naturally want to pair it with the ebook version of the series itself in order to be able to full cross-reference the available information.

Aside from that, The Complete Wheel of Time ebook is also a great way to introduce a friend to the completed series! The Complete Wheel of Time includes all fourteen volumes of the main series, as well as the prequel novel New Spring.

[More details]

The Year of the Goat is a Lot Worse than Mercury Retrograde: “The Tree on the Hill”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s original stories. Today we’re looking at “The Tree on the Hill,” a collaboration between Lovecraft and Duane W. Rimel written in 1934, and first published in Polaris in 1940. You can read it here.

Spoilers ahead.

[“Surely you don’t think that the world is a rule for measuring the universe.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Change the Language, Change the World

A Note from Liz Bourke: I’ve asked Fran to write this week’s Sleeps With Monsters column because I really like her novel Updraft. Let her tell you something about how she went about writing it.

“… in daily speech, where we don’t stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like ‘the ordinary world,’ ‘ordinary life,’ ‘the ordinary course of events’ … But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.”

Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, in her 1996 Nobel Prize speech about the work of poets, concluded the above paragraph this way: “It looks like poets will always have their work cut out for them.”

All writers do this work in some fashion, even if poets get to use the prettiest knives. Part of the work is a constant re-honing of language; making us think about its power, and the uniqueness of everything we use language to describe, lest its opposite deaden our response to the world around us.

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Strange Antecedents: A Personal Appreciation of Margo Lanagan’s Novels

This is the story how one of my favorite novelists, Margo Lanagan, first came to my attention. Lanagan is a “writer’s writer,” which means the many excellences of her work have a great deal to teach the rest of us writers. I’ll talk some about that too, how new fiction comes to be assembled from the building blocks of prior works.

Sometime in 2010, I became aware of the controversies raging in a corner of the science fiction/fantasy bibliosphere I knew nothing about: young adult literature. “YA is wretched, poor stuff, and the young people reading it will be ruined for good books!” “No! YA is the long-awaited return of joy, action and clarity to fiction, and, indeed, the salvation of us all!” “Actually, it’s the adults who shouldn’t be reading YA. O shame, shame, shame!”

Wow, I thought: with the opinions all so extreme and contradictory, I’d better read some of this YA stuff like pronto, and see for myself! So I bought three YA fantasy titles that were getting a lot of buzz around then, and began reading.

[The verdict?]

Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Your Kids Can Get to Know Their Universe with Science Comics!

First Second Books is launching a new series of SCIENCE! COMICS! designed to introduce parents, kids, and everyone in between and around to the tremendous discoveries humanity has made in the past few centuries.

The first graphic novel in the series, Science Comics Dinosaurs, debuts next spring and you can get a first look at it right here. Who knew something as boring as digging a canal could unveil an entire lost world?

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Against a Brightening Sky! Sweepstakes

Against a Brightening Sky by Jaime Lee Moyer comes out from Tor Books on October 6th, and we want to send you a galley now!

By 1919 the Great War has ended, peace talks are under way in Paris, and the world has been forever changed. Delia Martin, apprentice practitioner of magical arts, and her husband, Police Captain Gabriel Ryan, face the greatest challenge of their lives when fragments from the war descend on San Francisco.

Check for the rules below!
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