Sunset Song: The Hunter’s Kind by Rebecca Levene

Between City of Stairs, The Goblin Emperor, Words of Radiance, the latest Daniel Abraham, and the debut of Brian Staveley, 2014 saw the release of a feast of remarkable fantasies—and whilst I find that playing favourites is a fool’s game usually, last year, there was one I loved above all others. The only complaint I found myself able to make about Smiler’s Fair was that there wasn’t more of it, but with second volume of The Hollow Gods upon us, there is now—and how!

At the heart of Rebecca Levene’s first fantasy was the titular travelling carnival: a cultural crossroads whose various visitors were invited, for a price, to indulge in their unsightly vices. There, they gambled and they drank; there, they fought and they fucked. For centuries, Smiler’s Fair was a welcome outlet for wicked impulses, as well as those desires disdained by the lords of the Lands of the Sun and Moon, in a place apart from the populace.

That was before it burned; before it was ravaged by a magical fire that left thousands dead and many more homeless. But it’s “best not to cry about what’s past. It’s only what’s coming that matters.” And what’s that, you ask?

[In a word: war.]

The Annihilation Score

Dominique O’Brien—her friends call her Mo—lives a curious double life with her husband, Bob Howard. To the average civilian, they’re boring middle-aged civil servants. But within the labyrinthian secret circles of Her Majesty’s government, they’re operatives working for the nation’s occult security service known as the Laundry, charged with defending Britain against dark supernatural forces threatening humanity.

Mo’s latest assignment is assisting the police in containing an unusual outbreak: ordinary citizens suddenly imbued with extraordinary abilities of the super-powered kind. Unfortunately these people prefer playing super-pranks instead of super-heroics. The Mayor of London being levitated by a dumpy man in Trafalgar Square would normally be a source of shared amusement for Mo and Bob, but they’re currently separated because something’s come between them—something evil.

An antique violin, an Erich Zann original, made of human white bone, was designed to produce music capable of slaughtering demons. Mo is the custodian of this unholy instrument. It invades her dreams and yearns for the blood of her colleagues—and her husband. And despite Mo’s proficiency as a world class violinist, it cannot be controlled…

From Hugo Award-winning author Charles Stross comes The Annihilation Score, the next case in The Laundry Files—available July 7th from Penguin Books.

[Read an excerpt]

Meet the Rogues Gallery Inside Your Head

Dan Hipp has done it again! We already loved how Inside Out personified our emotions, but there’s also something really fun about seeing familiar characters inserted into those roles. Here—that is, inside Batman’s tortured mind—you have Harley Quinn as Joy (because of course), Scarecrow as Fear, Poison Ivy as Disgust, Two-Face as Anger, and Mr. Freeze as Sadness. We would watch this rogues gallery sift through Bruce Wayne’s memories for ages.

Afternoon Roundup helps you take the most advantage of Leap Second 2015, tries not to cry hearing Adam Nimoy talk about For the Love of Spock, and then loses it over the most heartbreaking sentences in fantasy.

[Read more]

The Wheel of Time Reread Redux: The Great Hunt, Part 6

Hey! The Wheel of Time Reread Redux is walking here, we’re walking here! Today’s Redux post will cover Chapter 8 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 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!

[“Good morning. I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, but I’m afraid my walk has become rather sillier recently, and so it takes me rather longer to get to work.”]

Series: The Wheel of Time Reread

Squamous Parenthood: “The Curse of Yig”

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 Curse of Yig,” a collaboration between Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop written in 1928, and first published in the November 1929 issue of Weird Tales. You can read it here.

Spoilers ahead!

[“The crude rafters shook with the frenzy of their simultaneous shriek.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

You Had Me at “Gladiatorial Princesses”

I meant this post to have more than a single book in it. But it’s been a busy week, I’m behindhand in everything, and Rhonda Mason’s The Empress Game is a perfect example of an incredibly flawed book that nonetheless provides (or provides me, at least) a surprisingly satisfying reading experience.

I banged on a bit, last column, about being annoyed by the science fiction of nostalgia on display in Jane Lindskold’s Artemis Invaded and Margaret Fortune’s Nova. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa: it turns out I’m not actually opposed to science fiction that harks back to the futures of yesteryear if it does other things that make me happy. Because Rhonda Mason’s science fiction debut—first in a projected trilogy—is unashamedly old-fashioned pulp space opera.

[Read more]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

The Dragonlance Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight Part 2, Chapters 3 and 4

Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread! This week we continue along our journey, hoping desperately for more dragons, maybe even an actual lance, but perhaps settling for an eventful escape from cages.

As always, we’re going to keep the reread post spoiler-free, but the comments are open to any and all discussion, so proceed with caution!

[Here we are, on the road again.]

Series: Dragonlance Reread

The End of All Things Sweepstakes!

The four serial ebook installments of John Scalzi’s The End of All Things are available now, and you can check out excerpts and reviews for each installment here. We also have a chance for you to get your hands on the print edition of The End of All Things before it arrives from Tor Books on August 11th!

Humans expanded into space…only to find a universe populated with multiple alien species bent on their destruction. Thus was the Colonial Union formed, to help protect us from a hostile universe. The Colonial Union used the Earth and its excess population for colonists and soldiers. It was a good arrangement…for the Colonial Union. Then the Earth said: no more.

Now the Colonial Union is living on borrowed time—a couple of decades at most, before the ranks of the Colonial Defense Forces are depleted and the struggling human colonies are vulnerable to the alien species who have been waiting for the first sign of weakness, to drive humanity to ruin. And there’s another problem: A group, lurking in the darkness of space, playing human and alien against each other—and against their own kind—for their own unknown reasons.

In this collapsing universe, CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson and the Colonial Union diplomats he works with race against the clock to discover who is behind attacks on the Union and on alien races, to seek peace with a suspicious, angry Earth, and keep humanity’s union intact…or else risk oblivion, and extinction-and the end of all things.

Check for the rules below!

[Read more]

Shadows of Self: Chapter One

With The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America. The trilogy’s heroes are now figures of myth and legend, even objects of religious veneration. They are succeeded by wonderful new characters, chief among them Waxillium Ladrian, known as Wax, hereditary Lord of House Ladrian but also, until recently, a lawman in the ungoverned frontier region known as the Roughs. There he worked with his eccentric but effective buddy, Wayne. They are “twinborn,” meaning they are able to use both Allomantic and Feruchemical magic.

Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts. This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.

Shadows of Self is available October 6th in the US from Tor Books, and October 9th in the UK from Gollancz. Read an excerpt below, and stay tuned for further sneak peeks at Brandon Sanderson’s latest adventure!

[Chapter One]

Honoring Alan Turing With Pride

This weekend brought a wonderful slate of Pride-themed artwork and photographs, but this one got us right in the feels: People paid tribute to Alan Turing’s statue in Manchester, decorating it for Pride and leaving messages of love. Not nearly as much as the man deserved, but a wonderful small gesture.

Morning Roundup brings you a bonkers fan theory combining Indy and Vader, something you may never have noticed about Disney princesses, and a Star Trek confession.

[Read more]

No Surrender: Way Down Dark by J. P. Smythe

Calling all authors with plans to ply their darker brands in the young adult market: Way Down Dark is like a lesson in how to bring your fiction to a more sensitive sector without sacrificing the parts that made it remarkable.

The sensational start of J. P. Smythe’s Australia trilogy is to sinister science fiction what Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series has been to fantasy of the grimdark variety: a nearly seamless segue that doesn’t talk down to its audience or substantially scale back the stuff some say is sure to scare younger readers away. To wit, it doesn’t get a great deal more miserable than this—appropriately given the tone and tenor of Smythe’s other efforts. Consider the fact that Way Down Dark opens on its main character murdering her own mother a macabre case in point.

[It was because she had a reputation.]

The Coode Street Podcast Episode 238: Kim Stanley Robinson

Welcome to The Coode Street Podcast, an informal weekly discussion about science fiction and fantasy featuring award-winning critics and editors Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe. The Coode Street Podcast debuted in 2010 and has been nominated for the Hugo, British Science Fiction, and Aurealis awards.

This week we are joined by Hugo and Nebula Award winning writer Kim Stanley Robinson to discuss generation starships, how we might live in space, how space opera is becoming a subset of fantasy and his exciting new novel Auroradue July 7 from Orbit. We are delighted to be able to present what is one of the first major discussions about this extraordinary new novel, which we think will prove to be one of the standout SF novels of 2015.

[Listen to Coode Street]

Series: The Coode Street Podcast

Five Things Epic Fantasy Writers Could Learn from Dorothy Dunnett

Dorothy Dunnett is one of those authors you hear about through word of mouth. She didn’t write fantasy—unless you count taking sixteenth-century belief in astrology as true from the perspective of her characters—but ask around, and you’ll find that a surprising number of SF/F authors have been influenced by her work. The Lymond Chronicles and the House of Niccolò, her two best-known series, are sweeping masterpieces of historical fiction; one even might call them epic. And indeed, writers of epic fantasy could learn a great many lessons from Lady Dunnett. Here are but five, all illustrated with examples from the first book of the Lymond Chronicles, The Game of Kings.

[Not to be confused with A Game of Thrones…]

Go On a Blind Date with an SFF Book!

A Redditor found this great, slightly tongue-in-cheek display at an American bookshop in Amsterdam: Instead of judging a book by its cover or author, all you have to go on are keywords in making your decision. (Though we’re pretty sure that “Fantasy/Mississippi/Riverboat/Pale Gentlman” is Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin.) Hat-tip to Neatorama for spotting this!

Afternoon Roundup brings you further treks into the stars, the lowdown on your new favorite hacker TV show, and how most female roles trace their way back to Sigourney Weaver and Alien.

[Read more]

“The Hogwarts” Before Hogwarts

Who among us wasn’t delighted by the scene, early in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone, when Harry finally gets to open his letter? It is, to my mind, one of the most evocative images within the vividly drawn world of Harry Potter, and I believe that moment is memorable for a very specific reason: we are all Muggle-borns. When he gets his letter, Harry does not know about Hogwarts, and we would have been as surprised as he is to find out we need not go to middle school; that we’d be picking up quills, parchment, and a cauldron instead of pens and notepads.

I’ll confess that my first year of college, when I was feeling lost and lonely, more than once I wished an owl would come with a letter for me, letting me know I was supposed to be somewhere far more exciting than where I was.

[But what of the students at St. Custard’s?]

By the Sword: The Pig

This section opens with a quiet little chapter in which Kerowyn’s cousins sell some horses to the Valdemaran military. A delegation from the Valdemaran Guard has come to the Bolthaven horse fair because they heard the horses were good, and because of Kerowyn’s reputation. Which they obviously learned about from Eldan, in case you thought he might have moved on.

This incident reveals that every concern I’ve ever raised about Valdemar’s military and its funding was totally true, plus a few extras. The military is critically short of resources with which to fight Hardorn, a country they thought was an ally until just a couple months ago. The war is expected to be difficult and costly. While negotiating over the horses, Selenay’s delegation reveals that the regular army doesn’t field light cavalry or horse archers, but some of the nobility have private armies that do. Given the fractiousness of Valdemar’s nobility, their involvement in a number of conspiracies to weaken or overthrow the monarchy in the past 20 years, and the recent death of Lord Orthallen at the hands of Lady Elspeth, I can think of few ideas worse than allowing the nobility to maintain private armies that have resources and capacities the regular army does not. Machiavelli would have recommended against this! Also, he would have suggested that perhaps the Heralds could get by with a slightly less generous program of tax rebates. And that maybe someone should look into the goals and political interests of the psychic horses.

[Machiavelli is gravely concerned about Valdemaran politics.]

Series: The Valdemar Reread