Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Cover Comparison

We’re starting Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance this week! This is such a fun book, and it’s full of IVAN who is sometimes a loutish caricature—like when he was seventeen and his mother was trying to get Aral to have a Serious Talk with him about swiving the maids—and sometimes secretly really clever—like when he found the weapon used to attack Simon Illyan. He’s the guy who turned a desk around in Ops HQ so that Miles could read Metzov’s records, and in the aftermath, he only forbade Miles to call him at work. He dropped Miles in a vat of ice, once, and remembering it helped Miles save Bel’s life four years later. I love him.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Vengeful Audiobook Sweepstakes and Audio Excerpt!

We want to send you an audiobook copy of V.E. Schwab’s Vengeful, available September 25th from Macmillan Audio!

Magneto and Professor X. Superman and Lex Luthor. Victor Vale and Eli Ever. Sydney and Serena Clarke. Great partnerships, now soured on the vine.

But Marcella Riggins needs no one. Flush from her brush with death, she’s finally gained the control she’s always sought—and will use her new-found power to bring the city of Merit to its knees. She’ll do whatever it takes, collecting her own sidekicks, and leveraging the two most infamous EOs, Victor Vale and Eli Ever, against each other once more.

With Marcella’s rise, new enmities create opportunity—and the stage of Merit City will once again be set for a final, terrible reckoning.


[Click through to listen to an excerpt, and comment in the post to enter!]

Writing Fantasy Horses Right: Kristen Britain’s Green Rider

Green Rider was published when I was taking an extended break from the genre, during a period of Very Long Epic Fantasy Series, including one that’s done rather well on television. I heard about it because horses, had it in the TBR pile, but never quite got around to reading it. Then came this blog series, and multiple reader recommendations, and here we are.

Back in the day we would have reckoned this a clone of a clone of a clone, a distant descendant of Tolkien via D&D and the many Tolkien imitators of the Seventies and Eighties and early Nineties, but it’s a deft pastiche and there’s love in the way it follows its predecessors. It’s a direct descendant of Mercedes Lackey’s Herald series with a distinct dialogue going on, a lot of thinking and transforming. I’m very curious to know the chain of influence that led to the huge magical wall being broken by the evil Shadow Man with his zombie army—it’s not a Game of Thrones/ASOIAF reference, they’re just about contemporaneous, so, how? And most important for what I’m supposed to be doing here, it does the horses right. [Read more]

Likes and Dislikes in a Spoiler Review for Brandon Sanderson’s Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

Stephen Leeds is a man of many personalities. Or it may be more accurate to say persons. See, his mind has a certain ability, borne of mental illness, though not one anyone can quite put their finger on: in order to help him learn, cope with the world, or deal with new an unexpected events, Stephen can create new people in his brain, which he dubs aspects. These aspects help Stephen learn and store new information, but more than that, they’re created to help him get through the world. There’s his psychiatrist, his security expert, his historian and guide, and so many more, designed for different jobs: his survivalist, his photography expert, his forensic analyst, and more.

In Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds there was a lot to enjoy, and there were some things that let me down. Let’s discuss.

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Ever Wondered What the Known World of Malazan Looks Like on a Globe?

While there is no official, unified map for the world of Malazan, that has not stopped fans from constructing their own maps drawing from conjectures and clues in Malazan Book of the Fallen. Now, one especially crafty fan has taken that experiment a step further by making the world (affectionately and informally referred to as “Wu”) three-dimensional.

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Five Books to Help You Recover From the Loss of Your Planet

So: your home planet has been destroyed. Or maybe not your home planet; maybe just the planet you were currently residing on. Either way, you find yourself suddenly without a planet (always an awkward position to be in), but at least with a spacecraft and an interstellar library of choice Earth works to tide you over on the long hyperspace journey to whatever world is nearest, which hopefully has not also been destroyed (though you never can tell). Thankfully, you were smart enough to load up your ship’s computer with the entire archive of articles, and you can refer to this helpful list to choose the correct title to comfort you in the vast emptiness of space…

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Series: Five Books About…

Among the Witches and the Fae: Reading Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass: Heir of Fire

Heir of Fire finds Celaena Sardothien—Adarlan’s Assassin, the King’s Champion, and so many other things as well—drinking on foreign rooftops. She’s crossed the sea on assignment to assassinate the royal family of Wendlyn, but accepting that assignment was a ruse to get her closer to the Fae queen, who may know a thing or two about Wyrdkeys.

This task will be even more complicated than she expects. Heir of Fire has a certain middle-book vibe, in that while it’s packed full of slow-burn reveals and backstory, in the present timeline, it’s a lot of putting-pieces-in-motion. There’s so much to learn, and so much to set up. Everyone’s in research and training mode.

Personally, I love a good training montage.

Welcome to the next installment of Reading Throne of Glass! In anticipation of Kingdom of Ash, I’m reading the entire series over the next six weeks. This isn’t a reread for me, but a first-read: if you’ve already read the whole series, you will be able to feel extremely superior while I ponder things you probably know backwards and forwards. My fellow first-readers, though, beware: there are likely to be spoilers for future books in the comments.

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How It Feels to Want to Watch Doctor Who Again

I miss Doctor Who. There was a time when I watched it fervently, reverently, passionately. It was something I put on when I was stressed or overwhelmed or needed to be reminded of the good things in life. The relationship wasn’t perfect, but it was powerful and affirming.

Until suddenly it wasn’t.

The show twisted into something unrecognizable and unpleasant. And so I abandoned Doctor Who just as it had abandoned me.

If you asked me in 2016 if I would ever watch Doctor Who again, I probably would’ve shaken my head and sighed. The chances of the show making the kind of changes necessary to pull me back seemed slim to none. But here we are, fall 2018, and I am so excited about the Season 11 premiere that I can barely stand it.

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Read John Scalzi’s The Consuming Fire: Prologue

The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it—unless desperate measures can be taken.

Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy. Arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least, an opportunity that can allow them to ascend to power.

While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are preparing for a civil war, a war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will take place between spaceships and battlefields. The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, but then so are her enemies. Nothing about this power struggle will be simple or easy… and all of humanity will be caught in its widening gyre.

John Scalzi’s epic space-opera novel The Consuming Fire—the sequel to The Collapsing Empire—arrives October 16th from Tor Books. Read the prologue below, and come back later this week for additional excerpts!

[Read The Prologue]

5 Books That Explore the Monstrous

I’ve written previously about gravity being monstrous. Above the clouds, gravity is that unreasonable force always waiting for someone to make a mistake.

When thinking about monsters for Updraft, I wanted to explore variety and opposites. Not all monsters take a quasi-human form, not all devour (though some of the great ones do). I looked at how monsters occur—whether from the dark corners of our subconscious, or from a darker side of our conscience. My research built a catalogue of characteristics that began with Grendel’s startling appearances and his mother’s grief in Beowulf, and reached all the way to black holes out at the wobbly edge of space. I did a lot of reading.

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Romance vs Ethics: Warcross and Wildcard by Marie Lu

As a longtime fan of Marie Lu—I bought her debut novel Legend on the day it released—I was excited and intrigued by the concept of Warcross, the first novel in this duology. It focuses on Emika Chen’s selection for and participation in the Warcross Championships, an international esports tournament for a game that sounds like a more technologically-advanced version of Overwatch. Yet Warcross, for its focus on innovative technology, was itself not very innovative at all, containing a lot of predictable elements ranging from the romance to the “plot twists” at the end.

With the release of Wildcard, I was interested to see the direction Emika’s story would take, and in many ways, Wildcard is a much better book, though it lacks the action-packed virtual reality sequences that make Warcross fun. Wildcard focuses much more on intrigue, taking Emika and the other members of the Phoenix Riders team on investigations and into thrillingly dangerous situations.

Spoilers for Warcross and Wildcard follow!

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Some of Stephen King’s Best Cameo Roles

I love Stephen King, as a writer, as a proclaimer of the greatness of genre literature, and, maybe most of all, as a guy. He was the first author I knew who—actually, scratch that. Stephen King was the first author I knew.

I recognized the names of children’s authors, and some of the bigger pulpy adult authors that my parents read (my mother was a huge Dick Francis fan, and our house had the requisite copies of Clan of the Cave Bear and Shogun) but King was the first author I saw being interviewed on TV. He was the only author I knew who wrote introductions to his own books, and I got a real sense of him as a person form reading them. Later, when I read Danse Macabre and On Writing, I discovered that he could carry that conversational, regular-guy writing style through an entire book, and the more I write myself, the more impressed I am. I think what really came through, more so even than in his fiction, was his weird, dark sense of humor.

It is in this spirit that I present to you, oh my brothers and sisters and neithers and others, a Stephen King Movie Moment Retrospective.

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The Genius of John Bellairs’s The House With A Clock In Its Walls

There’s a particular kind of nostalgia that smells like burning autumn leaves on an overcast day. It sounds like a static-filled radio station playing Brylcreem advertisements in the other room. It feels like a scratchy wool blanket. It looks like a wood-paneled library stuffed with leather-bound books.

This is the flavor of occult nostalgia conjured up by author John Bellairs and his illustrator, Edward Gorey, in their middle grade gothic New Zebedee books featuring low-key poker-playing wizards, portents of the apocalypse, gloomy weather, and some of the most complicated names this side of the list of ingredients on a packet of Twinkies.

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“Don’t waste your life, Stark” — Iron Man

Iron Man was part of the huge first wave of superheroes co-created by Stan Lee in the early 1960s, in collaboration with a variety of artists, mainly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but also Bill Everett, Larry Lieber, and Don Heck.

While never a headliner in the Marvel Universe, ol’ ShellHead was always a major player at the very least. He was a founding member of the Avengers, a presence in a lot of stories as the inventor (or at least the owner of the company that invented) much of the Marvel Universe’s fancy tech, the financial backing of the Avengers, and the centerpiece of several major events in the comics, from the Kree-Skrull War to the Armor Wars to Operation: Galactic Storm to Civil War.

Since the movie rights to most of Marvel’s biggest names—Spider-Man, the X-Men, Daredevil, and the Fantastic Four—were already gobbled up by other studios, Marvel decided to focus their nascent Marvel Studios endeavor on the Avengers characters, starting with Iron Man.

[You stood by my side all these years while I reaped the benefits of destruction. Now that I’m trying to protect the people I’ve put in harm’s way, you’re going to walk out?]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Raymond E. Feist’s The Riftwar Saga Optioned for Television

BCDF Pictures is bringing Raymond E. Feist’s epic fantasy series The Riftwar Saga to television. Deadline reports that the production company, which has also optioned Marie Lu’s Legend, is working with Atomic Blonde screenwriter Kurt Johnstad to adapt Magician, the first book in the series, which is itself the first series of Feist’s The Riftwar Cycle.

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