Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 4 (part 2) and Chapter 5

Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger / You may see a stranger across your distant cousin’s crowded temporary flat convenient to the nightlife in Solstice…

That happens shortly after Byerly walks through the door. Not in time to cut off his critique of Ivan’s activities last night—and I, for one, don’t think it’s fair to criticize Ivan for having been tied to a chair, or for talking to Dome Security. I share Ivan’s concerns about the inadequacy of By’s briefing. Byerly is charmingly stunned by Rish’s appearance. He says so! He says “My word” and “Mademoiselle, may I just say, a stunner seems redundant?” If he had brought takeout, as well as saying those things, I would forgive him all his previous transgressions since the parking garage incident. And that one would be on the table for negotiation. He didn’t bring food, but he has managed to turn himself from a slimy rat fink into kind of a cute fluffy pet-type rat. And Rish has a secret weapon—Rish and Tej both have very sensitive senses, and are learning a lot about Ivan and Byerly from smell. Rish can pick up changes in heart rate. She knows By isn’t not faking his attraction. And we know he won’t be able to deceive her. In the interrogation that is to come, By may hedge, he may refuse to speak, and he may select information carefully, but all of those things will be apparent to Tej and Rish. He will be able to obscure information, but not to make it up. He can protect himself, but not deceive anyone. Except Ivan. By can still deceive Ivan if he chooses to.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Breaker of Empires Series Sweepstakes!

Restless Lightning, the second book in Richard Baker’s military science fiction series Breaker of Empires, is available October 23rd from Tor Books—and to celebrate, we want to send you a copy of it along with a copy of the first book in the series, Valiant Dust!

Lieutenant Sikander North has avoided an outright court martial and finds himself assigned to a remote outpost in the crumbling, alien Tzoru Empire—where the navy sends trouble-makers to be forgotten. When Sikander finds himself in the middle of an alien uprising, he, once again, must do the impossible: smuggle an alien ambassador off-world, break a siege, and fight the irrational prejudice of his superior officers. The odds are against his success, and his choices could mean disgrace—or redemption.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on October 22nd. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on October 26th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Power, Freedom, and Horse Movies: The Silver Brumby and The Man From Snowy River

After I finished reading Elyne Mitchell’s The Silver Brumby, I had an irresistible urge to find out if there was a movie. Sure enough, there was, and it was a Prime Video option: The Silver Brumby, aka The Silver Stallion. 1993. I dived right into it.

What I wanted out of it was visuals. The landscape. The animals and plants. I wanted to know what a snowgum looked like, and what kind of mountains Thowra ranged through.

I got that. I also got insight into what makes a film likely to succeed, versus a book which can go much deeper into detail and—significantly here—can offer viewpoints that might not sell so well to the wider audience of film. Mitchell’s book belongs to Thowra’s—his viewpoint for the most part, and he is the protagonist. It’s all about him. If you use the term gaze, what you get here is the brumby gaze. The eyes and mind that tell the story are primarily those of the wild horse.

[The film shifts the whole thing to the human gaze.]

A Non-Spoiler Review of Skyward, a Young Adult Novel from Brandon Sanderson

Flying onto shelves on November 6th is Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward: book one of his newest young adult series. Our hero is Spensa, a girl who has dreamed her whole life of being a pilot like her father. More than anything, she wants to prove herself brave and strong, and do her part to defend what’s left of the human race. When she was young, however, her father mysteriously deserted his team—leaving Spensa labelled as the daughter of a coward, with her chances of attending flight school uncertain.

Checking in from Beta Flight to provide a non-spoiler review and discussion are Darci Cole, callsign: Blue, and Deana Whitney, callsign: Braid.

We will not touch on the pre-released Skyward material, so if you are waiting for the whole book to be out, this is a safe place and we salute you. A few comments about Sanderson’s other YA series, The Reckoners, are included, so consider yourself warned!

[Claim the Stars]

Daredevil’s Third Season is Miraculously Better Than Ever

I’m going to start off by saying that Daredevil season three is a masterpiece, and I desperately want a season four. I went into the new season worried that the magic had faded—Defenders was only okay, Daredevil season two had a lot of issues, and the recent cancellations of both Iron First and Luke Cage puts the Netflix corner of the MCU on shaky ground—but from the opening scenes the show had me hooked. Honestly, as far as a continuous piece of tightly-woven, cohesive storytelling, this might be even better than the first season of Jessica Jones. It also might be the first of the Marvel/Netflix shows that has earned its thirteen episode roster for me—while not every episode is perfect, I don’t think there’s a dud here, and if anything I think it could have used another hour.

So with that out of the way, on with the non-spoiler review!

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What You Need to Know Before Reading Seth Dickinson’s The Monster Baru Cormorant

It’s been three years since we met Baru Cormorant, the brilliant, ruthless, compelling protagonist of Seth Dickinson’s debut novel The Traitor Baru Cormorant. Not unlike Baru’s tenure in Aurdwynn, it has been a long, hard wait for the sequel. Don’t remember what happened in Aurdwynn? Unclear on when the star Imperial Accountant went from savant to Queen to traitor to The Monster Baru Cormorant? Author Seth Dickinson has provided a handy refresher for everything from the fates of Aurdwynn’s rebel dukes to Cairdine Farrier’s meta-game to a helpful list of dramatis personae for Baru’s next heartbreaking adventure!

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Good Omens, Part One: The Very First Dark and Stormy Night

Hello friends, and welcome to the end of the world! My name is Meghan and it is my utmost pleasure and privilege to reread Good Omens with you. Written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens is a delight of a novel and has been a fan favorite for decades. It will soon be a six-part series airing on Amazon Prime in 2019. To prepare for that momentous occasion, we’ll be reading the book together over the next ten weeks and discussing what makes it so wonderful.

Without any further ado, let’s get started. This week’s discussion covers the first 35 pages of the novel (going by the 2006 paperback edition published by William Morrow).

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Series: Good Omens Reread

10 Questions We Hope Are Answered in Sarah J. Maas’s Kingdom of Ash

After reading the entire Throne of Glass series in six weeks, I am extremely ready for Kingdom of Ash—maybe more ready than I can remember being for the last book in a series, ever. And by “ready” I largely mean “armed with many details and about a thousand questions, approximately one for each page of the massive final book.”

Here are 10 of the biggest questions—from the mysteries of barely-seen countries and tricksy villains to the question that hangs over every final book in a series packed with conflict: Who’s going to make it out alive?

The entirety of Throne of Glass up through Tower of Dawn is discussed below, so enter here only ye who have read the books.

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11 Bizarre Comic Book Sidekicks That You Should Definitely Dress as For Halloween

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of The League of Regrettable Sidekicks by Jon Morris, a gorgeous technicolor reference tome that documents some of the worst comic book characters to grace the racks of local grocery stores and dusty comics shops. It occurred to me—these would make superb Halloween costumes, especially if you’re the sort who loves to explain yourself all night to strangers (you know who you are). So here are a few suggestions, if your usual go-tos have failed you.

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Diversity and Equality Are Foundational Concepts in Malazan Book of the Fallen

By nature of the genre, the premise of every fantasy novel asks “what if” questions. What if magic was real? What if children went to school to learn it? What if a pantheon of gods walked among us? As an archeologist and anthropologist, Steven Erikson asked questions about the clashing of cultures and classes, about climate and capitalism, about the relationship between gods and mortals—and not just if magic existed, but if it was available to anyone. What if magical abilities could be learned by anyone, regardless of age, gender, intelligence or skill? As Erikson states, “It occurred to us that it would create a culture without gender bias so there would be no gender-based hierarchies of power. It became a world without sexism and that was very interesting to explore.”

In the same matter-of-fact, almost mundane way that magic simply exists in the Malazan universe, so too does equality among the sexes. It just is—and that’s refreshing.

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She Changed the Universe: Doctor Who, “Rosa”

There’s no pulling punches when your season’s first trip back to the past is to examine the actions of Civil Rights hero, Rosa Parks. So Doctor Who did not pull those punches. And we are left with a testament to the life of one of the bravest women in American history.

[This review contains an episode recap, so suffice it to say there are SPOILERS.]

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5 Books About Folk Horror

It’s nearly impossible for me to choose five favorite horror novels. I simply can’t name a favorite (except in one case, as you’ll see below). But I can narrow it down a little and compartmentalize my preferences. In that way, even though I’m certain I’m forgetting something, the slight won’t seem too terribly egregious.

I grew up in rural North Carolina, amidst tobacco fields and scuppernong grape orchards, and in the Missouri Ozarks, amidst scorpions and tarantula herds. Living in those areas, I developed an appreciation for the folktales and ghost stories that run rampant among country folk. That upbringing has wormed its way into many of my own stories. With books like Harrow County, from Dark Horse Comics, I’m able to revisit some of my old haunts, if you’ll pardon the pun.

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Stories Within Stories Within Nightmares: Dale Bailey’s In the Night Wood

There’s a point midway through Dale Bailey’s novel In the Night Wood wherein protagonist Charles Hayden ventures out to the forest around the English manor where he and his wife Erin have relocated following a tragedy on the other side of the Atlantic. In his exploration, Charles discovers a part of the forest that seems somewhat different from the rest: some of that can be chalked up to a sense of fundamental wrongness, and some of that can be be ascribed to a difference in temperature. But the sense of two places bordering one another, similar but with fundamentally different properties underlying their very nature, is a convenient metaphor for this novel as well, which is both a story about literary obsession and a story whose twists and turns may well lure in literary obsessives.

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