Cthulhu Versus the Long Island Expressway: N.K. Jemisin’s “The City Born Great”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

This week, we’re reading N.K. Jemisin’s “The City Born Great,” first published on Tor.com in September 2016. Spoilers ahead.

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Series: The Lovecraft Reread

War is Hell: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

It seems like we get one of these novels every decade or two—a retelling of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers with a modern twist of characterization, themes, or how the story is told, whether that’s time dilation, honest-to-goodness time travel, or bioengineering. Remarkably, not only do these retellings pop up regularly, but many, like Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, have gone on to become SF classics in their own right.

Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade is the latest in this line of novels to modernize Heinlein’s classic tale, and like those that have come before, it too is an important, critical look at the role of how war bends and warps modern society. It is also every bit as good as The Forever War and Old Man’s War, and has the potential to become the next great Military SF classic.

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An Explosive Debut: The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore

K.A. Doore’s The Perfect Assassin is a priceless gift of a book.

Or so it felt to me, anyway. I’ve been finding it difficult to enjoy reading lately, to concentrate on how the words fit together into the pattern of a narrative, to see what works and what doesn’t and find pleasure in it. The Perfect Assassin is easy to enjoy, sharp and clean without being straightforward, a debut novel invested in being both good and fun.

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The Works of Robin McKinley and Why Fantasy Should Seem Real

As a young child devouring every fantasy book I could get my hands on, I was incredibly lucky to have not only a mentor in my school librarian but also an unlimited transatlantic supply of books from my grandmother’s bookshop back home in the UK. One of the books Grandma sent me was Robin McKinley’s Outlaws of Sherwood; that and the duology of The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown cemented my profound love of McKinley’s characterization and accessibility.

I’d read lots of high fantasy before encountering McKinley, and the enormous difference between her heroes and, say, Tolkien’s struck me as both new and welcoming. McKinley’s protagonists are people, not archetypes—fallible, unsure of themselves, practical, vulnerable. As a young reader I could fit myself into Aerin or Harry or Robin or Marian (or Cecily) in a way I’d never been able to fit into Tolkien’s people.

[You couldn’t imagine Eowyn having problems with her horse…]

Spring 2019 Books We Cannot Wait to Read!

The Spring Equinox is upon us! And we plan to celebrate it in the best way possible: reading as many books as we can stuff into our brains.

And yes, that is how we celebrate everything, because it’s the best way.

We’re gathered up some of our picks like so many newly-blooming flowers, and we’re excited to recommend them to you! And, as always, we’d love to hear about your most anticipated books in the comments.

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Cosmere Cuisine: More Meals Inspired by Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Books

Welcome Sanderson Fans, Cosmerenauts, and foodies to Tor.com’s newest adventures through the culinary Cosmere! Here we ask the important questions about what the people on the worlds of Brandon Sanderson eat along with their ingested metals and investiture.

Join Deana Whitney, a Sanderson Beta-reader and foodie, as she continues to explore the different cuisines in the Cosmere food chains. In this installment, we’ll take a delicious journey through Scadrial during Era 2.

[Gotta keep the stomach guessin’, mate.]

Sleeps With Monsters: Intimate Space Operas

Ever since I read E. K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued By A Bear, I’ve been a fan of her quiet, understated approach to narrative. The work of her books is, as far as I can tell, closely circling thematic resonances, interpersonal tension, and character development, rather than the splashier and more obvious tensions and drives of action-led novels: thrillers, adventures, capers and heists. Even when her novels include such action, it’s always in service to the development of the character arc. The stakes are always intensely personal.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Managing Temporal Changes: Alastair Reynolds’ Permafrost

How do you change history to stop an apocalypse, but without changing recorded history and suffering the severe consequences and chaos from doing so?

Time travel manipulation on a fine scale is a tightrope of a problem and the stakes are for the fate of the world. The world is dying. Time is running out for humanity, living on stored food that is running out. To save humanity, the Permafrost project seeks to use time travel to make a small change, a change that can bring hope to the future. But changing recorded history has enormous risks and challenges, the paradox can be ferocious and the consequences not entirely clear. And when it is clear that there is more than one agenda is brewing, that there might be other agents seeking different changes to history, the perils of changing the time stream might prove personally deadly.

These are the central questions and story at the heart of Alastair Reynolds time travel novella, Permafrost.

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Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized Examines Our Dark Present, and Our Possibly Slightly Less Dark Future

Sometimes things are broken, and sometimes the only way to fix them is to break them even more.

Furious, funny, and smart, Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized is a quick, cracking read, full of the brave ideas and humanistic optimism that have marked Doctorow as one of our best writers and activists. The four novellas in Radicalized grow from a fundamental truth: That things in 2019 America are horrifyingly broken. And the four novellas in Radicalized show that Doctorow wants to break them even further.

The only thing he might want to do more is fix them.

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Five Books That Gave Me Unreasonable Expectations for Post-High School Life

My family moved to Toronto when I was fourteen. At the time, there was still a fifth year of high school required, a series of courses that involved lengthy essays and independent projects. The idea that I’d be graduating a year after my friends back in New York bothered me, and I determined that I would cram the fifth year into the fourth. I’d somewhere absorbed the idea that high school was hell and college (as well as anything else that came after) was better, and I should do everything I could to hasten the change.

Where had I gotten that idea? Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti wasn’t around yet, nor Diana Wynne Jones’ Year of the Griffin, nor Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, nor Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals. Here are five of the books that may have contributed to my rush to leave high school behind.

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Series: Five Books About…

Toy Story 4 Wants to Give Us Another Existential Crisis

Toy Story 3 was widely lauded, particularly by the generation of kids who grew up on the first and second films—it was a perfect button to all the thoughts and emotions this series prompted in regard to growing up, moving through life, and the importance of play. When Andy left his beloved toys with little Bonnie, many fans heard audible sobs in the theater.

And now we’ve got Toy Story 4 to… help us do it all over again?

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Rereading The Ruin of Kings: Chapters 22 and 23

Happy Tuesday, Tor.com folks! Up for a spot of weirdly benign death cult sacrificial ritual? Of course you are, who wouldn’t be! In which case, this post is for you.

This blog series will be covering The Ruin of Kings, the first novel of a five-book series by Jenn Lyons. Previous entries can be found here in the series index.

Today’s post will be covering Chapter 22, “A Golden Hawk,” and Chapter 23, “Morning Service.” Please note that from this point forward, these posts will likely contain spoilers for the entire novel, so it’s recommended that you read the whole thing first before continuing on.

Got that? Great! Click on for the rest!

[no monkey brainzzzzz either, that’s always a plus]

Series: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

What Does a Fantasy Map Look Like?

Epic fantasy and maps: it’s hard to imagine one without the other. The presence of maps in fantasy is so well established and so well understood that it’s become a point of parody. “No Tour of Fantasyland is complete without one,” wrote Diana Wynne Jones in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. “If you take this Tour, you are going to have to visit every single place on this Map, whether it is marked or not. This is a Rule.”

And yet, for all their ubiquity, their role in writers’ creative process and their usefulness to the reader, we don’t examine fantasy maps as objects in their own right as much as we could. In this and future posts here on Tor.com, I will take a closer look at fantasy maps: their design and aesthetic, their origins and inspirations, and where they may be going in the future. The first question I’d like to tackle is a basic one:

What do fantasy maps look like?

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