Salipa and Telo have perfect lives in the virtual reality world that humanity has retreated to after bacteria and viruses resistant to all medications take over the outside world. But when the robots that take care of their necessities in the dirty outside world start glitching, Salipa must figure out what it means to truly live if they can never return to the outside world.
Nora Walker is many things. Isolated, friendless, lonely, a little odd, in tune with nature. The one thing she is not is the very thing other kids taunt her for being: a witch. Generations of Walker women have lived near Jackjaw Lake and the eerie Wicker Woods, each with a special gift that Nora’s grandmother calls their “nightshade.” One woman could communicate with birds, another could see other people’s dreams, another could calm wild bees. At seventeen Nora’s gift still hasn’t made itself known, and so she believes she has none, that the Walker legacy of witchcraft will wither with her. Then one evening she finds a lost boy in the woods and everything changes.
Peter F. Hamilton’s Salvation, first in the sequence, created a new universe that resembles his Commonwealth universe; in both, Gate technology proves to be the method of interstellar transport. In many ways, though, the Salvation universe takes the idea and extends it into other facets of life, using gates in a way more reminiscent of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion verse or Larry Niven’s teleportation booths. Salvation’s narrative takes place in two times: in the 23rd century, first contact with the Olyix is not seen immediately as a threat, except by a paranoid few; but in the far future, the danger is all too clear, and the descendants of humanity ruthlessly train themselves and their society to combat the alien threat.
Salvation Lost continues both of those stories in parallel. We know the 23rd century Olyix are going to devestate to humanity—but just how will that play out? And how will the far future conflict resolve?
With the previous installment of this reread, we’ve approached the halfway point of Gene Wolfe’s masterwork, The Book of the New Sun. (I’m referring, naturally, to the four volumes that comprise this story. The fifth, The Urth of the New Sun, is a coda, and it will be considered as such for the purposes of this rereading.)
The Sword of the Lictor begins with an epigraph by Russian poet Osip Mandelstam: “Into the distance disappear the/mounds of human heads. /I dwindle – go unnoticed now./But in affectionate books, in children’s games,/I will rise from the dead to say: the sun!”
It’s a beautiful elegy, and not very hard to interpret in the context of the saga: the poet is Severian, in his incarnation as Autarch, describing in a nutshell his trajectory, disappearing into the wilds of Urth until he rises again as the New Sun. But how is this transformation accomplished? The third volume gets us closer to the answer.
Series: Rereading Gene Wolfe
One of the great things about superlative children’s literature is its ability to let events unfold from a simplistic, child’s perspective while cluing in older readers to the complexities of an adult world. As an example, look no further than Harry Potter’s Sirius Black, who must seem, to the child reader, the ideal, fun-loving companion to the boy-wizard and, to the adult reader, a troubled man in a state of arrested development who is using Harry to reconnect with his dead school chum.
This balancing act is no easy task. And even the best children’s literature occasionally sacrifices some of the complexity of the adult world in order to keep its narrative centered on a child protagonist’s experience. Such is the case with Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, which is additionally burdened by the fact that much of the world is predicated on heavy theological concepts which Lyra understandably is less interested in than the immediate danger she must face while dealing with agents of the Magisterium and Armored Bears.
And while none of that tension makes HDM a less satisfying read, it is true that one of Pullman’s most intriguing characters is left a little thin and unfairly treated by the narrative. I am speaking, of course, of Mrs Coulter, one of the series’ primary antagonists. I should add here that, in discussing Mrs Coulter in this article two things should be noted: First, I have not done a full reread of HDM in about a decade and while I am attempting to catch up while I watch the show and write these articles, some of my sense of the novels may be based on older information and recollections. Second, any discussion of Mrs Coulter that involves the novels will have to involve MAJOR SPOILERS for the books (and presumably the show), so read on at your own peril.
Ever wanted to work on a Star Trek TV show?
(Okay, all of you raised your hands immediately. Should have seen that coming.)
In Star Trek: Discovery, Sylvia Tilly works super-hard to get herself into the Command Training Program, which eventually will set her up on the road to becoming a starship captain. Now, CBS and the Star Trek franchise are bringing that concept into the real world, by announcing the Command Training Program: a paid internship program.
In this biweekly series, we’re exploring the evolution of both major and minor figures in Tolkien’s legendarium, tracing the transformations of these characters through drafts and early manuscripts through to the finished work. This week’s installment tracks the rise and fall of one of Middle-earth’s most enigmatic villains, Saruman: one-time head of the White Council who famously falls under the spell of Sauron, betraying the mission entrusted to him by the Valar.
The five Wizards of Middle-earth are a constant source of mystery and confusion. Little to nothing is known about the two Blue Wizards, Alatar and Pallando; Radagast remains a sylvan enigma; only Gandalf and Saruman are given the narrative space necessary to flesh out their characters, but even then the resulting sketch is frustratingly unfulfilled at best. Of Gandalf more is directly known because of his relationship with Hobbits and his central role in the resistance to Sauron, but what of Saruman? The traitorous wizard’s character and motivations are never fully developed in The Lord of the Rings, and readers are left to assume that pride and lust for power lead to his undoing. This is a fair interpretation of Saruman’s role in The Lord of the Rings, but Tolkien’s drafts and left-behind notes paint a fuller picture of his treacherous Power—one that allows us to track his fall from wisdom into folly, and hopefully understand just how it happened that an emissary sent by the Valar themselves could so radically fail in his task.
The premiere of The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars TV series, was a promising start to a new story in the franchise. The episode included some interesting surprises, which has my minds racing, so it’s time for some wild speculation as to what that might mean for the rest of the series.
It’s official! Andy Serkis (Black Panther) is our new Alfred Pennyworth. On Wednesday, The Batman director Matt Reeves tweeted out GIF of the actor, captioning it “And here comes #Alfred!” with a bat emoji.
When Netflix dropped the official trailer for The Witcher on Halloween, they packed quite a bit of stuff into those two minutes of footage. From close-ups on a certain pair of violet eyes, to mysterious brooches, to the unassuming backside of an important side-character, there were a lot of Easter Eggs and pieces of lore that might have slipped on by.
Luckily, the folks behind The Witcher TV series itself are here to walk you through the whole thing! Watch showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and executive producer Tomasz “Tomek” Bagiński break down the details from the trailer.
It seems like only yesterday that Amazon’s The Wheel of Time adaptation had its first table-read, and now it looks like season 2 is already in the works. On Wednesday, showrunner Rafe Judkins tweeted a photo of a writers’ room, captioning it, “Starting the S2 writers’ room on Wheel of Time and the Czech builders didn’t fully grasp how many whiteboards are needed to break an entire season of television. Ha.”
Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread, where we’ve reached Dalinar’s penultimate flashback: Gavilar’s funeral. We have ardents, highprinces, family, and a recently-discovered ancient book, all combining to start Dalinar down a new path.
Series: Oathbringer Reread
Hulu recently picked up a book for an anthology series that should please horror fans: Nathan Ballingrud’s debut collection, North American Lake Monsters. It’s a fantastic collection of short horror stories that is perfect for the format.
Hulu ordered the show earlier this year, and Ballingrud noted that the series will be called Monsterland, and that production has begun on the series.
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 John Langan’s “Technicolor,” first published in Ellen Datlow’s 2009 Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe anthology. Spoilers ahead (but go read the whole creepy thing for yourself).
Series: The Lovecraft Reread
Sigourney Rose has a plan, one she has been honing for years. When she was a child, the Roses held dominion over an island in the kingdom of Hans Lollik. They were the only Black islander family ever to rise above slavery to the ranks of the kongelig, or nobility. Centuries before, the Fjern left their northern kingdom and conquered the southern islands, enslaving the dark skinned islanders and forcing them to work on plantations and as guards. After Sigourney’s family are slaughtered by Fjern kongelig, she and a slave woman, Marieke, escape the islands. As they travel the world, Sigourney crafts her plan to return to Hans Lollik and take the throne. The best way to save her people is to remove the Fjern from power and rule them herself, or so she believes.