When I invited SFF authors to write guest blogs for the Hotlist, Peadar Ó Guilín told me he wanted to blog about the security of a long series and the death of short stories. He also wanted to write about the familiarity of the "home cities" such as New York and London versus more unfamiliar locations.
To learn more about Peadar Ó Guilín and his work, check out his official website.
Home Cities and The Death of the Short Story
Why do you read genre fiction?
Are you escaping real life? Are you a lover of stars or fantastical beasts? Is it your childhood that you're reaching for, grasping after the evenings when daddy would perch at the side of your bed with a well-worn book of fairy-tales?
My own answer, is that I'm a Captain Kirk. My mission -- by no means limited to five years -- is to boldly go where no man has gone before. I'm a tourist, in other words. I travel the universe in search of cool concepts, strange worlds and bizarre beasts. Blow my mind, authors! That's all I want.
I'm not alone in this desire, but alas, poor Peadar! I am far more alone than I once imagined.
I used to believe that my reasons for loving speculative fiction were the same a everybody else's. After all, novelty is the USP of our genre, and everything else, from derring-do, to escapism, to romance, grows in plentiful supply elsewhere. Our drug, I thought, our drug, kicks us in the head every day with something new.
Lately, however, a number of anomalies have been poking at my complacency with little claws.
Short-stories, for example, the perfect SFF delivery mechanism. No other format can provide so many startling new worlds between the covers of a single book. Yet nobody* is buying them these days. Magazines are dying all around us and great anthologists struggle to get their pitches heard even with the promise of great names for the cover.
Perhaps it's as simple as the fact that the internet is eating their lunch, that short-stories are easier to read on-line than entire novels. Newspapers are dying for that very reason.** But the cliff-dive in the sales of anthologies seems to be mirrored by a rise in the power of the series: that is, by punters investing more and more money and time and emotion into staying in the same universe -- just the one. Forever.
At a con last week, I spoke to a writer whose most recent thriller had received this tepid response from his agent: "Why did you have to set it in Belfast? Nobody's interested in Belfast." The implication, as I understand it, is that the book would have found a better reception if set in London.
Now, I've been aware of this "London" thing for years -- I even have a name for it. I call it the "home cities" phenomenon, where certain places such as New York, London, Washington and L.A., might be more acceptable to publishers as settings because they are already familiar to every reader in the English-speaking world.
I get that, I do. But surely for a lover of SF, the more obscure the setting the better?
Well, maybe not.
About a year ago, it finally hit me*** that not every enthusiast of the speculative genres got here for the same reasons I did. The best-selling fantasies still tend to take place in faux-Europe because that's just what people want. They want dragons; they can't get enough of vampires.
It's not that readers discourage authors from playing with these settings, and happy are the multitudes thrilled by tiny changes: "ZOMG, these zombies are different because they hop instead of walking!" Just don't add too much spice to that chili, fellah, or you'll drive your customers away -- apart from a tiny number of "real gourmets" raving to each other in their empty chatrooms. I rave quite a bit myself.
Every new world we visit exacts a cost on us -- we suffer through infodumps, or solve the puzzle of a culture as the author doles it out in tiny pieces. We must invest in difficult characters rather than slipping into the more comfortable minds of old friends. We must visualize alien architectures with puny human brains. It's hard work and with a collection of short-stories, we're paying that price again and again every few pages.
This price is well worth paying if, like me, you read in search of novelty. However, if you came to speculative fiction via other routes, you may be more comfortable reaching for volume 6 of whatever it is that floats your boat. I'll be right beside you, browsing the same shelves, trying to make Captain Kirk proud of me. And sometimes we'll pick out the same book and share a smile, with neither of us realizing how different the other truly is.
*Exaggerations are always justified, even when nested.
**Yes, it's a little more complicated than that.
***What can I say? I'm slow.
Although a very good novel, Mark Lawrence's fantasy debut, Prince of Thorns, wasn't everyone's cup of tea. As a dark and brutal tale devoid of compassion featuring a bloodthirsty teenager as the main protagonist, Jorg's story probably put off SFF readers looking for likeable characters and heroes.
And King of Thorns, though more complex and interesting on many levels, continues in the same vein. Those hoping for redemption where Jorg is concerned will be sorely disappointed. Praise be to Lawrence who didn't fall into the trap of trying to make his principal character more appealing to the masses, just to hopefully sell a few more copies. This second installment remains a grim and uncompromising tale of violence and Jorg Ancrath, its narrator, remains true to himself throughout the book.
Hence, those who didn't care much for Prince of Thorns need not apply. . .
Here's the blurb:
The boy who would be King has gained the throne...
Prince Honorious Jorg Ancrath vowed when he was nine to avenge his slaughtered mother and brother—and punish his father for not doing so. When he was fifteen, he began to fulfill that vow. Now he is eighteen—and he must hold on by strength of arms to what he took by torture and treachery.
King Jorg is a man haunted: by the ghost of a young boy, by a mysterious copper box, by his desire for the woman who rides with his enemy. Plagued by nightmares of the atrocities he committed, and of the atrocities committed against him when he was a child, he is filled with rage. And even as his need for revenge continues to consume him, twenty thousand men march toward the gates of his castle. His enemy is far stronger than him. Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight.
But he has found, in a chamber hidden beneath the castle, ancient and long-lost artifacts. Some might call them magic. Jorg is not certain—all he knows is that the secrets they hold can be put to terrible use in the coming battle...
The worldbuilding was more fascinating in this second volume. We already knew that the action occurred on a distant future Earth which has been destroyed by weapons of mass destruction. And though little is known about the Day of a Thousand Suns, Mark Lawrence is a bit more forthcoming with information regarding the world he created. Not necessarily with information concerning that distant past, but at least with the current state of the world. There is a map that reveals the state of Western Europe and which allows readers to realize that the bulk of the action takes place in what used to be France. The narrative takes readers to several different lands, and it appears that new incarnations of cities such as Hannover and Barcelona are visited. Visually, the map helps a lot in terms of following what is going on and gives us a general idea of what the continent looks like following a devastating nuclear war. Once again, the author offers a few glimpses of the technology from that forgotten epoch, but once more I felt that he keeps his cards too close to his chest in that regard. . . Still, in terms of worldbuilding, King of Thorns manages to really make you beg for more.
As was the case with its predecessor, this second installment features a high number of fashback scenes. In Prince of Thorns, the flashbacks were mostly meant to offer Jorg's back story and didn't truly play an active role in the narrative. The structure of King of Thorns is much different in the sense that both the present and the future influence one another throughout the entire novel. I have to admit that it felt odd at first, as the structure can be a little confusing. Indeed, the various chapters are broken into sequences featuring Jorg's wedding day and its aftermath, the four years which led to Jorg's wedding, as well as a number of journal entries by Katherine. It takes a while to get used to the structure of the narrative. But once you do, I have to say that structuring the novel in such a way makes for a very satisfying reading experience. By merging the past and the present together in such a manner allows Lawrence to unveil the truth regarding what is taking place in "real time" by revisiting the past.
As a matter of course, the book features the first-person narrative of Jorg Ancrath. As I said before, goody two-shoes SFF fans who hate GRRM and Abercrombie for their despicable characters and praise Brandon Sanderson for his black-or-white protagonists who don't swear, have sex, or use obscenities, may find it hard to get into this book. Heroes you can love and root for, you won't find any in King of Thorns. As is often the case with Joe Abercrombie, I have a feeling that Lawrence's witty and humorous writing style allows him to get away with cruel and graphic scenes of wanton violence. As always with a first-person narrative, everything hinges on whether or not Jorg grows on the reader. And since he's far from the most endearing of fellows, I doubt that anyone who couldn't get into Prince of Thorns will find something to like about King of Thorns. On the contrary, if you enjoyed Mark Lawrence's debut, then buckle up for another wild ride! And though it remains Jorg's tale through and through, the supporting cast plays a much more important role in this second volume.
Again, the novel's main problem is that Lawrence worked so hard to make Jorg as badass as humanly possible that at times it felt like he was a bit of a caricature. To think that he can be this smart, this strong, this cunning, this everything, stretches the limits of realism to their breaking point. The author offers us a couple of scenes in which we see that Jorg may not always be the sharpest tool in the shed, but for the most part Jorg remains too smart for his own good. . . And yet, as was the case with Prince of Thorns, the good thing is that Jorg's tale is fun, entertaining, and compelling enough that I didn't care.
The pace is pretty fluid and the story moves forward once you get used to the book's structure. However, the "out of left field" ending, although unanticipated, could be construed as a deus ex machina sort of way to bring the story to a close. And though I was expecting Jorg to outsmart the opposition and come out on top, this seemed to be taking things a bit too far. I don't think it takes anything away from the overall reading experience, but I figure that some readers might find it offputting.
All in all, Mark Lawrence passed the second volume challenge with flying colors! Looking forward to discover how he will close the show with Emperor of Thorns!
The Darkness That Comes Before, R. Scott Bakker s magnificent debut, drew thunderous acclaim from reviewers and fellow fantasy authors, such as Steven Erikson and Kevin J. Anderson. Readers were invited into a darkly threatening, thrillingly imaginative universe as fully realized as that of any in modern fantasy and introduced to one of the genre s great characters: the powerful warrior-philosopher Anas rimbor Kelhus, on whom the fate of a violently apocalyptic Holy War rests.
Bakker s follow up to The Darkness That Comes Before, The Warrior Prophet enticed readers further into the richly imagined world of myth, violence, and sorcery. With the ultimate battle drawing near, Anas rimbor Kelhus closed in on the elusive goal of reuniting with his father, mastering the ancient arts he will need to prepare himself for the encounter. Will Kelhus be able to rise to claim his role within the ascendancy, or will he be overtaken by his enemies both within and without Will he reach the ancient city of Shimeh and reunite with his father. Upon the apocalypse, will there be survivors left to write the history of the Holy War.
The startling and far-reaching answers to these questions, left hanging at the conclusion of The Warrior Prophet, are brought into thrilling focus in The Thousandfold Thought, the conclusion to the Prince of Nothing series. Casting into question all the action that has taken place before, twisting readers intuitions in unforeseen directions, remolding the fantasy genre to broaden the scope of intricacy and meaning, R. Scott Bakker has once again written a fantasy novel that defies all expectations and rewards the reader with an experience unlike any to be had in the canon of fantasy literature.
August 15th, 2047. Happy Hundredth Birthday, India... In the mid twenty-first century, Mother India is all the things she is now - ancient and vibrant, poor yet staggeringly rich. Diverse, violent, beautiful and terrible, thrilling and bewildering. A nation choked with peoples and cultures, riven with almost seismic contrasts and contradictions. Nearly two billion humans crowd the subcontinent and her seething cities - the cyberabads - where timeless culture and the highest of high-technologies meet to spawn new societies, and - possibly - new sentient species. RIVER OF GODS is a book as big and brawling as its subject. Its magnificently diverse array of characters - from genetically enhanced 'Brahmins' to body-part runners, American scientists to 'Dharma-cops' (government Artificial Intelligence assassins) - are drawn in interwoven stories towards a cosmic-scale conclusion that will forever change the way we understand ourselves, life, and the universe we inhabit.
Every city contains secret places. Moscow in the tumultuous 1990s is no different, its citizens seeking safety in a world below the streets - a dark, cavernous world of magic, weeping trees, and albino jackdaws, where exiled pagan deities and faerytale creatures whisper strange tales to those who would listen. Galina is a young woman caught, like her contemporaries, in the seeming lawlessness of the new Russia. In the midst of this chaos, her sister Maria turns into a jackdaw and flies away - prompting Galina to join Yakov, a policeman investigating a rash of recent disappearances. Their search will take them to the underground realm of hidden truths and archetypes, to find themselves caught between reality and myth, past and present, honor and betrayal . . . the secret history of Moscow.
UNDER HEAVEN will be published in April 2010, and takes place in a world inspired by the glory and power of Tang Dynasty China in the 8th century, a world in which history and the fantastic meld into something both memorable and emotionally compelling. In the novel, Shen Tai is the son of a general who led the forces of imperial Kitai in the empire's last great war against its western enemies, twenty years before. Forty thousand men, on both sides, were slain by a remote mountain lake. General Shen Gao himself has died recently, having spoken to his son in later years about his sadness in the matter of this terrible battle.
To honour his father's memory, Tai spends two years in official mourning alone at the battle site by the blue waters of Kuala Nor. Each day he digs graves in hard ground to bury the bones of the dead. At night he can hear the ghosts moan and stir, terrifying voices of anger and lament. Sometimes he realizes that a given voice has ceased its crying, and he knows that is one he has laid to rest.
The dead by the lake are equally Kitan and their Taguran foes; there is no way to tell the bones apart, and he buries them all with honour.
It is during a routine supply visit led by a Taguran officer who has reluctantly come to befriend him that Tai learns that others, much more powerful, have taken note of his vigil. The White Jade Princess Cheng-wan, 17th daughter of the Emperor of Kitai, presents him with two hundred and fifty Sardian horses. They are being given in royal recognition of his courage and piety, and the honour he has done the dead. You gave a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly.
You gave him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor. Tai is in deep waters. He needs to get himself back to court and his own emperor, alive. Riding the first of the Sardian horses, and bringing news of the rest, he starts east towards the glittering, dangerous capital of Kitai, and the Ta-Ming Palace - and gathers his wits for a return from solitude by a mountain lake to his own forever-altered life.
The triumphant conclusion to our three thrilling fantasy series, from the author of the bestselling Farseer and Liveship traders trilogies. The only hopes for an end to war and insurrection in the Six Duchies rests in the hands of the small party that are embarked on a desperate quest to the frozen island of Aslevjal. Here, so legend says, lies the sleeping form of the legendary great black dragon, Icefyre. The beast is of holy significance to the people of the OutIslands, a powerful talisman, but it is this dragon that their Narcheska has challenged Prince Dutiful to kill. All he has to help him in this in the company of his small coterie: the mercurial old assassin, Chade, the gifted but slow-witted servant boy, Thick, and their Skillmaster, Fitz. The other member of the group has been left behind in Buckkeep, but the Fool will do everything in his power to be with them on the island - he has seen that this is his final destiny. When the ship finally reaches the desolate island it seems out of the question that anything could exist on this wasteland, yet the discoveries that Dutiful and his friends make will not only put the quest and their lives in jeopardy, it will also shape the future of the whole world. The Tawny Man Book 3 brings not only this trilogy but also the Farseer trilogy begun with ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE in 1996 to a spectacular conclusion. Filled with breathtaking drama and powerful character-led story-telling, Robin Hobb's writing is in a class of its own.
For the first time in recorded history, the ferocious city-states of the Macht now acknowledge a single man as their overlord. Corvus, the strange and brilliant boy-general, is now High King, having united his people in a fearsome, bloody series of battles and sieges. He is not yet thirty years old. A generation ago, ten thousand of the Macht marched into the heart of the ancient Asurian Empire, and fought their way back out again, passing into legend. Corvus’s father was one of those who undertook that march, and his most trusted general, Rictus, was leader of those ten thousand. But he intends to do more. The preparations will take years, but when they are complete, Corvus will lead an invasion the like of which the world of Kuf has never seen. Under him, the Macht will undertake nothing less than the overthrow of the entire Asurian Empire.
Kings of Morning is the thrilling conclusion to Paul Kearney's Macht trilogy.
The ravaged continent of Genabackis has given birth to a terrifying new empire: the Pannion Domin. Like a tide of corrupted blood, it seethes across the land, devouring all. In its path stands an uneasy alliance: Onearm's army and Whiskeyjack's Bridgeburners alongside their enemies of old--the forces of the Warlord Caladan Brood, Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii mages, and the Rhivi people of the plains.
But ancient undead clans are also gathering; the T'lan Imass have risen. For it would seem something altogether darker and more malign threatens this world. Rumors abound that the Crippled God is now unchained and intent on a terrible revenge.
Marking the return of many characters from Gardens of the Moon and introducing a host of remarkable new players, Memories of Ice is both a momentous new chapter in Steven Erikson's magnificent epic fantasy and a triumph of storytelling.
The Defense and Wellness Council is enmeshed in full-scale civil war between Len Borda and the mysterious Magan Kai Lee. Quell has escaped from prison and is stirring up rebellion in the Islands with the aid of a brash young leader named Josiah. Jara and the apprentices of the Surina/Natch MultiReal Fiefcorp still find themselves fighting off legal attacks from their competitors and from Margaret Surina's unscrupulous heirs -- even though MultiReal has completely vanished.
The quest for the truth will lead to the edges of civilization, from the tumultuous society of the Pacific Islands to the lawless orbital colony of 49th Heaven; and through the deeps of time, from the hidden agenda of the Surina family to the real truth behind the Autonomous Revolt that devastated humanity hundreds of years ago.
Meanwhile, Natch has awakened in a windowless prison with nothing but a haze of memory to clue him in as to how he got there. He's still receiving strange hallucinatory messages from Margaret Surina and the nature of reality is buckling all around him. When the smoke clears, Natch must make the ultimate decision - whether to save a world that has scorned and discarded him, or to save the only person he has ever loved: himself.
It begins with an explosion. Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone it seems is after a piece of Turkey. But the shock waves from this random act of twenty-first-century pandemic terrorism will ripple further and resonate louder than just Enginsoy Square.
Welcome to the world of The Dervish House—the great, ancient, paradoxical city of Istanbul, divided like a human brain, in the great, ancient, equally paradoxical nation of Turkey. The year is 2027 and Turkey is about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its accession to the European Union, a Europe that now runs from the Arran Islands to Ararat. Population pushing one hundred million, Istanbul swollen to fifteen million, Turkey is the largest, most populous, and most diverse nation in the EU, but also one of the poorest and most socially divided. It's a boom economy, the sweatshop of Europe, the bazaar of central Asia, the key to the immense gas wealth of Russia and central Asia. The Dervish House is seven days, six characters, three interconnected story strands, one central common core—the eponymous dervish house, a character in itself—that pins all these players together in a weave of intrigue, conflict, drama, and a ticking clock of a thriller.
In the vast dominion of Seven Cities, in the Holy Desert Raraku, the seer Sha'ik and her followers prepare for the long-prophesied uprising known as the Whirlwind. Unprecedented in size and savagery, this maelstrom of fanaticism and bloodlust will embroil the Malazan Empire in one of the bloodiest conflicts it has ever known, shaping destinies and giving birth to legends . . .
Set in a brilliantly realized world ravaged by dark, uncontrollable magic, this thrilling novel of war, intrigue and betrayal confirms Steven Erikson as a storyteller of breathtaking skill, imagination and originality--the author who has written the first great fantasy epic of the new millennium.
It's 2017 and the end days are coming, beings that were once human gathering to fight in one last great war for control of the Vellum - the vast realm of eternity on which our world is just a scratch. But to a draft-dodging Irish angel and a trailer-trash tomboy called Phreedom, it's about to become brutally clear that there's no great divine or diabolic plan at play here, just a vicious battle between the hawks of Heaven and Hell, with humanity stuck in the middle, and where the easy rhetoric of Good and Evil, Order versus Chaos just doesn't apply. Here there are no heroes, no darlings of destiny struggling to save the day, and there are no villains, no dark lords of evil out to destroy the world. Or at least if there are, it's not quite clear which is which. Here, the most ancient gods and the most modern humans are equally fate's fools, victims of their own hubris, struggling to save their own skins, their own souls, but sometimes...just sometimes...sacrificing everything in the name of humanity.
Two months since sixty-five thousand alien objects clenched around the Earth like a luminous fist, screaming to the heavens as the atmosphere burned them to ash. Two months since that moment of brief, bright surveillance by agents unknown.
Two months of silence, while a world holds its breath.
Now some half-derelict space probe, sparking fitfully past Neptune's orbit, hears a whisper from the edge of the solar system: a faint signal sweeping the cosmos like a lighthouse beam. Whatever's out there isn't talking to us. It's talking to some distant star, perhaps. Or perhaps to something closer, something en route.
So who do you send to force introductions on an intelligence with motives unknown, maybe unknowable? Who do you send to meet the alien when the alien doesn't want to meet?
You send a linguist with multiple personalities, her brain surgically partitioned into separate, sentient processing cores. You send a biologist so radically interfaced with machinery that he sees x-rays and tastes ultrasound, so compromised by grafts and splices he no longer feels his own flesh. You send a pacifist warrior in the faint hope she won't be needed, and the fainter one she'll do any good if she is. You send a monster to command them all, an extinct hominid predator once called vampire, recalled from the grave with the voodoo of recombinant genetics and the blood of sociopaths. And you send a synthesist—an informational topologist with half his mind gone—as an interface between here and there, a conduit through which the Dead Center might hope to understand the Bleeding Edge.
You send them all to the edge of interstellar space, praying you can trust such freaks and retrofits with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they've been sent to find.
But you'd give anything for that to be true, if you only knew what was waiting for them...
Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn't make any difference...
On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there's one thing everybody agrees on--
There's not a chance in hell of ending it.
Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war--but at what price?
One hundred years from now, and against all the odds, Earth has found a new stability; the political order has reached some sort of balance, and the new colony on Mars is growing. But the fraught years of the 21st century have left an uneasy legacy ... Genetically engineered alpha males, designed to fight the century's wars have no wars to fight and are surplus to requirements. And a man bred and designed to fight is a dangerous man to have around in peacetime. Many of them have left for Mars but now one has come back and killed everyone else on the shuttle he returned in. Only one man, a genengineered ex-soldier himself, can hunt him down and so begins a frenetic man-hunt and a battle survival. And a search for the truth about what was really done with the world's last soldiers. BLACK MAN is an unstoppable SF thriller but it is also a novel about predjudice, about the ramifications of playing with our genetic blue-print. It is about our capacity for violence but more worrying, our capacity for deceit and corruption. This is another landmark of modern SF from one of its most exciting and commercial authors.
Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King’s Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. . .
But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others--a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords. . .
Finally in control of the Ascendancy, Titus Quinn has styled himself Regent of the Entire. But his command is fragile. He rules an empire with a technology beyond human understanding; spies lurk in the ancient Magisterium; the Tarig overlords are hamstrung but still malevolent. Worse, his daughter Sen Ni opposes him for control, believing the Earth and its Rose universe must die to sustain the failing Entire. She is aided by one of the mystical pilots of the River Nigh, the space-time transport system. This navitar, alone among all others, can alter future events. He retires into a crystal chamber in the Nigh to weave reality and pit his enemies against each other.
Taking advantage of these chaotic times, the great foe of the Long War, the Jinda ceb Horat, create a settlement in the Entire. Masters of supreme technology, they maintain a lofty distance from the Entire's struggle. They agree, however, that the Tarig must return to the fiery Heart of their origins. With the banishment immanent, some Tarig lords rebel, fleeing to hound the edges of Quinn's reign.
Meanwhile, Quinn's wife Anzi becomes a hostage and penitent among the Jinda ceb, undergoing alterations that expose their secrets, but may estrange her from her husband. As Quinn moves toward a confrontation with the dark navitar, he learns that the stakes of the conflict go far beyond the Rose versus the Entire—extending to a breathtaking dominance. The navitar commands forces that lie at the heart of the Entire's geo-cosmology, and will use them to alter the calculus of power. As the navitar's plan approaches consummation, Quinn, Sen Ni, and Anzi are swept up in forces that will leave them forever changed.
In this rousing finale to Kenyon's celebrated quartet, Titus Quinn meets an inevitable destiny, forced at last to make the unthinkable choice for or against the dictates of his heart, for or against the beloved land.
After three years in prison, Shadow has done his time. But as the days, then the hours, then the hours, then the seconds until his release tick away, he can feel a storm building. Two days before he gets out, his wife Laura dies in a mysterious car crash, in apparently adulterous circumstances. Dazed, Shadow travels home, only to encounter the bizarre Mr Wednesday claiming to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a very strange journey across the States, along the way solving the murders which have occurred every winter in one small American town. But they are being pursued by someone with whom Shadow must make his peace... Disturbing, gripping and profoundly strange, Neil Gaiman's epic new novel sees him on the road to finding the soul of America.
Mercenaries are a wonderful thing: they fight as you tell them, whom you tell them, and when you tell them, for nothing more precious or complicated than money. And Monzcarro Mercatto, and her brother (and lover) Benna Mercatto, are the two most successful, most popular, and most wealthy mercenaries in Styria...but wealthy, popular mercenaries are not such a good thing. In fact they're a downright dangerous thing. Which is why Grand Duke Orso of Styria arranges to have them dealt with. Permanently. With hindsight, he may come to consider this a tactical error. Through sheer good luck - which her brother doesn't share - Monzcarro survives the long and fatal drop Orso arranged for her, and staggers away from her encounter with a ruined right hand, an opium addiction ...and a plan to come back with a fortune, plenty of bladed weapons, and a single-minded determination to kill the seven men in the room when her brother was murdered. Preferably in as gruesome a manner as she can ...
Tension between the clans of the Black Road and the True Bloods is mounting, as each side in the conflict becomes ever more riven by internal dissent and disunity. And Aeglyss the na'kyrim continues to spread chaos in the world, exerting a dangerous, insidious influence over events both near and far. As events mount to a climax, the world will change and no side can anticipate the twisted pattern of what lies ahead.
The Wheel of Time turns, and Robert Jordan gives us the eleventh volume of his extraordinary masterwork of fantasy.
The dead are walking, men die impossible deaths, and it seems as though reality itself has become unstable: All are signs of the imminence of Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle, when Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, must confront the Dark One as humanity’s only hope. But Rand dares not fight until he possesses all the surviving seals on the Dark One’s prison and has dealt with the Seanchan, who threaten to overrun all nations this side of the Aryth Ocean and increasingly seem too entrenched to be fought off. But his attempt to make a truce with the Seanchan is shadowed by treachery that may cost him everything. Whatever the price, though, he must have that truce. And he faces other dangers. There are those among the Forsaken who will go to any length to see him dead--and the Black Ajah is at his side....
Unbeknownst to Rand, Perrin has made his own truce with the Seanchan. It is a deal made with the Dark One, in his eyes, but he will do whatever is needed to rescue his wife, Faile, and destroy the Shaido who captured her. Among the Shaido, Faile works to free herself while hiding a secret that might give her her freedom or cause her destruction. And at a town called Malden, the Two Rivers longbow will be matched against Shaido spears.
Fleeing Ebou Dar through Seanchan-controlled Altara with the kidnapped Daughter of the Nine Moons, Mat attempts to court the woman to whom he is half-married, knowing that she will complete that ceremony eventually. But Tuon coolly leads him on a merry chase as he learns that even a gift can have deep significance among the Seanchan Blood and what he thinks he knows of women is not enough to save him. For reasons of her own, which she will not reveal until a time of her choosing, she has pledged not to escape, but Mat still sweats whenever there are Seanchan soldiers near. Then he learns that Tuon herself is in deadly danger from those very soldiers. To get her to safety, he must do what he hates worse than work....
In Caemlyn, Elayne fights to gain the Lion Throne while trying to avert what seems a certain civil war should she win the crown....
In the White Tower, Egwene struggles to undermine the sisters loyal to Elaida from within....
The winds of time have become a storm, and things that everyone believes are fixed in place forever are changing before their eyes. Even the White Tower itself is no longer a place of safety. Now Rand, Perrin and Mat, Egwene and Elayne, Nynaeve and Lan, and even Loial, must ride those storm winds, or the Dark One will triumph.
Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...
Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.
What happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? In The Windup Girl, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi returns to the world of "The Calorie Man" ( Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winner, Hugo Award nominee, 2006) and "Yellow Card Man" (Hugo Award nominee, 2007) in order to address these poignant questions.
In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Now, assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person’s consciousness can be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or “sleeve”) making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen.
Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Dispatched one hundred eighty light-years from home, re-sleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco, now with a rusted, dilapidated Golden Gate Bridge), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that treats “existence” as something that can be bought and sold. For Kovacs, the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning. . .
What will future minstrels sing of the days leading up to the final battle?
They will sing of the Souleaters with their stained-glass wings, who feasted upon the life-essence of mankind and brought down the First Age of Kings. And of the army of martyrs that gathered to fight them, led by the world's last surviving witches. By fire and faith they herded the great beasts into an arctic prison, where the incessant cold and long winter's darkness would rob them of strength, and hopefully of life. And the gods themselves struck the earth with great Spears, it was said, erecting a barrier born of their Wrath which would hold any surviving Souleaters prisoner until the end of time. For forty generations the Wrath held strong, so that the Second Age of Kings could thrive. But it was not truly a divine creation, merely a construct of witches, and when it finally faltered the Souleaters began their invasion.
They will sing of the Magisters, undying sorcerers who wielded a power that seemed without limit, and of how they were bound by their Law to the fates of mortal men. But no minstrel will sing of the secret that lay at the heart of that dark brotherhood, for no mortal man who learned the truth would be allowed to live. The Magisters fueled their sorcery with the life-essence of human consorts, offering up the death of innocents to assure their own immortality. Perhaps that practice was what corrupted their spirits, so that they became innately hostile to their own kind. . .or perhaps there was another cause. Colivar alone seemed to know the truth, but even his most ancient and determined rival Ramirus had not yet been able to pry that information out of him.
They will sing of Kamala, a red-headed child destined for poverty and abuse in the slums of Gansang, who defied the fates and became the first female to learn the art of true sorcery. But her accidental murder of Magister Raven broke the brotherhood's most sacred Law, and even her reclusive mentor Ethanus dared not give her shelter any longer. Forced to masquerade as a witch, she traveled the world in search of some knowledge or artifact that she might barter for her safety, so that she could bear the title of Magister openly and claim her proper place in the brotherhood of sorcerers.
They will sing of Danton Aurelius, who ruled the High Kingdom with an iron fist until the traitor Kostas brought him down. They will craft lamentations for the two young princes who died alongside their father, even as they celebrate the courage of Queen Gwynofar in avenging her husband's death. Alas, it was not to be the end of her trials. For when prophecy summoned her to Alkali to search for the Throne of Tears, an ancient artifact that would awaken the lyr bloodline to its full mystical potential, the gods demanded her unborn child in sacrifice, and later her beloved half-brother, Rhys.
They will sing of the Witch-Queen Siderea Aminestas, mistress of Magisters and consort to kings, whom the sorcerers abandoned when her usefulness ended. And of the Souleater who saved her life, at the cost of her human soul. Vengeance burned bright in her heart the day she fled Sankara on the back of her jewel-winged consort, seeking a land where she could plant the seeds of a new and terrible empire.
They will sing of Salvator, third son of Danton Aurelius, who set aside the vows of a Penitent monk to inherit his father's throne, rejecting the power and the protection of the Magisters in the name of his faith. Songs will be crafted to tell how he was tested by demons, doubt, and the Witch-Queen herself, even while the leaders of his Church argued over how he might best be manipulated to serve their political interests.
And last of all they will sing of the confrontation that was still to come, in which fate of the Second Age of Kings -- and all of mankind -- would be decided. And those who hear their songs will wonder whether a prince-turned-monk-turned-king could really save the world, when the god that he worshiped might have been the one who called for its destruction in the first place.
- Alastair Reynolds' Chasm City (Canada, USA, Europe) Tanner Mirabel was a security specialist who never made a mistake - until the day a woman in his care was blown away by Argent Reivich, a vengeful young postmortal. Tanner's pursuit of Reivich takes him across light-years of space to Chasm City, the domed human settlement on the otherwise inhospitable planet of Yellowstone. But Chasm City is not what it was. The one-time high-tech utopia has become a Gothic nightmare: a nanotechnological virus has corrupted the city's inhabitants as thoroughly as it has the buildings and machines. Before the chase is done, Tanner will have to confront truths which reach back centuries, towards deep space and an atrocity history barely remembers.
Welcome to the future. Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.
Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer, Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.
In Ian Tregillis' The Coldest War, a precarious balance of power maintains the peace between Britain and the USSR. For decades, Britain's warlocks have been all that stands between the British Empire and the Soviet Union—a vast domain stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the English Channel. Now each wizard's death is another blow to Britain's national security.
Meanwhile, a brother and sister escape from a top-secret facility deep behind the Iron Curtain. Once subjects of a twisted Nazi experiment to imbue ordinary people with superhuman abilities, then prisoners of war in the immense Soviet research effort to reverse-engineer the Nazi technology, they head for England.
Because that's where former spy Raybould Marsh lives. And Gretel, the mad seer, has plans for him.
As Marsh is once again drawn into the world of Milkweed, he discovers that Britain's darkest acts didn't end with the war. And while he strives to protect queen and country, he is forced to confront his own willingness to accept victory at any cost.
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