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Some Books I’ve Read

For various reasons, which I won’t go into here, I haven’t been blogging much, or tweeting much, or tumbling much. Sorry! I have been doing things, though. I’ve read some books! And I recommend these particular ones to your attention.

Finder by Suzanne Palmer

Fergus Ferguson has been called a lot of names: thief, con artist, repo man. He prefers the term finder.

His latest job should be simple. Find the spacecraft Venetia’s Sword and steal it back from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power-hungry trade boss. He’ll slip in, decode the ship’s compromised AI security, and get out of town, Sword in hand.

Fergus locates both Gilger and the ship in the farthest corner of human-inhabited space, a backwater deep space colony called Cernee. But Fergus’ arrival at the colony is anything but simple. A cable car explosion launches Cernee into civil war, and Fergus must ally with Gilger’s enemies to navigate a field of space mines and a small army of hostile mercenaries. What was supposed to be a routine job evolves into negotiating a power struggle between factions. Even worse, Fergus has become increasingly—and inconveniently—invested in the lives of the locals.

It doesn’t help that a dangerous alien species Fergus thought mythical prove unsettlingly real, and their ominous triangle ships keep following him around.

Foolhardy. Eccentric. Reckless. Whatever he’s called, Fergus will need all the help he can get to take back the Sword and maybe save Cernee from destruction in the process.

This book is some good old-school adventure fun–lots of fights and explosions and suspense. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I gather it’s the first of a trilogy, so there’s more to look forward to!

The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall

She lived where the railway tracks met the saltpan, on the Ahri side of the shadowline. In the old days, when people still talked about her, she was known as the end-of-the-line woman.

In The Border Keeper, debut author Kerstin Hall unfolds a lyrical underworld narrative about loss and renewal.

Vasethe, a man with a troubled past, comes to seek a favor from a woman who is not what she seems, and must enter the nine hundred and ninety-nine realms of Mkalis, the world of spirits, where gods and demons wage endless war.

The Border Keeper spins wonders both epic—the Byzantine bureaucracy of hundreds of demon realms, impossible oceans, hidden fortresses—and devastatingly personal—a spear flung straight, the profound terror and power of motherhood. What Vasethe discovers in Mkalis threatens to bring his own secrets into light and throw both worlds into chaos.

This is lovely! In fact, I blurbed it. I said it was “”Beautifully and vividly imagined. Eerie, lovely, and surreal.”

Terminal Uprising by Jim Hines

Human civilization didn’t just fall. It was pushed.

The Krakau came to Earth in the year 2104. By 2105, humanity had been reduced to shambling, feral monsters. In the Krakau’s defense, it was an accident, and a century later, they did come back and try to fix us. Sort of.

It’s been four months since Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos learned the truth of that accident. Four months since she and her team of hygiene and sanitation specialists stole the EMCS Pufferfish and stopped a bioterrorism attack against the Krakau homeworld. Four months since she set out to find proof of what really happened on Earth all those years ago.

Between trying to protect their secrets and fighting the xenocidal Prodryans, who’ve been escalating their war against everyone who isn’t Prodryan, the Krakau have their tentacles full.

Mops’ mission changes when she learns of a secret Krakau laboratory on Earth. A small group under command of Fleet Admiral Belle-Bonne Sage is working to create a new weapon, one that could bring victory over the Prodryans … or drown the galaxy in chaos.

To discover the truth, Mops and her rogue cleaning crew will have to do the one thing she fears most: return to Earth, a world overrun by feral apes, wild dogs, savage humans, and worse. (After all, the planet hasn’t been cleaned in a century and a half!) What Mops finds in the filthy ruins of humanity could change everything, assuming she survives long enough to share it.

Perhaps humanity isn’t as dead as the galaxy thought.

This is the second book of Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse, and you want to start with Book 1, which is Terminal Alliance. Both books are great fun, and I’m looking forward to Book 3.

The True Queen by Zen Cho

When sisters Muna and Sakti wake up on the peaceful beach of the island of Janda Baik, they can’t remember anything, except that they are bound as only sisters can be. They have been cursed by an unknown enchanter, and slowly Sakti starts to fade away. The only hope of saving her is to go to distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal has established an academy to train women in magic.

If Muna is to save her sister, she must learn to navigate high society, and trick the English magicians into believing she is a magical prodigy. As she’s drawn into their intrigues, she must uncover the secrets of her past, and journey into a world with more magic than she had ever dreamed.

This is a delightful follow-up to the equally delightful Sorcerer to the Crown. I highly, highly recommend both.

Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan

All Bee has ever known is darkness.

She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet Colel-Cab with only fellow prisoner Chela for company. Chela says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. Bee has no reason to doubt her—until she hears the voice of another telepath, one who has answers, and can open her eyes to an entirely different truth.

I loved this novella. Vy’s written a lot of great short fiction, and if you’re not familiar with her work this would be a good time to remedy that.

Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein

If you ask, she must answer. A steerswoman’s knowledge is shared with any who request it; no steerswoman may refuse a question, and no steerswoman may answer with anything but the truth.

And if she asks, you must answer. It is the other side of tradition’s contract — and if you refuse the question, or lie, no steerswoman will ever again answer even your most casual question.

And so, the steerswomen — always seeking, always investigating — have gathered more and more knowledge about the world they traveled, and they share that knowledge freely.

Until the day that the steerswoman Rowan begins asking innocent questions about one small, lovely, inexplicable object…

Her discoveries grow stranger and deeper, and more dangerous, until suddenly she finds she must flee or fight for her life. Or worse — lie.

Because one kind of knowledge has always been denied to the steerswomen:

Magic.

Actually I didn’t just read The Steerswoman, I read all four books (currently) in the series. These were first published starting in the late eighties, but Kirstein has recovered the rights and reissued them. In the back of the last one it said she was working on book 5, which I hope is the case? I enjoyed these a lot.

On Liking Stuff (or not)

So, back when Ancillary Justice was essentially sweeping that year’s SF awards, there was some talk from certain quarters about it not really being all that, people only claimed to like it because Politics and SJWs and PC points and Affirmative Action and nobody was really reading the book and if they were they didn’t really enjoy it, they just claimed they did so they could seem cool and woke.

My feelings were so hurt that I wept bitter, miserable tears every time I drove to the bank with my royalty checks. I mean, those people must be right, it’s totally typical for non-fans who don’t actually like a book to write fanfic or draw fan art, totally boringly normal for students to choose to write papers about a book that just isn’t really very good or interesting, and for professors to use that boringly not-very-good book in their courses, and for that book to continue to sell steadily five years after it came out. I totally did not laugh out loud whenever I came across such assertions, because they were absolutely not ridiculous Sour Grape Vineyards tended by folks who, for the most part, hadn’t even read the book.

Now I am sorry–but not surprised–to see some folks making similar assertions about N.K. Jemisin’s historic (and entirely deserved) Hugo Threepeat. Most of them haven’t read the books in question.

But some of them have. Some of them have indeed read the books and not understood why so many people are so excited by them.

Now, Nora doesn’t need me to defend her, and she doesn’t need lessons from me about the best way to dry a tear-soaked award-dusting cloth, or the best brands of chocolate ice cream to fortify yourself for that arduous trip to the bank. Actually, she could probably give me some pointers.

But I have some thoughts about the idea that, because you (generic you) didn’t like a work, that must mean folks who say they did like it are Lying Liars Who Lie to Look Cool.

So, in order to believe this, one has to believe that A) one’s own taste is infallible and objective and thus universally shared and B) people who openly don’t share your taste are characterless sheep who will do anything to seem cool.

But the fact is, one doesn’t like or dislike things without context. We are all of us judging things from our own point of view, not some disembodied perfectly objective nowhere. It’s really easy to assume that our context is The Context–to not even see that there’s a context at all, it’s just How Things Are. But you are always seeing things from the perspective of your experiences, your biases, your expectations of how things work. Those may not match other people’s.

Of course, if you’re in a certain category–if you’re a guy, if you’re White, if you’re straight, if you’re cis–our society is set up to make that invisible, to encourage you in the assumption that the way you see things is objective and right, and not just a product of that very society. Nearly all of the readily available entertainment is catering to you, nearly all of it accepts and reinforces the status quo. If you’ve never questioned that, it can seem utterly baffling that people can claim to enjoy things that you see no value in. You’ll maybe think it makes sense to assume that such people are only pretending to like those things, or only like them for reasons you consider unworthy. It might not ever occur to you that some folks are just reading from a different context–sometimes slightly different, sometimes radically different, but even a small difference can be enough to make a work seem strange or bafflingly flat.

Now, I’m sure that there are people somewhere at some time who have in fact claimed to like a thing they didn’t, just for cool points. People will on occasion do all kinds of ill-advised or bananapants things. But enough of them to show up on every SF award shortlist that year? Enough to vote for a historic, record-breaking three Hugos in a row? Really?

Stop and think about what you’re saying when you say this. Stop and think about who you’re not saying it about.

You might not have the context to see what a writer is doing. When you don’t have the context, so much is invisible. You can only see patterns that match what you already know.*

Of course, you’re not a helpless victim of your context–you can change it, by reading other things and listening to various conversations. Maybe you don’t want to do that work, which, ok? But maybe a lot of other folks have indeed been doing that, and their context, the position they’re reading stories from, has shifted over the last several years. It’s a thing that can happen.

Stop and think–you’ve gotten as far as “everyone must be kind of like me” and stepped over into “therefore they can’t really like what they say they like because I don’t like those things.” Try on “therefore they must really mean it when they say they like something, because I mean it when I say it.” It’s funny, isn’t it, that so many folks step into the one and not the other. Maybe ask yourself why that is.

This also applies to “pretentious” writing. “That writer is only trying to look smart! Readers who say they like it are only trying to look smarter that me, a genuine,honest person, who only likes down-to-earth plain solid storytelling.” Friend, your claims to be a better and more honest person because of your distaste for “pretentious” writing is pretension itself, and says far more about you than the work you criticize this way. You are exactly the sort of snob you decry, and you have just announced this to the world.

Like or don’t like. No worries. It’s not a contest, there’s no moral value attached to liking or not liking a thing. Hell, there are highly-regarded things I dislike, or don’t see the appeal of! There are things I love that lots of other folks don’t like at all. That’s life.

And sure, if you want to, talk about why you do or don’t like a thing. That’s super interesting, and thoughtful criticism is good for art.

But think twice before you sneer at what other folks like, think three times before you declare that no one could really like a thing so it must be political correctness, or pretension, or whatever. Consider the possibility that whatever it is is just not your thing. Consider the possibility that it might be all right if not everything is aimed at you. Consider that you might not actually be the center of the universe, and your opinions and tastes might not be the product of your utterly rational objective view of the world. Consider the possibility that a given work might not have been written just for you, but for a bunch of other people who’ve been waiting for it, maybe for a long time, and that might just possibly be okay.

____
*Kind of like the way some folks insist my Ancillary trilogy is obviously strongly influenced by Iain Banks (who I’d read very little of, and that after AJ was already under way) and very few critics bring up the influence of C.J. Cherryh (definitely there, deliberate, and there are several explicit hat tips to her work in the text). Those folks have read Banks, but they haven’t read Cherryh. They see something that isn’t there, and don’t see what is there, because they don’t have the same reading history I do. It’s interesting to me how many folks assume I must have the same reading history as they do. It’s interesting to me how sure they are of their conclusions.

Some things I’ve read recently

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Or, maybe not that recently, I am very behind.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Look, you should just read this. Rivers is nominated for the Campbell (Not a Hugo) this year on the strength of this book. It would have been an entirely worthy Best Novel finalist, quite frankly. I was late to it partly because I have lots of things to read and very little time to do it in, and also because I was aware that it would be a difficult read–as in, full of violence and death and heartbreak. That’s all true. This is a fabulous book.

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Read this one, too!

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless – people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

I read an ARC of this, it’s out in September. Seriously, it’s excellent.

Langue[dot]doc 1305 by Gillian Polack

When a team of Australian scientists–and a lone historian–travel back to St-Guilhem-le-Désert in 1305 they discover being impartial, distant and objective just doesn’t work when you’re surrounded by the smells, dust and heat of a foreign land. They’re only human after all.

But by the time Artemisia is able to convince others that it’s time to worry, it’s already too late

I have to admit I’m mostly not a fan of time travel stories. For various reasons, but this one really worked for me, not least because Gillian is an actual historian.

Also, since I’m actually really, truly done with revisions on The Raven Tower, I decided to indulge myself and actually…re-read a book! Which I haven’t been able to do for a very long time, even though I used to read favorites over and over again, way back in the day. Anyway, I went back and read The Goblin Emperor again and it was just as good the second time, if not better.

Things I’ve Read (cont’d)

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I haven’t been blogging much lately–being busy will do that! I’ve turned in a book to my editors, and am waiting for the inevitable moment when I’ll have revisions to do, and in the meantime I’m working on another project, and I’ve been doing Stuff. Like, look at this shiny thing I made!

I took some lessons from Elise Matheson, who is a fabulous teacher.

Anyway! I’ve also managed to read some things!

The Waterdancer’s World by L. Timmel Duchamp

I’m not sure I can do better than the description at Aqueduct Press: “Humans have been struggling to live on Frogmore for almost five centuries, adapting themselves to punishing gravity and the deadly mistflowers that dominate its ecology. Financier Inez Gauthier, patron of the arts and daughter of the general commanding the planet’s occupation forces, dreams of eliminating the mistflowers that make exploitation of the planet’s natural wealth so difficult and impede her father’s efforts to crush the native insurgency. Fascinated by the new art-form of waterdancing created by Solstice Balalzalar celebrating the planet’s indigenous lifeforms, Inez assumes that her patronage will be enough to sustain Solstice’s art even as she ruthlessly pursues windfall profits at the expense of all that has made waterdancing possible.”

The review at Strange Horizons suggests a theoretical subgenre called “realistic space opera” within which tWDW might fit, and that rings true to me. It’s about fateful events in the history of Frogmore, but it tells its story almost entirely in terms of the interactions and choices of individual characters. I found it compelling reading.

Which didn’t surprise me–some years ago I bought a copy of Alanya to Alanya in the dealers room at Wiscon, figuring it was a nice hefty book that might take me some time to read, and if I enjoyed it I’d buy the second volume the next year. Once I picked it up, though, I couldn’t put it down, and it only took me a few days to finish reading it. And then I really really wished I had the next book on hand, so next Wiscon I just bought the rest of them in a big stack, and read them in a couple of weeks.

The Waterdancer’s World isn’t so (literally) voluminous (or quite so viscerally upsetting, as the Marq’ssan books are in places, to me), and is maybe a more manageable introduction to Duchamp’s writing.

The Beautiful Ones by Siliva Moreno-Garcia

Y’all should be reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia, if you aren’t already. This particular book is a romance, set in a Not Quite France where some people are born with telekinetic ability–ladies never indulge it in public, of course. If you enjoy the Regency-ish Romances With Magic kind of thing, you’ll want to check this out. I enjoyed it a lot.

And then maybe check out Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s other work, because, seriously.

Some things I’ve read lately

Yes, it’s time again for Some Stuff I Have Read and Liked Recently. As always–I am not a reviewer or any sort of critic, and I’m not going to try to be one.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Ever since I heard that Nisi was not only working on a steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo, but that she had gone and sold that novel to Tor, I’ve been eager to read this. I finally got around to it, and I highly recommend it. It’s pretty epic, really, it covers a couple decades in time, from the POVs of a wide variety of characters. Seriously, check this out if you haven’t already.

Transcendent 2: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction edited by Bogi Takács

This is a nice anthology of short fiction by authors I’m already a fan of–like Charlie Jane Anders, Keffy Kehrli, and An Owomoyela–as well as authors I’m very happy to be introduced to. I’ve read way too little short fiction lately, and this was an enjoyable first step toward remedying that.

The Palm Wine Drinkard and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola

These two books were first published in the 1950s and have not always been well-regarded. In the first, the narrator is a young man devoted to drinking palm wine. The person who works tapping palms to bring him that wine dies, and the narrator goes looking for Dead’s Town so he can find the man and bring him back. In the second, a young boy is separated from his family and ends up in the bush, where he encounters lots of dangerous supernatural creatures. Both are picaresque, their plots essentially one adventure after another, and both are told in the first person in a way that feels to me very much as though these stories were meant to be read or spoken aloud. They were written in a variety of English that may take a few pages to get familiar with, but once it’s in your ear it just goes nicely and enjoyably along. I couldn’t find an ebook version, and my nearby libraries didn’t have it,so I bought a used paper copy. It may be in a library near you!

BONUS the title of the second novel in this volume may seem familiar if you’ve heard of the Brian Eno and David Byrne album of the same name. If you haven’t heard it, or heard of it, give it a listen.

Things I’ve Read

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I’ve read some things lately that I enjoyed!

I got an advance copy of Emergence, the next volume in C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series. Look, I’m a longtime fan of these, and I enjoyed the heck out of this one. If you’ve read the previous volumes, you’ll enjoy this one. If you haven’t, DO NOT START THE SERIES HERE. Give Foreigner a go–that’s the first volume–and see what you think.

I’m kind of behind schedule on reading A Matter of Oaths by Helen S Wright. Well, it’s not out until November 23–but it was first published in 1988, and was apparently available for free on the author’s website for a while. This is fun, quick-moving adventury space opera–and this new edition has an introduction by Becky Chambers. There are immortal Space Emperors–two of them!–and a pilots guild, and romance. One major character is an older woman, and another major character has been memory-wiped and has a Mysterious Past. The original cover was whitewashed, a mistake the new publisher has fortunately avoided. I really enjoyed reading it, you might, too.

I’ve not read as much short fiction as I’d like–certainly not as much as I used to–so I’m behind in catching up with Rose Lemberg’s Birdverse stories. This summer Beneath Ceaseless Skies published their story “A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power” (that’s part 1, part two is linked at the end of the page), which I only recently read, and I highly recommend it. This is kind of a bonus, because it’s right there on the web, and much shorter than a novel! And they have plenty of other published fiction (the Birdverse stories are marked as such in that list, if you’d like those in particular). They also have a Patreon.

Things I’ve read

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Hey, it’s time for a few things I’ve read and enjoyed recently!

First up, the paired novellas The Red Threads of Fortune and The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang. This pair of novellas can, I gather, be read in whatever order you like, but if you’ve got a thing about reading stories in story-chronological order, start with Black Tides. This is some excellent fantasy. Each volume centers on one of a pair of twins, children of a powerful ruler who gave birth to them in order to pay a debt to the Grand Monastery. They both learn to manipulate the Slack, the force that underlies all nature, but one, Mokoya, can see the future. Sometimes. Oh, also, Mokoya rides a dinosaur. You want to read these. Seriously.

I also scored an advance copy of John Hodgman’s Vacationland. This is autobiographical, and if you enjoy Hodgman’s humor, you’ll enjoy this. I do, and I did. It’s also, in places, quite sincere and not particularly funny, intentionally so. It’s out today, I think. Oh, and if you listen to podcasts but you’re not listening to Judge John Hodgman, you might find it an excellent addition to your regular lineup. Judge John Hodgman always manages to give clear-sighted and compassionate verdicts, despite holding incorrect opinions in the matter of the sandwichness of hot dogs.

When I’m in the middle of a project, I often want something to read that’s fairly light and definitely not the sort of thing I’m working on. I find that often classics work–Jane Austen is particularly helpful to me at such times–but historical romances often work nicely. I’d seen a few folks mention enjoying Spectered Isle by K.J. Charles, and it was a whole five bucks, so I figured I’d give it a go. I enjoyed it! It’s set in England in the 1920s, and, well,

Archaeologist Saul Lazenby has been all but unemployable since his disgrace during the War. Now he scrapes a living working for a rich eccentric who believes in magic. Saul knows it’s a lot of nonsense…except that he begins to find himself in increasingly strange and frightening situations. And at every turn he runs into the sardonic, mysterious Randolph Glyde.

Randolph is the last of an ancient line of arcanists, commanding deep secrets and extraordinary powers as he struggles to fulfil his family duties in a war-torn world. He knows there’s something odd going on with the haunted-looking man who keeps turning up in all the wrong places. The only question for Randolph is whether Saul is victim or villain.

Saul hasn’t trusted anyone in a long time. But as the supernatural threat grows, along with the desire between them, he’ll need to believe in evasive, enraging, devastatingly attractive Randolph. Because he may be the only man who can save Saul’s life—or his soul.

It was a really enjoyable read! And there appear to be others in the same series, or universe, or whatever, so I might very well pick one of them up next time I need an entertaining break.

Books I’ve Read

Some books I’ve recently read and enjoyed! As always, none of this comes close to anything like a review, because reviewing isn’t a thing I’m good at.

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

Dr. Greta Helsing (yes, she’s related) specializes in treating London’s supernatural denizens–people whose safety might be at risk if most Londoners knew they existed, and who might not get any sort of healthcare otherwise. It’s not going to make her rich, and it’s difficult enough with her small practice to care for vampires, mummies, ghouls, and…other sorts of creatures, without someone going around trying to kill her patients.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, and am looking forward to the next installment. You can read the first chapter here.

Ack Ack Macaque by Gareth Powell

It took me way too long to read this, but that gives you some idea of how out of control my TBR stack is. Back in 2014 I was absolutely tickled when Ack Ack Macaque tied with Ancillary Justice for the Best Novel BSFA, and I was really glad to be able to meet Gareth in person at Worldcon later that year. Now I’ve finally read this! It was a lot of fun. In the wake of WW2, France and Britain have unified–look, just go with it, ok?–and a hundred years later there are nuclear powered airships, and actual monkey Ack Ack Macaque is the central character of an amazingly popular online multiplayer game. In the non-game real world, murders and skulduggery are happening and the very survival of everyone on Earth is at stake. This book is great fun, a quick, compelling read. I’m putting the sequels on my ever-growing TBR pile.

The Course of Honour by Avoliot

Okay, this one is kind of a bonus. As in, it’s free! You can click that link and find the Download button (up there in the righthand corner) and nab a copy in your favorite ebook format. Or, you know, you can read a chapter right here on your screen, and then click on to the next at whatever pace.

I want to thank Liz Bourke for tweeting about this, because I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I’ve said before that I’m not much for category romance (though I do enjoy them now and again), but the fact is I’m a sucker for a good Arranged Marriage/Fake Marriage plot. And this was a good one! Jainan was married to Prince Taam of Iskat–a marriage arranged for political reasons, and when Taam suddenly dies [ahem] accidentally, the Emperor of Iskat declares that party-loving Prince Kiem will step up. And…look, I’ll just paste in the “additional tags” here, so you’ll see what you’re getting into:

Romance, Slow Burn, Arranged Marriage, Pining, past abusive relationship, space princes, Court Politics, Emotional Hurt/Comfort

Space princes. I mean. Seriously. Give it a look, and maybe leave some kudos if you like it.

Recent Reading

Some things I’ve read recently!

The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata

If you didn’t read Nagata’s The Red Trilogy, well, you might want to consider doing so. But whether you have or you haven’t–The Last Good Man is near-future military sf. It’s tense and compelling, and features a middle-aged woman protagonist, an ex-Army pilot who now works for a private military company. During a rescue mission she discovers something that casts a new and disturbing light on an event that she’d thought, well, not safely in the past, but over and done with and accurately understood. But she wants the truth, no matter the cost. If near future and/or military is your jam, don’t miss this.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

This is volume 1 of the Murderbot Diaries, and I suspect a certain percentage of my readers don’t need to hear anything more. Go, purchase, download! You will enjoy this.

Murderbot is a SecUnit–a security android, part organic part mechanical, that isn’t supposed to have any sort of free will. It does, though, and having achieved that free will it secretly names itself Murderbot and then works hard to hide its freedom of thought from the corporation that owns it. It doesn’t actually want to murder anyone, though. It just wants to be left alone to watch its stories. Unfortunately, someone is trying to kill the humans Murderbot has been tasked to protect.

I’m not kidding, I can almost guarantee that my readers will enjoy this. I have already pre-ordered volume 2, which is out in January.

Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns

So, Lesbian Space Pirates. Out at the end of October. That may be all I need to say.

Or not. Our heroines hijack a colony ship in a bid to join a famous band of space pirates–only to discover the pirates are not, as widely believed, hiding out on Barbary Station rolling in money and loot, but are in fact trapped there by the station’s renegade AI. Why is the AI doing what it’s doing? Is it conscious? Does it matter when it’s trying to kill you?

This book is good fun. Set in the Solar System, lots of action, I really enjoyed this, and I bet you will, too.

Some Books I’ve Read

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So, there are a lot of books that strike me as interesting and I want to make time to read them, and also I get sent quite a few books by folks hoping I’ll read them in time to blurb them. Spoiler: I rarely am able to read things in time for the blurb deadline! But I still like to say something about books I’ve enjoyed reading. Here’s the latest batch!

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

This won the Clarke last year! So I figured it’d be good.

It is good! I enjoyed this a lot. The last remnants of humanity find a terraformed planet! It was supposed to be seeded with primates who would be infected with a virus that would uplift them. There was an accident, though, and the primates never arrived. But the spiders were already there, so…

I enjoyed the onworld stuff from the spider POVs more than I did the stuff with humans on the ship. A lot of that was, I think, due to the constraints of setting and worldbuilding. I think I’d have some difficulty balancing those two settings, while also definitely wanting the inherent contrast they presented (heck, I’d probably want to set it up that way so there was that inherent contrast, to be honest, but the spiders were so cool that the ship humans were going to have to work awfully hard to compete). I highly recommend this book, even if you’ve got a thing about spiders. (Yes, actually, I am not a fan of spiders. I mean, I’m glad in the abstract that they exist, they eat bugs yay, the webs are pretty, biodiversity is good &c &c but on the level of the concrete and the specific, they have too many legs and are buggy and I would like them to stay far away from me please, thank you.)

Amatka by Karen Tidbeck

This isn’t out yet! You can read it starting June 27, and I recommend that you lay your hands on a copy. I managed to just miss the blurbing deadline on this, sadly, sorry!

This is a weird little book. Brilars’ Vanja Essre Two is assigned to visit the colony of Amatka to research what kinds of hygiene products they might want to buy. Nothing too weird about that, right? Except Vanja’s name, but it’s quickly clear that this is a setting in which it’s vitally important that everyone agree on what everything is and call it what it’s supposed to be called. Because otherwise…well, that’s where things start getting weird. I’d say more, but this is one of those books where the gradual unfolding of what’s going on is part of the effect and I don’t want to mess with that. It’s compelling and disturbing and totally worth reading.

Pilot Down Presumed Dead by Marjorie Phleger

All right, this is kind of cheating. This book was published in 1963, and I got it as a gift when I was 9 or 10 and I loved it. Read it multiple times. I mostly read SFF at that age, and was largely uninterested in non-SFF books, but this one was just super gripping. Basically, small plane pilot Steve Ferris gets caught in a storm and is forced to put down on a little uncharted island. Wrecks his plane and spends the rest of the book surviving, trying to get the occasional passing ship to notice him, and ultimately attempting to get back to the mainland under his own power. In retrospect, I think it shares a number of features with the SFnal books I was already reading–much if not all of the plot is problem-solving and/or bits of exploration and exposition.

A friend of mine is a Montessori teacher and a while ago we were talking about how she’s always looking for cool things to read to her Lower Elementary kids and I remembered PDPD and suggested that it might be just the sort of thing she was looking for. SPOILER turns out the kids are loving it.

I picked up a used copy–my original copy is long gone–and gave it a read. Took me maybe two hours. Its written very simply, but the descriptions are vivid enough that some of the images have stayed with me for forty years. If you know a ten year old (or thereabouts) who’s looking for a good, engaging read, this book is a good bet.