Longtime MG bookseller Patrick reads the best of speculative fiction from hard science fiction to space opera and from epic to modern fantasy ... and the occasional mystery. If it has a cutting edge plot and fully-realized characters, he's there. Of course a brief Apocalypse/Singularity once in a while or an interesting concept or even the occasional BIG explosion is always welcome.
(Sketch by Batton Lash; Comic-Con picture [l-r] Silvia Mancini, Sam Weller, Ray Bradbury!!, Patrick, Lori Tucker; Patrick again.)
The action starts immediately after the events in Pacific Fire (so stop here if you’re not caught up). Sam’s an out-of-control dragon and Daniel will move Heaven and Earth (almost literally) to get him back … with the willing help of his loyal friends and the only-partially willing help of a certain water mage with designs of his own. So it’s off to the Northern realm to steal the dragon, or more accurately, to rescue Sam. Simple. (To say more would be spoilery.)
Friends, family, golems, lend me your ears/eyes/bones … and enjoy a little masquerade, a stylish caper, and a brief game of thrones (win, or die). Dragon Coast is quite the apt ending to the trilogy, but I spy with my little eye an open door or two, so we might (if we’re lucky and the Earth don’t crack) see more of our favorite osteomancer and his band of merry cohorts in some future incarnation. Can’t wait to feast on that.
Peter Caswell is a programmable assassin, and a pretender of the highest rank. He can go anywhere, be anyone, and do or kill anything … and be back in time to forget the whole thing. He lives in the moment and moments are his life. His current mission has him chasing the only surviving crew member of a missing spaceship, a women who has apparently murdered the rest of her crew and then fled through a wormhole to an alternate Earth, a world eerily similar and yet wholly more dangerous than the one he left behind. Good thing he’s got skills. He’s going to need every last one of them, for all is not as it seems.
Melni Tavan is the perfect foil for Caswell, a Southern spy posing as a Northern reporter to be privy to all of the action. Like Caswell, she’s a smooth operator. Her current mission is to gather intelligence on the newly acquired technology so prevalent in the North, and on its inventor, a woman with knowledge far more advanced than any that existed before. Without this knowledge, the South is doomed. She’ll get that knowledge or eliminate the threat, for she has a few skills of her own.
Caswell is a mix of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne and Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs … on steroids and with advanced tech, and perhaps a dash of Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” while Tavan is badass of a different stripe, more a cross between La Femme Nikita and Peter Hamilton’s Paula Myo. Together they are a force to be reckoned with that will shake the very foundations of several universes. Hough’s characters are fully realized and multi-dimensional (get it?) … and his alternate world-building, and the subtle language differences for that world, are way beyond the ordinary. Highly recommended and August’s Fantastic First for Speculative Fiction. Don’t be a blixxing loon, grab a roller and till on down to Mysterious Galaxy and order a copy. Gratitude!
But wait, there’s more! A bonus novella, “The Dire Earth,” a 125-page prequel to that trilogy, can be found at the end of Zero World. Sweet!
All you really need to know, right? But wait, there’s more. Seems aliens are on the way, and our world’s governments have known about it for over forty years. Conspiracy! All of the science fiction movies, TV shows, and video games we’ve enjoyed over the years have been preparing us to fight this Menace from Outer Space! There have been massive hints too: just play Space Invaders, read Ender’s Game, or watch The Last Starfighter! Obvious! How could we all have been so blind?!
"Greetings, Starfighter! You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada!"
It all comes to a head when Zack Lightman sees the alien scout ship from his classroom window. He thinks he’s switched his flip. But no! Seems Armada, the awesome video game he’s been playing so awesomely, is actually a simulator … and he’s about to be recruited to save the Earth!
“Wanna go for a ride?”
This book was written by a die-hard science fiction fan for die-hard science fiction fans. Like Ready Player One, Armada is chock full of every reference you could shake a stick at and, more than likely, a few you’ll miss in your desire to turn the page to see what new adventure awaits you. It reads like a movie script, and what a movie it would be. Beam me up, Scotty! That said, Armada is not another Ready Player One, but it is just as much fun, written in our very science-fiction-loving DNA. Who among us hasn’t dreamt of being recruited to save a galaxy far far away? So say we all! And who knows, perhaps Armada is just another level in Earth’s invasion preparation. Time to level up and take names.
“The Force will be with you. Always.”
So run, don’t walk to Mysterious Galaxy. Be the first kid on your block to get a shiny new copy of this most awesome book of awesomeness. You'll laugh, you'll cry. It'll change your life! And …
Sixteen-year-old Lia Johansen arrives on New Sol Space Station a refugee and war orphan, but she is not exactly what she seems. She remembers little of her past, nor if she is entirely human. All she knows is her mission. Lia Johansen is bomb, engineered to go Nova in 36 hours, and the clock is ticking. Then it is not. Malfunction. Now she needs some answers, and a reason to go on … before she goes off. Even a dud can be dangerous if it’s rattled too much.
Exploring what it means to be human through the unlikely eyes of a piece of unexploded ordnance, Nova is the truly remarkable first volume in a series of five interconnected novels of interstellar war that will appeal to adults young and old … a novel quite worthy of Robert A. Heinlein and Philip K. Dick … and your time. Trust me, don’t miss this one. More glorious than you could possibly imagine.
The setting is the Martial Empire, a dominion full of legionnaires, centurions, supernatural creatures, and people longing to be free … and lots of beatings. The story is told from two points of view. Young Laia is the orphaned daughter of the dead resistance leader. To save her brother from a fate most dire, she has agreed to masquerade as a slave and to spy on the truly evil Commandant of Blackcliff, the woman responsible for her parents’ deaths … and, apparently, to receive regular beatings. Elias, on the other hand, is an unwilling cadet at Blackcliff Academy, a conscript really, and son of said truly evil Commandant. All he wants is out, but before he can graduate and make his escape he is forced to enter the Trials, during which he will be relentlessly tested to determine if he is suitable to be the next emperor, and so he must endure … and survive all of the beatings. Think of this powerful novel as a mash-up of Cinderella and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as perhaps written by George RR Martin (not graphic!), with, of course, all of the relevant love, intrigue, magic … and inherent beatings. Sabaa Tahir’s debut is extraordinary, compelling, and beautifully written. Do not miss this one. Truly.
The Emperor is dead. The empire he built on blood and fire is crumbling. Many vie for control of what remains. From this maelstrom, two legendary figures emerge: one a giant warlord, the other a schemer of the highest rank. Once they were like brothers, but now jealousy, ambition, and differing views on what constitutes a leader have divided them.
The Grace of Kings is a fantastic retelling of the rebellions and wars that led to the founding of the Han Dynasty in ancient China, a fantastic world where gods walk amongst mortals, and where those very mortals fight for power, or to simply live their lives in peace. Liu has a very visual style, using prose to paint vivid characters and action. Moreover, he’s an excellent storyteller. I could well imagine a grandfather telling this story over a campfire over many successive nights. Can’t wait for the next volume!
This is the fourth book of The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett that started with The Warded Man, an excellent series for those who’ve enjoyed the works of Brent Weeks, Scott Lynch, and Patrick Rothfuss.
While the Deliverers are away, their peoples will play. Jardir and Arlen have vanished, off to take their war to the core. In the south, the sons of Jardir vie for the Skull Throne, but is anyone worthy to ascend to the Seventh Step? Can Inevera keep their sons and her people from civil war? In the north, Leesha and Rojer struggle to bring the northern peoples together against those of Krasia, but do a ward witch and a fiddle wizard have a core’s hope of keeping all of the jealously, court intrigue, and political machinations at bay long enough to complete their mission? All must come together to face the night, for night is when the demons come. All must unite or die in darkness. Brett’s world and its people are so three-dimensional and well-realized that I often find myself lost there, drawn in to my core. Deliver me.
“The enemy of my enemy is not always a friend.” Humanity has been conquered and pacified … for its own good. There are many big-bads out there in the ocean of night, and Earth is chock-full of willing and unwilling recruits, cannon fodder, meat for the grinder. Meet Devlin, one of the not-so willing variety. Circumstance has placed our hero in uniform and posted to Icarus Crater for training, dark side of the moon, babies. Hell of a life. Nightmare aliens throwing everything they can think of at you, seemingly trying to kill you. And these are supposed to be the good guys.
For fans of Starship Troopers, Ender’s Game, and perhaps Old Man’s War, though the recruits at Icarus are far from old, nor are they expected to get much older. One helluva fast-paced and fun Saturday afternoon read, old school action and adventure at its best. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next installment. Grab a copy and suit up, apes! You wanna live forever?
April 2015's Fantastic First SF PBO Out of This World Originals Pick
Finn Gramaraye is a necromancer. And a Talker … he can talk to the dead. But, as everyone knows, all magic comes with a price. And before he could really even figure it all out, he was tossed into fey jail by the Arcana Ruling Council for a crime he didn’t commit. Now, twenty-five years later, he’s out, in trouble up to his third eye, and on the hunt to clear his name. No easy task. How does one conquer the modern world when one’s knowledge comes from the 80’s? He’s going to need help and lots of it. Only trouble here is that help comes from his motley family and a former Arcane Enforcer who doesn’t believe he’s innocent. Take a Harry Potter-like sub rosa magic world, sprinkle in a bunch or Harry Dresden, a pinch of Sandman Slim … and then add a dash of Ready Player One.
Karen Memery (like memory, but not spelt the same) ain't your average seamstress. Oh, she sews, sure, (and oh what a sewing machine it is!) but most of her nightly work involves men and is more horizontal-like. When her normal life gets set all asunder by nefarious happenstance, she bucks tradition and takes life by the reins … and no bastard and his mind control machine, nor no murdering psychopath is gonna stop her from protecting hers. Life in Rapid City ain’t easy for a woman, especially one friends with a pants-wearing female liberator, a black marshal and his Indian (Comanche) posse man, and an Indian (from India) girlfriend.
Karen Memory (the novel) is quite a fun ride. A sort of Deadwood meets Jack the Ripper in a steam-powered gold rush old west era version of the Parasol Protectorate. And Karen Memery herself is a little piece of colorful awesomeness.
For six years, Master Sergeant Frank Nolan Sage has been training soldiers far from the war, his “reward” for being a good soldier and not dying. Feeling his talents wasted churning out meat for the grinder, he wrangles his way to Makaum, a jungle planet where nearly every bit of flora and fauna is deadly. And as if the planet itself wasn’t bad enough, he must also contend with corporate weasels, hostile alien species, biopirates, and last but not least, the local humans who’ve adapted to, or been evolved by, the planet. Life isn’t easy in the Green Hell, but Sage was born for war and lives to fight. He will whip his troops into shape and kick some righteous behind, and nothing, not even idiotic politicos, nor unpolished brass, will stop him. A grizzled veteran, awesome tech, and few hundred pages of glorious mayhem make this one a winner.
Bloody-gory-damn hell! Where does one begin? As anyone I’ve talked to in the past year knows, I loved Red Rising. So how in the seven hells could Pierce possibly top it? I won’t go into great detail here lest I ruin your surprise, but he did it. Really.
Imagine some mad genius managed to meld the magnificent bits and pieces that make classics like A Game of Thrones and Dune so damn spectacular into something that is at once similar and yet remarkably different. This, dear friends, is merely the beginning of Golden Son. Ever read a book so enthralling that you didn’t want to put it down to eat or sleep? This is such a novel.
If Red Rising was Star Wars, then Golden Son is The Empire Strikes Back. In short and spoiler-free, our Darrow continues his quest to make Eo’s dream a reality, and no one, not even himself, nor any Machiavellian/Arrakeen/Westerosi plot, will stop him. Golden Son starts with a bang. Then the action builds and builds and builds, never letting up, page after relentless page. Just when you think you might get a breather, Pierce kicks it up a notch. Glorious. Laugh, cry, cheer, then curse the author for making you wait for the inevitable resolution/revolution. I’m sorry I can’t put this book in your hands this minute, and I envy you reading it for the first time. Gorydamn brilliant.
Ten years later. Ten years following the death of the Hierarch. Ten years after Daniel Blackland ate half of the Hierarch’s heart. Ten years after escaping with the Hierarch’s golem, a golem now known as Sam, and an osteomancer in his own right. He and Daniel have been on the run since then, never in one place long enough to be caught. Always on the lookout for those who would consume Sam for his power. But strange things are afoot in the Kingdom of Southern California and a quest is in the offing. Nothing will keep our young heroes from their appointed rounds. It seems that Daniel and Sam can no longer fight their destinies. Here there be dragon! I loved California Bones, the first in the series, and its sequel doesn’t disappoint. Yum! I can’t wait for number three. For fans of Jim Butcher, Ben Aaronovich, and Richard Kadrey.
Comparisons to Starship Troopers are inevitable, so let’s get them out of the way. Yes, Unbreakable is quite similar to the Heinlein classic, less the bugs, but it is also so much more. Aside from the obvious gender swap, Promise Paen’s sensibilities are a bit deeper than those of Heinlein’s Johnny Rico, and her motivations are far more personal. After witnessing her father’s murder at the hands of raiders on the colony planet Montana, Promise joins the Republic of Aligned Worlds Marine Corp … and swiftly becomes a serious bad-ass, and a leader of marines. When duty takes her to her home planet, Promise is hailed as a hero, but she is not one to rest on any laurels, especially when she’s outnumbered and outgunned and in more than considerable harm’s way … and haunted by the ghost of her long-dead mother. Military science fiction at its best, with shades of Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and a dash of awesome tech … and a significant amount of mayhem.
The day after tomorrow an alien species Transcends on our doorstep and leaves their toys behind – loaded guns in the hands of a bunch of children who shouldn’t be trusted. Humans: from species on the way out one day, to intergalactic interlopers the next. A century or so later and … “These are the voyages of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms, to boldly blow the…” Turns out the universe is just chock-full of idiots … and we fit right in. Herein lay the exploits of our intrepid captain and crew as they prove once and for all that fools can rush in, wreak havoc, and come out smelling like a rose. The author’s great love for a certain 60s television series is extremely evident in this farce.
Once more into the Void, dear friends, and let slip the mods of war. The Void still threatens the Commonwealth and it’s up to one of its founding fathers, Nigel Sheldon, to investigate … from within. But humans are not the only intelligent beings in the Void. The Fallers, mimics beyond compare, are also there, and they mean to destroy humanity utterly, and even Void-provided superpowers have little effect on their particular malevolence. The Fallers, however, do offer some hope. Unlocking their secrets may just lead to a means to destroy the Void … if Nigel can just uncover it on a world ruled by useless and corrupt leaders. Time to foment a bit of insurrection ... followed by the real challenge: Dominating the Void itself. Part one of a reported two, Peter Hamilton never fails to bring the awesome, thus cementing his status as one of my favorite authors.
War is Hell. War on Mars is Hell-times-Hellas. Master Sergeant Michael Venn is a veteran of this particular brand of Hell. As a Skyrine, a spacefaring Marine, he has survived many a drop on the Red. When the Gurus announced their presence and gave humanity many a present, they also gave us a warning: they were not the only extraterrestrial beings in our solar system. The Antags, short for antagonists, were also here, and Mars was their current objective. Now Venn and company have boots on the ground, little intel, and a whole lot of hurt on their doorstep. Their only hope may lie with the enigmatic humans who first settled Mars … and with a secret of galactic proportions. Military SF, action and adventure, and a whole lot of thought-provoking complexity make this one a real winner … even if it is only the first of a reported trilogy.
Following the harrowing events of The 5th Wave, Cassie, Sammy, Zombie, Ringer, and their comrades are struggling to survive. The human world has been devastated. Billions are dead. Mankind is on the way out. Or is it? Hope, though but a tiny spark, still exists. Like our young heroes, the remnants of humanity watch the falling skies, praying that the edge of tomorrow doesn’t bring them oblivion. I can’t give you much (no spoilers!), but I can tell you that The Infinite Sea takes The 5th Wave ball and runs with it, and then jams it down your baby sister’s throat. Take all of the augmented teen angst you can handle, and then add a sprinkle of good old fashioned betrayal, a few enigmatic aliens, and the end of the world as you know it. Oh, and let us not forget rats of all kinds. It’s always about the rats.
In Impulse we met Cent, teenage daughter of Jumpers Davy and Millie … and experienced the angst of going to a new school, meeting people, falling in love, and running … okay, jumping … away from some really bad guys. Now she’s set her sights a bit higher … okay a whole lot higher. Space: The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of Space Girl, intrepid teleporting astronaut. Imagine if you will that you could literally and figuratively “jump” into space. Think of the fun you’d have. Hell, just reading about it was a whole lot of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed this outing of our favorite teleporting family and even learned quite a bit about the ups and downs, ahem, of space travel. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Eryie, Fortress of Solitude … those bad guys aren’t just sitting on their hands, nor is everyone else on the planet below.
The year is 2113. Our heroes are two agents of the Network Intelligence Organization, gumshoes of the highest order. After the apparent suicide of a known associate, and an antimatter attack that destroyed a moon and wrecked an entire planet, Gumshoe #1 is on the trail of the alien leader of the terrorist Movement of Worlds. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, his partner, Gumshoe #2, is on the hunt for those responsible for framing him and his partner for treason most foul. And just who, or what, is behind it all? That, my dear friends, is the question. The Ultra Thin Man is a mystery-thriller wrapped in science fiction, a Fantastic First practically gift-wrapped for Mysterious Galaxy. Interstellar conspiracy, enigmatic aliens, bizarre drugs, body-morphing technology, “Thin Men,” and the fate of the Union … just of few of the elements that make The Ultra Thin Man awesomeyay. I just love this stuff.
–Patrick, no, the other one