This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 16th)

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is up three positions, ending the week at number 5 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It is up two spots, finishing the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

11/22/63


In the last few years, every time I left on a long leave of absence, or on a roadtrip, or a hiking trip, I almost always carried a book by either Stephen King or James Clavell with me. Since most fans opine that 11/22/63 could well be King's best novel since his accident, I bought it when the trade paperback edition was released. And although I really wanted to read it, due to its size I never brought it with me when traveling abroad. Even the trade paperback is too bulky and too heavy to carry around in my backpack.

Hence, 11/22/63 just sat there on my shelf for years. So when the time came to think about what to bring with me on my roadtrip to Côte-Nord, Québec's rugged and final frontier, I knew the time had come to finally bring the book with me. Once again, I feel like a complete idiot for waiting so long to read it, as this title is hands down one of the author's best works to date.

Moreover, 11/22/63 is also more accessible than most of Stephen King's previous or subsequent novels. Other than the time-traveling aspect, the plot itself and its characters should appeal to a more mainstream readership. I know I'm quite late to this party. But if, like me, you have yet to give this book a shot, you should definitely do something about that! Believe you me, you won't be disappointed!

Here's the blurb:

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away...but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke... Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten...and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

The premise of the story is particularly interesting. By preventing the murder of JFK, would we then prevent the Vietnam War and possibly attenuate the Cold War, thus making our world a better place? Trouble is, the past doesn't want to be changed and it routinely throws up obstacles to prevent history from being altered. In addition, such resistance is proportional to the magnitude of the change involved. Though time-traveling is an important plot device in 11/22/63, the novel is more about the portrayal of the USA in the late 50s and early 60S, and Jake's relationships with the people he meets in the past. As a matter of fact, it's more about relationships than anything else, methinks.

The characterization is amazing. Indeed, it's the interaction and the relationships between the characters that are the heart and soul of 11/22/63. Throughout the novel, one never forgets that everything is about trying to prevent the JFK assassination. And yet, the book is more about the journey than the destination. Yes, it's about tracking Lee Harvey Oswald and ultimately trying to prevent him from killing the president of the USA. But it's more about Jake Epping's life, first in the present in 2011, and then in the past between 1958 and 1963. And it all begins when this recently divorced high school English teacher, earning extra money teaching a GED class, gives an assignment to his adult students, asking them to write about a day that changed their lives. One of the students, the limping school janitor named Harry Dunning, wrote a paper describing the night his alcoholic father murdered his mother and siblings with a hammer and injured Harry. This paper affects Jake in a profound way, and the two become friends. Little does Jake know that this sordid story will put him on a path that will send him back in time. The supporting cast is simply awesome, chief among them Al Templeton, Deke, Miz Mimi, Miz Ellie and, of course, Sadie Dunhill. Jake and Sadie's love story made for some emotional and poignant moments, especially the final scene. Never thought swing dancing would ever make such an impression on me.

A staggering amount of research was involved in the creation of this novel and 11/22/63 contains detailed minutiae regarding the late 50s and early 60s. Stephen King explores that historical period from a modern perspective. And while he bemoans the loss of lots of great things from that bygone era, the author doesn't shy away from its less glorious aspects such as poverty, rampant racism, religious fucktardness, and the violence toward women. Essentially, it sometimes feels as though he posits that things back then may not have been as good as we believe and that things now may not be as bad as some people would like to think.

Weighing in at 850 pages, 11/22/63 is a big book. Still, it doesn't suffer from any pacing issues. True, some portions are more fluid than others, yet the plot hooked me up from the very first page and never let go. I was capitvated throughout and went through this novel a lot faster than I thought possible. Stephen King has received a lot of flak over the years for his subpar endings. Thankfully, 11/22/63 features the perfect ending. Many thanks to Joe Hill, King's son, for suggesting this alternate ending.

Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 9/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Mark Lawrence's Grey Sister for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.

All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.

As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.

And in all this only one thing is certain.

There will be blood.

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You can now download Mission Critical, edited by Jonathan Strahan, for only 0.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM…

Life is fragile. The difference between success and failure can come down to nothing – the thread of a screw, the flick of a switch – and when it goes wrong, you fix it. Or someone dies.

Mission Critical takes us from our world, across the Solar System, and out into deep space to tell the stories of people who had to do the impossible.

And do it fast.

Featuring stories by Peter F. Hamilton, Yoon Ha Lee, Aliette de Bodard, Greg Egan, Linda Nagata, Gregory Feeley, John Barnes, Tobias S. Buckell, Jason Fischer & Sean Williams, Carolyn Ives Gilman, John Meaney, Dominica Phetteplace, Allen M. Steele, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Peter Watts.

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You can now download Neal Stephenson's Zodiac for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The second novel from the “hottest science fiction writer in America” and New York Times–bestselling author of Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon (Details).

Meet Sangamon Taylor, a New Age Sam Spade who sports a wet suit instead of a trench coat and prefers Jolt from the can to Scotch on the rocks. He knows about chemical sludge the way he knows about evil—all too intimately. And the toxic trail he follows leads to some high and foul places. Before long Taylor’s house is bombed, his every move followed, he’s adopted by reservation Indians, moves onto the FBI’s most wanted list, makes up with his girlfriend, and plays a starring role in the near-assassination of a presidential candidate. Closing the case with the aid of his burnout roommate, his tofu-eating comrades, three major networks, and a range of unconventional weaponry, Sangamon Taylor pulls off the most startling caper in Boston Harbor since the Tea Party.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 9th)

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 8 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It returns as number 12 (trade paperback).

The New World


In The Electric Church and its sequels, Jeff Somers introduced readers to Avery Cates, a not very likeable gunner you can't help but root for. Constantly down on his luck and not always the sharpest tool in the shed, Cates' first person narrative has been a highlight since the very beginning and it continues to be the case in these new short fiction pieces. The Final Evolution, last volume in the original series, seemed to bring the overall story arc to an end and no further misadventures appeared to be forthcoming for everyone's favorite gunner.

Somers explained that he liked Avery and always enjoyed writing about him, but he needed any new material featuring him to have some sort of experimental edge in order to get excited about it. Which is why he wrote The Shattered Gears novellas, now collected into a single volume, yet still available as single short fiction vignettes.

When he was working out the plot of The Shattered Gears, the author also planned on writing two sequels, each divided into novellas like their predecessors. Somers found himself thinking affectionately of Avery Cates, and he wanted to give the protagonist a proper ending. Hence The Burning City, a follow-up to The Shattered Gears, comprised of four novellas: The New World, The Devil's Bargain, The Long Siege, and The Dark Hunt. Later, there will be a final installment titled The Machines of War.

Here's the blurb:

In this sequel to THE SHATTERED GEARS, Avery Cates is finding life as a City Lord not what it's cracked up to be, and is almost relieved when the woman he stole the city from, Lucinda Barowel, returns with a proposal. Partnering with a former Joint Council Undersecretary isn't a comfortable spot for Avery, and it leads him to some dark places -- and one dark place in particular he'd rather not have to remember.

But Cates knows the current state of humanity -- dying in a shut-down world -- is on his shoulders. He also knows he might not survive his struggle against the Archangel, the omnipotent psionic who's marching a genocidal army, intent on ending the world for good.

Cates sees that as his penance, and he's okay with it.

The post-apocalyptic worldbuilding gave the original series its distinctive flavor. Sadly, the novella format of these new tales forces this aspect to remain in the background for the most part. The previous novels have paved the way in that regard, and what worldbuilding there is conveys to the reader what needs to be understood and little else. After all, anyone reading these new novellas has obviously read the series, so there is no need for the author to provide a lot of background information. In The Shattered Gears, we discovered that the entire world order has collapsed. Powerful individuals are manoeuvering to carve up small kingdoms and city-states for themselves. With most technology no longer working, psionics are gradually coming into power around the world. And one of the most powerful psionics alive, a mysterious person known as the Archangel, is looking for Cates.

Following his narrow escape from a military platform in the Atlantic, Cates and his fellow escapees ended up on the shore of Italy. Trying to evade a strong psionic who was somehow always a step ahead or right behind him, Cates made his way to Castelvecchio. Where, ultimately, he became city lord. But with things the way they are and the now semi-regular murder attempts against him, Cates quickly realizes that running a city isn't always peaches and cream. Especially when the Archangel is still coming for him. Mankind's only chance for survival appears to be Cochtopa, a failsafe installation designed as a fallback base in case the war went badly, as a final repository of armament, equipment, ammunition, and data. Its location is classified, but it's a place where the remnant of the SFF could remake the world anew. Problem is, no one seems to know where it is. And time is running out.

As always, the first person narrative filled with wise cracks and dark humor makes for a fun and entertaining reading experience. Avery Cates continues to be a despicable, manipulative, immoral, lousy, and sick fuck. Yet for all of his faults and shortcomings, it's well nigh impossible not to root for the poor guy. Surprisingly, getting older may have made him a little wiser. A little. And since everything Cates touches has a tendency to turn to shit, he's in over his head yet again. Yet that's business as usual for Cates, so he just goes with the flow. The supporting cast, which really came together and finally took its rightful place in The City Lord, didn't shine as much in this latest installment. The focus is more on Ezekial Marko and Spectacular Dan.

The City Lord closed the show on The Shattered Gears in satisfying fashion and left the door open for plenty more. And with The New World and its upcoming sequels, it's evident that fate is not through with Avery Cates yet. Not by a long shot. Which bodes well for Jeff Somers fans!

My only problem with these short, episodic novellas is that you reach their end all too rapidly. They're just teasers, making you want to find out what happens next. Hopefully we won't have to wait for too long for the next one, The Devil's Bargain.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

You can download it for 0.99$ through these links: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Ernest Cline's Armada for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From the author of Ready Player One, a rollicking alien invasion thriller that embraces and subverts science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could.

Zack Lightman has never much cared for reality. He vastly prefers the countless science-fiction movies, books, and videogames he's spent his life consuming. And too often, he catches himself wishing that some fantastic, impossible, world-altering event could arrive to whisk him off on a grand spacefaring adventure.

So when he sees the flying saucer, he's sure his years of escapism have finally tipped over into madness.

Especially because the alien ship he's staring at is straight out of his favorite videogame, a flight simulator callled Armada--in which gamers just happen to be protecting Earth from alien invaders.

As impossible as it seems, what Zack's seeing is all too real. And it's just the first in a blur of revlations that will force him to question everything he thought he knew about Earth's history, its future, even his own life--and to play the hero for real, with humanity's life in the balance.

But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can't help thinking: Doesn't something about this scenario feel a little bit like...well...fiction?

At once reinventing and paying homage to science-fiction classics as only Ernest Cline can, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a coming-of-age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you've ever read before.

Quote of the Day

In short, shit had gone downhill.

JEFF SOMERS, The New World (Canada, USA, Europe)

Well, that's the story of Avery Cates' life, ain't it!?! :P

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has become one of the most powerful and most widely read novels of our time.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules.

Like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid’s Tale has endured not only as a literary landmark but as a warning of a possible future that is still chillingly relevant.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 2nd)

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale maintains its position at number 9 (trade paperback).

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You can now download J. D. Horn's The King of Bones and Ashes for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

From the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Witching Savannah series comes the story of a young witch’s quest to uncover her family’s terrifying history...

Magic is seeping out of the world, leaving the witches who’ve relied on it for countless centuries increasingly hopeless. While some see an inevitable end of their era, others are courting madness—willing to sacrifice former allies, friends, and family to retain the power they covet. While the other witches watch their reality unravel, young Alice Marin is using magic’s waning days to delve into the mystery of numerous disappearances in the occult circles of New Orleans. Alice disappeared once, too—caged in an asylum by blood relatives. Recently freed, she fears her family may be more involved with the growing crisis than she ever dared imagine.

Yet the more she seeks the truth about her family’s troubled history, the more she realizes her already-fragile psyche may be at risk. Discovering the cause of the vanishings, though, could be the only way to escape her mother’s reach while determining the future of all witches.

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You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Tim Powers' Last Call for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Enchantingly dark and compellingly real, the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Last Call is a masterpiece of magic realism from critically acclaimed author Tim Powers.

Set in the gritty, dazzling underworld known as Las Vegas, Last Call tells the story of a one-eyed professional gambler who discovers that he was not the big winner in a long-ago poker game . . . and now must play for the highest stakes ever as he searches for a way to win back his soul.


You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Neal Stephenson's excellent Quicksilver for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Quicksilver is the story of Daniel Waterhouse, fearless thinker and conflicted Puritan, pursuing knowledge in the company of the greatest minds of Baroque-era Europe, in a chaotic world where reason wars with the bloody ambitions of the mighty, and where catastrophe, natural or otherwise, can alter the political landscape overnight.

It is a chronicle of the breathtaking exploits of "Half-Cocked Jack" Shaftoe -- London street urchin turned swashbuckling adventurer and legendary King of the Vagabonds -- risking life and limb for fortune and love while slowly maddening from the pox.

And it is the tale of Eliza, rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem to become spy, confidante, and pawn of royals in order to reinvent Europe through the newborn power of finance.

A gloriously rich, entertaining, and endlessly inventive novel that brings a remarkable age and its momentous events to vivid life, Quicksilver is an extraordinary achievement from one of the most original and important literary talents of our time.

And it's just the beginning ...

Quote of the Day

Steve sighed, wishing for a cigarette. "The Buddha teaches respect for all life."

"Oh." She considered this. "Are you a Buddhist?"

"No. I'm an asshole. But I keep trying."

- SCOTT HAWKINS, The Library at Mount Char (Canada, USA, Europe)

About halfway through this book and it's a wild ride thus far! =)

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You can now download Mark Lawrence's Limited Wish for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

One choice. Two possible timelines. And a world hanging in the balance.

It’s the summer of 1986 and reluctant prodigy Nick Hayes is a student at Cambridge University, working with world-renowned mathematician Professor Halligan. He just wants to be a regular student, but regular isn’t really an option for a boy-genius cancer survivor who’s already dabbled in time travel.

When he crosses paths with a mysterious yet curiously familiar girl, Nick discovers that creases have appeared in the fabric of time, and that he is at the centre of the disruption. Only Nick can resolve this time paradox before the damage becomes catastrophic for both him and the future of the world. Time is running out—literally.

Wrapped up with him in this potentially apocalyptic scenario are his ex-girlfriend, Mia, and fellow student Helen. Facing the world-ending chaos of a split in time, Nick must act fast and make the choice of a lifetime—or lifetimes.

Game on.

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You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Guy Gavriel Kay's A Song for Arbonne for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From the critically-acclaimed author of The Fionavar Tapestry comes an epic fantasy novel of love, both courtly and forbidden, and two kingdoms endlessly opposed...

Blaise of Gorhaut is a warrior. He fought for his king and country, until the king died with an arrow in his eye at the battle of Iersen Bridge, and a dishonorable treaty ceded a good part of his country to foreign hands. He has broken relations with his father, adviser to the king of Gorhaut, and abandoned the use of his family name.

Now, Blaise is a mercenary. He never expected to work for the lords of Arbonne, the warm, fertile lands south of Gorhaut, whose people praise the love of women—they even worship a goddess, instead of the god. They are a soft people, or so he thought. But for all their nonsense about love, their troubadours and songs, they will fight for their country, when invasion comes from the north.

The Last Light of the Sun and Ysabel are also discounted at 5.99$.

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You can now download Peter V. Brett's The Warded Man for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity.

For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

Quote of the Day

Here is a strange thing I've noticed: women are better at keeping secrets, but men are more comfortable with them.

- STEPHEN KING, 11/22/63 (Canada, USA, Europe)

Awesome novel! One of his very best!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 26th)

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 9 (trade paperback).