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

In hardcover:

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is up one spot, finishing the week at number 5.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Institute maintains its position at number 5 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is down one spot, finishing the week at number 9 (trade paperback).

Mini reviews


Sadly, due to depression I had no choice but to resign myself to the fact that I've fallen too far behind regarding my reviews. So much so that it became impossible for me to get back up to date.

So here are a few thoughts about each book.

- Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space 8.5/10:

Terrific space opera that sets the stage for so much more! Can't believe I waited this long to finally read it! Highly recommended!

- Jim Butcher's Skin Game 8.5/10:

Another great addition to the Dresden Files. A fine caper that opens the door for so much more.

- Jim Butcher's Peace Talks 8/10:

Everyone was super excited about this novel until they realized that it was just half of the book Butcher originally planned. Still good, but something's missing. Understandably.

- Stephen King's Misery 8/10:

Holy shit, a reread some 30 years later gave me a new appreciation for this one! Just an awesome and disturbing read!

- Jim Butcher's Battle Ground 7.5/10:

Biggest disappointment was realizing that we were not getting a second Dresden Files installment this year but the second half of Peace Talks. I hate the fact that urban fantasy demands shorter works, for had it been an epic fantasy title Peace Talks would have been published as a single novel. À la Memory of Light, the bulk of the book is one interminable battle that lasts for about 300 pages. There are some good stuff here and there and the ending is quite good, but it's mostly filler and very little killer.

- N. K. Jemisin's The City We Became 4/10:

Just awful. A veritable SJW manifesto. As bad as Goodkind's Faith of the Fallen, but at the other end of the socio-political spectrum. I had so high hopes for this book. . . Will not be reading the subsequent volumes.

- Margaret Atwood's The Testaments 8/10:

Not as bad as some make it out to be, and certainly not as good as others rave. The Booker prize??? Please! But it is a compelling and page-turning read, no question. Like the Breaking Bad movie, El Camino, my main gripe would have to be that this book brings very little to the dance. If anything, The Testaments is all about missed opportunities. The Handmaid's Tale raised so many questions, but its sequel answers none of them. I would have liked to know more about the colonies and life there, the wars with California and Texas, how Gilead is coping internationally, how they guard the vast border they share with Canada and why would everyone trying to escape would do it through New England instead of elsewhere. Yada yada yada.

Jeff Pearlman's Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL 8/10:

A gem of a book! Perfect for NFL fans!

Musical Interlude

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

In hardcover:

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is down two spots, finishing the week at number 6.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Institute is up one position, ending the week at number 5 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is up six spots, finishing the week at number 8 (trade paperback).

Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country is down five spots, finishing the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Quote of the Day

"So persuasive. So compelling. So very . . . what's that word. . . charismatic. Loved as only politicians free from power--and therefore from disappointment--ever can be. He's brought a lot of people around to his way of seeing things. The Union side have no one in his class. All rather stodgy. But then it's difficult, isn't it, to make a passionate argument for what you already have? So boring. Whereas the delightful alternative? A bouquet of promises! A sackful of dreams! A glorious ship of fantasies, undamaged by collision with actually getting anything done."

- JOE ABERCROMBIE, The Trouble With Peace (Canada, USA, Europe)

Made me think of Joe Biden. . . ;-)

US cover art and blurb for Mark Lawrence's THE GIRL AND THE MOUNTAIN


The folks at Thatthornguy.com just unveiled Bastien Lecouffe Deharme's cover for Mark Lawrence's forthcoming The Girl and the Mountain. The novel will be published in April 2021.

Here's the blurb:

“On Abeth there is only the ice. And the Black Rock.

For generations the priests of the Black Rock have reached out from their mountain to steer the ice tribes’ fate. With their Hidden God, their magic and their iron, the priests’ rule has never been challenged.

But nobody has ever escaped the Pit of the Missing before.

Yaz has lost her friends and found her enemies. She has a mountain to climb and even if she can break the Hidden God’s power her dream of a green world lies impossibly far to the south across a vast emptiness of ice. Before the journey can even start she has to find out what happened to the ones she loves and save those that can be saved.

Abeth holds its secrets close, but the stars shine brighter for Yaz and she means to unlock the truth.”


This week's New York Times Bestsellers (November 5th)

In hardcover: 

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is up one spot, finishing the week at number 4.

Terry Brooks' The Last Druid debuts at number 15.

In paperback:

Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country is up nine spots, finishing the week at number 5 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's The Institute is down three positions, ending the week at number 6 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is down three spots, finishing the week at number 14 (trade paperback).

New milestone



I've stopped keeping track of the Hotlist's traffic years ago because it no longer means as much as it used to.

Just discovered that there are new Google analytical tools that go back to January 2011, which was the year I elected to blog less. Understandably, cutting down on general coverage and interviews and giveaways meant less traffic.

And yet, though the years since then represent what is essentially Pat's Fantasy Hotlist's decline, so to speak, I was shocked to realize that the blog racked up 10.5M page views!!!

So thank you! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

OVER 1 MILLION COPIES SOLD!

DAY ONE: THE NAME OF THE WIND

My name is Kvothe.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature—the story of a hero told in his own voice. It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man’s search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.

New C. S. Friedman Interview


C. S. Friedman's This Virtual Night (Canada, USA, Europe) will be published next week, so it was high time to invite the author for a chat! =)

Here's the blurb:

Returning to the universe of New York Times Notable book This Alien Shore comes a new space opera from an acknowledged master of science fiction.

When deep-space travel altered the genes of the first interstellar colonists, Earth abandoned them. But some of the colonies survived, and a new civilization of mental and physical “Variants” has been established, centered around clusters of space stations known as the outworlds.

Now the unthinkable has happened: a suicide assault has destroyed the life support system of a major waystation. All that is known about the young men responsible is that in their last living moments they were receiving messages from an uninhabited sector of space, and were playing a virtual reality game.

Two unlikely allies have joined forces to investigate the incident: Ru Gaya, a mercenary explorer with a taste for high risk ventures, and game designer Micah Bello, who must find the parties responsible for the attack in order to clear his name. From the corridors of a derelict station lost to madness to an outlaw stronghold in the depths of uncharted space, the two now follow the trail of an enemy who can twist human minds to his purpose, and whose plans could bring about the collapse of outworld civilization.


You can read an extract from the book here.

Enjoy!
-------------------------

- Without giving too much away, can you give us a taste of the tale that is THIS VIRTUAL NIGHT?

You posted the book summary in your review…can we stick that in here? :)

- Were you aware that you would one day revisit the universe of THIS ALIEN SHORE?

I knew as I was creating TAS that the setting had the potential for more many novels. Between the space stations of the outworlds and long-lost colonies where humanity has taken on new forms, the racial tensions between those colonies and Earth, and the interface between human brains and data networks, there are countless possible story threads.

Although there are many books wherein characters “plug into” a computer network, I have not read any where I felt the ramifications of that were done justice. What affect would that have on the human soul? On one’s sense of identity? How do the darker instincts which lurk in the shadows of the human psyche fit into the picture? It takes more than one book to explore such questions!

The beauty of science fiction is that you can tell an exciting story while exploring what it means to be human. The universe of THIS ALIEN SHORE is perfectly designed to do both.

- What can readers expect from the upcoming sequel? Any tentative title and release date?

Working title is THIS VARIANT TIDE. (See a pattern there?) My main characters from VIRTUAL NIGHT will star in it, as they delve into secret underworld of the moddies --tech junkies who have had their brainware illegally augmented, sometimes with disastrous results—and face off against a Variant race with a chilling agenda. My editor said it has one of the darkest antagonist concepts she had ever seen, so I am sure you will like it ;-)

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write THIS VIRTUAL NIGHT in the first place?

This Alien Shore mentioned virts in passing –virtual reality games in which one’s brainware creates the illusion of a fantasy world to replace reality—and I wanted to explore that concept more, to look at the darker side of altered reality. It’s really hard to say more about it without spoiling the surprise.

- This current pandemic has turned our lives upside down. How has covid-19 affected your life, personally and as an author?

Oy.

Well, it has given me an appreciation for just how much I value eating out now and then, and I don’t think I have ever yearned for anything as powerfully as I want a haircut right now. Otherwise it hasn’t changed my life much. I’m an introvert living alone so I spent most of my time in lone pursuits anyway. But I am VERY high risk for covid fatality—old age, obesity, asthma—and the degree of care I have to take to do the smallest thing out of the house is becoming exhausting. And depressing. Today I had someone come in to fix my bathroom fan, and even with precautions, it’s nerve-wracking to have to wipe down every surface he touched. I tend towards depression anyway, and this is not helping. I really want this to be over.

That said, there is a whole world of people out there who have more time on their hands than they know what to do with, and I like to think my books can help with that. :)

- We've been in touch since before the creation of the Hotlist and I don't think I've ever seen you so excited about a new novel. What is it about THIS VIRTUAL NIGHT that has you so excited?

It just came together perfectly, like the pieces of a puzzle, plot development and character growth and pacing… there’s a surprise revelation halfway into the book that I’m particularly proud of. But most of all I love the relationship between my two protagonists. She is a mercenary adventurer and adrenalin junkie, willing to risk her own life for the sake of a novel experience; he is a fantasy game designer and virtual reality programmer, who has spent his life crafting adventure stories without ever leaving the safety of his desk. They are opposites in so many ways, and yet there is a wonderful chemistry between them. They are the only characters I’ve ever written about where I go to the end of the book and thought, “I really want to keep writing about these people.” So I will. :)

It was fun to write, it is fun to read, and I think my fans will love it.

- It took nearly four years for this new book to see the light. What was it about THIS VIRTUAL NIGHT that made it more difficult to write?

I’ve struggled all my life with clinical depression, and for a variety of reasons having nothing to do with this book, it just got the better of me for a while. Depression affects my language skills, and nothing I wrote was coming out right. When I finally pulled out of it I threw out everything I’d done and just started the book afresh.

- You've already revisited the universe of IN CONQUEST BORN in THE WILDING, and two installments are now planned in the universe of THIS ALIEN SHORE. Which begs the question: Are you planning to revisit the settings of THE MADNESS SEASON, or the Coldfire and the Magister trilogies in novel-length projects?

No. Those worlds were designed for stories that had clear endings. I feel strongly that such works should be left to stand on their own, so that readers can imagine what happened next. Also, each of those books ended in a way that altered the world it took place in, so the dynamic that made the original book so successful would no longer exist in a sequel. I attempted one with the Wilding, but it was a difficult project. I write SF and fantasy because I love creating worlds, and when you set another story in the same world as before, it just isn’t as exciting to work on.

The universe of THIS ALIEN SHORE is an exception to that because it was designed to support multiple novels. With space stations that function as planets—each with its own culture and politics-- and a universe full of altered humans, there are so many interesting corners of the outworlds to explore, I don’t think I could ever run out of fresh ideas.

- In a previous interview, when asked why you had spent your entire career at Daw Books, you said that it was because of your editor, Betsy Wollheim. In this day and age when more and more writers go down the self-publishing road and forgo editors altogether, what is it about Betsy that has made such a difference on you and your novels over the years?

You mean aside from the fact that her faith in me is part of what got me through those awful few years? She’s a brilliant editor who is totally tuned into my work, and can sense what I’m trying to do even when I fail to pull it off properly. Such insight is worth its weight in gold.

- Speaking of self-publishing, a few years back you self-published DOMINION, a novella acting as a prequel for the Coldfire trilogy. Have you ever considered doing this again?

I’m not a fast writer, as you have no doubt noticed, and I really angst over short fictions. So taking on a project like that would mean putting aside my novel for a pretty long time. Maybe the day will come when I can afford to do that, but right now I don’t feel it’s an option.

- Do you have any short fiction pieces in the pipeline that you might submit to future anthologies?

I have some story ideas I am working on that I intend to submit to magazines. Someday I would like to have enough short fiction to publish a collection, but I am so slow at writing short stories, I may not live long enough for that to happen.

- In recent years, like fellow bestselling SFF authors Brandon Sanderson and Joe Abercrombie, you have tried to tap into the extremely lucrative young adult market without much success. What makes the YA market such a hard nut to crack for writers known for their adult-oriented works.

Who knows? We don’t really understand what makes one good book a bestseller and another good book not, even among regular titles. You write the best book you can and send it out there for the fates to judge.

- There are a number of different perspectives as to the function secondary-world or epic fantasy carries out for readers. Le Guin once wrote that such fantasy deepened and intensified the mysteries of life, while R. Scott Bakker has put forward that humanity is neurologically ill-equipped for a modern, rationalist world and this leads some to seek access to a pre-modern worldview (or the fiction of one) where reality conforms to the mind's irrational, evolutionarily hardwired expectations. Others have denigrated it as mere escapism, an alternative opiate for the masses.

What is your view as to fantasy's function?

I think it is twofold.

1) It is entertainment. We read novels to explore other worlds and experience what it is like to be other people. I don’t think any more explanation is required. Humans love fiction. It doesn’t require deep reasons. We enjoy stories that take place beyond the boundaries of our mundane lives for the same reason that the ancient Greeks loved their poets and the Scandinavians their bards. Humans enjoy having their imagination stimulated.

2) Both Fantasy and SF allow us to explore what it is to be human. By speculating on how various facets of human nature might play out in an alien setting, we gain greater insight into those elements, and thus into ourselves.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the science fiction genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write THIS ALIEN SHORE and its sequels?

Oh, yes! I was hoping someone would ask this. :)

Back in the 80’s, when cyberpunk first came out, I was reading a novel—maybe Neuromancer—wherein a character plugged a computer connection into a socket in in the back of his head. And in that moment y suspension of disbelief totally crashed. All I could think was: SEBUM. You know, that oily film that accumulates on your skin, made up of oil and sweat and flakes of dead skin? How were they keeping that out of the head socket? How did the sweat not corrode the connector? What would happen when the socket broke down and had to be replaced? Because it would, you know; no technology lasts forever. And what would happen when a virus got into one’s greyware, which was also inevitable. Hell, I’ve twice had to trash a computer because it picked up malware so nasty that there was no way to save it. How do you replace something that is in your head? And even if everything works like it’s supposed to, and doesn’t break down, what happens when upgrades render the stuff in your head obsolete? None of the cyberpunk novels I read ever addressed these things realistically, so I decided I wanted to try.

I began to think about what brainware would really have to be like, to be functional and reliable. And I decided upon a two-part system. Internal biotech would enable the brain to communicate with outside systems, provide storage, and run a few irograms that operated inside the body. And that was it. No one could load new software into their head without a physical operation being required. Malware would be no danger because nothing that was inloaded could alter the programming. And because brainware was completely internal, there would be no chance for physical contamination. Meanwhile, the more active and vulnerable features of the system would be in a headset that the brainware controlled. Headset software could be altered, upgraded, infected, repaired, or replaced, as needed.

Now, twenty years after I wrote that, scientists are experimenting with mind control, placing a crown of contacts on a person’s head so they can detect activity in different parts of the brain, and teaching the subject how to trigger the necessary signals. I can’t tell you the shiver that runs up my spine when I see it. The key difference—other than my system of contacts being internal—is that they brainware I created uses sensory response to produce the necessary signals. Visual input maps geographically onto the brain, as does somatic awareness. Since visualizations are processed the same way actual sight is, envisioning the color blue will thus trigger activity in a specific part of the brain. Easy to control.

So, from the simple thought “what about sebum?” arose biotech concepts that are slowly but surely entering our reality.

- According to George R. R. Martin, most authors are either architects or gardeners. Which type of writer are you?

I’ve never heard those terms. I attempt to plan out my novel before I write it, but some ideas occur to me as I am writing, so that’s an ongoing process. Does that answer the question?

- How has your interaction with the fans and the critics colored your choices in characterization and plot over the years? Has there been anything that you've changed because of that interaction?

Other than fans pressuring me to write a sequel to TAS, I can’t think of anything.

- Your career now spans more than thirty years. Looking back upon it, what are you the most proud of?

My career. :)

Seriously. Very few people are able to work full time as writers. I’ve managed it. That is a source of great pride to me. My dad was a writer and I know that if he was still alive, that’s what he would be most proud of.

I like to think that some of my books have important things to say about the human experience. When a reader writes to let me know that Coldfire helped bolster his faith, or an autistic reader tells me how Guera’s approach to neurodiversity encouraged her to seek new strengths within herself, I’m damned proud of that. We write because we want to touch people’s lives. I am moved and humbled when readers tell me I have done that for them.

- Anything else you wish to share with us?

Covid has cancelled our live cons, and with them all the readings and workshops and booksignings that we used to spread the word about our books. So if you enjoy this new one, please tell other people about it!

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

In hardcover:

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is down one spot, finishing the week at number 5.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Institute is down one position, ending the week at number 3 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is down five spots, finishing the week at number 11 (trade paperback).

Nora Roberts' The Rise of Magicks is down nine positions, ending the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country is down four spots, finishing the week at number 14 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Robert McCammon's The Five for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Robert McCammon's first contemporary novel in nearly two decades, The Five tells the story of an eponymous rock band struggling to survive on the margins of the music business.

As they move through the American Southwest on what might be their final tour together, the band members come to the attention of a damaged Iraq war veteran, and their lives are changed forever. This is a riveting account of violence, terror, and pursuit set against a credible, immensely detailed rock and roll backdrop. It is also a moving meditation on loyalty and friendship.

Written with wit, elegance, and passionate conviction, The Five reaffirms McCammon's position as one of the finest, most unpredictable storytellers of our time.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.


Guest blog: Gail Z. Martin


Once again this year, I accepted Gail Z. Martin's invitation to be part of her Days of the Dead blog tour. In this guest blog post, she elaborates on traditional publishing vs small presses vs self-publishing.

Enjoy!

Getting Published—One Goal, Many Routes

By Gail Z. Martin

Over the course of my career so far, I’ve published with a Big New York and Big London traditional publisher, various small presses, and gone indie (self-pub). Right now, my books are an active mix of all three paths, and I’ve never been happier. Which is right for you? That depends.

For many authors, they consider ‘making it as a writer’ to mean published by a traditional publisher and available in bookstores. That’s certainly still possible, although the average advance is lower than it used to be, and publishers now begin relationships with authors expecting it to only last for a few books (unlike the long-standing ‘mid-list’ stable of writers who might spend decades with the same imprint). Nearly all of the traditional publishers require an author to be represented by an agent, and want to know that the book is already completed before extending a contract—particularly for a writer without a track record.

Working with a big traditional publisher comes with bragging rights, and can check something off the bucket list. It’s validating, and an ego boost. You won’t have to worry about arranging for editing, proof-reading, cover design or formatting because the publisher handles all that. Of course, you also won’t have any say in those matters, either. Hate the cover? Too bad. Disagree with the editor? You may have very little ability to dissent, even on changes that you feel substantially change the story. You’ll owe 15% of everything you earn on those books forever to your agent. As far as royalties go, depending on your contract, you’re likely to get about 10% - 15% of the price of your paperbacks, and 25%-40% of ebooks and audiobooks, after you’ve earned out any advances, and you’ll be paid twice a year. Big publishers also keep an additional percentage of your earnings back in case your books are returned by stores. You’ll also still need to do most of the marketing for your book because the little bit the publisher will don’t won’t be enough.

Small presses still cover the cost of editing, proof-reading, cover design and formatting, but may offer you more input and listen to your suggestions. Advances are unlikely, or will be very small. Royalty percentages will be about the same as with the big traditional publishers, but without an advance to recoup, your royalties usually pay from publication date. You’re likely to get paid either quarterly or twice a year. Since bookstores don’t tend to stock books by small presses, you don’t have to worry about that reserve against returns percentage. Many small presses accept unagented submissions, so you get to keep that bit extra, too. You’ll need to do most of the marketing.

Indie publishing requires a commitment to the business side as well as the creative side. You’ll need to track all of your sales and royalties for tax purposes, as well as your business-related expenses. You’ll still need to hire and editor and proofreader, as well as a cover artist and possibly a formatter. This can quickly add up to thousands of dollars, but skimping on these pieces is likely to make the book look unprofessional, which hurts sales. You’ll make larger percentages on the print and ebooks (depending on the price of the finished book), but you’ve also got bigger expenses to recoup. You now have to do all of the marketing. On the other hand, you can choose/commission your cover art, you aren’t forced to make editorial changes you don’t agree with, you can bring out books as quickly as you want, and you can write whatever you please since there is no gatekeeper to approve your proposals. Amazon pays monthly, although KU and other circumstances may affect that.

Right now, my backlist is with the original large publishers, our new audiobooks are under contract to a large audio production company, we have three series under contract with a small press, and we publish everything else indie. We love the freedom of being indie, but we also value the things we learned working with the big publishers and the support of our small press publisher. Experiment and find your own best mix!

What’s new? Plenty! Sons of Darkness (Night Vigil Book 1) and Inheritance (Deadly Curiosities Book 4) are now on audiobook. Monster Mash and Creature Feature are the newest Spells Salt and Steel books. Witch of the Woods and Ghosts of the Past are the newest in the Wasteland Marshals series, and Black Sun is the latest Joe Mack Adventure. Coming soon: Fugitive’s Vow (Assassins of Landria Book 3) and Reckoning (Darkhurst Book 3).

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new guest blog posts, giveaways and more! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour at www.GailZMartin.com

About the Author

Gail Z. Martin writes urban fantasy, epic fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, Falstaff Books, SOL Publishing and Darkwind Press. Urban fantasy series include Deadly Curiosities and the Night Vigil (Sons of Darkness). Epic fantasy series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, and the Assassins of Landria. She and co-author Larry N. Martin write the Spells Salt and Steel, Wasteland Marshals and Joe Mack Shadow Council Archives Adventures. As Morgan Brice, she writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance. Series include Witchbane, Badlands, Treasure Trail, Kings of the Mountain and Fox Hollow series.

Find her at www.GailZMartin.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin. Never miss out on the news and new releases—newsletter signup link http://eepurl.com/dd5XLj Follow her Amazon author page here: https://www.amazon.com/Gail-Z-Martin/e/B002BM8XSQ On Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/gail-z-martin On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/morganbriceauthor/ Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/gzmartin

And get a free complete short story, Catspaw, here: https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/UAjd6

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This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 19th)

In hardcover:

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue debuts at number 4.

Alice Hoffman's Magic Lessons debuts at number 6.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Institute is down one position, ending the week at number 2 (trade paperback).

Nora Roberts' The Rise of Magicks debuts at number 4 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is down one spot, finishing the week at number 6 (trade paperback).

Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country returns at number 10 (trade paperback).

This Virtual Night


It's been a long time coming and the novel is finally here. C. S. Friedman's first book in nearly four years. After a stint writing YA, the author went back to her roots, to the science fiction genre where she started her career way back in 1987.

You may recall that writing the Magister trilogy took a lot out of Friedman and she needed a much-deserved break from that sort of story. That series was by far her most densely written, aggressively dark, and adult-themed work, and it took six years of her life to complete. Exhausted, Friedman wanted to write something shorter, something more linear, with a plot that wasn't as convoluted, with a much faster pace. Something that her younger fans could relate to a bit more and that her adult fans would enjoy as well. Whether or not The Dreamwalker Chronicles managed to do just that depends on who you ask. As I said before, I understand why SFF authors like Joe Abercrombie and C. S. Friedman would want to try to tap into the lucrative YA market. They are not the first and they certainly won't be the last. All I can say is that I'm happy that they have both reached the end of their YA series and will now concentrate on adult-oriented speculative fiction works. That's how they each made a name for themselves and the genre needs such authors writing at the top of their game.

Around the time Dreamweaver was published, Friedman announced that her next work would be set in the same universe as the novel This Alien Shore. This really got me excited! Even better, the author is now working on a sequel, which will turn this into a trilogy.

This Alien Shore was published in 1998, so it's been a while. Fear not, for you don't need to have read the novel to fully enjoy This Virtual Night. Both works are set in the same universe and are equally enjoyable, yet they can be read independently.

Here's the blurb:

Returning to the universe of New York Times Notable book This Alien Shore comes a new space opera from an acknowledged master of science fiction.

When deep-space travel altered the genes of the first interstellar colonists, Earth abandoned them. But some of the colonies survived, and a new civilization of mental and physical “Variants” has been established, centered around clusters of space stations known as the outworlds.

Now the unthinkable has happened: a suicide assault has destroyed the life support system of a major waystation. All that is known about the young men responsible is that in their last living moments they were receiving messages from an uninhabited sector of space, and were playing a virtual reality game.

Two unlikely allies have joined forces to investigate the incident: Ru Gaya, a mercenary explorer with a taste for high risk ventures, and game designer Micah Bello, who must find the parties responsible for the attack in order to clear his name. From the corridors of a derelict station lost to madness to an outlaw stronghold in the depths of uncharted space, the two now follow the trail of an enemy who can twist human minds to his purpose, and whose plans could bring about the collapse of outworld civilization.


Dark and complex worldbuilding has always been an aspect in which Friedman shines. This Alien Shore was a sprawling book, filled with cool concepts and big ideas. This sequel is not as dense and is written in a much smaller scale. Indeed, with the groundwork laid out by its predecessor, This Virtual Night can focus on the plot and not have to rely on worldbuilding. The author provides whatever information the reader might need by filling in the blanks when necessary, but otherwise one misses nothing for not having read the prequel.

In style and tone, this new work is not as dark and brooding as past SFF novels by C. S. Friedman. Not "light" by any stretch of the imagination, but This Virtual Night is a more fun and entertaining space opera than what the author has accustomed us to in the past. Have no fear, for it's still a convoluted tale that builds on some of the concepts that were introduced in This Alien Shore.

The bulk of the characterization is made up of the perspectives of two protagonists. Ruisa Gaya, an Outrider who wakes up in Tiananmen Station after a mission that has gone terribly wrong, and Micah Bello, a game designer falsely accused of an attack on a space station. When he barely escapes a murder attempt, Micah finds himself stranded on the abandoned Shenshido station, where things have taken a turn for the worse. Though Ru and Micah take center stage, I feel that the story would have benefited from fleshing out the supporting cast a little more. Especially Ivar and Jericho, since they play important roles in the greater scheme of things.

Although it takes a while for the storylines to come together, This Virtual Night doesn't suffer from any pacing issues. Things are never dull and the tale progresses at a good clip. The novel is a fun romp and a fast read. Virtual reality, hackers, a diversity of alien races that are offshoots of mankind, politicking, intrigue; that's C. S. Friedman's latest in a nutshell.

Looking forward to the final installment in this trilogy!

The final verdict: 7.75/10

You can read an extract from the book here.

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Here's the blurb:

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.