More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The groundbreaking novel that launched Cherryh's eponymous space opera series of first contact and its consequences...

It had been nearly five centuries since the starship Phoenix, lost in space and desperately searching for the nearest G5 star, had encountered the planet of the atevi. On this alien world, law was kept by the use of registered assassination, alliances were defined by individual loyalties not geographical borders, and war became inevitable once humans and one faction of atevi established a working relationship. It was a war that humans had no chance of winning on this planet so many light-years from home.

Now, nearly two hundred years after that conflict, humanity has traded its advanced technology for peace and an island refuge that no atevi will ever visit. Then the sole human the treaty allows into atevi society is marked for an assassin's bullet. THe work of an isolated lunatic? The interests of a particular faction? Or the consequence of one human's fondness for a species which has fourteen words for betrayal and not a single word for love?

You can also download David Weber's bestselling Off Armageddon Reef for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Humanity pushed its way to the stars - and encountered the Gbaba, a ruthless alien race that nearly wiped us out.

Earth and her colonies are now smoldering ruins, and the few survivors have fled to distant, Earth-like Safehold, to try to rebuild. But the Gbaba can detect the emissions of an industrial civilization, so the human rulers of Safehold have taken extraordinary measures: with mind control and hidden high technology, they've built a religion in which every Safeholdian believes, a religion designed to keep Safehold society medieval forever.

800 years pass. In a hidden chamber on Safehold, an android from the far human past awakens. This "rebirth" was set in motion centuries before, by a faction that opposed shackling humanity with a concocted religion. Via automated recordings, "Nimue" - or, rather, the android with the memories of Lieutenant Commander Nimue Alban - is told her fate: she will emerge into Safeholdian society, suitably disguised, and begin the process of provoking the technological progress which the Church of God Awaiting has worked for centuries to prevent.

Nothing about this will be easy. To better deal with a medieval society, "Nimue" takes a new gender and a new name, "Merlin." His formidable powers and access to caches of hidden high technology will need to be carefully concealed. And he'll need to find a base of operations, a Safeholdian country that's just a little more freewheeling, a little less orthodox, a little more open to the new.

And thus Merlin comes to Charis, a mid-sized kingdom with a talent for naval warfare. He plans to make the acquaintance of King Haarahld and Crown Prince Cayleb, and maybe, just maybe, kick off a new era of invention. Which is bound to draw the attention of the Church...and, inevitably, lead to war.

It's going to be a long, long process. And David Weber's epic Off Armageddon Reef is can't-miss sci-fi.

You can get your hands on Bradley P. Beaulieu's Twelve Kings in Sharakhai for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings — cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite ompany of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.

Finally, you can also get your hands on the digital edition of Paul Kearney's excellent A Different Kingdom for only 3.03$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Michael Fay is a normal boy, living with his grandparents on their family farm in rural Ireland. In the woods—once thought safe and well-explored—there are wolves; and other, stranger things. He keeps them from his family, even his Aunt Rose, his closest friend, until the day he finds himself in the Other Place. There are wild people, and terrible monsters, and a girl called Cat.

When the wolves follow him from the Other Place to his family’s doorstep, Michael must choose between locking the doors and looking away—or following Cat on an adventure that may take an entire lifetime in the Other Place. He will become a man, and a warrior, and confront the Devil himself: the terrible Dark Horseman...

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 13th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider is up one position, ending the week at number 3.

Timothy Zahn's Thrawn: Alliances is down five spots, finishing the week at number 6. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down one spot, finishing the week at number 6 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One returns at number 12 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Robert Jackson Bennett's The Divine Cities trilogy omnibus for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

A special omnibus edition, collecting all three books of Robert Jackson Bennett’s acclaimed Divine Cities trilogy in a single volume.

In a world where terrifying, capricious gods once walked the earth, enslaving and brutalizing millions, three unforgettable protagonists struggle to come to terms with the mysteries these divinities left behind— and to make sure these cruel masters do not rise again.

In City of Stairs, an unassuming young woman named Shara Thivani arrives in Bulikov, the city that once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world. Officially, she is just another junior diplomat, dispatched by the city’s new colonial masters; unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, on a mission to solve a murder. As she pursues the killer, she begins to suspect that the gods who once guarded Bulikov are not as dead as they seem, and that the city’s cruel reign may begin anew.

In City of Blades, General Turin Mulaghesh—foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled prime minister—is pressed into service one last time, investigating a terrifying discovery in the city of Voortyashtan, once the stronghold of the god of war and death. Voortyashtan’s god is most certainly dead, but something is awakening in the city. And someone is determined to make the world tremble at the city’s awful power once again.

In City of Miracles, the formidable, seemingly unkillable Sigrud je Harkvaldsson returns from self-imposed exile on a mission of revenge, only to find himself embroiled in a battle that may be beyond even his abilities to win—a secret, decades-long war that will force him to confront the last mysteries of Bulikov, the city of miracles itself.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts' Daughter of the Empire, first installment in the excellent Empire trilogy, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

An epic tale of adventure and intrigue, Daughter of the Empire is fantasy of the highest order by two of the most talented writers in the field today.

Magic and murder engulf the realm of Kelewan. Fierce warlords ignite a bitter blood feud to enslave the empire of Tsuranuanni. While in the opulent Imperial courts, assassins and spy-master plot cunning and devious intrigues against the rightful heir. Now Mara, a young, untested Ruling lady, is called upon to lead her people in a heroic struggle for survival. But first she must rally an army of rebel warriors, form a pact with the alien cho-ja, and marry the son of a hated enemy. Only then can Mara face her most dangerous foe of all—in his own impregnable stronghold.

Quote of the Day

“We’re being robbed,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Evidently.” Clay rubbed at his eyes to clear them. He looked at Matrick, who was leaning sullenly against a nearby tree. “Weren’t you supposed to be keeping watch?”

“Sure was,” said Matty. “I watched them appear out of nowhere with bows.”

Clay frowned. “Fair enough.”

- NICHOLAS EAMES, Kings of the Wyld (Canada, USA, Europe)

This book is so much fun!

Musical Interlude

This was the first album my brother and I bought with our own pocket money. I don't think there's ever been another record I listened to from start to finish as many times as I've listened to this one. Didn't understand much English back then, but I knew every song by heart.

And this track is by far Prince's best creation ever. So turn up the volume and blast this classic so everyone can sing along! =)

Three Parts Dead

I'm not exactly sure why it took me so long to give Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead a shot. I bought the digital edition a few years back when Patrick Rothfuss raved about the series. But even though I was keen to read it, for some reason something always got in the way. Couldn't bring a whole lot of reading material with me on my roadtrip around the Gaspésie peninsula, so it turned out to be the perfect opportunity to dive into some ebooks on my tablet.

As many readers have opined over the years, Three Parts Dead is unlike anything else I ever read. To a certain extent, that the best thing you can say about the novel. However, at times it's also its biggest shortcoming. Gladstone came up with a work that truly defies all labels.

Here's the blurb:

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.

As I mentioned, it's impossible to put Three Parts Dead in a nutshell. Yes, it is an urban fantasy book set in a fictional universe. But in style and format, it's more of a police procedural/courtroom drama/mystery novel than anything else. To put it simply, it's hip, fresh, and original. And yet, it was also sometimes difficult for me to get my bearings. Especially at the beginning, when few things make sense. It did get better as the plot moved forward, so trust the author for he knows what he's doing.

The worldbuilding was rich in details. The world and everything about it came alive in spectacular fashion. Max Gladstone's prose creates an imagery that can be quite arresting. This facet of Three Parts Dead was by far my favorite. Magic is known as the Craft and it has to do with harnessing soulstuff. Trouble is, à la Erikson, the author doesn't elaborate a whole lot on the Craft and how magic works. You do learn bits and pieces as the story progresses, mind you, but I wish we would have discovered more by the time I reached the last page.

The characterization is made up of the perspectives of a number of disparate protagonists. Two main characters take center stage, though. Abelard, chainsmoking Novice Technician of Holy Kos Everburning, is undergoing a crisis of faith now that his god is dead. Tara Abernathy is a new lawyer investigating the circumstances surrounding Kos' apparent murder. There are other POVs, the most interesting of the bunch being that of Elayne Kevarian, Tara's boss and savior.

Pacing can be a little off in certain portions of the tale, especially in the first couple of chapters. Three Parts Dead is never boring, but there are a few bumps here and there until Abelard and Tara manage to unveil the mystery regarding the god's death and things begin to make more sense. The deeper they dig, the more engrossing the story becomes.

Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead is unique. Featuring a clever plot set in an inventive and fully-realized world populated by genuine protagonists, it's a refreshing read to be sure. À la Malazan, the reader is dropped in the middle of a story and the author doesn't waste time spoon-feeding you information. In order to really appreciate such a novel, one has to be able to just buckle up and you'll be rewarded with something unlike anything you can find on the market today.

For any jaded speculative fiction readers out there, Gladstone's Craft Sequence could be just what the doctor ordered!

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

Quote of the Day

Kallorek replaced the helm and ran a hand over the coat of red mail beneath it. “The Warskin,” he said reverently. “The impenetrable armour of Jack the Reaver. No sword or spear can pierce it, they say, but syphilis got through all right. Poor Jack.”

- NICHOLAS EAMES, Kings of the Wyld (Canada, USA, Europe)

Haven't had this much fun reading in a long time!!! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of David Anthony Durham's Acacia: The War with the Mein for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

“David Anthony Durham has serious chops. I can’t wait to read whatever he writes next."
—George R. R. Martin

Welcome to Acacia . . .

Born into generations of prosperity, the four royal children of the Akaran dynasty know little of the world outside their opulent island paradise. But when an assassin strikes at the heart of their power, their lives are changed forever.

Forced to flee to distant corners and separated against their will, the children must navigate a web of hidden allegiances, ancient magic, foreign invaders, and illicit trade that will challenge their very notion of who they are. As they come to understand their true purpose in life, the fate of the world lies in their hands.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Now a major motion picture.

A great modern classic and the prelude to THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.

A glorious account of a magnificent adventure, filled with suspense and seasoned with a quiet humor that is irresistible . . . All those, young or old, who love a fine adventurous tale, beautifully told, will take The Hobbit to their hearts. -New York Times Book Review

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 6th)

In hardcover:

Timothy Zahn's Thrawn: Alliances debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's The Outsider maintains its position at number 4.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up one spot, finishing the week at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Win a set of Kay Kenyon's Dark Talents series

Thanks to the generosity of the author, I have a set of Kay Kenyon's Dark Talents installments up for grabs! The prize pack includes:

- At the Table of Wolves (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Serpent in the Heather (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy meets X-Men in a classic British espionage story. A young woman must go undercover and use her superpowers to discover a secret Nazi plot and stop an invasion of England.

In 1936, there are paranormal abilities that have slowly seeped into the world, brought to the surface by the suffering of the Great War. The research to weaponize these abilities in England has lagged behind Germany, but now it’s underway at an ultra-secret site called Monkton Hall.

Kim Tavistock, a woman with the talent of the spill—drawing out truths that people most wish to hide—is among the test subjects at the facility. When she wins the confidence of caseworker Owen Cherwell, she is recruited to a mission to expose the head of Monkton Hall—who is believed to be a German spy.

As she infiltrates the upper-crust circles of some of England’s fascist sympathizers, she encounters dangerous opponents, including the charismatic Nazi officer Erich von Ritter, and discovers a plan to invade England. No one believes an invasion of the island nation is possible, not Whitehall, not even England’s Secret Intelligence Service. Unfortunately, they are wrong, and only one woman, without connections or training, wielding her talent of the spill and her gift for espionage, can stop it.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "WOLVES." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

C. S. Friedman made a name for herself with the amazing Coldfire trilogy. Indeed, these books established the author as a master of dark fantasy during the 90s. Sadly, the Magisters trilogy, although awesome, flew so low under the radar that very few people seem to have read it. If more and more people actually gave these books a shot, we might soon refer to the Coldfire trilogy as the Friedman's other fantasy series. Yes, it's that damn good!

And you can once again get your hands on the digital edition of the first volume, Feast of Souls, for only 2.99$ here. This trilogy deserves the highest possible recommendation!

Here's the blurb:

At the end of her bestselling Coldfire trilogy, C.S. Friedman challenged readers to imagine what a world would be like if sorcery required the ultimate sacrifice-that of life itself. Now, in Feast of Souls, she introduces us to a terrifying world in which the cost of magic is just which the fuel for sorcery is the very fire of the human spirit, and those who hunger for magical power must pay for it with their lives. In this epic tale of nightmarish shadows and desperate hope, the greatest threat of all may not be that of ancient enemies returned, or ancient wars resumed, but of the darkness that lies within the hearts of men.

Here's a link to my review from 2007.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Robin Hobb's Fool's Assassin for only 1.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Nearly twenty years ago, Robin Hobb burst upon the fantasy scene with the first of her acclaimed Farseer novels, Assassin’s Apprentice, which introduced the characters of FitzChivalry Farseer and his uncanny friend the Fool. A watershed moment in modern fantasy, this novel—and those that followed—broke exciting new ground in a beloved genre. Together with George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb helped pave the way for such talented new voices as Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson, and Naomi Novik.

Over the years, Hobb’s imagination has soared throughout the mythic lands of the Six Duchies in such bestselling series as the Liveship Traders Trilogy and the Rain Wilds Chronicles. But no matter how far she roamed, her heart always remained with Fitz. And now, at last, she has come home, with an astonishing new novel that opens a dark and gripping chapter in the Farseer saga.

FitzChivalry—royal bastard and former king’s assassin—has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is now married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and leading the quiet life of a country squire.

Though Fitz is haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become, such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life, at least until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz’s past . . . and his future.

Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one. . .

Street Freaks

Although I used to be a big Terry Brooks fan back in the day, it's been over a decade since I last read anything by the author. I'm too far behind in the Shannara saga to give new installments a shot, so I've been waiting for him to write something new that I could sink my teeth into. When I received an advance reading copy of the forthcoming Street Freaks, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with Brooks. I was excited to be bringing the book with me on my roadtrip around Gaspésie. Unfortunately, it proved to be quite a chore to read and I finished it at a coffee shop in St-Jean-Port-Joli, glad to have finally gone through it. Indeed, there were times when I considered just giving up. But I was still on vacation with limited reading material and I elected to persevere.

Alas, nowhere in the cover blurb, the press release, and all the related online material was there any indication that this was a YA novel. Because make no mistake. Terry Brooks went into full YA mode for this one. Even worse, he went into young adolescent mode regarding certain aspects of the story. As you guys know, I'm not too keen on YA as a rule, and I wish I would have known beforehand. Because now my review would be decidedly lukewarm at best. If I'd known, I would have thanked them for the opportunity, but I would have passed on this one. Now, I like Shawn Speakman and I got in touch with him when I finished Street Freaks, wondering why this work wasn't billed as Young Adult material. I was afraid that this book could suffer from the same sort of backlash that really hurt the sales of C. S. Friedman's The Dreamwalker Chronicles.

You may recall that Dreamwalker was billed as a crossover novel. Something which included elements targetted to a teen audience, but also hopefully enough content and complexity that would please Friedman's adult audience. What I immediately realized when I started the book was that in style and tone it was a world away from the dark science fiction and fantasy series/novels Friedman has become renowned for. And no matter from which angle you looked at the plot, it was YA through and through. When I mentioned this, both Friedman and her editor requested that I kindly refrain from using the terms YA or young adult in my review of the book. The rationale was, understandably, that such a label could potentially alienate a good chunk of Friedman's readership. The problem with this strategy is that, if the online customers/readers' reviews are any indication, a vast number of people believing that they would experience more of Friedman's awesomeness felt cheated to have forked out their hard-earned money for what turned out to be a YA novel. In the end, Dreamwalker didn't perform as well as they had hoped for. Here was a YA title whose target audience was the extremely lucrative YA market. Yet there was no mention of it being a YA work, it was released by a non-YA publisher, and it wouldn't even appear in the YA section of bookstores around North America. Moreover, it received basically no coverage from YA resources. Hence, not only did the bulk of Friedman's long-time fans felt short-changed by this strategy, but the book's target audience was more or less never reached.

Speakman opine that at its heart, every single Terry Brooks book is YA. They all feature young main characters going against the big bad guy. According to him, the same was true regarding Street Freaks. I wholeheartedly disagreed with him, claiming that though the main characters are often young, the Shannara novels mostly dealt with adult themes. In Speakman's opinion, Street Freaks is probably the most adult thing Brooks has ever written. Well, it appears that we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. And I can't help but feel that hiding the fact that the novel is definitely YA is a little disingenuous.

Here's the blurb:

"Go into the Red Zone. Go to Street Freaks." his father directs Ashton Collins before the vid feed goes suddenly silent. The Red Zone is the dangerous heart of mega-city Los Angeles; it is a world Ash is forbidden from and one he knows little about. But if he can find Street Freaks, the strangest of aid awaits―human and barely human alike. As Ash is hunted, he must unravel the mystery left behind by his father and discover his role in this new world.

Brooks has long been the grandmaster of fantasy. Now he turns his hand to science fiction filled with what his readers love best: complex characters, extraordinary settings, exciting action, and a page-turning story. Through it, Brooks reimagines his bestselling career yet again.

I a nutshell, Street Freaks is a teenage version of The Fast and the Furious franchise meets Divergent meets The Goonies. The main plot revolves around an evil corporate empire illegally experimenting on children to produce means to help control the world's population. How someone who became a worldwide bestselling author by capturing the imagination of millions of readers came up with something so unoriginal and uninteresting, I'll never know. Basically all the concepts and ideas in this book have been recycled and reheated in the microwave. The finished product is bland and uninspired, by far the most lackluster book by Brooks that I have ever read. While it's true that adult themes such as corporate greed and sex (to a certain extent) are explored, Street Freaks is more about juvenile themes like friendship, the desire to fit in, first love, etc. The plotlines, the way characters act and talk, the way the main protagonist thinks and acts and reacts, the way everything is kind of black and white. Everything is YA. Through and through. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Yet I felt that Street Freaks should be billed as such.

If young readers are not necessarily the target audience, one has to wonder why Terry Brooks felt the need to dumb down and simplify everything. Why did the author feel the need to overexplain every idea and concept, why all the repetitions, why all the info-dumps?

The characterization was incredibly subpar. Ashton Collins doesn't have the appeal necessary to carry a novel on his shoulders. There is not a whole lot of character growth as far as he is concerned. Problem is, Ash spends the better part of the book hopelessly infatuated by a girl and the rest of it being worried about who he can trust and what he can do. Brooks keeps rehashing the same feelings and worries throughout Street Freaks, which makes Ash more annoying with each new chapter. Instead of caring for him and rooting for the guy, he's not the sharpest tool in the shed and one soon forgets his plight and wishes that there were other points of view through whose lenses we could see the tale unfold. Sadly, the rest of the cast is mostly comprised of two-dimensional teenage boys and girls that are little more than cardboard cutouts. The sole exceptions being Cay and Jenny, and I wish we could have learned more about them. When all is said and done, Ash taking center stage pretty much killed it for me.

The pace was decidedly uneven. Street Freaks started with a bang, but the plot quickly petered out. It took way too long for the truth about the Street Freak crew to be unveiled, methinks. And then there are action sequences and car races that were more or less unnecessary. Things finally pick up in the last third of the novel, heading toward a predictible endgame and a finale that you see coming from a mile away. With a villain that is happy to reveal the whole evil entreprise before being outfoxed by a bunch of kids, of course. Seriously, for readers aged between 12 and 15, Terry Brooks' Street Freaks would likely be a killer read.

In the end, as other reviews have pointed out, while Street Freaks is perfectly appropriate for a younger audience, I believe that it is a complete waste of time for a more mature one. Consider yourselves warned. . .

The final verdict: 4/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Robert R. McCammon's Boy's Life, winner of the World Fantasy and the Bram Stoker Awards, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

An Alabama boy’s innocence is shaken by murder and madness in the 1960s South in this novel by the New York Times–bestselling author of Swan Song.

It’s 1964 in idyllic Zephyr, Alabama. People either work for the paper mill up the Tecumseh River, or for the local dairy. It’s a simple life, but it stirs the impressionable imagination of twelve-year-old aspiring writer Cory Mackenson. He’s certain he’s sensed spirits whispering in the churchyard. He’s heard of the weird bootleggers who lurk in the dark outside of town. He’s seen a flood leave Main Street crawling with snakes. Cory thrills to all of it as only a young boy can.

Then one morning, while accompanying his father on his milk route, he sees a car careen off the road and slowly sink into fathomless Saxon’s Lake. His father dives into the icy water to rescue the driver, and finds a beaten corpse, naked and handcuffed to the steering wheel—a copper wire tightened around the stranger’s neck. In time, the townsfolk seem to forget all about the unsolved murder. But Cory and his father can’t.

Their search for the truth is a journey into a world where innocence and evil collide. What lies before them is the stuff of fear and awe, magic and madness, fantasy and reality. As Cory wades into the deep end of Zephyr and all its mysteries, he’ll discover that while the pleasures of childish things fade away, growing up can be a strange and beautiful ride.

You can also download Octavia E. Butler's Seed to Harvest for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The complete Patternist series—the acclaimed science fiction epic of a world transformed by a secret race of telepaths and their devastating rise to power.

In the late seventeenth century, two immortals meet in an African forest. Anyanwu is a healer, a three-hundred-year-old woman who uses her wisdom to help those around her. The other is Doro, a malevolent despot who has mastered the power of stealing the bodies of others when his wears out. Together they will change the world.

Over the next three centuries, Doro mounts a colossal selective breeding project, attempting to create a master race of telepaths. He succeeds beyond his wildest dreams, splitting the human race down the middle and establishing a new world order dominated by the most manipulative minds on Earth.

In these four novels, award-winning author Octavia E. Butler tells the classic story that began her legendary career: a mythic tale of the transformation of civilization.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Octavia E. Butler including rare images from the author’s estate.

You can also download Octavia E. Butler's Lilith's Brood: The Complete Xenogenesis trilogy for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Three novels in one volume: the acclaimed science fiction trilogy about an alien species that could save humanity after nuclear apocalypse—or destroy it.

The newest stage in human evolution begins in outer space. Survivors of a cataclysmic nuclear war awake to find themselves being studied by the Oankali, tentacle-covered galactic travelers whose benevolent appearance hides their surprising plan for the future of mankind. The Oankali arrive not just to save humanity, but to bond with it—crossbreeding to form a hybrid species that can survive in the place of its human forebears, who were so intent on self-destruction. Some people resist, forming pocket communities of purebred rebellion, but many realize they have no choice. The human species inevitably expands into something stranger, stronger, and undeniably alien.

From Hugo and Nebula award–winning author Octavia Butler, Lilith’s Brood is both a thrilling, epic adventure of man’s struggle to survive after Earth’s destruction, and a provocative meditation on what it means to be human.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Octavia E. Butler including rare images from the author’s estate.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 30th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider maintains its position at number 4.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down one spot, finishing the week at number 6 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Kate Eliottt's King's Dragon for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Set in an alternate Europe where bloody conflicts rage, the first book of the Crown of Stars epic fantasy series chronicles a world-shaking conflict for the survival of humanity.

It begins with civil war....

For though King Henry still holds the crown of Wendar, his reign has long been contested by his sister Sabella. There are many eager to flock to her banner, and there are ways to make even the most unwilling lord into a weapon pointed at the heart of Henry’s realm.

Torn by internal strife, Wendar also faces deadly raids from the north by an inhuman race, the Eika. And now terrifying portents are being seen; old ruins restored to life under the light of the full moon and peopled by the long-vanished Lost Ones; dark spirits walking the land in broad daylight.

And suddenly two innocents are about to be thrust into the middle of the conflict.

Liath, who has spent her early years fleeing from unknown enemies, is a young woman with the power to change the course of history if she can only learn to master her fear and seize what is rightfully hers.

While Alain, a young man who may find his future in a vision granted by the Lady of Battles, must first unravel the mystery of who he is—whether the bastard son of a noble father, the half-breed child of an elfin lord, the unwanted get of a whore, or the heir to a proud and ancient lineage. For only when he discovers the truth can he accept the destiny for which he was born.

Liath and Alain, each trapped in a personal struggle for survival, both helplessly being drawn into a far greater battle, a war in which sorcery not swords will determine the final outcome, and the land itself may be irrevocably reshaped by the forces unleashed....

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution

At first I believed that The Freeze-Frame Revolution was an omnibus comprised of all the Sunflower Cycle short fiction pieces, yet I soon realized that it wasn't the case. Nothing to worry about, as this novella was meant to work as a stand-alone and it does work perfectly well at that.

Still, had I known I would have read what came before and will certainly do it sooner rather than later given the quality of Peter Watts' latest work. The rest of the cycle includes The Island, which won the Hugo Award for best novelette in 2010, Hotshot, and Giants, all of which can be read for free on the author's website.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution marks the triumphal return of Peter Watts. Best known for his hard science fiction novels and stories, this new novella could well be the author's most accessible work to date. I've always claimed that Blindsight was the best novel to read for any SFF fans who wanted to give Watts a shot. But now it's obvious that The Freeze-Frame Revolution is the way to go.

Here's the blurb:

She believed in the mission with all her heart.

But that was sixty million years ago.

How do you stage a mutiny when you're only awake one day in a million? How do you conspire when your tiny handful of potential allies changes with each shift? How do you engage an enemy that never sleeps, that sees through your eyes and hears through your ears and relentlessly, honestly, only wants what best for you?

Sunday Ahzmundin is about to find out.

I was hooked by the premise from the get-go. The crew of the starship Eriophora spent the last 65 million years building a web of wormholes gates throughout space in order to make interstellar travel for human expansion more accessible. Every few millennia or so, a team is selected and awakened from among its 30,000-plus population by the ship's AI to assist in the logistics of gate construction. But how can one stage a mutiny during such short periods of wakefulness? This is what The Freeze-Frame Revolution is all about. It's hard scifi, no doubt about it, with a vast scope as enormous as the universe itself. And yet, Peter Watts managed to "dumb" everything down in a way that will satisfy any speculative fiction readers out there. Themes such as identity, alienation, the nature of self and consciousness, the persistence of time, and the worth of existence are explored throughout the vignettes which comprise this novella. It may sound heavy, and at times it was just that. But the narrative is imbued with the author's dark wit and humor, which made this book a pleasure to read.

Eriophora and its mission is overseen by Chimp, an artificial intelligence built with a lower synapse count to supposedly maintain it at a relatively human-level mental capacity. Sunday Ahzmundin is the main character and the narrator of this tale, and hers is the only perspective of this novella. As Chimp's favorite, she finds herself awakened more often than any other crewmember. To a certain extent over the millennia, Sunday has come to consider the AI as some sort of friend. Being part of more gate-building missions than most, she has also gotten to know more people from the many tribes that comprise the ship's population. This allowed Sunday to perceive the first seeds of mutiny and watch them grow, as certain crewmembers start to question whether or not the Chimp can be trusted. But how can anyone possibly stage a coup against an AI that can see and hear everything, when the allies have no idea who or how many of their fellow mutineers will be awakened by the Chimp at any given time, and at intervals which can span countless ages?

Weighing in at only 192 pages, The Freeze-Frame Revolution doesn't suffer from any pacing issues. I went through it in only two sittings during my roadtrip around Gaspésie. It doesn't happen often when I review books, but I wish this work had been longer. Yes, it was that good! Thankfully, there are three more Sunflower Cycle short fiction pieces that I can sink my teeth into on the author's website.

In my humble opinion, this novella showcases a Peter Watts writing at the top of his game, recounting a story that should please hard science fiction aficionados and SFF newbies alike. This is the author's most accessible work thus far, making it the perfect jumping point for any readers who have yet to give Watts a go.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution is quite a treat! Definitely one of the speculative fiction titles to read in 2018.

Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Today only, on the other side of the pond, you can get your hands on the digital editions of eight Brandon Sanderson novels for only £0.99 each. Just follow this link.

Discounted titles include:

The Way of Kings
Words of Radiance
The Final Empire
The Well of Ascension
The Hero of Ages
The Bands of Mourning
Shadows of Self

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 23rd)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider maintains its position at number 4.

Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver debuts at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The ruling Asharites of Al-Rassan have come from the desert sands, but over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, their stern piety has eroded. The Asharite empire has splintered into decadent city-states led by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan -- poet, diplomat, soldier -- until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever.

Meanwhile, in the north, the conquered Jaddites' most celebrated -- and feared -- military leader, Rodrigo Belmonte, driven into exile, leads his mercenary company south.

In the dangerous lands of Al-Rassan, these two men from different worlds meet and serve -- for a time -- the same master. Sharing their interwoven fate -- and increasingly torn by her feelings -- is Jehane, the accomplished court physician, whose own skills play an increasing role as Al-Rassan is swept to the brink of holy war, and beyond.

Hauntingly evocative of medieval Spain, The Lions of Al-Rassan is both a brilliant adventure and a deeply compelling story of love, divided loyalties, and what happens to men and women when hardening beliefs begin to remake -- or destroy -- a world.