More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes' The Dragon Corsairs trilogy omnibus, comprised of Spymaster, Privateer, and Kingmaker, for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb for the first novel:

The start of a swashbuckling adventure from New York Times bestselling author Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes.

Captain Kate Fitzmaurice was born to sail. She has made a life of her own as a privateer and smuggler. Hired by the notorious Henry Wallace, spymaster for the queen of Freya, to find a young man who claims to be the true heir to the Freyan, she begins to believe that her ship has finally come in.

But no fair wind lasts forever. Soon Kate’s checkered past will catch up to her. It will take more than just quick wits and her considerable luck if she hopes to bring herself—and her crew—through intact.

"A solid addition to a new series, with a cliffhanger ending promising more intrigue and adventure in the next installment."--Booklist

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

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

In hardcover:

Diana Gabaldon's Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone is down three spots, finishing the week at number 6.

Stephen King's Billy Summers is up three positions, ending the week at number 11.

Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary returns at number 14.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Tasha Suri's Empire of Sand for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

A nobleman's daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri's captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy.

The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.

When Mehr's power comes to the attention of the Emperor's most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.

Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance...

Empire of Sand is a lush, dazzling fantasy novel perfect for readers of City of Brass and The Wrath and the Dawn.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Mark Lawrence's The Devil You Know, a collection of three short stories, for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. It's 3.74$ in Canada and £2.15 in the UK.

Here's the blurb:

This collection contains three unconnected short stories.

The Devil You Know - 10,341 words - a Nona story that sits between Red Sister and Grey Sister - an extension of Red Sister.

The Hero of Aral Pass - 4,493 words - a Jalan story that sits after The Red Queen's War trilogy.

A Thousand Years - 9,321 words - a Snorri story that occurs before The Red Queen's War trilogy.

Quote of the day

The truth of life is that every year we get farther away from the essence that is born within us. We get shouldered with burdens, some of them good, some of them not so good. Things happen to us. Loved ones die. People get in wrecks and get crippled. People lose their way, for one reason or another. It’s not hard to do, in this world of crazy mazes. Life itself does its best to take that memory of magic away from us. You don’t know it’s happening until one day you feel you’ve lost something but you’re not sure what it is. It’s like smiling at a pretty girl and she calls you “sir.” It just happens.

- ROBERT R. MCCAMMON, Boy's Life (Canada, USA, Europe)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can get your hands on the digital edition of Haruki Mukakami's 1Q84 for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

Quote of the day

We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God's sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they'd allowed to wither in themselves.

- ROBERT R. MCCAMMON, Boy's Life (Canada, USA, Europe)

What a beautiful quote!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Naomi Novik's A Deadly Education for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

I decided that Orion Lake needed to die after the second time he saved my life.

Everyone loves Orion Lake. Everyone else, that is. Far as I’m concerned, he can keep his flashy combat magic to himself. I’m not joining his pack of adoring fans.

I don’t need help surviving the Scholomance, even if they do. Forget the hordes of monsters and cursed artifacts, I’m probably the most dangerous thing in the place. Just give me a chance and I’ll level mountains and kill untold millions, make myself the dark queen of the world.

At least, that’s what the world expects. Most of the other students in here would be delighted if Orion killed me like one more evil thing that’s crawled out of the drains. Sometimes I think they want me to turn into the evil witch they assume I am. The school certainly does.

But the Scholomance isn’t getting what it wants from me. And neither is Orion Lake. I may not be anyone’s idea of the shining hero, but I’m going to make it out of this place alive, and I’m not going to slaughter thousands to do it, either.

Although I’m giving serious consideration to just one.

You can also download Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

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.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Peter F. Hamilton's The Dreaming Void for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

Reviewers exhaust superlatives when it comes to the science fiction of Peter F. Hamilton. His complex and engaging novels, which span thousands of years–and light-years–are as intellectually stimulating as they are emotionally fulfilling. Now, with The Dreaming Void, the first volume in a trilogy set in the same far-future as his acclaimed Commonwealth saga, Hamilton has created his most ambitious and gripping space epic yet.

The year is 3589, fifteen hundred years after Commonwealth forces barely staved off human extinction in a war against the alien Prime. Now an even greater danger has surfaced: a threat to the existence of the universe itself.

At the very heart of the galaxy is the Void, a self-contained microuniverse that cannot be breached, cannot be destroyed, and cannot be stopped as it steadily expands in all directions, consuming everything in its path: planets, stars, civilizations. The Void has existed for untold millions of years. Even the oldest and most technologically advanced of the galaxy’s sentient races, the Raiel, do not know its origin, its makers, or its purpose.

But then Inigo, an astrophysicist studying the Void, begins dreaming of human beings who live within it. Inigo’s dreams reveal a world in which thoughts become actions and dreams become reality. Inside the Void, Inigo sees paradise. Thanks to the gaiafield, a neural entanglement wired into most humans, Inigo’s dreams are shared by hundreds of millions–and a religion, the Living Dream, is born, with Inigo as its prophet. But then he vanishes.

Suddenly there is a new wave of dreams. Dreams broadcast by an unknown Second Dreamer serve as the inspiration for a massive Pilgrimage into the Void. But there is a chance that by attempting to enter the Void, the pilgrims will trigger a catastrophic expansion, an accelerated devourment phase that will swallow up thousands of worlds.

And thus begins a desperate race to find Inigo and the mysterious Second Dreamer. Some seek to prevent the Pilgrimage; others to speed its progress–while within the Void, a supreme entity has turned its gaze, for the first time, outward. . . .

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Peter F. Hamilton's The Temporal Void.

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

In hardcover:

Diana Gabaldon's Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone is down two spots, finishing the week at number 3.

Stephen King's Billy Summers returns at number 14.

Artificial Condition

In my review of All Systems Red, I was telling you that I've grown wary of works that get a whole lot of love from critics and go on winning genre awards. Too often, politics have become part of the selection process. But when Martha Wells' novella won the Nebula, the Alex, and the Locus Awards, in addition to the Hugo Award for best novella, it dawned upon me that it had to be something special. Still, I was loath to give it a shot at the time.

The second installment in the Murderbot Diaries, Artificial Condition, racked up both the Hugo and Locus Awards for best novella. At that point, it became clear that I would have to read them. But I waited for more than a year before purchasing a set and just about as long to finally give them a go. On the one hand, I feel a little stupid for waiting this long. But on the other hand, I don't have to wait months between each volume. Which allowed me to jump into this one the day after I finished its predecessor.

As was the case with All Systems Red, I sat down with a cup of coffee and went through this sequel in one sitting. Weighing in at 158 pages, I devoured it in no time. Not only is Artificial Condition as good as the first installment, it builds on the existing storylines and reveals some answers to the many questions raised in the opening chapter of the series.

Here's the blurb:

Artificial Condition is the follow-up to Martha Wells's Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Award-winning, New York Times bestselling All Systems Red.

It has a dark past—one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot”. But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more.

Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.

What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…

Given the novella-length format, the worldbuilding aspect is kept to a bare minimum. Once again, Wells elaborates briefly on the Company and its contracts, the SecUnits and other bots, but we learn very little about much else. If anything, I think we discover less in Artificial Condition than we did in the first volume. Which is mostly due to the fact that Murderbot seeks answers about its own past in this one. As I mentioned before, this may sound like a pretty thin plot thus far. But there seems to be more than meets the eye here. Limited in scope and vision as the first two installments of the Murderbot Diaries appear to be, there is a depth to the storylines that will hopefully be explored in their sequels. As a matter of course, how ambitious and multilayered the sequence turns out to be remains to be seen. But there's no denying that the first two volumes make for compulsive reading.

First-person perspectives can be tricky, but Martha Wells created a decidedly compelling and endearing main protagonist. Murderbot's narrative gives these two novellas their unique flavor and makes this antisocial SecUnit one of the most interesting protagonists in science fiction today. Who would have thought that this AI could be so human? Believing itself free at the end of All Systems Red, Murderbot soon discovers that he's a fugitive and that the authorities are now looking for a rogue SecUnit. Still, Murderbot wants to learn the truth about its past. Namely, whether or not it is indeed guilty of mass murder. The answer to that question lies at the site of that former contract, RaviHyral Mining Facility Q Station. With its memory partially purged, Murderbot needs to know if it hacked its governor module in order to kill all those people.

Hopping a ride on an empty ship, Murderbot believes that it will have ample time to catch up on his favorite TV shows. Alas, the AI running that vessel is several orders of magnitude more powerful than the SecUnit and sees through Murderbot's ploy. To Murderbot's consternation, the AI has no intention of turning it in. Lonely, that artificial intelligence craves companionship and won't leave the poor Murderbot alone. Christened ART, which stands for Asshole Research Transport, though extremely annoying, soon Murderbot will realize that this mighty AI can help him in a myriad ways. And thus is born one of the very best tag-teams of SFF characters in recent memory. A more unlikely duo is hard to find and here's to hoping that they'll have plenty more misadventures together.

Since no one can land on RaviHyral without official authorization or an employment voucher, Murderbot is forced to accept a security contract for a bunch of technologists. Only then will it be able to investigate the site where all those miners were killed. Unfortunately, the people he has to babysit are do-gooders who seem clueless of the fact that they are going to get themselves killed. Which will put Murderbot in the face of danger before it can seek the answers it is desperate to unveil.

Martha Wells obviously wanted All Systems Red to be an introduction meant to allow readers to get acquainted with Murderbot. Artificial Condition, though it provides a few answers and leaves the door open for so much more, is a more self-contained story. Short fiction pieces mean a more episodic format. There's no helping that. But if each novella builds on the groundwork laid by its predecessor, I have no problem with that. The silver lining is that there is never any filler. At least not up until this point. So far, each novella is as long as it needs to be.

As I said in my previous review, the novella-length format precludes any sort of pacing issues. Still, I found the rhythm to be more even in this one. Which makes Artificial Condition another page-turner. Let's hope that the sequels are just as good!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Neal Stephenson's Zodiac for only 2.99$ following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

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.

Progress Report

Hey guys,

Hope life is treating you well, wherever you may be. Or as well as can be expected, anyway. Here in my part of Canada, we're under lockdown and have a curfew. Not sure which wave this is. The fifth or the sixth? It sometimes feels as though we'll never get out of this shit.

Some of you have messaged me, asking for news regarding my manuscript. I haven't shared anything because there's nothing to share just yet.

When last you heard about it, The Evil That Men Do weighed in at 164,000 words (593 manuscript pages) and I had just sent it to the agent that represented my first novel back in 2007. Covid has slowed everything down in our lives, it often seems, and it's the same with publishing. It took more than five months for me to get a response. Matt's wife died not too long ago and since basically all of his clients have used the free time engendered by the pandemic to write their own novels, he no longer takes on new clients. He had a lot of nice things to say about my manuscript and encouraged me to search for an agent actively seeking new clients, but he did pass on it.

So I sent it out to another one and it took four months to hear back from her. Wasn't expecting much since she requested the first five pages only. Hard to really make an impression with such a small sample. Anyway, I sent the manuscript to another agent in October and I'm still waiting to hear back from him. Them's the breaks.

Here's the blurb (kind of):

Princess Beatrice Orsini, heir to the throne of Nadrek, is about to get betrothed to Tammaron Rohan, a scion of the royal line of the neighboring kingdom of Sarandia. Something that doesn't sit well with loyalists afraid that foreign influence might undermine the aristocracy's privileges in the years to come. Trouble is, the Hundred Years War has decimated the House Orsini family tree and the male line will end with the death of King Rodric. Many hope that uniting both families will finally bring a measure of peace to a realm that has bled for close to a century. Still, with the Game of Houses one never knows.

Fourteen years before, Laman Orsini, brother of King Edward, orchestrated a coup that sought to eliminate every other claimant to the crown. And though his treachery cost the lives of the rest of the royal family, a seemingly mortally wounded Rodric entrusted his young daughter Beatrice in the care of an old friend he met during the last civil war. Captain Shorty, commanding officer of the 13th Company, flees with the princess, now the legitimate heir to the crown.

Beatrice, not yet five years old, suddenly finds herself the biggest prize in the Game of Houses. As the only person standing in the way of Lord Laman's ascending the throne, he and his cronies will stop at nothing to capture and kill the girl. Alas, the 13th Company is the most notorious and ruthless military unit the kingdom of Nadrek has ever fielded. And they are known by another name, one earned in blood time and time again: the Widowmakers.

How hard can it be to kill one little girl? The conspirators are about to find out what it means to go up against the 13th Company. During her flight north toward the city of Fairhaven, living among those hard men and women will forever change the princess. But Beatrice's sweet innocence and her immense courage in the face of such adversity will also touch them in unexpected ways. They will never be the same again.

As I said before, it's Glen Cook's The Black Company meets Steven Erikson's The Bridgeburners meets George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. And just from this blurb you can see that there are a few nods and winks to various SFF series out there. Hopefully one day in the near future you'll get to meet Shorty, Shithead, Biggie, Blur, Simple, Sugar, Sunshine, Ghost, Princess, Serenity, Clumsy, Stringer, Boom, Fatso, Handsome, the Reverend, and the rest of the gang!

Back in January of 2021, I started working on the sequel, Blood for Blood. I got about 25 manuscript pages into the project before realizing that writing the next installment of a novel that might never see the light wasn't necessarily the best thing to do. But still, I wanted to keep working on something. After all, I have over 25 pages of handwritten notes regarding the sequel and over 10 pages of notes regarding the prequel, which is now titled The Thing That Should Not Be.

Then in March, I woke up with the idea of a story that could bridge The Evil That Men Do and Blood for Blood. I let it percolate inside my brain for a little while and wrote what turned out to be a 117-page novella titled Blademaster. I finished the first draft the first week of July and found myself at the same impasse.

That same week I dared my friend Chloé to take up what I call the song title challenge. You choose a song title and write a short story on the images and the themes it evokes in your mind. It's something I've always wanted to do but never did. The next day I went out for a walk and the first tune to hit my headphones was "She Talks to Angels" by The Black Crows. By the time I got home, I had enough material for a series of short stories featuring a homeless girl who lost her mind and who claims to, you guessed it, talk to angels.

A few walks later, I had all the main plot points more or less mapped out. But instead of starting at the beginning with the first story, "She Talks to Angels", because everything was so clear in my head I elected to write one of the last ones. "Heaven is a Place on Earth" saw the light and weighs in at 39 manuscript pages. Then came "When Doves Cry" (29 manuscript pages), followed by "Send Me An Angel" (22 manuscript pages). Though I was tempted to write the very last one, "Something To Believe In", I finally decided to go back to the start and I began writing "She Talks to Angels" yesterday afternoon. I figure there will be two or three more before I can bridge the gap between this first tale and what I've already written, and then I can start working on the last one. As you can see, each one is named after a song title.

So even though I wasn't able to keep up the pace I maintained throughout 2020, I still managed to write over 250 pages in 2021. Which isn't bad, all things considered.

Hopefully I'll have good news to share with you in the coming months! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Just realized that you can still download The Robert E. Howard Omnibus: 99 Collected Stories (Halcyon Classics) for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada. That's 2032 pages for less than 2$!!

Here's the blurb:

This Halcyon Classics ebook contains 99 short stories and novellas by 1930s pulp writer Robert Ervin Howard. Howard (1906-1936) is best known today for creating the sword-and-sorcery hero Conan, subject of two movies and dozens of books. However, during his short life Howard also published stories in a number of other genres.

In addition to fantasy, Howard wrote boxing stories, westerns, detective stories, horror, and created an number of compelling characters such as Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, El Borak, Steve Costigan, Pike Bearfield, King Kull, and Conan the Cimmerian.

This ebook is DRM free and includes an active table of contents for easy navigation.

Conan Stories

Gods of the North
Queen of the Black Coast
Shadows in the Moonlight
A Witch Shall be Born
Shadows in Zamboula
The Devil in Iron
The People of the Black Circle
Red Nails
Jewels of Gwahlur
Beyond the Black River
The Hour of the Dragon
The Hyborian Age

Boxing Stories

Alleys of Peril
Blow the Chinks Down!
Breed of Battle
Champ of the Forecastle
Circus Fists
Cupid vs. Pollux
Dark Shanghai
Fist and Fang
General Ironfist
Night of Battle
Sailors’ Grudge
Sluggers on the Beach
Texas Fists
The Bull Dog Breed
The Iron Man
The Pit of the Serpent
The Sign of the Snake
The Slugger’s Game
The TNT Punch
Vikings of the Gloves
Waterfront Fists
Winner Take All
Alleys of Darkness
Apparition in the Prize Ring

Detective Stories

Graveyard Rats
Fangs of Gold
Names in the Black Book
The Tomb’s Secret
Aha! or The Mystery of the Queen's Necklace
Halt! Who Goes There?
Unhand Me, Villain!

Fantasy Adventure Stories

Almuric The Treasures of Tartary
The Voice of El-Lil
The Valley of the Worm
The Garden of Fear
Witch from Hell's Kitchen

Kull Stories

The Shadow Kingdom
The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune

Bran Mak Morn Stories

The Lost Race

Cormac Fitzgeoffrey Stories

Hawks of Outremer
The Blood of Belshazzar

Wild Bill Clanton Stories

She Devil
The Purple Heart of Erlik

Historical Adventure Stories

Lord of Samarcand
Gates of Empire
The Lion of Tiberias
The Shadow of the Vulture
The Sowers of the Thunder
Red Blades of Black Cathay

Horror Stories

People of the Dark
Black Canaan
Moon of Zambebwei
Black Talons
Black Vulmea’s Revenge
The Cairn on the Headland
The Fearsome Touch of Death
The Haunter of the Ring
The Hyena
The Fire of Asshurbanipal

Solomon Kane Stories

Solomon Kane
Skulls in the Stars
Rattle of Bones

Western Stories

A Gent from Bear Creek
Cupid from Bear Creek
Evil Deeds at Red Cougar
Guns of the Mountains
High Horse Rampage
No Cowherders Wanted
Pilgrims to the Pecos
Pistol Politics
Sharp’s Gun Serenade
Texas John Alden
The Apache Mountain War
The Conquerin’ Hero of the Humbolts
The Feud Buster
The Haunted Mountain
The Riot at Cougar Paw
The Road to Bear Creek
The Scalp Hunter
War on Bear Creek
The Vultures of Whapeton
While Smoke Rolled
Boot-Hill Payoff
"Golden Hope" Christmas
Mountain Man

All Systems Red

I know I'm late to this party. It's not the first time and it probably won't be the last. But I've grown wary of books that get a whole lot of love from critics and go on winning genre awards. The Hugo, especially, since it has become a political shit show these last few years. But when Martha Wells' All Systems Red won the Nebula, the Alex, and the Locus Awards, in addition to the Hugo Award for best novella, I realized that it had to be something special.

And when the subsequent sequels enjoyed the same kind of critical and commercial success, I knew it was time to give these novellas a shot. The whole set went on sale last year or the one before, and I took advantage of it to get my hands on them all. Those that had been released up until that point, that is. But for some reason, something held me back and I couldn't bring myself to read them just yet. It was the same with Gideon the Ninth, which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment when I finally elected to give it a shot.

With some free time during the Christmas break and no desire to jump into a doorstopper, it was high time to read All Systems Red. Sat down with a cup of coffee and went through it in one siting. Yes, it's that good!

Here's the blurb:

"As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure."

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid—a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

I wasn't sure what to expect and I went into this one with no expectations, which is likely why I enjoyed it as much as I did. Given the novella-length format, I was aware that there would be little exposition. I was concerned that it would be detrimental to the story, yet it wasn't the case in All Systems Red. Time will tell if it will hurt the Murderbot Diaries in the long run. . .

The worldbuilding is kept to a bare minimum. Wells elaborates briefly on the Company, the bonds and the contracts inherent to exploratory missions, the SecUnits, but we learn very little about anything else. And what little we do discover is supplied by Murderbot's narrative. It may sound like a pretty thin plot, yet there is more than meets the eye. Limited in scope and vision as it appears to be, All Systems Red resounds with depth that will hopefully be unveiled in its sequels. Since I've already read Artificial Condition, I can vouch for the fact that, at least for the second volume, these novellas seem to build on the groundwork laid out by their predecessors. How ambitious and multilayered the series will turn out to be remains to be seen, of course. Still, the first installment makes you want to read the rest ASAP.

First-person perspectives are tricky things that can make or break a novel. It certainly makes All Systems Red a great ride. Indeed, the security android's narrative gives the novella its unique flavor and makes Murderbot one of the most compelling protagonists in science fiction today. Being in the head of this introvert SecUnit, who'd rather be left alone to binge watch TV shows instead of doing security duty for a bunch of scientists, is quite a treat. There is a lot more to his back story, but we only get a few hints in this one.

Given its size, I wasn't expecting much in terms of plotlines. It's obvious that Martha Wells wanted All Systems Red to be an introduction meant to allow readers to get acquainted with this self-aware android. And yet, though it's not obvious at the beginning, the author left a lot of doors open for further explorations of concepts and characters. And she does close the show with a bang, making it impossible not to jump into the second installment immediately.

Speaking of bang, that's exactly how All Systems Red starts and hooks you right from the get-go. The short fiction format precludes any sort of pacing issues. Even if it's not an action-packed tale, the novella is a page-turner. And since you can get your hands on it for about the price of a coffee, if like me you have yet to be introduced to Murderbot, I urge you to do so now!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Myke Cole's Gemini Cell for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

You can read my review of the book here.

Here's the blurb:

Myke Cole continues to blow the military fantasy genre wide open with GEMINI CELL, an all-new epic adventure in the highly acclaimed Shadow Ops universe.

US Navy SEAL Jim Schweitzer is a consummate professional, a fierce warrior, and a hard man to kill. But when he sees something he was never meant to see on a covert mission gone bad, he finds himself – and his family – in the crosshairs. Nothing means more to Jim than protecting his loved ones, but when the enemy brings the battle to his front door, he is overwhelmed and taken down.

It should be the end of the story. But Jim is raised from the dead by a sorcerer and recruited by a top secret unit dabbling in the occult, known only as the Gemini Cell. With powers he doesn’t understand, Jim is called back to duty – as the ultimate warrior. As he wrestles with a literal inner demon, Jim realises his new superiors are determined to use him for their own ends and keep him in the dark – especially about the fates of his wife and son…

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Myke Cole's excellent Shadow Ops: Control Point for only 2.99$ here.

You can read my review of the novel here.

Here's the blurb:

Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.

Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.

Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military's Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.

The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down--and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he's ever known, and that his life isn't the only thing he's fighting for.

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

In hardcover:

Diana Gabaldon's Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone debuts at number 1.

James S. A. Corey's Leviathan Falls debuts at number 9. (Canada, USA, Europe).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian: 20 Adventure Tales of Conan for only 0.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. 1740 pages featuring Conan the Cimmerian for less than 1$, it doesn't get much better than this! There is a price match in Canada and the UK.

Here's the blurb:

Conan The Barbarian is the original stories about adventure stories of conan the cimmerian written by Robert E. Howard in 1934-1936. In this book contains 20 stories of Conan The Cimmerian.

1.The Hyborian Age, first published in The Phantagraph, February-November 1936.
2.Shadows In the Moonlight, first published in Weird Tales, April 1934.
3.Queen Of the Black Coast, first published in Weird Tales, May 1934.
4.The Devil In Iron, first published in Weird Tales, August 1934.
5.The People Of the Black Circle, first published in Weird Tales, September, October and November 1934.
6.A Witch Shall Be Born, first published in Weird Tales in 1934.
7.The Jewels Of Gwahlur, first published in Weird Tales, March 1935.
8.Beyond the Black River, first published in Weird Tales magazine circa 1935.
9.Shadows In Zamboula, first published in Weird Tales, November 1935.
10.The Hour Of the Dragon, first published in Weird Tales, December 1935-April 1936.
11.Gods Of the North, first published in Fantasy Fan, March 1934.
12.Red Nails, First Published in Weird Tales, July, August-September, October 1936.
13. The Shadow of the Vulture, First published in the pulp magazine Magic Carpet Magazine, January 1934.
14.The Phoenix on the Sword, First published in 1932.
15.The Scarlet Citadel, First published in 1933.
16.The Tower of the Elephant, First published in 1933.
17.Black Colossus, First published in 1934.
18.The Slithering Shadow, First published in 1934.
19.The Pool of the Black One, First published in 1934.
20.Rogues in the House, First published in 1935.

Happy Birthday to the Hotlist!

Well, another mind-blowing milestone. Today, Pat's Fantasy Hotlist turned seventeen years old!

When I created this blog in 2005, I never would have thought that I'd still be around seventeen years later!

But 7705 blog posts, 711 reviews, 23,999 comments, I'm not not sure how many interviews, and close to 20 million page views later, I'm still here. A little worse for wear, true. But who isn't? :P

So I wanted to thank you all for sticking with me. All of this would be meaningless without an audience.

Thanks for everything! The good times and the not-so-good ones. . .

The Book of Boba Fett, Chapter 2 trailer

Based on this trailer, it looks as though episode 2 will be more of the same.

Disney had all the ingredients to make something fresh and original. Here's to hoping that the series will improve. . .

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Aliette de Bodard's Servant of the Underworld for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada and in the UK.

Here's the blurb:

The first book in the critically acclaimed Obsidian and Blood trilogy:

Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan the capital of the Aztecs. Human sacrifice and the magic of the living blood are the only things keeping the sun in the sky and the earth fertile.

A Priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. It should be a usual investigation for Acatl, High Priest of the Dead--except that his estranged brother is involved, and the the more he digs, the deeper he is drawn into the political and magical intrigues of noblemen, soldiers, and priests-and of the gods themselves...