More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Glen Cook's The Tyranny of the Night, first volume in the Instrumentalities of the Night, for only 2.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Welcome to the world of the Instrumentalities of the Night, where imps, demons, and dark gods rule in the spaces surrounding upstart humanity. At the edges of the world stand walls of ice which push slowly forward to reclaim the land for the night. And at the world's center, in the Holy Land where two great religions were born, are the Wells of Ihrain, the source of the greatest magics. Over the last century the Patriarchs of the West have demanded crusades to claim the Wells from the Pramans, the followers of the Written. Now an uneasy truce extends between the Pramans and the West, waiting for a spark to start the conflict anew.

Then, on a mission in the Holy Land, the young Praman warrior Else is attacked by a creature of the Dark-in effect, a minor god. Too ignorant to know that he can never prevail over such a thing, he fights it and wins, and in so doing, sets the terrors of the night against him.

As a reward for his success, Else is sent as a spy to the heart of the Patriarchy to direct their attention away from further ventures into the Holy Lands. Dogged by hidden enemies and faithless allies, Else witnesses senseless butchery and surprising acts of faith as he penetrates to the very heart of the Patriarchy and rides alongside their armies in a new crusade against his own people. But the Night rides with him, too, sending two of its once-human agents from the far north to assassinate him.

Submerged in his role, he begins to doubt his faith, his country, even his family. As his mission careens out of control, he faces unanswerable questions about his future. It is said that God will know his own, but can one who has slain gods ever know forgiveness?

Empress of the Sun

If you've been hanging around these parts for some time, you are aware that I love Ian McDonald. He is one of my favorite science fiction authors, and to this day, River of Gods, Brasyl, and The Dervish House continue to rank among my favorite science fiction reads of all time. You may also recall my disappointment when it was announced that McDonald's next project would be aimed at the YA market.

And though I gave Planesrunner a shot with a certain measure of reticence, McDonald's first YA work impressed me. The plot did not show as much depth and the storylines were not as multilayered and convoluted as is usually his wont, yet I found McDonald's Planesrunner and its sequel, Be My Enemy, to be intelligent, entertaining, and fast-paced novels.

And since I read Planesrunner during a trip to Belize and Be My Enemy during a trip to Mexico, it felt natural to pack this one in my suitcase for this Southeast Asian adventure.

This third volume, Empress of the Sun, follows much in the same vein. I'm happy to report that the book moves the plot forward as much as in the first installment, which is an improvement from Be My Enemy. Like its predecessors, this one is another entertaining novel which contains all the key ingredients that made the first two installments such fun reads. Problem is, I'm not sure it's enough anymore. Given that Ian McDonald can raise the roof and bring the house down, I doubt that these books, as fun as they are to read, can continue to satisfy the author's adult readership for a prolonged period of time. At the top of his game, few science fiction writers can match Ian McDonald. Hence, I have to admit that I'm longing for something bigger, something more complex, something thought-provoking from McDonald. And I'm hoping that his next work will be reminiscent of River of Gods and The Dervish House, something aimed at his adult fans. After writing three YA novels in a row, I feel that the genre is starting to miss the Ian McDonald whose works have been nominated for basically every major SFF awards out there. . .

Here's the blurb:

The airship Everness makes a Heisenberg Jump to an alternate Earth unlike any her crew has ever seen. Everett, Sen, and the crew find themselves above a plain that goes on forever in every direction without any horizon. There they find an Alderson Disc, an astronomical megastructure of incredibly strong material reaching from the orbit of Mercury to the orbit of Jupiter.

Then they meet the Jiju, the dominant species on a plane where the dinosaurs didn't die out. They evolved, diversified, and have a twenty-five million year technology head-start on humanity. War between their kingdoms is inevitable, total and terrible.

Everness has jumped right into the midst of a faction fight between rival nations, the Fabreen and Dityu empires. The airship is attacked, but then defended by the forces of the Fabreen, who offers theEvernesscrew protection. But what is the true motive behind Empress Aswiu's aid? What is her price?

The crew of the Everness is divided in a very alien world, a world fast approaching the point of apocalypse.

The multiverse theory is one of the oldest science fiction tropes, one that some believe may have been done ad nauseam. Still, I found McDonald's approach, with such concepts as the Plenitude of Known Worlds and the Heisenberg Gates, to be sort of fresh and interesting. As was the case for Tad Williams in his Otherland series, it gives McDonald basically carte blanche to, at least where worldbuilding is concerned, go wherever his fertile imagination takes him. In Empress of the Sun, the author introduces the Jiju, dinosaurs who have evolved for millions of years and whose intelligence and technology are far beyond what humanity can encompass. As a race, they are reminiscent of Steven Erikson's K'Chain Che'Malle.

Again in this third volume, though very fluid McDonald's prose is evocative and every world and locale come alive as you read along. I particularly enjoyed how he portrayed the Jiju's Alderson Disc, the Worldwheel. What we learn about the Jiju is pretty much limited to what is revealed by Kax, which I found a bit disappointing. When you introduce such a cool race as those futuristic dinosaurs, a bit more information about their history and society would have been welcome. But this is YA literature and things need to keep moving fast, so. . .

Characterization remains what is probably the strongest facet of this novel. Once more, Everett Singh must share the spotlight with his double from Earth 4, Everett M Singh, and there is a nice balance between the two POVs. There are a number of other points of view, most notably those of Sen and Charlotte Villiers. The disparate cast of protagonists allows us to witness events unfold through the eyes various characters, which makes for enjoyable reading.

The pace continues to be fast from start to finish, something that doesn't always work for the best. I'm aware that the low pagecount and crisp pace are important aspects of YA novels. But I felt that we didn't get to know enough about the Jiju and the ending was decidedly rushed, which ultimately robs it of any emotional impact it was meant to have on everyone involved.

In the end, Empress of the Sun is nowhere near as awesome as the mind-blowing science fiction yarns Ian McDonald is renowned for. Still, like its two predecessors, it's a fun, entertaining, and gradually more complex work featuring an engaging cast of characters. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Writing for a younger audience imbues McDonald's writing with a certain exuberance that I find intoxicating. And yet, for all that they are fun reads, as a huge fan of McDonald's award-nominated and award-winning works, I'm afraid that the series might be losing steam as far as the author's adult readership is concerned. Knowing just how special and prolific McDonald is, I'm not sure that the Everness series, trapped under the yoke of the YA market demands, can continue to fully satisfy some adult readers. Time will tell. . .

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

Exclusive extract from L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s REX REGIS

Here's an excerpt from L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s latest installment in the Imager Portfolio, Rex Regis, courtesy of the author himself. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The saga of the Imager Quaeryt, Commander in the forces of Lord Bhayar, reaches a new climax as the great struggle to unify the continent of Lydar enters its final phase in L.E. Modesitt's Rex Regis, Book 8 in The Imager Portfolio.

Only the land of Khel remains uncommitted to Bhayar’s rule. Their decision could mean a lasting peace, or more conflict across an already war-ravaged realm.

While the conqueror of Bovaria awaits emissaries to arrive with news of Khel’s decision, other weighty matters occupy Bhayar, his sister Velora, and her husband Quaeryt—not the least of which is the fulfillment of Quaeryt's dream to create the world's first Imager academy, where the magical abilities of these powerful casters may be honed, managed, and put to the service of the common good.

But before that dream may be realized, or Khel’s fateful choice made known, the spectre of high treason threatens to unravel all that Quaeryt has achieved, catapulting him toward a fateful confrontation with Bhayar's most powerful military leaders.


In the cool air of early spring, on the second Solayi in Maris, the man who wore the uniform of a Telaryn commander stood at the foot of the long stone pier that dominated the south end of the harbor at Kephria. Behind Quaeryt were only ashes and ruins, except for the old stone fort to the immediate south of the pier, and the rising trooper compound more than a mille to the north, situated at the corner of the old fortifications that had once marked the border between Antiago and Bovaria. He looked out onto the Gulf of Khellor, where patches of mist drifted above the dark surface.

Then his eyes dropped to the pier, once the pride of the port city that had been leveled by the late Autarch’s cannon and imagers. Most of the stone pillars that supported the pier remained solid – but not all. The stone-paved surface of the long pier was pitted, and many of the gray paving stones were cracked. A few were shattered. Almost every stone showed signs of fire, either in the ashes in the mortared joins between the stones, or in blackened sections of stone. The wooden bollards were all charred – those that remained. One section of the pier, some two hundred yards out from the shore, sagged almost half a yard over a twenty-yard stretch.

The Zephyr – the large three-masted schooner that had brought Quaeryt, his imagers, and first company to Kephria -- lay anchored a good half-mille out from the pier in the now quiet waters of the Gulf of Kephria.

Quaeryt took a slow deep breath, then concentrated on the section of the pier from where it joined the harbor boulevard to the first charred bollards, roughly fifty yards away.

The briefest flash of light flared across the first section of the pier, and then the gray stone was shrouded in a white and cold fog that drifted seaward with slightest hint of a land breeze. When the after-image of the flash subsided, and the fog had dispersed enough for Quaeryt to see, he smiled. He hadn’t even felt any strain, and the first fifty yards of the stone pier looked – and were – as strong and as new as when they had been first constructed, centuries before.

He waited a bit for the frost on the gray stone to melt away, then walked carefully to the end of the section he had rebuilt with his imaging. Once there, he concentrated once again, on the next section of the pier. After the second imaging, he did feel a slight twinge across his forehead. Rather than immediately press on, given the length of the pier requiring rebuilding, Quaeryt lifted the water bottle from his jacket pocket, uncorked it, and took a swallow of the watered lager before re-corking the bottle and replacing it in his pocket.

“Take your time. You’ve got all day if you need it.” He glanced toward the fort where Vaelora was – he hoped – taking her time in preparing for the day. He tried not to dwell on the events that had caused her to miscarry their daughter… but he had seen the darkness behind Vaelora’s eyes when she’d thought he wasn’t looking.

Then he walked slowly to the end of the second rebuilt section, trying not to think about how much of the pier remained to be reconstructed, a good four hundred yards more extending out into the waters where the River Laar and the Gulf of Khellor met and mixed. He glanced to the west where he could barely make out through the morning mist the low smudge of land that had once held Ephra, before the Autarch’s imagers and cannon had destroyed it.

Finally, he concentrated once more, and another section of the pier was renewed. Quaeryt took a slow deep breath. There had been another twinge as he’d imaged, but it hadn’t felt any worse than the last one.

“You’ll have to keep taking it slow and easy,” he murmured as he took another small swallow of watered lager and waited for the mist and frost to clear.

Section by section, over the next three glasses, Quaeryt imaged and rebuilt fifty yard lengths, although his skull ached slightly more with each effort, and he had to rest longer after each section was completed.

After he had finished the last section, and he walked to the seaward end of the pier, Quaeryt took a deep breath and massaged his forehead. His head definitely ached, and faint flashes of light flickered before his eyes, a sign that – unless he wanted to be laid up and unable to image for days – he was close to his limit for imaging. For now… for now. But if you don’t keep working to build up your strength, it won’t be there when you need it. And he had no doubts he would need it on the return trip to Variana, and most likely even more after he reached the capital city of Bovaria, a land totally defeated, yet, almost paradoxically, far from conquered and certainly a land with more problems, the nastiest of which would likely fall to him – and Vaelora – to resolve.

Standing almost at the end of the pier, Quaeryt gestured, then called, image-projecting his voice toward the Zephyr so that Captain Sario could bring the ship back to the pier to tie up. The quick jab across his skull was a definite reminder that he needed to do no more imaging for some time.

He hoped he’d recover in a few glasses, but… he’d have to see. Part of the reason he’d worked on the pier was to determine what he could do and how fast he would recover after all his injuries in the battle for Liantiago.

While he waited for the schooner to raise enough sail for headway into the pier, Quaeryt lifted the water bottle from his jacket pocket, uncorked it, and took another swallow of the watered lager before re-corking the bottle and replacing it.

Almost half a glass later, the Zephyr came to rest at the most seaward position at the pier, with the crew making the schooner fast to the pier, and then doubling up the lines.

Sario looked from his position on the sterncastle to the pier, and then to Quaeryt. “Is it solid?”

“Come onto the pier and see for yourself.”

After a moment, the Antiagon merchant captain walked forward to midships, then made his way down the gangway that two seamen had extended. Sario stamped his boots on the stone.

“Solid enough, but it was before. It still could be an illusion.” His words held the heavy accent of Antiagon Bovarian, almost a separate dialect, and one that Quaeryt still had to strain to understand.

Quaeryt almost said that he didn’t do illusions, except that he had. “Run your fingers over the stone or the bollard there. There wasn’t one here before. It had rotted out.”

The dark-haired captain did so, then walked another few yards toward the foot of the pier and tried again. Finally, he straightened and walked back to Quaeryt, shaking his head. “Why do you not do more like this, instead of destroying men and ships?”

“Because there are few indeed of us, and our greatest value to a ruler is what creates and supports his power. Without the support of a ruler, imagers are killed one by one. That is because few have great power. You saw how my undercaptains collapsed after less than a glass of battle. So we support Lord Bhayar because he has supported us and has pledged to continue to do so. That is the only way in which imagers and their wives and children will ever survive in Lydar… or anywhere on Terahnar.” The reality was far more complex than that, but Quaeryt wasn’t about to go into a long explanation. Instead, he smiled and gestured at the reconstructed pier. “So Kephria has a good pier for ships like the Zephyr. Your family might do well to open a small factorage here before others come to understand that Kephria will now serve as the port for both southern Bovaria and northern Antiago.”

Sario laughed. “Commander, you have a way of making your point.” His face sobered. “Yet… I can see the possible truth in what you say. I will talk it over with the others when I return to Westisle.”

“You’ll have to make a stop in Liantiago to drop off several of my troopers with dispatches.”

“I can do that.”

“I’d appreciate it.” Quaeryt nodded. “You should be able to leave by the end of the week. I’ve put out word to the towns inland that you have some space for cargo.”

“That would be welcome.”

“We do what we can, Captain.”

“How’s your lady, sir?”

“She’s much better. Much better, but she needs a few more days before she’ll be up to a long ride.”

Sario offered a sympathetic smile.

Quaeryt wished he could offer comfort in return, knowing that the captain had lost his beloved wife some years earlier, and still missed her greatly. You were fortunate that you didn’t lose Vaelora to the mistakes you made. But they had lost more than either had intended. “Until later, Captain.”

Sario nodded as Quaeryt turned and walked back toward the foot of the pier… and the fort. His head still throbbed, but the pain had been far worse many times before – and he had redone the pier without tariffing the other imagers, who had more than enough to do in dealing with rebuilding and building the trooper compound.


“Now what?” asked Vaelora. She sat on the bed, wearing riding clothes, propped up with pillows, because there was little enough left of furnishings anywhere, let alone in the unruined section of the stone fort that remained the only structure in Kephria to have survived the Antiagon assault of both cannon and Antiagon Fire. In fact, all of the furnishings, except for the bed, had been imaged into being by two of Quaeryt’s undercaptains, Khalis and Lhandor, except for one chair that Quaeryt had created.

The small amount of sunlight filtering into the fort on Solayi afternoon was enough for Quaeryt to see that Vaelora had color in her face and that the circles under her eyes were not so deep as they had been when he’d first seen her on Vendrei.

“Well?” prompted Vaelora when Quaeryt did not reply.

“You’re feeling better,” he replied in the court Bovarian they always used when alone… and with a smile.

“I am. You haven’t answered the question.”

“I think we need to report back to the lord and master of Lydar. In person and with a certain deliberate haste.”

“Khel hasn’t acknowledged his rule,” she pointed out.

“I’m hopeful that in the coming months the High Council will see that discretion in negotiation is better than courage without strength in battle.”

“That’s possible… but you’re still worried.”

“Why should I be worried? Autarch Aliario has perished, and Antiago lies in the hands of Submarshal Skarpa. Presumably Submarshal Myskyl has used his forces to assure that northern Bovaria has accepted Bhayar’s rule. With the fall of Antiago and the destruction of the wall around Kephria and the devastation of Ephra, the River Laar is now open to trade… even if there are no warehouses for traders around the harbor or anywhere near.” Quaeryt let a sardonic tone creep into his next words. “Of course, our lord and master knows of none of this, and, as you pointed out, he will be less than pleased that the High Council of Khel did not crawl on their knees to accept his most magnanimous terms. Seeing as the last two months have been winter, also, I have my doubts about how assiduously the Submarshal of the Northern Army has pursued a campaign of persuasion in the north…”

In fact, Quaeryt had few doubts that Myskyl had already undertaken yet another effort to undermine and discredit Quaeryt, although Quaeryt had no idea in what form that effort might manifest itself.

Vaelora held up a hand in protest. “Dearest… I think you’ve made your point. When should we leave?”

“Not until three days after you think you’re ready.”

“Then we’ll leave on Jeudi.”

Quaeryt shook his head. “No anticipation. You don’t feel ready to leave today. We’ll see how you feel tomorrow.”

“You worry too much.”

No… I didn’t worry enough about you, and I almost lost you… and we did lose our daughter.

“Dearest…” began Vaelora softly. “You did the best you could do. If you’d left another regiment or some imagers, you would have failed in Antiago, especially in Liantiago in facing Aliaro.”

“I should have taken you with me, then.”

“With all that riding, the same thing might well have happened. What might have happened in Liantiago? Where would I have been safe there?”

Quaeryt had no answers to her questions.

“We both knew that seeking what we want and need would be dangerous, but unless Bhayar unites all of Lydar, that cannot be. If Bhayar fails to unite Lydar,” Vaelora went on, her voice quiet but firm, “sooner or later all will turn against him for the costs of the wars. You are the only one who can assure that he is successful.”

“No. You and I together are the only ones. Without your presence in Khel, there would be no chance that the High Council would even have considered his terms. Without your counsel, I would have made too many mistakes.” Even more than I already did.

“Dearest… I’ve made mistakes as well. Trusting Grellyana was a terrible mistake.”

“I doubt that it made much difference in the end, not with the mistakes I made,” he replied with a soft laugh.

They both smiled, and both smiles were rueful.

“What about Nineteenth Regiment?” asked Vaelora after several moments. “Will you summon Alazyn to join us?”

“I think not. Skarpa will need all the troopers he has in Liantiago. And it would take weeks for Alazyn to march here, and we don’t have the ships to transport a full regiment and its mounts from Liantiago. Also, another regiment won’t help us in returning to Variana. ” Or after we get there, since resolving any problems we face won’t require large battles. “We still have Eleventh Regiment, and it is almost at full strength. First company is at three-quarters strength.”

“Of a normal company.”

Quaeryt nodded, acknowledging that first company had set out from Variana with five squads, rather than four, then went on, “I think Calkoran should accompany us, with his first company, so that he can brief Bhayar as well, but Major Zhael and Major Arion and their companies should hold Kephria and Geusyn … what’s left of them.”

“They should encourage the locals to relocate to Kephria,” suggested Vaelora. “That’s where the traders will come now.”

“I’ll make certain that they spread the word.” I’ll also make certain that they don’t allow people to build shanties or the like near the harbor. He paused. “I had thought we might find a way to use Rex Kharst’s canal boat on the return, but the Antiagon imagers destroyed it when they fired all the wooden piers in Geusyn.”

“Trying to use it would just have slowed us down.” Vaelora shifted her weight in the bed, then swung her feet onto the floor. “I need to walk some more.” She leaned forward gingerly and pulled on the low boots.

Quaeryt rose from the chair beside her bed, then extended his right hand. The end two fingers on his left still refused to move, except slightly, and then only when he tried to close the entire hand. It had been almost half a year since the battle of Variana, and he had come to the conclusion that he might never regain the use of those fingers.

Vaelora took his hand, but used it only to steady herself for a moment, before she walked toward the gun port that had been sealed for years. Quaeryt walked beside her. With each step, fine ash swirled around their boots, even though the area had been swept just glasses before.

“It’s warm enough. Let’s walk over to the pier and out to the Zephyr.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. I won’t get stronger doing nothing. I’m not bleeding, and my bruises are all healing. Sometimes this happens to women for no reason at all, and they survive. So will I.”

Quaeryt wasn’t about to argue.

Once they reached the pier, Quaeryt checked his imaging shields, making sure that they covered both Vaelora and himself. He could feel the effort, most likely because of what he had been doing earlier.

“Quaeryt…” Vaelora’s voice was cool.


“There are no burn marks left on the stone. There are no cracks or chips. The center section of the pier no longer sags.”

“I had the pier repaired,” he said blandly.

“That’s why you look so tired. Just how much imaging did you do?”

“All of it,” he admitted. “It took much of the morning. I did it a section at time. It took almost three glasses.” He held up a hand. “The other imagers are needed to rebuild the trooper compound. I could do this alone. Besides, I need to rebuild my own imaging strength.”

“And you want me to rest?”

“It’s different.” I didn’t get hit with a tree and lose a child and nearly get burned alive by Antiagon Fire.

“I may use those words myself… sometime.”

Quaeryt kept his wince inside himself. “Shall we walk out the pier?”

“So I can admire your image-crafting and might?”

“No… so that you can regain your strength in order to tell me where I should take care.” He offered the words lightly and with a smile.

Vaelora shook her head.

As they walked, Quaeryt again studied the harbor, empty of all vessels except the three-masted schooner that had brought him, the imager undercaptains, and first company back to Kephria. The waters of the Gulf of Khellor lapped placidly at the stone pillars of the rebuilt pier, the sole remaining one, which had survived the efforts of the Antiagon imagers that had destroyed the others only because it had been built of stone generations earlier. The stone boulevard that circled the harbor also remained, but the only trace of the buildings that had stood there less than a month before were rain-flattened ashes and occasional piles of brick or stone, the remnants of chimneys or the infrequent brick or stone-walled shop. Even after the rain of the previous day, the smell of charred wood remained strong.

“It’s quiet now,” said Vaelora.

“It will be for a time, but it’s too good a port not to be rebuilt. It won’t ever rival Solis or Liantiago, or even Kherseilles, but it will serve the south of Bovaria and the north of Antiago.” Quaeryt glanced ahead to the end of the pier where the Zephyr was tied up.

As Vaelora and Quaeryt neared the schooner, Sario, standing by the gangway, inclined his head to Vaelora. “Lady.” Then he turned his eyes to Quaeryt and raised his eyebrows.

“With some fortune, captain,” replied Quaeryt to the unspoken question, “as I said earlier, you should be on your way back to Liantiago within the week. I’ll also suggest some additional recompense from Submarshal Skarpa.” Seeing as he has all the paychests, except for the small one he sent with us.

“That would be appreciated.” The dark-haired captain replied in the Antiagon Bovarian so heavily accented that it was almost a separate language. “Will you have troopers remaining here?”

“We will leave some forces here to keep order while others rebuild, and the remainder of our forces will return to Variana to report to Lord Bhayar… and to see where else we may be needed.’

“You will always be needed, Commander.” Sario inclined his head. “We await your orders.”

Vaelora and Quaeryt turned back toward the fort.

When they reached the foot of the pier, Vaelora looked to her husband. “You need to talk to your officers…. if we’re to leave on Jeudi. You can’t do any more here.”

“More likely Samedi or Solayi,” replied Quaeryt. “The one thing Bhayar would not forgive would be more injury to you.” He may not forgive me for what you have already suffered. He did not tell Vaelora that he had already summoned, Khaern, Zhelan, and Calkoran to meet with him at the third glass of the afternoon.

“Although,” Vaelora added with a smile, “I’d be surprised if you had not already arranged to meet them this afternoon.”

“I did indeed, and how did you know that?”

“I know you, dearest.”

Quaeryt escorted her into the old fort, past the pair of troopers standing guard duty, and into the makeshift quarters area.

Vaelora sat down on the bed. “I’ll be fine. Go.”

“At your command, my lady.” Quaeryt grinned at her.

“Don’t be impossible, dearest, or I’ll read more about Rholan and quote long passages to you when you return.”

“There are worse fates,” he quipped.

“Do you want me to find one?”

With another grin, Quaeryt shook his head.

Vaelora gave a soft laugh.

He bent down and kissed her cheek. “I won’t be too long.”

“Take the time you need.”

“I will.” He turned and made his way out of the fort and along the stone walk to the stone boulevard that bordered the eastern end of the harbor. As he walked north, he hoped that Vaelora was indeed as strong as she said, although he had to admit that her steps had shown no weakness on the walk up and back the long pier. And she rode the entire distance from Ferravyl to Variana to save you, hardly pausing even for rest.

Still... he worried. And that wasn’t even accounting for the difficulties they were likely to encounter on the ride back across a still-restive Bovaria.

The three officers were waiting outside the structure that had once been a small stone blockhouse at the base of where the wall along the south side of the harbor had joined the wall that had once defined the border between Bovaria and Antiago. Now, it was a much larger building, thanks to the four imager undercaptains.

“Sir,” offered Zhelan.

Both Khaern and Calkoran inclined their heads.

“Once the Lady Vaelora is recovered enough to ride, as I suggested yesterday, we will be returning to Variana to report on the results of the mission to Khel and the conquest of Antiago. I’d like each of you to prepare for departure later this week, possibly as early as Vendrei.” Quaeryt paused, wondering if he should mention again that Calkoran and his company would be accompanying them, while Arion and Zhael and their companies would remain to keep order in Kephria. They already know. Don’t repeat yourself.

Quaeryt turned to Zhelan. “Are there any troopers in first company that should remain here?”

“No, sir. Those with broken arms and legs can accompany us, and there are none injured more seriously.”

“What about mounts? Have you found enough between those Calkoran returned with from Khel and the locals?”

“We’ve obtained some spare mounts locally, and we have enough. We’ve also acquired some pack horses as well, and two wagons. We thought those might be needed.” Zhelan did not smile.

Quaeryt did see a hint of amusement in the major’s eyes, but he more than appreciated Zhelan’s continual forethought. “Your thoughts were correct, and I appreciate your efforts.” He looked at Khaern. “Eleventh Regiment?”

“We’re prepared to leave at a day’s notice, sir,”

“Good. Is there anything I should know?”

“None of the holders whose holds you destroyed have returned, but… what if they do?”

“That’s something that Major Zhael and Major Arion will have to deal with, one way or another. They won’t have that many armsmen. The reports the submarshal sent with me indicated that a number of them lost men at Liantiago, and two of the former High Holders likely were killed at Barna. Apparently, Aliaro wanted to use them there, and spare his own troops.”

“Even were they not,” declared Calkoran, “my officers can handle them.”

Quaeryt suspected that was not likely even to be a question. “Subcommanders… you can go and inform your men. I need some time to go over some first company matters with Major Zhelan.”

“Yes, sir.”

In moments, Zhelan and Quaeryt were alone outside the building that would be the trooper headquarters in Kephria.

“Do you intend to send a dispatch rider or courier before us?” asked Zhelan.

“I had not thought to,” replied Quaeryt. “What are your thoughts on that?”

“What you and Submarshal Skarpa have accomplished might best be reported directly. That way there would be no misunderstanding. There would also be no plans based on information that might not be… “

“Accurate?” suggested Quaeryt.

“Yes, sir.”

“I think we share the same concerns, Zhelan.” That Myskyl and Marshal Deucalon would use any information against them. Quaeryt paused. “I do appreciate your forethought.”

“Your concerns were with Lady Vaelora, sir.”

“Yes, they were. But she is much better. She also feels that we should return to Variana… and not for reasons of her health.”

“We’ll be ready any time after Mardi, sir.”

“Are there any men among the wounded who are especially dependable?”

Zhelan frowned. “Both Wessyl and Ralor. Wessyl’s arm was broken, but not badly. Ralor has his leg splinted.”

“I’d like to send them back to Liantiago on the Zephyr with dispatches for the Submarshal.”

“They’d do well, sir.”

“If you say so, I’m certain they will.”

All in all, Quaeryt spent more than a glass discussing preparations with Zhelan, before he left to walk back to the fort.

Tor anthologies winner!

Thanks to the generosity of the kind folks at Tor Books, our winner will receive three of their high-profile anthologies of 2013! The prize pack includes:

- Dangerous Women, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Twenty-First Century Science Fiction, edited by David Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Year’s Best SF 18, edited by David Hartwell (Canada, USA)

The winner is:

Guillaume Bergeron, from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

The Complete Malazan Book of the Fallen

There is a new digital omnibus containing all 10 volumes of Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen which has just been released, and right now you can get it for about 58$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Included in this collection are:

Gardens of the Moon
Deadhouse Gates
Memories of Ice
House of Chains
Midnight Tides
The Bonehunters
Reaper’s Gale
Toll the Hounds
Dust of Dreams
The Crippled God

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

Win a copy of Brian Staveley's THE EMPEROR'S BLADES

I have three copies of the British edition and three copies of the American edition of Brian Staveley's The Emperor's Blades up for grabs, compliments of the fine folks at Tor Books and Tor UK! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, the emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.

Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, learning the enigmatic discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power he must master before it's too late.

An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral, elite soldiers who fly into battle on gigantic black hawks. But before he can set out to save Kaden, Valyn must survive one horrific final test.

At the heart of the empire, Minister Adare, elevated to her station by one of the emperor's final acts, is determined to prove herself to her people. But Adare also believes she knows who murdered her father, and she will stop at nothing—and risk everything—to see that justice is meted out.

You can download and read the first seven chapters for free here!

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

You can now download nine Terry Pratchett titles for only 3.99$ each!

- Sourcery
- Guards! Guards!
- Eric
- Equal Rites
- Wyrd Sisters
- Witches Abroad
- Going Postal
- Moving Pictures
- Carpe Jugulum

And you can also download Good Omens, which he wrote with Neil Gaiman, for only 4.99$ here.

Win a copy of Myke Cole's SHADOW OPS: BREACH ZONE

Thanks to Myke Cole's generosity, I'm giving away a copy of Shadow Ops: Breach Zone to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began “coming up Latent,” developing terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Those who Manifest must choose: become a sheepdog who protects the flock or a wolf who devours it.…

In the wake of a bloody battle at Forward Operating Base Frontier and a scandalous presidential impeachment, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, call sign “Harlequin,” becomes a national hero and a pariah to the military that is the only family he’s ever known.

In the fight for Latent equality, Oscar Britton is positioned to lead a rebellion in exile, but a powerful rival beats him to the punch: Scylla, a walking weapon who will stop at nothing to end the human-sanctioned apartheid against her kind.

When Scylla’s inhuman forces invade New York City, the Supernatural Operations Corps are the only soldiers equipped to prevent a massacre. In order to redeem himself with the military, Harlequin will be forced to face off with this havoc-wreaking woman from his past, warped by her power into something evil….

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

Gene Wolfe contest winner!

This lucky winner will get his hands on a copy of Gene Wolfe's The Land Across, compliments of the folks at Tor Books! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Scott Stevens, from Naperville, Illinois, USA

Many thanks to all the participants! =)

Extract from C. S. Friedman's DREAMWALKER

Here's an exclusive excerpt from C. S. Friedman's forthcoming Dreamwalker, compliments of the nice folks at Daw Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

All her life Jessica Drake has dreamed of other worlds, some of them similar to her own, others disturbingly alien. She never shares the details with anyone, save her younger brother Tommy, a compulsive gamer who incorporates some aspects of Jessica’s dreams into his games. But now someone is asking about those dreams...and about her. A strange woman has been watching her house. A visitor to her school attempts to take possession of her dream-inspired artwork.


As she begins to search for answers it becomes clear that whoever is watching her does not want her to learn the truth. One night her house catches on fire, and when the smoke clears she discovers that her brother has been kidnapped. She must figure out what is going on, and quickly, if she and her family are to be safe.

Following clues left behind on Tommy's computer, determined to find her brother and bring him home safely, Jessica and two of her friends are about to embark on a journey that will test their spirits and their courage to the breaking point, as they must leave their own world behind and confront the source of Earth's darkest legends – as well as the terrifying truth of their own secret heritage.


Through a narrow slit at the far end of the cavern we could see there was a much larger chamber beyond; the light seemed to be coming from there. Slowly, warily, we approached it, and for a moment we all stood as still as the rock itself, listening for any sign of danger. But all we could hear was the distant drip of water, the music of a living cave. So I took the lead and squeezed through the narrow slit.

I emerged into a massive chamber. I didn’t need a guidebook to tell me that this was the crown jewel of Mystic Caverns, the point where all tours had converged. The ceiling was so far overhead I couldn’t make out its limits, and a thick forest of columns and stalagmites surrounded me, making it hard to see what else was in the chamber. All about the room, inside crevices and behind formations, the light cast deep black shadows. God alone knew what might be hiding in any one of them.

As I crept warily forward I thought I could make out a large open area ahead of us, surrounded by a waist-high railing. The light we’d detected was coming from a series of lamps affixed to its support posts, and though the illumination must have been pretty dim by aboveground standards, it was nigh on blinding to us in our current state. I blinked as tiny purple spots swam before my eyes, as my eyes slowly adjusted. Then I got to where I could see what was in the central part of the chamber. And I froze.

Rita came up behind me. I heard her gasp.

Facing us was an arch. It was twice as tall as Devon and wide enough that he could not have touched both sides at once. The underlying shape of it was perfectly regular, but its surface was coated with flower-like clusters of cave crystals—anthodites—some of them so tiny I could hardly make out their details, others more than a foot long. The needle-like blossoms glittered as we shifted position, crystalline spines seeming to shift and sway as if they were living things.

The caverns hadn’t made this thing. Nor had human hands. It was . . . unearthly.

Beside the arch was a row of steel tables on wheels, the kind you might see in a morgue. Atop each one was a white sheet draped over what appeared to be a human body. I was about to move toward them when suddenly there was a loud metallic sound from the far end of the chamber. The lamps flared to sudden brightness, blinding us. From behind we could hear a large metal thing approaching . . . or maybe human feet pounding on metal.

Hide!” Devon whispered fiercely. As if we needed to be told that.

I looked about feverishly for cover and spotted a broad column near our entrance point that looked wide enough to hide behind. Fear lent fire to my muscles as I sprinted toward it. Rita and Devon ran off in other directions, presumably toward hiding places of their own. There were certainly enough of them in the chamber.

I dove into a thick black shadow behind the column, and I prayed that no one entering the main chamber would be able to see me. I leaned back against the wet rock and tried to stay calm, my heart pounding so hard I thought it would burst out of my chest. The metallic sounds were louder now, and yes, they clearly were footsteps. Curiosity warred with fear in my heart, and after a brief stalemate the former won out by a narrow margin; I peeked gingerly around the edge of the column to see who was coming.

In our fixation on the crystal arch we hadn’t noticed a suspended walkway leading away from the far end of the chamber. I could see two figures there, talking to one another as they walked along the metal grate toward us. On the left was a woman dressed in a navy skirt-and-jacket ensemble, a neat and conservative figure with hair coiffed to meticulous perfection. The other figure was thinner and taller, and the voice sounded male, but I couldn’t get a clear view of him.

“We don’t have the facilities for this,” the woman was saying. Her accent reflected the same odd cultural mix as that of my brother’s kidnappers, and she was clearly annoyed. “This party should have been broken up into two. At least.”

“This is the way the Shadows want it done, so this is the way it will be done.” The man’s voice was quiet, resigned. “Arguing with them is a bad career move, Delilah.”

She snorted lightly. The sound was derisive and delicate at the same time, and I got the impression it was something she’d rehearsed. “We wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now if they would let the other Guilds counsel them.”

“I strongly suggest you don’t let them hear you say that.”

“Of course, Malik. I’m not a fool. But they’re not here right now, are they?”

Then they passed out of sight behind the column. I inched my way around the back of it, seeking a safe vantage point on the other side.

“Are you sure of that?” the man said.

“Please. I can smell their undead presence from two spheres away. Maybe you’ve been around them too much if you can’t.”

If the man responded, I didn’t hear it. The woman’s words rang in my head, sending a wave of fear up my spine. No other focus was possible. I can smell their undead presence.

For all our nervous banter about aliens and changelings and animal-controlling powers, I knew in that moment that I hadn’t believed any of it. Deep in my heart I’d clung to the belief that there was a rational explanation for everything we’d seen, and if we just looked in the right places and asked the right questions we would figure it out. That was why we’d come down into the caverns, right? To search for rational explanations.

I can smell their undead presence from two spheres away.

Maybe this was all a dream. Maybe I’d wake up soon, and I’d go into Tommy’s room and tell him all about it, and we’d have a good laugh together about how crazy my dreams were.

When the voices were audible once more, it sounded like the man was near the crystal arch. “Given how many people will be coming through today, you might want to stand back a bit.”

Heart pounding wildly, I dared another peek around the edge of the column. The two of them were in front of the arch, waiting silently and expectantly for . . . what? I could see the man more clearly now. His skin was a mottled grey, the same color as the stone behind him. His eyes were large and dark and the outer corners were angled slightly upward, like a cat’s. His clothing was normal enough, but all of it was the same shade of grey as his skin, which made it hard to pick him out from the limestone background. I couldn’t tell if he was the same person who had carried Tommy out of our house or not, but he was definitely of the same type. Then the archway began to glow. I pressed back into the shadows as far as I could without losing sight of it. I had the impression of a complex geometric design filling its interior, though it wasn’t something I saw, exactly, more like something that I knew in my gut was there, even though there was no visible evidence of it.

A man stepped through the arch.

His face was pale, and it had an unnatural sheen to it. His body was solid enough in the center but its edges looked strangely insubstantial, as if someone had begun to erase him. Wisps of shadowy mist played about him, and for a moment it looked as if they were about to coalesce into some sort of creature—or creatures—but instead they faded into nothingness before any features became recognizable. The long grey robe that he wore lent him a vaguely medieval air, a jarring contrast to the very modern clipboard he was carrying. For some reason that last item made him seem even creepier.

He took a few steps away from the arch, looked down at his clipboard, and started to read. His voice was a thin tenor that sounded . . . empty.

“Arianna Withersham, Apprentice of Elementals. Naomi Balfort, Master of Weavers. Nicholas Tull, Journeyman of Seers.” He recited maybe eight names in all, each with a title.

The grey man, meanwhile, had pulled out a smartphone and was checking those names against a list of his own. He nodded his approval as each name was spoken, and when the recital was done he said “Good to go,” and gestured toward the row of gurneys.

The man with the clipboard looked around the chamber, and I realized with a start that he was about to turn in my direction. I fell back into the shadows as quickly as I could, nearly slipping on the wet floor in my haste. My heart almost stopped. Oh God, please don’t let him see me! I couldn’t even imagine what would happen if these people realized I was in the room spying on them.

One second passed. Two. In all my life I’ve never felt time move as slowly as it did at that moment.

Then I heard the sound of gurneys being wheeled across the stone floor. People walking back and forth. Suddenly there seemed to be many more people than had been there a moment before. I heard a lot of voices, mostly young, murmuring and laughing in the quiet way that students do when they know class is about to begin.

The woman in the suit started speaking, and all the other voices subsided. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Masters and Apprentices, Journeymen and Aspirants: welcome to Terra Colonna. My name is Delilah Mason, and I will be your docent for this visit. If you would all be so good as to follow me, I will see to your orientation.”

I could hear a number of people follow the sharp click of her heels as they moved across the room; the steel walkway thrummed as they stepped onto it one by one, their footsteps becoming less and less audible as they moved away from the main chamber. There was a bit of giggling in the distance, and then they were gone.

The grey man said quietly, “You said there would be fourteen.”

“The others were delayed.” The voice of his pale companion sent shivers up my spine.

“I have a schedule to keep. When are they expected?”

“Half an hour.”

I heard a sigh of exasperation. “What about the Drake boy? Did he make it through all right?”

I felt my heart lurch in my chest.

“He arrived intact and in the right time sequence. But I’m told the exchange wasn’t well balanced. If he ever attempts to return home there could be consequences.”

“Well. That’s not going to be an issue, is it?”


“What do the Shadows want with him, anyway?”


The grey man snorted. “All right. Have it your way. I’ll return in half an hour. Make sure the transfers are ready by then.”

I heard someone leave the chamber. A moment later the strange geometric vision flared again, then faded, dissipating like golden smoke.

And they were gone.

I leaned back against the column, heart pounding, struggling to make some kind of sense of what I’d just heard. It sounded like my brother was still alive, so there was still hope. But why had they taken him?

“Jessie!” The call was only whispered, but the place was like an echo chamber, magnifying the sound.

I peeked out from around the column, and saw Rita and Devon standing out in the open. After a brief glance around the place to see for myself that the visitors were really gone, I joined them.

For a moment we just stared at each other in silence.

“How much did you see?” Devon said at last. I could hear in his voice how hard he was struggling to stay calm.

I drew in a shaky breath. “The grey guy and the woman. And that undead thing, that came through the arch.”

“I saw people come through it.” Rita’s voice was a haunted whisper. “The grey man pushed a trolley through the archway each time one of them arrived, and it . . .” she drew in a deep breath, “it disappeared.”

“The timing of it seemed important,” Devon added.

A balanced exchange, I remembered.

I walked over to the nearest gurney, paused for a moment to gather my courage, then folded the top of the sheet back to see what was underneath.

The body on the steel surface was that of a teenage boy. He looked dead, but when I put my hand on his cheek I could feel living warmth. So I took out my phone and held the screen to his lips. There was no fog from his breath, or any other sign of life.

Devon and Rita uncovered the other bodies. Two adults and four teens. Most of them looked as if they were sleeping peacefully, until you noticed they weren’t breathing. One of them was a girl exactly my age; seeing her lying there like that made me queasy.

“Caucasian male, 43,” Rita was reading from a form clipped to the end of one of the carts. “Blood type A+, 180 pounds, muscle tone 6. Single, no offspring, no siblings. Diabetes, allergy to dust mites. College professor. Musical talent.” She raised an eyebrow. “Conservative Republican.”

“Creepier and creepier,” Devon muttered.

Rita looked at me. “The Drake boy they were talking about. That's your brother?”

Soon the grey man and his pale companion would return. More people would emerge from the crystal arch, ready to tour Terra Colonna. Our world. And meanwhile these unconscious bodies would be exchanged for them, and transported to . . . where?

Wherever my brother is, I thought. A tremor of fear ran up my spine.

” I murmured. “The ones who are hunting us. The ones who burned my house to the ground, trying to kill me. This is how they got here.”

And this is how they will go home.

I walked over to the body that looked so much like mine. In a short while this girl would be wheeled through that portal, into another world. A place where alien-looking grey men and undead tour guides—and God alone knew what other kinds of monsters—took little boys prisoners. A place where my death, and many other deaths, had been planned.

There comes a point when so many crazy things have happened that your mind just can’t process them any more. Insane things start to sound reasonable.

“We could go there,” I said quietly. I put my hand to the girl’s cheek. It was warm, so warm.

“You mean . . . take their place?” Rita clearly thought I had gone insane.

“You said the exchange was one-for-one. We know more visitors are about to arrive.” I paused. “They’ll send these bodies through to the other side, won’t they?”

“Jesse . . .” From her tone of voice you could tell she thought she was arguing with a crazy person. “We don’t have a clue what’s out there.”

“No,” I said softly. “We don’t. But we know what’s here.” I indicated the bodies. “And when will we have a chance like this again? Maybe never.”

And what about these people? an inner voice demanded. Where will you hide them while you make your substitution? And what will happen to them once you’re gone?

I looked down at the girl on the table. So still, so helpless. But she wasn’t hooked up to any kind of machine or IV, I noted. Which meant that whatever strange suspended animation state she was in, removing her from the gurney wasn’t likely to make a difference. We could hide her body behind one of the formations, where people passing through the crystal arch were unlikely to see her. Later on, when the aliens who ran this place discovered our empty gurneys on the other side of the arch and realized what we’d done, they would find her.

And then what?

My brother is gone, I told myself. How else can we find him, if we don’t do this?

Devon put a hand on my shoulder; I could tell from his expression that the same thoughts had been running though his mind. “We could call in some outside help,” he said quietly. “Now that we know there’s stuff down here for them to see. There are people far better equipped than we are to figure all this out.”

“And what will happen when they get here?” I demanded, turning on him. “They’ll cordon this place off. Seal all the entrances, station guards outside, do whatever it takes to keep the public from ever finding out about this place. Then the government will bring in its scientists, and they’ll study this arch molecule by molecule, write papers about it and conduct experiments and hold conferences and maybe, after years of that, start sending people through.” I shook my head. “You think we’ll be able to sneak down here again, once that starts? We’ll lose access to this place. Forever. Meanwhile, no one is going to protect us. Not from the kind of creature that’s trying to kill us. Eight DNA orphans have died already, and we’re next on the hit list. By the time the police recognize the kind of danger we’re in, we’ll all be dead.”

Devon said nothing, but I could see the uncertainty in his eyes. I couldn’t read Rita at all.

“Aren’t you the least bit curious?” I asked her. “Don’t you want to know what’s out there?” I looked back at Devon. “Don’t you want to be the one who discovers a new world? Instead of reading about how someone else did it?” I was trying desperately to appeal to the science geek in him. Devon was the practical one, always thinking ahead. They guy who had thought to make chalk marks so we could find out way home. If I was going to dive headfirst into an unknown world, I definitely wanted him with me.

But to my surprise it was Rita who spoke first. “Crap,” she muttered. “I’ve got nowhere better to go.”

I looked at Devon. Still he said nothing.

“We left notes at your house,” I pressed. “If we don’t come back in the next few days our parents will know where we went. They’ll send people down here, figure out what’s going on, and make sure someone comes after us.” I wasn’t actually sure that was true—once the government found out about this operation, three missing teens might be pretty low on their list of priorities—but it seemed to be the telling argument. Lips tight, he finally nodded.

Moving inert human bodies turned out to be a lot harder than you’d think, especially when you’re trying not to bang them against tables or rock. As we positioned them behind a cluster of thick formations, Rita pointed out that our backpacks couldn’t ride on the gurneys with us without being visible. We didn’t want to leave them behind, so I jury-rigged a quick support line to hang mine underneath the tabletop, and the others followed suit. Thank God for duct tape. The sheets were just long enough to hide our packs from sight, assuming the sheets stayed in place.

Then, one by one, we laid down on the sleek steel slabs, arranging ourselves like corpses. Rita covered Devon and me with our sheets, taking care to make sure they were arranged the same as the ones covering the other bodies. She had to arrange her own after that, and I prayed it would be convincing. The things these people might do to us if they discovered our little trick didn’t bear thinking about.

No sooner were we settled in when we heard footsteps again. I tried to minimize my breathing as they approached, so that the rise and fall of my chest wouldn’t give me away. People walked around us. They talked. I concentrated on my heartbeat, my breathing, listing in my mind the thousand and one things we probably should have talked about before doing this . . . anything but what was happening in the world beyond my sheet. I couldn’t afford to react to events in the room, even reflexively.

Then the strange pattern filled my brain again. Golden lines, dancing and weaving all about me. This time they felt familiar, as though I had seen them somewhere before. As though I should know what they meant.

Suddenly the steel table beneath me jerked into motion. I held my breath for a moment—and then reconsidered, and risked one deep, slow inhalation to fill my lungs. You never knew when you might need air.

The golden patterns surrounded me, caressed me, penetrated me. For a moment I was an integral part of them, and nothing else in the universe mattered.

Then suddenly everything was gone, save my fear and my sweat and the cold touch of steel beneath my fingertips. We had left our world behind.

Hang on Tommy! I’m coming for you.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Neal Asher's Hilldiggers for only 1.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

During a war between two planets in the same solar system – each occupied by adapted humans – what is thought to be a cosmic superstring is discovered. After being cut, this object collapses into four cylindrical pieces, each about the size of a tube train. Each is densely packed with either alien technology or some kind of life. They are placed for safety in three ozark cylinders of a massively secure space station. There a female research scientist subsequently falls pregnant, and gives birth to quads. Then she commits suicide – but why? By the end of the war one of the contesting planets has been devastated by the hilldiggers – giant space dreadnoughts employing weapons capable of creating mountain ranges. The quads have meanwhile grown up and are assuming positions of power in the post-war society. One of them will eventually gain control of the awesome hilldiggers . . .

Win a copy of Miles Cameron's THE FELL SWORD

Thanks to the folks at Orbit Books, I have a copy of Miles Cameron's upcoming The Fell Sword for you to win. It's the sequel to The Red Knight. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Loyalty costs money.

Betrayal, on the other hand, is free.

When the Emperor is taken hostage, the Red Knight and his men find their services in high demand - and themselves surrounded by enemies. The country is in revolt, the capital city is besieged and any victory will be hard won. But The Red Knight has a plan.

The question is, can he negotiate the political, magical, real and romantic battlefields at the same time - especially when intends to be victorious on them all?

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

NFL vs Game of Thrones

Pretty cool intro for the NFL's conference finals on Austrian TV!

The Twelve

Justin Cronin's The Twelve is the sequel to the bestselling The Passage (Canada, USA, Europe). And though it was received with much less fanfare than its predecessor, I felt that this second installment was as good, if not better, than The Passage.

In this day and age, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels are a dime a dozen, and The Twelve contains its fair share of clichés and moments of déjà vu. And yet, although most of the plot feels like nothing new, Cronin is talented enough to write an engaging story arc that nevertheless keeps you turning those pages. I believe that it's the author's knack for superior characterization which allows him to maintain readers' interest in such a fashion. For all that you keep telling yourself that you've seen all this before, The Twelve remains hard to put down.

And since I brought The Passage with me during my trip to Mexico last year, it felt right to bring The Twelve along for this new Southeast Asian adventure. And once again, this convoluted supernatural thriller proved to be a very entertaining read. Indeed, if you are looking for dense, fast-paced, and satisfying genre reads, both The Passage and The Twelve are perfect vacation reading material.

Here's the blurb:

In his internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed novel The Passage, Justin Cronin constructed an unforgettable world transformed by a government experiment gone horribly wrong. Now the scope widens and the intensity deepens as the epic story surges forward with . . .


In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.

One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.

A heart-stopping thriller rendered with masterful literary skill, The Twelve is a grand and gripping tale of sacrifice and survival.

As was the case in the first volume, Justin Cronin's vivid narrative creates an imagery that leaps right off the page and he has a veritable knack for creating well-drawn characters you can't help but root for. I felt that he was playing his cards too close to his chest in the first installment, yet The Twelve reveals quite a few answers to all those questions raised by The Passage. I also felt that the author did a much better job bridging the gaps in the timeline, as portions of the book occur both in the present (Year Zero) and almost a century later. I'm not sure I liked just how basically everything was interwoven and how it all came together at the end, as it felt too contrived somehow, yet that showed just how intricate the overall story arc appears to be.

As was the case in the first one, I preferred the apocalyptic sections of the novel. Witnessing how the USA gradually disintegrated as the virals multiplied and how that affected those protagonists through whose eyes we see events unfold was great. Kittridge, Danny, Guilder, Lila, and Grey were a disparate bunch of characters and they offered interesting perspectives as the world was crumbling down around them. It was interesting to discover just how their decisions and actions would have repercussions years later. The same can be said of what takes place in "The Field," which occurs 79 years later. At times, I found myself wondering why Cronin was showing us these things, but it all makes sense when the novel returns to the future and you can see the consequences of the echoes generated by those events decades later.

With the groundwork established, Cronin takes us forward 97 years after the virus outbreak, roughly five years following the events chronicled in The Passage. The ending of the first volume changed the lives of several men and women. And though it was fun to see those familiar faces, it was engrossing to see how different some of them had become. Many are coping the best they can, yet Amy, Peter, Alicia, Hollis, Lucius, Michael, and the others, now tempered by their involvement in the destruction of one of the Twelve and the death toll which ensued, have all gone through some major character development that makes them seem even more genuine.

And though the post-apocalyptic sections of the novel were not as enjoyable, in my humble opinion, than what took place in the past, it was intriguing to see how Cronin created a vast tapestry woven of so many different threads and how they all came together at the end. Once more, it was interesting to see how humanity is managing to survive in the parts of the book focusing on Kerrville, the oil road, and Freeport, in Texas.

Thankfully, The Twelve doesn't feature as many plot holes as its predecessor and it does answer many questions. Still, the early stages of Project Noah remain steeped in mystery and it would be fascinating to discover more about this in the third volume, The City of Mirrors. As he did in The Passage, Justin Cronin brings this one to a close with a rousing finale that should have you lining up for the next installment.

The Passage raised the bar rather high and generated lofty expectations for its sequel. I feel that Cronin more than rose up to the challenge and he has now raised the bar even higher. If you are looking for another epic, entertaining, richly detailed, and complex supernatural thriller, this has to be it!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

Win a copy of Paul Kearney's A DIFFERENT KINGDOM

I have three copies of Paul Kearney's A Different Kingdom for you to win, courtesy of the folks at Solaris. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

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...

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

For a limited time only, you can download Helene Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni for only 1.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.

Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.

Meeting by chance, the two creatures become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

Excerpt from Ian McDonald's EMPRESS OF THE SUN

Here's an extract from Ian McDonald's Empress of the Sun, compliments of the nice folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The airship Everness makes a Heisenberg Jump to an alternate Earth unlike any her crew has ever seen. Everett, Sen, and the crew find themselves above a plain that goes on forever in every direction without any horizon. There they find an Alderson Disc, an astronomical megastructure of incredibly strong material reaching from the orbit of Mercury to the orbit of Jupiter.

Then they meet the Jiju, the dominant species on a plane where the dinosaurs didn't die out. They evolved, diversified, and have a twenty-five million year technology head-start on humanity. War between their kingdoms is inevitable, total and terrible.

Everness has jumped right into the midst of a faction fight between rival nations, the Fabreen and Dityu empires. The airship is attacked, but then defended by the forces of the Fabreen, who offers theEvernesscrew protection. But what is the true motive behind Empress Aswiu's aid? What is her price?

The crew of the Everness is divided in a very alien world, a world fast approaching the point of apocalypse.


A dot of brilliant light. In an instant the dot exploded into a disk. The disk of light turned to a circle of blackness: a night sky. Out of the perfect circle of night sky came the airship, slow, huge, magnificent. Impeller engines hummed. The Heisenberg Gate flickered and closed behind it.

“Voom,” Everett Singh whispered, blinking in the daylight of a new Earth. He lifted his finger from the Infundibulum’s touch screen. Another Heisenberg jump, another universe.

And the bridge of the airship Everness shrieked with alarms. Yellow lights flashed. Horns blared. Bells rang. Klaxons shrieked. Impact warning, impact warning, thundered a mechanical voice. Ever-ett’s vision cleared at the same instant as the rest of the crew’s. He saw . . .

“Atlanta, Dundee and sweet Saint Pio,” whispered Miles O’Rahilly Lafayette Sharkey, the airship’s weighmaster. The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, was his usual supply for quotes. He had a verse for every occasion. when he called on the saints of his old Confederate home, it was serious.

. . . Trees. Trees before them. Trees beneath them. Trees in their faces. Trees reaching their deadly, killing branches towards them. Trees everywhere. And Everness powering nose down into them.

“This is . . . This shouldn’t be happening,” Everett said, paralyzed with shock at his station on the bridge. “The jump . . . I calculated . . .”

“Sen!” Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth bellowed. One moment she had been at the great window, striking her customary pose—riding breeches and boots, blouse with the collar turned up, her hands clasped behind her back, above her the soft velvet stars of Earth 1. The next moment she was staring an airship-wreck full in the face, shouting, “Take us up!”

“I’s on it,” her adopted daughter shouted. Sen Sixsmyth was as slight as a whippet, pale as a blizzard, but she was pilot of the airship Everness and she threw every gram of her small weight on the thrust levers. Everett felt Everness shudder as the impeller pods swivelled into vertical lift. But airships are big and long and lumbering, and it takes time, a lot of time, too much time, to make them change their course. “Come on my dilly dorcas, come on my lover . . .”

Impact warning, impact warning, the alarm shouted. It had a Hackney Airish accent.

“Belay that racket!” Captain Anastasia thundered. Sharkey killed the alarms, but the warning lights still filled the bridge with flashing yellow madness.

we’re not going to make it, Everett thought. we’re not going to make it. Strange, how he felt so calm about it. when it’s inevitable, you stop fighting and accept it.

“Ma’am . . . Ma . . . I can’t get her head up,” Sen shouted. Captain Anastasia turned to Everett Singh. The great window was green, all green. A universe of green.

“Mr. Singh, Heisenberg jump.”

Everett tore his eyes from the hypnotic, killing green outside the window and focused on the jump control display on Dr. Quantum, his iPad. The figures made no sense. No sense. He was frozen. IQ the size of a planet, as his dad had once said, and he didn’t know what to do. Scared and unable to do anything about it.

“I . . . I . . . need to calculate . . .”

“No time, Mr. Singh.”

“A random jump could take us anywhere!”

“Get us out of here!”

Sharkey glanced up at the monitors.

“Captain, we’re grounding.”

The bridge quaked as if shaken by the hand of a god. Everett clung to the jump station. Captain Anastasia reeled hard into a bulk-head. She went down, winded. Sen clung to the steering yoke like a drowning rat to driftwood. Everness screamed; her nanocarbon skel-eton twisted to its limits. Ship skin tore with ripping shrieks. Everett heard spars snap one by one like bones. Tree branches shattered in small explosions. The hull shuddered to a crashing boom.

“We’ve lost an engine,” Sharkey shouted, hanging on to his monitor screens. He sounded as if he had lost his own arm.

Everness drove into the thousand branches of the forest canopy. Green loomed in the great window. The glass exploded. Branches speared into the bridge. Captain Anastasia rolled away as a splintered shaft of wood stabbed towards her. Sen ducked under a branch ramming straight for her head. The bridge was filled with twigs and leaves.

“I’m giving her reverse thrust!” Sen yelled. Everett grabbed hold of the wooden rail of his jump-station as Everness shuddered right down to its spine. There was an enormous wrenching, grating groan. The impaling branches shifted a meter, no more. The vibration shook Everett to the fillings in his teeth.

“I can’t move her!” Sen shouted.

“Leave her. You’ll burn out the impellers!” Captain Anastasia cried.

“If we have any left,” Sharkey said.

Captain Anastasia relieved her daughter at the helm. “Mr. Singh. Take us back to Earth 1. On my word. Everyone else, stand by. This will either cure or kill.”

“No!” Sen yelled as she saw her mother’s hand raised above the flush ballast button.

“Come on, you high and shining ones,” Captain Anastasia whispered. “Just once.” She brought her hand down hard on the red button. Everness lurched as hundreds of tons of ballast water jetted from scupper valves. The airship strained. Her skeleton groaned like a living thing. Tree branches bent and snapped. A jolt upwards. Everett could hear the water thundering from the valves. It must look like a dozen waterfalls. Everness gave a massive creak and lurched upwards again. The branches tore free from the bridge in a shower of leaves. The airship was lifting. There was a crunching shriek of metal strained beyond its limits. Everness rolled to one side, then righted. All the power went dead. Screens, monitors, controls, lights, navigation, helm, communications. Dr. Quantum flickered and went dark. Captain Anastasia took her hand off the flush button. The water jets closed. The silence was total and eerie.

“‘And behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house . . . and I only am escaped alone to tell thee,’” Sharkey quoted.

“I’d prefer a report on our status Mr. Sharkey,” Captain Anastasia said.

“Status?” a voice bellowed from the spiral staircase outside. “I’ll give you our status!” Mchynlyth, ship’s engineer, burst onto the bridge. His brown face was flushed with emotion. “we’re buggered. You know those big munchety-crunchety noises? well, those were our engines coming off. That’s why we’ve nae power. Circuit breakers cut in. And I near got half a tree up my jaxy. I’m sitting down there looking down at dead air in six different places. Our status Captain? How about buggered, bolloxed, and utterly banjaxed?”

Everness creaked, dropped two meters, and came to a final rest. Brilliant rainbow birds clattered up from roosts. They weren’t birds, Everett realized. Those bright colors weren’t feathers.

“Where are we?” he said.

Captain Anastasia whirled. Her black face was dark with anger.

Her eyes shone hard. She flared her nostrils, chewed her lip, waiting for the anger to subside enough to be able to speak civilly. “I thought you knew, Mr. Singh. I thought you knew everything.”

Everett’s face burned with shame. He felt tight, choked, sick in his stomach. Burning behind his eyes, in his head, in his ears. Shame, but anger too. This was not fair. It hadn’t been his fault. He had calculated perfectly. Perfectly. He didn’t make mistakes like that. He didn’t make mistakes. There was something wrong with this world. That was the only explanation. He wanted to shout back at her that he didn’t make mistakes, that she was as much to blame. He shook with anger. The words burned hot and hard in him. Captain Anastasia turned to the rest of her crew.

“Let’s get her lashed down and back to airship-shape and Hackney-fashion again.”


The crew harnessed up in the cargo hold. Captain Anastasia tugged Everett’s harness, checked the fastenings and buckles. Everett couldn’t meet her eyes. The damage was all around him. The skin had been pierced in half a dozen places; splintered branches like wooden spears. There was an entire top part of a tree in Mchynlyth’s engineering bay, a giant Christmas tree rammed up through the hull. Except the leaves were red and smelled of something spicy, rich that Everett knew but could not place. He could see ground through the hole. It was a very long way down. Everness’s nanocarbon skeleton was mighty, but it could not take such an impact unharmed. Struts had shattered. Cracked spars showered flaked layers of nanocarbon. An entire cross member had sheared through; it creaked ominously above Everett’s head. The spine was intact. If the ship had broken her back, there would have been no option but to abandon her.

Everness had lost three of her six impellers in the impact. Engine struts had snapped; command lines and power cables were ripped through like severed nerves. The number two impeller had torn free, pylon and all, leaving a hideous wound in the ship’s skin. Everness’s mad descent through the treetops had strewn the engine pods across several kilometers of deep, alien forest. Captain Anastasia was mounting a search and recovery mission to the forest floor, three hundred meters below. The trees were taller, and his feet felt less firmly glued to this world than any Earth Everett had visited. Less gravity? How did that work? And then there was the sun. It wasn’t moving right . . .

“Sen!” Captain Anastasia bellowed.

Sen’s voice came from above. “Just getting some togs on.”

She rode the drop line down from the spine walkway to the hold floor. That’s an entrance, Everett thought. Everness had jumped from an Earth 1 Oxford winter to this Earth’s tropical warmth and humidity, and everyone had dressed appropriately: Mchynlyth had peeled off the top of his orange coveralls and tied the arms round his waist. His singlet showed impressive abs and a lot of pink scars on his brown skin. Sharkey had ditched his coat for a sleeveless shirt. He wore his twin shotguns in holsters across the back of his white shirt. Captain Anastasia was lean and muscular in capri tights and a tank top. Everett remained smothered in winter layers. They covered up his guilt. He had no right to show his body, expose his skin to the sun.

Sen’s warm-weather togs were as little as she could get away with. Grippy-sole ship boots, rugby socks, work gloves, gold short shorts, a boob tube, and a headband to keep her wild white afro under control.

“Go and put some clothes on!” Captain Anastasia bellowed. Sen sashayed past her adoptive mother with a defiant flick of her head. Mchynlyth was chewing his face from the inside out trying to keep the laughter in. As Sen strapped into her harness she flashed the briefest smile at Everett. It was sun on his face. It said, I’s all right, you’s all right, omi friends forever.

“So, we get these engines or what?”

Then Sen stepped off the edge of the loading bay, hit the lift control on her wrist, and vanished with a whoop into the deep red foliage below.

“Sen, we don’t know . . .” Captain Anastasia roared. “Bloody girl.” She leaped after her daughter. Mchynlyth, then Sharkey fol-lowed, winch reels screaming. Everett watched them drop down through the branches until he could no longer see them through the foliage. It would be all right. That was what Sen’s little private smile to him had said. Everett stepped off the platform and felt the sudden tug as the winches took the strain.

Red leaves and a chaos of branches beneath him. Above him, the hulk of Everness. Everett let out a small cry of pain and shame. when he was a kid he had seen an old film of a whale hunted, killed, dragged onto a factory ship, and peeled of its blubber. He had cried himself to sleep and cried himself awake again. His mum had talked him through it, told him that it was old, old film, that no one did that kind of thing anymore. The great whales were safe. Everness was like that whale; a beautiful thing hauled out of its natural element, speared and harpooned and spiked, tied down, its skin ripped open. Hunted, helpless. Hideously wounded.

Everett knocked painfully into a branch. Look where you’re going. He hadn’t, that was the problem. Every Heisenberg jump was calculated guesswork. He made assumptions. But for some reason, there was a forest where there shouldn’t have been. How? why? He’d plotted a straight point-to-point jump, from one set of coordinates on Earth 1 to a set on the world where the Panopticon had recorded a jumpgun trace. Simple spherical geometry. Simple, for him. The only way it could have gone wrong was if the geometry of this world was different.

“No,” Everett whispered, then he saw through the leaves beneath his feet the crew clustered around a massive, strange, cylindrical object wedged in the fork of a tree. Torn branches, splintered limbs: it took Everett a moment to identify what he was seeing—one of Everness’s impeller pods, come to rest a hundred meters above the ground.

Leaves brushed his face, and now he knew the musky, rich perfume. Hash. Resin. The forest smelled like the mother of all sixteen-year-olds’ parties.

“Tharbyloo!” came a voice from up among the branches. Moments later the forest rang to a splintering crack and a branch speared down through the dapple of deep red foliage, aimed straight at Sharkey’s chest. At the last second he stepped to one side. The branch drove deep into the soft, fragrant forest leaf mould. Sharkey nonchalantly adjusted the trim of his hat.

Power tools shrieked, chainsaws screamed up in the canopy. Sawdust and woodchips fell on the anxious crew.

“I got her!”

Once the ground base had been set up, Sen had been sent up on a line with chainsaws, nanofilament cutting lines, pry bars, and a lube gun to free the number three impeller. Everett had questioned the wisdom, but Mchynlyth had quickly put him in his place. Sen was small, agile, and could get into tight places no adult could.

He wished she was down on the ground. The forest floor was sweltering and steamy but the atmosphere was frigid. Sharkey would not speak to him. Mchynlyth had let him know that it would be a long time—a very long time—before he forgave Everett for what he had done. Captain Anastasia gave off such an air of personal hurt that Everett could not bear even to look at her.

“Lowering!” Sen shouted, a voice among the leaves. Mchynlyth hit a button on his wrist control. The groaning creak was so loud Everett feared the whole tree was coming down on top of him, all three hundred meters of it. Then the rounded belly of the impeller pod pushed the leaves and smaller branches apart. Down it came in a web of lines. Sen rode it down like a bronco.

“Mah baby, mah baby!” Mchynlyth embraced the engine like a friend. “what have they done to ye?” Clever tools opened panels. Mchynlyth and Captain Anastasia were bent over the hatch. Everett ached with guilt.

“Is there something I can do . . .”

Mchynlyth and Captain Anastasia turned at the same time. The looks on their faces froze him solid. He died . . . there, then, in a clearing in an alien rainforest in a world that didn’t make senses, in a parallel universe. Died in his heart. He stepped back.

He had never been hated before. It was an emotion as strong and pure as love, and as rare. It was the opposite of everything love felt, except the passion. He wanted to die.

“By your leave, ma’am, I’ve never had a skill for fixin’,” Sharkey shouted. “‘Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith,’ as the word of the Dear teaches, but sometimes a man hankers after a chunk of stalled ox. I’m going to see what our neighborhood offers the aggressive carnivore.”

“I’ll . . .” Everett began, but Sharkey whirled away, whipped the shotguns out of the holsters he wore across his back, and stalked out of the clearing into the hooting, whistling, chirruping, singing, forest shadows.

“Sen . . .”

She had tied her hair back and pulled her goggles down. She was a steampunk funk queen and Everett’s heart broke looking at her at work in the hatch, toothpick skinny, sweaty, grease-smudged, totally absorbed in repairing her ship, her home. Her family. He had never felt so alone, not even when he had hijacked Paul McCabe’s Heisenberg Gate and sent himself to Earth 3. There he was an adventurer. Here he was a survivor. There he had a plan. Here all his plans were impaled upon tree branches. And everyone hated him.

Everett tried to think of the people who loved him, his friends, his family. He froze when he realized he couldn’t see his mum’s face anymore. He could see her hands, her clothes, her shoes, but not her face. He couldn’t see Victory-Rose’s face, or Bebe Ajeet’s, or the faces of his many Punjabi aunts and uncles; he could hardly remember friends like Ryun and Colette. All that remained of her were pink Doc Martin boots and purple hair. He had only been away from them for a few weeks, but so many worlds and people and so much fear and excitement and strangeness had come between Everett and the people he loved, like screens of frosted glass that showed shapes and outlines but hid details. The only face he could see was that of his dad, in the final moment in the Tyrone Tower when Charlotte Villiers had turned the jumpgun on him. He saw that too clearly. It was as if the sharpness and brightness of that final glance washed out all the other faces. He had never felt more alone.

He couldn’t stop his tears. They were the simple and most natural and right thing to come, but he would die rather than let the people working on the engine see them. He turned and ran into the jungle.

The river stopped Everett. The trees ended abruptly and the bank gave way so suddenly and steeply that he went skidding down between boulders and exposed tree roots. He had let his body carry him without any conscious thought. Just running. Just hurdling branches and huge tree roots. He could have run on and on until he wouldn’t have been able to find his way back. Here, at the river’s edge, he could faintly hear the sound of Airish power tools and lifting tackle. There was a way back. There was always a way back.

Trees taller and grander than any on Earth soared above Everett. He could see the sky. A small fall of water between two boulders had hollowed out a pool. The water was deep and clear, cool and calling. Sun and water touched the hurt and guilt and loneliness. In a moment he was kicking off boots, wriggling out of ship-togs. He splashed into the pool, lolled back. Cool, deep water rose up over his chest. Everett took his feet off the bottom, kept himself upright with tiny movements of his hands and feet.

The water blessed him. He was alone, but not lonely. He had never been skinny dipping before. He loved the sensual feel of water touching every part of his body. I have swum like this before, he realized, before I was born, naked in the waters inside my mum.

It was a bit of a freaky thought.

Everett paddled round to where a ray of sunlight fell through a gap in the canopy of red leaves. Sun fell on his face. He closed his eyes. Opened them with a shock.

The sun.

There was something wrong with the sun. It was still full in his face. It shouldn’t be. It should have moved across the sky. It hadn’t. It was lower, closer to the lower edge of the gap in the branches, but it was still full in his face. The sun didn’t move on an arc from east to west. It was moving straight up and down.

His calculations. He had calculated for a jump from a spherical planet to another spherical planet. The geometry of the world . . .

“No way!” Everett shouted, surging straight up out of the water. winged things burst upwards in panic from the trees. “No! This is insane.” But the numbers were running in his head; numbers connecting with other numbers, with theories and physical laws, painting a picture of the world that fitted—that was the only explanation of the facts.

He had to get back to the crew. They would listen to him when he told them what he had worked out about this world. They had to listen to him. He waded to the river bank.

His clothes. where were his clothes? He’d left them on a rock, neatly folded, weighted down with his boots in case the wind got up and blew something away.

Everett heard a noise. There, behind a root buttress. A rustle. A movement. A . . . giggle? Everett cupped his hands over his groin. water streamed from him.


It was a giggle.

“Sen! Have you got my togs?”

No answer. No movement.

“Stop playing around . . . There’s something important you need to know. Mega.”

“Come and get them!”


She could wait all day for him to come out of the water.

“Okay then, since you think it’s so funny . . .” Everett waded out of the river. He let go his covering hands. He heard a whoop from behind the tree root. Everett imagined himself from Sen’s point of view. He looked okay. Better than okay; he looked pretty good.

“Remember when I dressed you at Bona Togs?” Sen shouted. “well, I’s going to dress you again.” A hand draped two socks over the sloping root. “Come and get ’em!”

“I will,” said Everett Singh. He heard a squealing shriek of delight and laughter, then a flurry of moving foliage. He pulled on the socks: heavy knit, thick rib top, like the ones Sen wore. He felt dumb in just socks.

“Come on!” Sen shouted from behind a brake of silvery cane. She waved his boots at him, one on each hand.

“Sen, this is important. The world . . . It’s . . .”

“That scar’s really healing up good,” Sen called from deeper in the forest.

Everett had almost forgotten about the scar that had been scorched across his side at the Battle of Abney Park Cemetery by his alter’s laser. Sen’s careless comment knocked him back into the pain and humiliation. He had been badly beaten. He would wear the mark of his enemy for the rest of his life. Everett had unfinished business with alter-Everett.

Now Sen hung his ship shorts from a low branch.

“Sen! Don’t mess around!” Everett shouted as he struggled to get his feet through the legs.

“You wear too many clothes!” Sen called from a new hiding place. “It’s bad for you.” She draped his T-shirt over a spiny shrub. She had cut the sleeves off and shortened it. It was not quite her crop-top level, but shorter than any Earth 10 omi would be seen in. Bare-chested, Everett strode to retrieve it.

Something splintered softly under his left boot, and his ankle went deep into something soft and wet and sticky. A scent of rot and sickness wafted up. Everett looked down. His left foot was embedded in the ribs of a mouldering human corpse. Empty eye sockets stared up at him from a skull clothed with rags of skin. Vile liquids and rotting organs leaked from the blackened, burst skin. Everett tried to extricate his foot. Decaying things glooped and sucked.

“Sen!” he yelled. “Sen!”

“Uh uh, Everett Singh, you come and get it.”

“Sen!” His tone said no jokes any more.

She came running, hurdling lightly over roots and fallen branches.

“Everett, what is it? Oh, the Dear.”

Everett had followed the trace truly and accurately. Someone had been banished to this world by the jumpgun.

Sen held two hands out to Everett.

“I’s got you, omi. walk towards me. Come on Everett Singh.”

He took her hands and pulled his foot out of the dead thing. He could feel gross corpse stuff on his skin. He would never be able to get it clean again. But that was not the true horror. The horror, terrible, all-devouring fear was who that corpse might be.

“Sen, can you look at it? Is it?”

Sen understood at once.

“It’s not him. Do you hear me? It’s not him.”

Everett shook with released tension. He thought he might throw up now, not from the vile rotting nausea of the corpse, but from relief at who the corpse was not. His dad. He heard Sen mumble something in Palari. He knew Palari pretty well, but Sen was speaking so low and fast, with so many dialect words, that he could not make her out.

“Sen, what is it?”

“He’s dressed Airish style. I think I knows it. I think it’s ’Appening Ed.”

At first Everett could not place the name, then he remembered. Charlotte Villiers had led her Sharpies into Hackney Great Port to try and seize the Infundibulum by force. She had been met by a mob of roused, anarchic Airish who had no truck with police on their territory. They had been led by a short, angry man—’Appening Ed. Char-lotte Villiers had pulled a gun and made him disappear. It had been the first time Everett had seen what a jumpgun could do. So this was where he had been sent. And something in this red rainforest had killed him. This red rainforest in this world where the sun didn’t obey normal physics; the world didn’t even obey proper, spherical geometry.

“Sen, I need to get back to the crew. There’s something you need to know about this world. Something really important.”