More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Anne McCaffrey's The Dragonriders of Pern omnibus for only 9.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Finally together in one volume, the first three books in the world's most beloved science fiction series, THE DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN, by Anne McCaffrey, one of the great science fiction writers of all time: DRAGONFLIGHT, DRAGONQUEST, THE WHITE DRAGON. Those who know these extraordinary tales will be able to re-visit with Lessa, F'lar, Ruth, Lord Jaxon, and all the others. And for those just discovering this magical place, there are incomparable tales of danger, deceit, and daring, just waiting to be explored.

Extract from L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s SOLAR EXPRESS

Here's an extract from L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s soon-to-be-released Solar Express, courtesy of the author himself! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

You can't militarize space. This one rule has led to decades of peaceful development of space programs worldwide. However, increasing resource scarcity and a changing climate on Earth's surface is causing some interested parties to militarize, namely India, the North American Union, and the Sinese Federation.

The discovery of a strange artifact by Dr. Alayna Wong precipitates a crisis. What appears to be a hitherto undiscovered comet is soon revealed to be an alien structure on a cometary trajectory toward the sun. Now there is a race between countries to see who can study and control the artifact dubbed the "Solar Express" before it perhaps destroys itself.

Leading the way for the North American Union is Alayna's friend, Captain Christopher Tavoian, one of the first shuttle pilots to be trained for combat in space. But, as the alien craft gets closer to its destination, it begins to alter the surface of the sun in strange new ways, ways that could lead Alayna to revolutionary discoveries-provided Chris can prevent war from breaking out as he navigates among the escalating tensions between nations.

Solar Express is a thrilling, new, hard science fiction novel from New York Times bestselling author L. E. Modesitt, Jr.


Daedalus Base

26 March 2114

Alayna woke to flashing lights in her sleeping cubicle. There was no alarm. That meant a problem, but not an emergency.

“Marcel? What’s wrong?” Her voice sounded rough and hoarse, but then it always did when she first woke up, more so at Daedalus Base, with an atmospheric pressure closer to that of Denver than that of New Hampshire.

“A thirty-five kilometer section of the radio telescope is inoperative. It appears that one hundred meter section will have to be replaced.”

“Where?” She sat up slowly. It hadn’t taken her long at Daedalus base to realize that quick and abrupt movements when still sleep-fogged could be painful in low grav.

“Four kilometers north and fifteen point three kilometers east of the control center.”

“Why the alarm?”

“In five hours, Arecibo takes control in of the telescope for a deep search. The inoperative section has reduced effectiveness by five percent.”

“Frig!” Alayna understood. Unless she could complete the repairs by then, SRI(N) would complain that COFAR’s reduced sensitivity had compromised whatever the combined search was investigating. At the least, it wouldn’t look good for Alayna. At the worst, SRI headquarters might reduce the payments to the Farside Foundation. She stood and took two steps to the narrow wardrobe, which she opened to locate and extract the one-piece undersuit required for compatibility with the exosuit used for outside Lunar surface maintenance.

No matter how sophisticated the system, things happened that needed to be fixed, and decades of experience had shown that a reasonably intelligent and well-trained human being on the spot was far more cost-effective than either excessive redundancy or repeated repair missions, or even AI-controlled robotics. Add to that the fact that sophisticated equipment was more expensive than a nearly endless supply of over-educated young post-doctoral professionals eager to obtain both jobs and experience. During her first week at COFAR, when Luis had walked her through everything, she’d half-wondered if she’d ever remember it all, even with Marcel as back-up The most frustrating part was being so close to such an array of equipment, and being able to use it so little, at least so far. That thought didn’t help Alayna’s frame of mind as she prepared for the repair mission. Almost half an hour later, she finished suiting up while breathing a high-oxygen mixture in order to accommodate the lower pressure and higher oxygen levels she’d be breathing for the next several hours – if not longer. When she finished the suit pressurization level tests, she opened the suit comm link. “Marcel, comm check.”

“All your frequencies are clear. Ten percent loss on lowband.”

“I’m not going far enough for that to matter.”

Next came the inspection of the roller. Alayna made certain that the batteries were fully charged, then put a spare in the equipment bin. She couldn’t have done that if the break in the antenna had been another ten kilometers farther out. After that came the two prepackaged sections of polyimide film – and its embedded dipole antennas – that barely fit in the open cargo bin at the back of the roller. She couldn’t help but notice that there were only ten sections left. Still… according to the logs, sometimes years had gone by without the need for replacing antenna sections. As almost an afterthought, she added another package of antistatic wipes to the package already in the equipment bin.

Another fifteen minutes passed by the time she had the roller moving out of the lock. Then she had to guide it through the maze of paths and tunnels, designed so that the rollers could reach every part of the radio-telescope antenna without rolling across any of the meter-wide polyimide swathes. Physically replacing the polyimide film would always require some travel since the rows stretched fifty kilometers in each direction, but going just fifteen wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Then, if the damage had been at forty-nine kilometers, the reduction in antenna effectiveness would have been minuscule, unlike the five percent reduction that Marcel had reported. The big problem was that replacing a hundred meters of damaged film was going to be a chore, especially since Alayna had only done one replacement of fifty meters, and that had been of aging polyimide close to the COFAR control center, and had been almost a practice repair, close as it had been to the base center.

Almost forty minutes later, she slowed the roller to a stop. From where she sat on the open vehicle, she couldn’t see any damage. “There’s no obvious impact, Marcel. Where does the damaged section start?

“Section 15.3. There should be a yellow stripe indicating where the sections join.”

Alayna forced herself to scan the edge of the film slowly, finally catching sight of a yellow tab, rather than a stripe. Then she checked to make certain she had the antistatic wipes in the suit’s belt patch. As soon as she stepped off the roller, her boots sank into the regolith – not that much, perhaps a few centimeters – but a haze of dust rose, almost climbing up her boots and legs.

Walking slowly and carefully, she made her way to the edge of the antenna film, where she inspected the yellow tab, which had the numbers 15.2, indicating that she’d stopped a good hundred meters short. Which might be why you don’t see any damage. “Marcel… the tab indicates fifteen two.”

“The roller’s calibration must be off.”

Alayna didn’t voice, not even subvocally, what she felt about that as she turned back toward the roller. When she got back into the driver’s seat to move forward another hundred meters, she had to keep wiping her faceplate with an antistatic wipe in order to see where she was directing the roller. By the time she stopped at the connection/disconnection point another hundred meters farther east, she’d had to discard the first wipe, stuffing it into the waste bag beside the driver’s seat, and was using a second.

This time she could see the damage to the antenna, not all that obvious – just a series of punctures in the film. After she took the separator – a short rod that looked like an oversized flat screwdriver – from the tool box, she got off the roller carefully. Her boots went into the dust almost ankle deep. She glanced around. The damaged section of the antenna film had been laid over the dust as well.

“Marcel, there’s a lot of dust here.”

“Where you are doesn’t have any observations on that.”

She didn’t feel like commenting. Instead, she moved toward the yellow tab, leaning down and verifying the section number before easing the separator into the groove at the end, and moving it slightly. Nothing happened. She applied more force, cautiously, slowly wedging the two sections apart. By the time she’d separated the connections between the two sections, she was sweating, not heavily, but more than she would have liked, despite the fact that the only humidity in the suit came from her.

Then she had to roll up the damaged section. The film was light enough, especially in lunar gravity, but she was very careful, and moved slowly, until the first damaged section, except for the last few meters, was in a rough cylinder. By then, she was wiping her suit faceplate every few steps. After separating the first damaged section from the next one, she began rolling up the second section.

“Your internal suit temperature is getting too high,” observed Marcel.

“That’s all I need,” snapped Alayna. Nonetheless, she straightened up and just stood quietly, trying to breathe easily. She looked eastward, but could see nothing, given the dust on her faceplate. She slowly and gently wiped the faceplate clear, knowing that even fine class II dust was highly abrasive.

From what she could finally see, she had only another five or six meters left to roll before she could separate the second section. Then would come the even harder work.

After what seemed forever, she cleared her throat. “Marcel?”

“Your temperature’s down. Not as much as would be optimal.“

“I’ll move more carefully.” In fact, out of necessity, Alayna made certain her movements were more deliberate as she finished rolling up the last few meters of the second section. Separating it from the remainder of the antenna row was easier than the first and second separations had been. After finishing rolling it up she had to walk back to the roller. There she unloaded the first section of new antenna film, unsealed it and was about to begin fitting the old and new sections together when she realized that the area around each receiving clip socket was covered with dust… and if she pressed the two sections together without cleaning each and every socket first… then the dust would work into the socket and before long, perhaps immediately, given the electrostatic properties of the dust, the connections wouldn’t be tight, and likely the antenna still wouldn’t work.

Cleaning and sealing was tedious… and every other receptacle required a new antistatic wipe. Just cleaning and sealing the hundred twenty centimeter-wide section took more than twenty minutes. When she finished, she almost didn’t want to link to the AI again.

She did. “Marcel, linkage test, please.”

“The links are secure. A reception test is not possible until you unroll the rest of the antenna.”

Alayna moved and did that, but because she was moving backward in order to avoid stepping on the film, it took longer to unroll than it had to roll up the damaged section, especially since the dust was clinging to everything.

“Marcel, reception test?”

“Signals being received from the new section.”

At least that works. Then she had to walk back to the roller and move it forward to unload the second section, open it, and unroll it enough to be able to connect the two new sections. While she had to wipe down the contact points and the area around the receiving sockets, the connection was easier because there wasn’t nearly the dust gathered on the replacement antenna sections.

Her back didn’t ache; it twinged painfully by the time she had unrolled the second section. Worrying about that would have to wait.

She was about halfway through connecting the second section to the rest of the antenna row, when Marcel pulsed. “You have thirty minutes before Arecibo takes control.”

Had she been out almost three hours? Frig! “I’ll be done with the repairs before that.” But there was no way she and the roller would make it back to COFAR center by then.

Twenty-one minutes later, Alayna and the roller, as well as two rolls of inoperative antenna polyimide film, an enormous number of used anti-static wipes, and a coating of dust, headed back toward the COFAR maintenance lock.

Although Marcel had verified the repair had been successful, just before the roller reached the open lock door, she linked to the AI. “Is the antenna still fully operative?”

“It is fully operative, Dr. Wong-Grant. The roller caused a slight interference field on your return, but that was minimal.”

And frigging unavoidable.

When the lock closed, Alayna just looked at the dust-coated roller. Her back ached, as did her head, and her eyes were burning… and sooner or later she’d have to clean the roller. Otherwise the dust would migrate into places where it could do real damage.

You don’t have to clean it this moment.

She did have to get through shutting down the roller, as well as connecting it to the charging system. She unloaded the rolls of damaged antenna film and stacked them in the waste room. She couldn’t put them through the reprocessor and for another week, not until “day” arrived, and she had full solar power. Next she had to clean the exosuit. By the time she was back inside the installation, she was shivering because her undersuit was soaked.

She did take a warm, if short shower, before pulling on a dry station-suit, and then heading to the control center. The console alert light was flashing.

When she saw the first message, the priority one that had triggered the alert, she relaxed.

Your system reports EFA exceeding three hours. Please report re-entry.

That was an inquiry request from the Lunara Mining installation south of Daedalus Crater, most likely automatic, although it bore Harris’s name as sender. Her response was swift and short.

Re-entry at 1143 UTC. Extended exterior repairs, successfully accomplished. Appreciate your watchfulness. Thank you.

Her next step was to monitor the performance of all systems, but as Marcel had already informed her, all optical and radio systems were operating at close to optimal levels. She nodded, more in relief than approval. Before she started in on checking the rest of the message queue, she went to the galley and fixed some tea. She also ate several biscuits. Then she carried the sealed mug back to the control center where she settled before the console.

Despite all the early space-age hype about living longer in low-grav, what experience had shown, both on the space elevator and on Luna, was that prolonged low-grav wasn’t any form of anagathic, but just created the early onset of muscular degeneration and osteoporosis, not to mention various other conditions that were anything but life-extending. That was why Alayna’s first post-doc employment was at COFAR, a job that was anything but glamorous, and a combination of basic maintenance technician, janitor, and second level astronomer. Being in good physical condition, having an outstanding academic record, and enough publications that had gotten some attention meant that, unlike many other young and largely inexperienced post-docs, she had real and gainful employment… if under less than optimal conditions and pay… and if only for two years.

Alayna had been sipping the tea for less than a minute when the console flashed again.

The second alert message was from Dorthae Wrae, the Foundation’s chief of operations.

Dr. Wong-Grant:

SRI(N) has informed us that for the first ten minutes of the joint Deep

Listen operation there was low level interference at COFAR, the frequency of which was consistent with operation of a roller.

How did this occur?

Was it absolutely necessary?

Please report immediately.

“Shit!” Ten lousy minutes because there was so much dust that everything needed anti-triboelectric wipedown?

At least, Wrae wasn’t demanding a full-comm real-time link, but that was understandable. Given both the cost of full-band face-to-face communications and the annoying two to three second delay, the Foundation seldom initiated or authorized direct real-time links. Costs drove everything, and that was another reason why Alayna had a station designed and built to hold ten people all to herself – except on rare occasions.

Alayna re-read Wrae’s message, then concentrated on framing a reply, forcing herself to respond methodically. Even so, it was almost a half hour later before she was ready to send her reply.

Director Wrae:

A micrometeor spray impacted the antenna at 0313 UTC. I was sleeping at that

time, and the damage did not trigger a full alarm. When I

woke at 0600 UTC, I determined that more than half of antenna row 6NE was inoperative as a result of

the damage. I immediately began preparations for an EFA with the roller, since I

knew the importance of the SRI(N) Deep Listening event scheduled for 1100

UTC. Those preparations, done as quickly as possible but according to the

approved procedures, took 93 standard minutes. The roller left the maintenance

bay at 0746. Travel time to the point of the damage was 41 minutes. Higher

speed was not possible because of Lunar night power limits. Repairs began at 0834.

The damage necessitated…

Alayna went on to detail the repairs step by step, checking the roller log to enter the exact times.

… because the impact occurred at a point along the antenna where the local

regolith is predominantly Class II dust, both the contacts and connections on both

the existing antenna film and the replacement antenna film required careful and time-consuming cleaning.

Repairs were completed before the beginning of the Deep Listen event, but for slightly more than the first ten minutes of the event, the roller was still returning to COFAR maintenance. While I regret the time it took to complete the repairs, it would seem that some slight interference for ten minutes was preferable to degraded antenna performance for the entire event.

While the last sentence wouldn’t make the director happy, Alayna wanted to convey the idea, if less than absolutely directly, that she hadn’t been responsible for the impact and that she’d done the most that she could.

She sent the reply, then went back to the message queue. There was a message from Chris, but it wasn’t flagged, and she kept it as new until she could make sure that there wasn’t something else urgent. She’d no sooner finished running through the queue than there was a reply from Foundation ops – again from Dorthae Wrae again. The gist of the reply was simple enough.

Was this repair necessary at this time? Would the client have even noticed the difference in signal strength?

Alayna did the math, then checked it. The disabled section of the antenna should only have resulted in a deterioration of less than half of one per cent. For some observations, that would make a difference. She frowned. Except Marcel reported it as five percent.

“Marcel? The amount of usable antenna lost to impact damage was less than one percent. Why did you report it as five percent?”

“The lost segment was eight tenths of one percent, but the signal loss was five point seven percent.”

“Why the difference?”

“Without an analysis of the damaged section, that is impossible to say.”

“Would the infiltration of Class II Lunar dust have affected the signal transmission?”

“That is impossible to determine at this time.”

“I don’t believe that. Isn’t there any research on that?” Alayna recalled reading something, but not where.

“The electrostatic properties of regolith dust have been studied – ”

“Cancel that. What I want to know is whether the triboelectric charging effect could create a field that would affect more than one antenna row.”

“There’s no research on that, Dr. Wong-Grant.”

“Great. A wonderful topic for a scholarly paper… as if it would do me any good.” Alayna took a deep breath and began to compose a reply.

Dr. Wrae:

In regard to your inquiry about the impact on the client’s data, according to

system measurements taken by the AI, approximately one percent of the antenna

array was non-functional, but the system status was only ninety-three percent after

the impact. Once the repairs were accomplished, system status returned to ninety-nine

percent. This suggests that electrostatic loading by the Class II regolith dust in

the vicinity of the impact damage had an effect, although I could find no research

either supporting or refuting that possibility. Because the measured loss was more

than five percent, and because it appeared likely that I could complete the repairs

before the beginning of Deep Listen, I went ahead with the repair procedures.

Because of the unforeseen high concentration of Class II dust in the vicinity of the

damaged section of the antenna, more extensive antistatic cleaning measures were necessary,

which extended the repair time. For the record, the system records did not note that that

section contained excessive fine dust levels. Under these circumstances, I made the judgment

that immediate repairs were in the client’s best interests.

What else could she say? After adding a few polite phrases expressing concern and appreciation for the inquiry, Alayna sent off her reply, again glad that she didn’t have to explain verbally.

Then she went back to dealing with all the routine messages.

More than two hours after she’d re-entered the COFAR control center, she finally opened the message from Chris, half-guiltily. But you deserve a few minutes for yourself. She began to read, smiling as she did about his description of the bureaucrats.

He’s actually thinking about where you are… or wanting you to think that he is. She smiled ironically since, either way, it was thinking about her. Given how few bureaucrats traveled willingly to Luna, it was also likely that he was transporting the Noram Inspector-General team. Her eyes went back to the last lines.

…I’d like your thoughts on what he has to say, especially the second paragraph

on page 37…

She smiled at the words that followed. It’s as if he knew what kind of day I was going to have.

When Alayna finished, she glanced at the attached book file, quickly opened it and read the title – Observations on Politics. She frowned. Why would he send me this? Except for internal Foundation politics, I could care less. Still, she was intrigued enough to skip to page 37, where she read.

Good politicians understand one fundamental aspect of human nature – that the

concern of most individuals attenuates on a geometric basis with the distance in

time or space. That was the principal reason the successful development of space

facilities exclusively by governments was initially limited. The costs were high and

the benefits distant in both time and distance. Only the threat of monopolization of

the power conveyed by the commencement of the Sinese space elevator, an installation

created by a government with greater resistance to popular opinion, spurred the

development and completion of the WestHem space elevator. Without either another threat

or immense profits, further and more extensive space development, especially beyond

the Martian colonies, is unlikely.

She frowned. She’d have to think about that. Idly she skipped through the pages, when a highlighted phrase – a title, really – caught her eyes.

Those to whom politics is music are most adept with the symbols.

With a smile at the words, one that quickly faded, Alayna read a few of the lines beneath.

In a sense, the “music” of politics reflects current culture, because it embodies the

heavy use of symbols, i.e., coded language, and percussion, the continuing, not quite

simplistic, heavy and repetitive beat designed to frame apparently new issues in

terms of old memes…

If he reads this sort of thing, your burner-boy is deeper than you thought. Except… he wasn’t hers, and at three years older than she was, he was hardly a boy. She closed the message and shifted the letter and the book to her personal directory.

There’s something else you need to do. Abruptly, she remembered. “Marcel, what about that anomaly in sector five? What can we report?”

“The anomaly has moved, but not enough to calculate either speed or projected path accurately. We’re close enough to day that we won’t get another observation until April twelfth.”

“Then we file a report, and someone else gets part of the credit.” If they haven’t already. “Do the report and let me see it.”

“It’s already done. It’s in your pending file.”

Alayna called up the report, in standard format for the International Astronomical Union, and read through it. She had no corrections, not that she likely would have had, since Marcel had years of experience in drafting such reports, and all had been seen and corrected, if necessary, by others, likely with far more experience than Alayna had. Still… she wondered what the anomaly might be, although given the odds and how well the solar system had been mapped over the past century it was most likely a long-period comet. And being a discoverer of a comet wouldn’t hurt professionally… assuming no one else has reported it. Even if Marcel was really the discoverer… and she was probably the tenth astronomer to report it.

“Go ahead and send it, with copies to Farside operations.”

“Transmission is complete, Dr. Wong-Grant.”

She still had to clean the roller, and that needed to be done before the inspection team arrived. You might as well get that done now. The way things were going, who knew what might come up if she waited… and she still had to go over the briefing materials she’d barely skimmed… and get off a message to her father, something she’d put off too long, not that he sometimes wasn’t exactly regular in messaging, but he regarded her reporting in as more necessary than his.

And, as had been the case, for most of the time she’d been at COFAR, so far, at least, her duties, her familiarization with the station, and more maintenance than she’s expected had left her far too little time to pursue her own research into the mysteries of the solar photosphere. But then, she’d been told that her research came behind everything else. She just hadn’t realized how far behind that would be.

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

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is down two positions, ending the week at number 4. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

David Weber’s Hell’s Foundations Quiver debuts at number 16.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian maintains its position at number 1 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian maintains its position at number 1.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is up two positions, ending the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Wings of Fire, an anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan and Marianne S. Jablon, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Dragons: Fearsome fire-breathing foes, scaled adversaries, legendary lizards, ancient hoarders of priceless treasures, serpentine sages with the ages' wisdom, and winged weapons of war... Wings of Fire brings you all these dragons, and more, seen clearly through the eyes of many of today's most popular authors, including Peter Beagle, Holly Black, Orson Scott Card, Charles De Lint, Diana Wynne Jones, Mercedes Lackey, Ursula K Le Guin, Dean R Koontz, George R. R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Moon, Garth Nix, and many others.

Why no love among the SFF fandom??? (6 years later)

I wrote this piece back in 2009 and it just appeared in my Facebook memories. Decided to give it a read through, just for the heck of it. Oddly enough, the sentiment is pretty much the same and nothing seems to have changed in the last 6 years. . .

And this is one of the posts that generated a lot of comments back then, I'm curious to see if I'm the only one feeling this way in 2015.

Here's an extract:

I've been giving this some thought, and I can't for the life of me understand why the SFF fandom seems to be fragmented beyond repair. So perhaps you guys can help me understand why there appears to be so much hate going around.

And since my readership is comprised of haters, wankers, aficionados and casual readers, I figure that the Hotlist reaches basically every kind of fans. Perhaps we can make sense of this sad state of affairs. . .

For some reason, it seems that speculative fiction readers consider themselves to be at the top of the SFF totem pole. Many look down at everything else, as if novels held the monopoly on quality as far as different media go. I've always known this to be the case, but it's gotten more and more obvious since I started to try to give various media some exposure on the Hotlist a few weeks back. There has been a lot of resistance from a panoply of fans, as if comic books, anime, animated films, and video games were beneath their notice. Why is that, I wonder? Doesn't it stand to reason that there are high quality works in every SFF medium?

Are SFF books and series the epitome of quality in the speculative fiction sphere? Why the superiority complex when readers cannot even agree as to what's good and what's not? You have the wankers peddling their titles to all and sundry like they're the gospels. And then, they're disappointed and can't seem to understand why casual SFF readers don't give a shit about the John Clute, M. John Harrison, and James Nicoll of this world?

There is certainly an "holier than thou" attitude coming from the elitist clique of the genre which drives me nuts. One only has to look at the fiasco surrounding Neil Gaiman's winning the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction for The Sandman issue #19 "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Why was it so bad for a comic book to win the award? And why are comics now only eligible in the Special Award Professional category?

What is so frightening about comic books receiving accolades such as a World Fantasy Award? Why is it so difficult to accept that quality works exist outside of the "literary" sphere and deserve the recognition? You tell me. . .

Follow this link to read the whole piece. . .

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Chris Wooding's Retribution Falls for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Sky piracy is a bit out of Darian Frey’s league. Fate has not been kind to the captain of the airship Ketty Jay—or his motley crew. They are all running from something. Crake is a daemonist in hiding, traveling with an armored golem and burdened by guilt. Jez is the new navigator, desperate to keep her secret from the rest of the crew. Malvery is a disgraced doctor, drinking himself to death. So when an opportunity arises to steal a chest of gems from a vulnerable airship, Frey can’t pass it up. It’s an easy take—and the payoff will finally make him a rich man.

But when the attack goes horribly wrong, Frey suddenly finds himself the most wanted man in Vardia, trailed by bounty hunters, the elite Century Knights, and the dread queen of the skies, Trinica Dracken. Frey realizes that they’ve been set up to take a fall but doesn’t know the endgame. And the ultimate answer for captain and crew may lie in the legendary hidden pirate town of Retribution Falls. That’s if they can get there without getting blown out of the sky.

Quote of the Day

With women of a certain age and temperament, tea was more effective than wine when it came to loosening the tongue.

- STEPHEN KING, Wizard and Glass (Canada, USA, Europe).

Extract from Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith's THE GEOMANCER

Here's an extract from Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith's The Geomancer, compliments of the folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The first Gareth and Adele Novel, The Geomancer is the start of an ongoing, character-based, urban fantasy series set in the same Vampire Empire universe as the authors’ previous trilogy!

The uneasy stalemate between vampires and humans is over. Adele and Gareth are bringing order to a free Britain, but bloody murders in London raise the specter that Adele’s geomancy is failing and the vampires might return. A new power could tilt the balance back to the vampire clans. A deranged human called the Witchfinder has surfaced on the Continent, serving new vampire lords. This geomancer has found a way to make vampires immune to geomancy and intends to give his masters the ability to kill humans on a massive scale.

The apocalyptic event in Edinburgh weakened Adele’s geomantic abilities. If the Witchfinder can use geomancy against humanity, she may not have the power to stop him. If she can’t, there is nowhere beyond his reach and no one he cannot kill.

From a Britain struggling to rebuild to the vampire capital of Paris, from the heart of the Equatorian Empire to a vampire monastery in far-away Tibet, old friends and past enemies return. Unexpected allies and terrible new villains arise. Adele and Gareth fight side-by-side as always, but they can never be the same if they hope to survive.


Adele walked through the weedy grounds of Greyfriars kirkyard. She found comfort in the long rows of funerary markers and in the crumbling church. Her fingers drifted across grave markers that were no longer legible. Mossy stone skulls stared at her as she passed. Heavy gates lay askew and black iron cages sat on the ground, mortsafes intended to keep out grave robbers.

A bright moon shone through the leaves, giving her a shadow on the grass. The air was warm and Adele wore only a nightgown, which she briefly thought odd. Buttercups swayed in clumps below the tombs. Crocuses grew along the walls of the church.

Footfalls through the grass brought Adele around. A figure in a long kimono of green silk came through the moonlight. Short, compact, powerful, the man strode toward Adele with a smile on his face.

“Mamoru.” Adele was excited to see her old teacher. It seemed like it had been a long time. His presence usually brought something new and fascinating. He didn’t speak, although she longed to hear his deep voice. It was always reassuring.

She held out her hands to take his as he approached. “I’m so glad to see you. I was reading the last book you gave me, and I have a question about the permanent positioning of rifts in the Earth.” Adele felt his strong fingers intertwine with hers and a familiar warmth spread through her. “I have questions about crystallog raphy as well.”

Her hands hurt. Mamoru was squeezing them. He stared at her with eyes like the iron gates on the graves around them. He sneered and twisted her hands. The pain drove her to her knees.

“Don’t,” Adele cried in confusion. “What have I done?”

He dragged her toward a stone sarcophagus. She struggled but found herself shoved flat until her back pressed against the cold marble.

She didn’t move even after he released her hands, her limbs strangely numb. Bewilderment turned to terror.

Suddenly Adele stood beside Mamoru, looking at him as well as down at her own body where he had placed her atop the sarcophagus. She looked so young lying there. She watched as he produced crystals from his robe and placed one on her supine form.

Mamoru turned away and walked about the kirkyard. He carried an instrument that was something like a maritime sextant with crystals at principle points. He took readings with the scryer, set a crystal carefully on the ground, and then proceeded to chart a place for another.

Adele followed him as he went about his complex task. She pointed back at her body lying on the crypt. “I beg you, don’t do this. I’m your student. And you taught my mother before me. I have honored you for all these years.”

Mamoru stopped with a yellow crystal in his hand and regarded her. He then set that stone on the ground. Without another glance at her, he returned to the tomb where she lay. Adele could feel the power of the Earth awaken under her feet. The life force of several rifts roared in her ears like the sound of water rushing through hidden pipes.

“Get up!” Adele shouted at her immobile self on the moss-speckled tomb. That version of herself looked so young and innocent. “Don’t be afraid. You have the power to stop this!”

Mamoru made one final adjustment to the crystal that rested on the chest of her younger self. Adele stiffened as if she were stone too. Fire from the hungry Earth reached up and seized her. She was dragged down through the graves of Greyfriars. The skeletons stared as she fell far below their loamy houses. She felt the hellish heat and smelled a sick ening mélange of scents from across the world. The normally melodious crystalline tones clanged and smashed around her. The burning silver rifts swept her along.

The power tore at her flesh, eating its way inside. It swirled through her, using her as a lens to focus itself. Then it ripped out, surging back into the rifts, spreading like flaming blood in the veins of the Earth.

Far to the south of Edinburgh, across the border into northern England where the vampires lived, the dying began. The creatures sensed the coming wave only seconds before it struck. From the ground came silver fire that poured over them. They screamed with a horrible agony that none had ever known. They writhed and fell. Their flesh turned to ash leaving white bones scattered across the countryside.

Adele turned her horrified eyes from the spreading extinction she had begun, and suddenly she was back in the kirkyard. Dread filled her. She knew what was coming. A familiar figure dropped like a meteor through the branches and smashed to the ground. Gareth. He rose with a face like death for Mamoru. Adele tried to shout at Gareth to run. The fires of the Earth struck him and he too twisted in agony, just as all his brethren had. Mamoru slammed him to the ground. Gareth fought to rise and Mamoru battered him again. Gareth struggled up once more, his sharp fangs bared.

Adele’s younger self finally stirred on the tomb, kicking crystals away. Swinging her feet over the edge, she sat up, shoving the stupor and the pain aside. She had her mother’s khukri in her hand. She walked unsteadily across the graveyard toward Mamoru, who pressed his boot on Gareth’s throat. Gareth grasped the man’s ankle, but couldn’t find the strength to shift it.

The young woman plunged the glowing dagger into Mamoru’s back. He didn’t cry out. He simply turned and looked at her as if he was disappointed. Then he vanished in the moonlight.

Adele ran over to her younger self, who stood over Gareth as he writhed in agony in the dirt. Geysers of silver fire erupted across the cemetery. Gareth’s flesh turned red, then black. His face cracked and tore away. His outstretched hand shriveled. His horrible cry faded and his bones dropped smoldering in the grass.

Adele grabbed herself, trying to shake awareness into her stunned face. “Stop it! Don’t let Mamoru turn you into a tool of extinction. It’s your power, not his. It isn’t his choice.” She pointed at the charred skel eton of Gareth. “Save him!”

“I can’t,” she replied in a cracking voice Adele remembered from years ago. “It’s too late.”

An overwhelming helplessness gripped Adele. She fell to her hands and knees in the ashes of her lover and screamed.

The dark timbers of Edinburgh Castle abruptly hovered above her. Adele gasped and felt sweat dripping along the sides of her neck. Her heart pounded, nearly shaking the bed. She reached across the mattress to find it cold and empty.

Gareth had died. She hadn’t saved him in the kirkyard. He was gone. Adele couldn’t remember the days between that terrible night and this one. She could only remember the way he held her in his arms. If only she could go back to sleep and live in a dream where they were together.

A blast of cold wind scattered thick photographs from the bed. A tall shadow entered an open window. Gareth stood silhouetted against the grey skies. His blue eyes reflected in the dim lamplight. He stared at Adele for a long moment before swinging the glass shut.

“Adele.” His voice rumbled in the quiet.

Her hand gripped the covers beside her, along with the pictures she had been studying before she dozed off. Gareth stepped down from the windowsill. He wore his usual black trousers and white shirt. His long black hair was tousled from the wind.

“You’re alive.” Adele hadn’t wanted to say it out loud in case it might wake her up again.

His brow furrowed and he smiled. “I was only out for an hour or two.” He moved to the bed with a silent tread and took her arms in his firm grip. He was tall and elegant, but well-muscled. His lips were soft when he kissed her.

Adele clutched him tight.

“Another nightmare?” Gareth asked.

“Yes.” She pressed her face against his chilled chest. “As always, I couldn’t use my geomancy to save you, and I couldn’t stop the death that Mamoru started.”

“But you did.”

Adele pushed back against her pillows and pulled her knees up. The truth didn’t assuage her. Every time the nightmare struck, she was left in fuming helplessness. Over the months since the horrors of that night, the frequency of the dreams had lessened. However, when they came they still brought the same rage and she needed a moment to calm herself.

Taking long breaths, she was surprised to see her face across the room in a wall mirror. She was olive skinned with voluminous brunette hair and the Persian features of her mother. However, this face was dif ferent from the one in the dream. Adele was only twenty years old, but her girlish features were overlaid with lines creasing the corners of her eyes and grey streaking her hair. She looked away from the face that had been born that night in the kirkyard and hastily changed the subject. “Were you writing, or out thinking?”

“No. I was feeding.”

“I thought your people came to the castle for you to feed.”

“With your troops here in Edinburgh now, they’re uncomfortable passing by your soldiers.”

“Have there been any incidents? I’ll have Major Shirazi deal with it.”

“No, but they feel the Equatorians look down on them for providing me with blood. So I go to them now to spare them the embarrassment.”

Adele felt a twinge of sadness at his discomfort. “I’m sorry. My troops don’t understand yet that your people give their blood willingly. It’s so foreign to them.”

“I understand. They’ve never seen it before because it’s never happened before.” Gareth gathered the papers that had flown around the room. He looked at each of the pictures as he picked them up. Most of them were shots of Greyfriars kirkyard. “Perhaps you shouldn’t go back there.”

“Why?” Adele asked with alarm as she crossed to the fireplace to be away from her reflection in the mirror.

“If you stayed away maybe the nightmares would stop.”

“I don’t want to stay away. Taking pictures has helped me over the last few months. It’s therapeutic.” She knelt to toss in several chunks of coal and jostled them with an iron rod. “I keep taking pictures of it expecting to see . . . something. Something from that night. Burns. Fire. Some proof that it happened in the real world. I know what I did that night, but the pictures all look normal.”

Gareth came up behind her, holding a stack of photographs. “We know it happened. We were both there. All the vampires were scoured from Britain. I died—”

“Stop.” Adele stared at the glowing embers. That night in the kirk-yard, she had done more than just destroy all the vampires and make the island uninhabitable for them; she had silenced the power of the Earth here forever. Anywhere else in the world, the rifts would sing to her. But not in Britain or Scotland. It had taken several months before she stopped trying to find the rifts again, to touch the warmth that she was used to flowing at her fingertips. Adele knew that power was still avail able to her if she left the island, but she had grown oddly content at its absence. Now she was almost used to the silence and the cold that sur rounded her in this place. A part of her felt like any other normal human being. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Gareth flipping through the photos.

He said, “Pet is very photogenic.”

Adele smiled and rose. He was looking at a picture of a grey cat stretched out on his back, looking coyly into the camera. There were many other pictures of the cat and of the many other cats who lived around the castle. Gareth continued to shuffle through the photos. Many showed Edinburgh’s inhabitants at their daily chores. A pretty young woman smiled into the camera in a few of the shots. And there were other pictures of the stone city of Edinburgh in various seasons and sun light. Soldiers of her personal guard lounging or training. Townspeople drinking, laughing, flirting.

Gareth nodded with approval. However, there was something curious, a little disappointed, about his expression. He obviously noticed an absence among the photos. Adele took the stack from his hands and went to her desk. She pulled open a drawer and removed a box.

“What’s that?” Gareth asked.

“Pictures of you.”

He tried to look surprised, but he couldn’t keep the satisfaction off his face. “I have my own box?”

Adele pulled out a pile of photos and set them on the desk near a flickering lamp. He joined her and saw an extraordinary variety of pic tures of him. Some he posed for, but most she had taken when he was unaware. Sitting before the fire. Staring out the window. As a distant shape in the air above the castle. There was a picture of him on the bat tlements surrounded by a veritable herd of cats, with his hand resting idly on the back of one that arched happily under his touch.

He flipped through a series of close-up pictures of his hands. His fingers were long. His fingernails were sharp and capable of being extended into claws. The photos showed his hands draped along the arms of chairs, holding books, settled on a tabletop, holding a pen, and grasping Adele’s hand.

Gareth looked up at her. “You seem fascinated by my hands.”

“I am.” She placed her own over his, relishing the roughness of his hands. “They’re wonderful.”

“They are just hands.”

“No. They belong to a vampire. You have a diminished sense of touch compared to humans, and yet, look. Holding a pen. Writing. You use tools, unlike any of your kind. Your hands are subtle. Facile. Elegant. Powerful.” She kissed his fingers. “And yet gentle.”

His lips skimmed over hers, light as the air itself. “Let’s go back to bed.”

Adele took the photos and dropped them back in the box. “I’m not sleepy.”

Gareth swept her up off her feet. He clutched her tight against his chest as he leaned down and blew out the lamp. “Who said anything about sleep?”

Win a copy of Ian McDonald's LUNA: NEW MOON

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Tor Books, I have a copy of Ian McDonald's Luna: New Moon for you to win. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The Moon wants to kill you. Whether it's being unable to pay your per diem for your allotted food, water, and air, or you just get caught up in a fight between the Moon's ruling corporations, the Five Dragons. You must fight for every inch you want to gain in the Moon's near feudal society. And that is just what Adriana Corta did.

As the leader of the Moon's newest "dragon," Adriana has wrested control of the Moon's Helium-3 industry from the Mackenzie Metal corporation and fought to earn her family's new status. Now, at the twilight of her life, Adriana finds her corporation, Corta Helio, surrounded by the many enemies she made during her meteoric rise. If the Corta family is to survive, Adriana's five children must defend their mother's empire from her many enemies... and each other.

Follow this link to read an excerpt from the book.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "LUNA." 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 get your hands on the digital edition of Glen Cook's Passage at Arms for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The ongoing war between Humanity and the Ulat is a battle of attrition that humanity is unfortunately losing. However, humans have the advantage of trans-hyperdrive technology, which allows their climber fleet, under very narrow and strenuous conditions, to pass through space almost undetectable. Passage at Arms tells the intimate, detailed and harrowing story of a climber crew and its captain during a critical juncture of the war. Cook combines speculative technology with a canny and realistic portrait of men at war and the stresses they face in combat. Passage at Arms is one of the classic novels of military science fiction.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download M. R. Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her "our little genius."

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

Quote of the Day

Fools are the only folk on the earth who can absolutely count on getting what they deserve.

- STEPHEN KING, Wizard and Glass (Canada, USA, Europe).

Steven Erikson news!

The Transworld catalogue just came out and it confirmed that Steven Erikson's eagerly anticipated Fall of Light will indeed be released on April 21st! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

It is a bitter winter and civil war is ravaging Kurald Galain. Urusander’s Legion prepares to march on the city of Kharkanas. The rebels’ only opposition lies scattered and weakened - bereft of a leader since Anomander’s departure in search of his estranged brother. The remaining brother, Silchas Ruin, rules in his stead. He seeks to gather the Houseblades of the Highborn families to him and resurrect the Hust Legion in the southlands, but he is fast running out of time.

The officers and leaders of Urusander’s Legion, led by the ruthless Hunn Raal, want the Consort, Draconus, cast aside and their commander to marry Mother Dark and take his place at the side of the Living Goddess. But this union will be far more than simply political. A sorcerous power has claimed those opposing Mother Dark: given form by the exiled High Priestess Syntara, the Cult of Light rises in answer to Mother Dark and her Children.

Far to the west, an unlikely army has gathered, seeking an enemy without form, in a place none can find, and commanded by a Jaghut driven mad with grief. It seems Hood’s call has been heard, and the long-abandoned city of Omtose Phellack is now home to a rabble of new arrivals: Dog-Runners from the south, and Jheck warriors. From the Western Sea strange ships have grounded upon the harsh shore bearing blue-skinned strangers to offer Hood their swords. And from mountain fastnesses and isolated valleys of the North, Toblakai arrive to pledge themselves to Hood’s seemingly impossible war. Soon, they will set forth – or not at all – under the banners of the living. Soon, weapons will be drawn, with Death itself the enemy.

Beneath the chaos of such events, and spanning the realm and those countless other realms hidden behind its veil, magic now bleeds into the world. Unconstrained, mysterious and savage, the power that is the lifeblood of the Azathanai, K’rul, runs loose and wild - and following its scent, seeking the places of wounding and hurt where the sorcery rushes forth, entities both new and ancient are gathering . . . and they are eager to feed. Understanding at last what his gift of blood has unleashed, a weakened K’rul sets out, in the company of a lone guardian, to bring order to this newborn sorcery and in the name of order seeks its greatest avowed enemy…

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

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms debuts at number 2. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Brandon Sanderson's Shadows of Self debuts at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

John Sandford and Ctein’s Saturn Run debuts at number 13. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass is down eleven spots, finishing the week at number 16. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian maintains its position at number 1 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian maintains its position at number 1.

Ann Leckie's Ancillary Mercy debuts at number 10. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is down three positions, ending the week at number 15 (trade paperback).

Quote of the Day

In the ashes of every war the seeds of the next one take root.

- JOE ABERCROMBIE, Half a War (Canada, USA, Europe)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Brian Lumley's horror classic, Necroscope, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Twenty years ago, the horror world was forever altered by the publication of Necroscope. An instant classic, Brian Lumley's astonishing feat of imagination spawned a universe which Lumley has explored and expanded through more that a baker's dozen of novels and novellas. Millions of copies of Necroscope and its successors are in print in a dozen languages throughout the world. Nominated for the British Fantasy Award, Necroscope has inspired everything from comic books and graphic novels to sculptures and soundtracks.

This new edition of Necroscope uses the author's preferred text and includes a special introduction by Brian Lumley, telling how the Necroscope saga came to be. It also includes chapter ornaments by Hugo-Award-Winning artist Bob Eggleton, long identified with Lumley's blood-sucking monsters.

As a classic, Necroscope rightfully claims a place in the Orb trade paperback list, for scholars of the field and the dedicated Lumley collector. And also for all the people who have read more than one mass market copy of the book to tatters.

Harry Keogh is the man who can talk to the dead, the man for whom every grave willingly gives up its secrets, the one man who knows how to travel effortlessly through time and space to destroy the vampires that threaten all humanity.

In Necroscope, Harry is startled to discover that he is not the only person with unusual mental powers--Britain and the Soviet Union both maintain super-secret, psychically-powered espionage organizations. But Harry is the only person who knows about Thibor Ferenczy, a vampire long buried in the mountains of Romania--still horribly alive, in undeath--and Thibor's insane "offspring," Boris Dragosani, who rips information from the souls of the dead in a terrible, ever-lasting form of torture.

Somehow, Harry must convince Britain's E-Branch that only by working together can they locate and destroy Dragosani and his army of demonic warriors--before the half-vampire succeeds in taking over the world!

You can also download Adam Nevill's Last Days for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Last Days (winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Horror Novel of the Year) by Adam Nevill is a Blair Witch style novel in which a documentary film-maker undertakes the investigation of a dangerous cult—with creepy consequences.

When guerrilla documentary maker, Kyle Freeman, is asked to shoot a film on the notorious cult known as the Temple of the Last Days, it appears his prayers have been answered. The cult became a worldwide phenomenon in 1975 when there was a massacre including the death of its infamous leader, Sister Katherine. Kyle’s brief is to explore the paranormal myths surrounding an organization that became a testament to paranoia, murderous rage, and occult rituals. The shoot’s locations take him to the cult’s first temple in London, an abandoned farm in France, and a derelict copper mine in the Arizonan desert where The Temple of the Last Days met its bloody end. But when he interviews those involved in the case, those who haven’t broken silence in decades, a series of uncanny events plague the shoots. Troubling out-of-body experiences, nocturnal visitations, the sudden demise of their interviewees and the discovery of ghastly artifacts in their room make Kyle question what exactly it is the cult managed to awaken – and what is its interest in him?

And finally, the digital edition of Dan Simmons' Carrion Comfort is also available for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

"CARRION COMFORT is one of the three greatest horror novels of the 20th century. Simple as that." --Stephen King

"Epic in scale and scope but intimately disturbing, CARRION COMFORT spans the ages to rewrite history and tug at the very fabric of reality. A nightmarish chronicle of predator and prey that will shatter your world view forever. A true classic." --Guillermo del Toro

"CARRION COMFORT is one of the scariest books ever written. Whenever I get the question asked Who's your favorite author? my answer is always Dan Simmons." --James Rollins

"One of the few major reinventions of the vampire concept, on a par with Jack Finney's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, and Stephen King's Salem's Lot. --David Morrell

THE PAST... Caught behind the lines of Hitler's Final Solution, Saul Laski is one of the multitudes destined to die in the notorious Chelmno extermination camp. Until he rises to meet his fate and finds himself face to face with an evil far older, and far greater, than the Nazi's themselves…

THE PRESENT... Compelled by the encounter to survive at all costs, so begins a journey that for Saul will span decades and cross continents, plunging into the darkest corners of 20th century history to reveal a secret society of beings who may often exist behind the world's most horrible and violent events. Killing from a distance, and by darkly manipulative proxy, they are people with the psychic ability to 'use' humans: read their minds, subjugate them to their wills, experience through their senses, feed off their emotions, force them to acts of unspeakable aggression. Each year, three of the most powerful of this hidden order meet to discuss their ongoing campaign of induced bloodshed and deliberate destruction. But this reunion, something will go terribly wrong. Saul's quest is about to reach its elusive object, drawing hunter and hunted alike into a struggle that will plumb the depths of mankind's attraction to violence, and determine the future of the world itself…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens official trailer

Looking good!!!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

An atmospheric and intrigue-filled novel of dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city--from one of America's most acclaimed young fantasy writers.

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country's most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov's cruel reign may not yet be over.

Child of Vengeance

When the folks at Anchor Books got in touch with me to see if I'd be interested in reviewing Sword of Honor, an epic historical novel chronicling the saga of of Musashi Miyamoto, one of the greatest samurai in Japanese history, my curiosity was piqued. And since I hadn't read the first volume, Child of Vengeance, they were happy to send me a review copy. That book garnered rave reviews and is considered the best work on feudal Japan since James Clavell's Shogun.

You may recall that I gave Clavell's classic a perfect score, so I was excited to give Child of Vengeance a shot. And even though David Kirk's debut may not be as dense and compelling as Shogun, it is nonetheless a brilliant work of historical fiction that delivers on all fronts.

Here's the blurb:

Japan in the late sixteenth century was a land in turmoil. Lords of the great clans constantly vied for position, generating countless tales of scheming and intrigue. Bound by a rigid code of honour, the aristocratic samurai were left to execute their lords' designs whatever the cost. Death defined these warriors' very existence; they could be commanded to die by their lord at any time to prove their loyalty and strength of spirit. A dishonourable end would bring shame upon an entire family - for generations to come.

The man would come to be known as Musashi Miyamoto however was almost diametrically opposed to this stance. He spent most of his life wandering Japan without a lord, searching for enlightenment and honing his legendary sword skills. His collection of writings on strategy and bearing in life, The Book of Five Rings, illustrated his thoughts quite succinctly: though he was unafraid of death, he did not long for it; rather, he yearned to be a master of all things by and for himself.

But at the age of thirteen, the highborn yet lonely teenager, whose given name is Bennosuke, finds himself deeply disconnected from he rest of his village. His mother died when he was a young boy, and his samurai father, Munisai, has abandoned his son in service to his lord, Shinmen. Bennosuke has been raised by his uncle Dorinbo, a monk of Shinto who urges the boy to forgo the violence of war and embrace the contemplative life.

Instead, Bennosuke worships his absent father, who has become a loyal commander in Lord Shinmen's army. Munisai had channeled his long-held anger, guilt and grief into strength on the battlefield - a trait that has helped him ascend the ranks - but shifting alliances outside of his control have left the fearsome warrior indebted to the odious Nakata clan. The escalating consequences of this feud are profound, forcing Bennosuke to confront harsh truths about his family history and his own place within it. Now he must walk the samurai's path - awash with blood, bravery and vengeance - embarking on a journey that will culminate in the epochal battle of Sekigahara, where Bennosuke will proclaim his name as Musashi Miyamoto for the first time.

The historical backdrop of this novel is 17th-century Japan. With an unbelievable eye for details, Kirk's narrative captures the era perfectly. His depiction of samurai culture, with its rituals, beliefs, and unbreakable moral code, imbues this tale with an imagery that brings the traditions of feudal Japan to life on every page. Bennosuke's quest shows how complex and rigid the samurai culture truly was.

Understandably, Bennosuke's POV takes center stage. I found his story to be fascinating, what with him having to choose between following in his father's footsteps and becoming a samurai, or to follow his uncle's advice and become a monk. But fate has a way of complicating matters, and unexpectedly Bennosuke finds himself on a path of violence and revenge. In a culture of immutable principles, the boy's journey, both moral and physical, explores the multilayered aspects of what it means to be a samurai. A disparate supporting cast helps add dimensions to what is already a convoluted tale. Especially the points of view of Dorinbo, Munisai, Lord Shinmen, Kazuteru, which not only shapes the storylines as they progress, but also unveils the truth about Munisai and the death of Bennosuke's mother.

Weighing in at only 322 pages, Child of Vengeance is relatively short novel. Perhaps too short, truth to tell. Some storylines would have benefited from more exposure. Having said that, there is not a dull moment from cover to cover. This tale of betrayal and treachery moves along at a crisp pace, with quite a few surprises along the way!

What essentially starts as a teenager's quest to follow in his father's footsteps and a study of the cunning and violence of the samurai's culture later becomes the tale of an entire country as Japan plunges into war to determine who will be the next Shogun. As such, Child of Vengeance is an introduction that establishes the protagonists and lays the groundwork for what will come next in the story of the boy who will become the renowned Musashi Miyamoto.

David Kirk is an exciting new voice in historical fiction, and I'm looking forward to discovering what he has in store for his readers in Sword of Honor. His debut, though short, packs a powerful punch and should appeal to anyone looking for a engaging read.

The final verdict: 8/10

You can read the first two chapters here.

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

Here's the book trailer:

Musical Interlude

I was really digging the new Macklemore and Ryan Lewis song, what with it featuring old school beats and lyrics from Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Caz. But I recently saw the video and it's hilarious. Just what this not-really-serious track needed!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can download Elizabeth Moon's Remnant Population for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

For forty years, Colony 3245.12 has been Ofelia’s home. On this planet far away in space and time from the world of her youth, she has lived and loved, weathered the death of her husband, raised her one surviving child, lovingly tended her garden, and grown placidly old. And it is here that she fully expects to finish out her days–until the shifting corporate fortunes of the Sims Bancorp Company dictates that Colony 3245.12 is to be disbanded, its residents shipped off, deep in cryo-sleep, to somewhere new and strange and not of their choosing. But while her fellow colonists grudgingly anticipate a difficult readjustment on some distant world, Ofelia savors the promise of a golden opportunity. Not starting over in the hurly-burly of a new community . . . but closing out her life in blissful solitude, in the place she has no intention of leaving. A population of one.

With everything she needs to sustain her, and her independent spirit to buoy her, Ofelia actually does start life over–for the first time on her own terms: free of the demands, the judgments, and the petty tyrannies of others. But when a reconnaissance ship returns to her idyllic domain, and its crew is mysteriously slaughtered, Ofelia realizes she is not the sole inhabitant of her paradise after all. And, when the inevitable time of first contact finally arrives, she will find her life changed yet again–in ways she could never have imagined. . .

You can also get your hands on Rajan Khanna's Falling Sky for only 2.51$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Ben Gold lives in dangerous times. Two generations ago, a virulent disease turned the population of most of North America into little more than beasts called Ferals. Some of those who survived took to the air, scratching out a living on airships and dirigibles soaring over the dangerous ground.

Ben, a lone wolf, has reluctantly agreed to use his skills and his airship to help an idealist scientist, Miranda, on her search for a cure. Protecting her from Ferals is dangerous enough but when power-mad raiders run rampant, Ben finds himself in the most dangerous place of all—the ground.

Ben’s journey leads him to Gastown, a city in the air recently conquered by belligerent and expansionist pirates. Old friends and new enemies are drawn into a struggle that quickly becomes a fight for the fate of the world. Ben must decide to focus on his own survival or risk it all on a desperate chance for a better future.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 12th)

In hardcover:

Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass debuts at number 5. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian maintains its position at number 1 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian is up one position, ending the week at number 1.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One maintains its position at number 12 (trade paperback).

Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven returns at number 13 (trade paperback).