Cover art for Myke Cole's upcoming THE ARMORED SAINT

The folks at have just unveiled Tommy Arnold's cover art for Myke Cole's upcoming The Armored Saint. Follow the link for an interview with the author.

I'm curious to read Cole's grimdark series!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From the editor-in-chief of, a stunning novel about the end of the world--and the beginning of our future.

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's every-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Ian Cameron Esslemont's Night of Knives for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The small island of Malaz and its city gave the great empire its name, but now it is little more than a sleepy, backwater port. Tonight, however, things are different. Tonight the city is on edge, a hive of hurried, sometimes violent activity; its citizens bustle about, barring doors, shuttering windows, avoiding any stranger's stare. Because tonight there is to be a convergence, the once-in-a-generation appearance of a Shadow Moon – an occasion that threatens the good people of Malaz with demon hounds and other, darker things …

It was also prophesied that this night would witness the return of Emperor Kellanved, and there are those prepared to do anything to prevent this happening. As factions within the greater Empire draw up battle lines over the imperial throne, the Shadow Moon summons a far more ancient and potent presence for an all-out assault upon the island. Witnessing these cataclysmic events are Kiska, a young girl who yearns to flee the constraints of the city, and Temper, a grizzled, battle-weary veteran who seeks simply to escape his past. Each is to play a part in a conflict that will not only determine the fate of Malaz City, but also of the world beyond …

Drawing on events touched on in the prologue of Steven Erikson's landmark fantasy Gardens of the Moon, Night of Knives is a momentous chapter in the unfolding story of the extraordinarily imagined world of Malaz.

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

Evil is a Matter of Perspective

If you are a fan of the grimdark subgenre, at some point you probably heard of a Kickstarter organized by the folks at Grimdark Magazine to raise funds in the hope of putting together an anthology comprised of short fiction pieces featuring new and established fantasy antagonists. Well, 900+ backers later, Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists, edited by Adrian Collins, the man who runs Grimdark Magazine, has just seen the light.

It features stories by Michael R. Fletcher, Teresa Frohock, Alex Marshall, Mark Alder, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Janny Wurts, Jeff Salyards, Shawn Speakman, Marc Turner, Kaaron Warren, Courtney Schafer, Bradley P. Beaulieu, E. V. Morrigan, Matthew Ward, Deborah A. Wolf, Brian Staveley, Mazarkis Williams, Peter Orullian, and R. Scott Bakker. Many of those names I was familiar with, and others have been on my "books to read" pile for quite some time, while some were totally unknown to me. I have to admit that my curiosity was piqued ever since I found out about the crowdfunding effort. So when Collins got in touch with me to see if I'd be interested in reading and reviewing the anthology, I was happy to oblige.

Here's the blurb:

Experience your favourite fantasy worlds through some of the most fearsome, devious, and brutal antagonists in fantasy.

Villains take centre stage in nineteen dark and magical stories that will have you cheering for all the wrong heroes as they perform savage deeds towards wicked ends. And why not? They are the champions of their own stories—evil is a matter of perspective.

To spare anyone else the disappointment I felt, let me be clear on one point. This is not a grimdark anthology. Although it does feature a few short stories that fit the bill, Evil is a Matter of Perspective isn't grimdark through and through. This disappointment stems from my own stupidity, for in no way were the people involved misleading on that front. The anthology showcases villains in all shapes and sizes, but very few stories have the moral complexity and the shades of gray that have made the grimdark subgenre so appealing to many readers. Which doesn't take anything away from the book. It's just that, coming from the folks from Grimdark Magazine, I was expecting the anthology to have a much darker nature. My bad. If you go into it without that misapprehension, I have a feeling you might appreciate the anthology more than I did.

It doesn't matter if they're edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois and whether or not they feature a cast of all-star contributors, all speculative fiction anthologies pretty much follow the same pattern. They contain a number of solid reads, some okay but forgettable stories, as well as some lackluster and uninspired filler material. In that regard, Evil is a Matter of Perspective is no different. I have a feeling that prior knowledge of some of the authors' universes and/or protagonists could have allowed me to enjoy some stories more than a did, as it sometimes felt as though I was missing some nuances. So your mileage may vary from one short story to the next.

My favorite aspect of this anthology was that it gave me an opportunity me to sample the writing styles of authors who have been siting on my "books to read" pile for ages. I'm glad I was able to get a taste of writers such as Wurts, Fletcher, Marshall, Staveley, Turner, and Williams without having to go through something in novel-length format. It also allowed me to discover authors that were not necessarily on my radar. Such was the case with Teresa Frohock, whose series premise intrigued me. For that alone, Evil is a Matter of Perspective is well worth a read.

My favorites included "The Broken Dead" by Michael Fletcher, "The Syldoon Sun" by Jeff Salyards, "The Greater of Two Evils" by Marc Turner, "Better than Breath" by Brian Staveley, and "A Foundation of Bones" by Mazarkis Williams. Peter Orullian's "The Aging of a Kill" was surprisingly clever and easier and more enjoyable to read than his novels. I was expecting R. Scott Bakker's "The Carathayan" to be the pièce de résistance, so to speak, but the short story is by far the "lightest" tale the author ever published. Not bad, mind you, but clearly not the sort of tale I would have expected from him.

Overall, though it isn't a grimdark anthology, Evil is a Matter of Perspective remains an interesting and compelling read for the most part. As a matter of course, some short stories stand out more than others. But that's the way love goes. Chances are you'll discover new authors and new series to read. Which, in the end, is all that matters.

Kudos to the good folks at Grimdark Magazine, the contributors, and the backers who made this book a reality. May the future bring us more of these crowdfunded SFF projects.

The final verdict: 7.25/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Don't know for how long, but Tad Williams' modern classic The Dragonbone Chair is still available for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

With The Dragonbone Chair, Tad Williams introduced readers to the incredible fantasy world of Osten Ard. His beloved, internationally bestselling series Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn inspired a generation of modern fantasy writers, including George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Christopher Paolini, and defined Tad Williams as one of the most important fantasy writers of our time.

This edition features a brand-new introduction from Tad Williams' editor as well as the original introduction from Williams himself!


A war fueled by the powers of dark sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard—for Prester John, the High King, lies dying. And with his death, the Storm King, the undead ruler of the elf-like Sithi, seizes the chance to regain his lost realm through a pact with the newly ascended king. Knowing the consequences of this bargain, the king’s younger brother joins with a small, scattered group of scholars, the League of the Scroll, to confront the true danger threatening Osten Ard.

Simon, a kitchen boy from the royal castle unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League, will be sent on a quest that offers the only hope of salvation, a deadly riddle concerning long-lost swords of power. Compelled by fate and perilous magics, he must leave the only home he’s ever known and face enemies more terrifying than Osten Ard has ever seen, even as the land itself begins to die.

After the landmark Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, the epic saga of Osten Ard continues with the brand-new novel, The Heart of What Was Lost. Then don’t miss the upcoming trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard, beginning with The Witchwood Crown!

Provisional Speculative Fiction Top 5 of 2017

Time flies and we've reached the halfway point of the year! Here are the top 5 speculative fiction novels published in 2017 I've read so far! =) Click on each title to read my review. . .

1- Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

More than twenty years ago, the first epic fantasy novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Now New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb brings to a momentous close the third trilogy featuring these beloved characters in a novel of unsurpassed artistry that is sure to endure as one of the great masterworks of the genre.

Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. Bee plays a crucial part in these dreams—but just what part remains uncertain.

As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside—a place the Fool once called home and later called prison. It was a hell the Fool escaped, maimed and blinded, swearing never to return.

For all his injuries, however, the Fool is not as helpless as he seems. He is a dreamer too, able to shape the future. And though Fitz is no longer the peerless assassin of his youth, he remains a man to be reckoned with—deadly with blades and poison, and adept in Farseer magic. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge.

2- The Unholy Consult by R. Scott Bakker (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

In this shattering conclusion to The Aspect-Emperor books, praised for their “sweeping epic scale and detailed historical world building” (Grimdark Magazine), R. Scott Bakker delivers the series’ feverishly harrowing and long-awaited finish.

The Men of the Great Ordeal have been abandoned by Aspect-Emperor Anasurimbor Kellhus, and the formerly epic crusade has devolved into cannibalism and chaos. When Exalt-General Proyas, with the Imperial-Prince Kayutas at his side, attempts to control the lost Men and continue their march to Golgotterath, it rapidly becomes clear that the lost Lord-and-Profit is not so easily shaken from the mission.

When Sorweel, Believer-King of Sakarpus, and Serwa, daughter of the Aspect-Emperor, join the Great Ordeal they discover that the Shortest Path is not always the most obvious, or the safest. Souls, morals, and relationships are called into question when no one can be trusted, and the price for their sins is greater than they imagined.

3- Recluce Tales by L. E. Modesitt, jr. (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

For over a thousand years, Order and Chaos have molded the island of Recluce. The Saga of Recluce chronicles the history of this world through eighteen books, L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s most expansive and bestselling fantasy series.

Recluce Tales: Stories from the World of Recluce collects seventeen new short stories and four popular reprints spanning the thousand-year history of Recluce. First-time readers will gain a glimpse of the fascinating world and its complex magic system, while longtime readers of the series will be treated to glimpses into the history of the world.

Modesitt's essay “Behind the ‘Magic’ of Recluce” gives insight into his thoughts on developing the magical system that rules the Island of Recluce and its surrounding lands, while “The Vice Marshal's Trial” takes the reader back to the first colonists on Recluce. Old favorites “Black Ordermage” and “The Stranger” stand side-by-side with thrilling new stories.

4- Eagle and Empire by Alan Smale (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

The award-winning author of Clash of Eagles and Eagle in Exile concludes his masterly alternate-history saga of the Roman invasion of North America in this stunning novel.

Roman Praetor Gaius Marcellinus came to North America as a conqueror, but after meeting with defeat at the hands of the city-state of Cahokia, he has had to forge a new destiny in this strange land. In the decade since his arrival, he has managed to broker an unstable peace between the invading Romans and a loose affiliation of Native American tribes known as the League.

But invaders from the west will shatter that peace and plunge the continent into war: The Mongol Horde has arrived and they are taking no prisoners.

As the Mongol cavalry advances across the Great Plains leaving destruction in its path, Marcellinus and his Cahokian friends must summon allies both great and small in preparation for a final showdown. Alliances will shift, foes will rise, and friends will fall as Alan Smale brings us ever closer to the dramatic final battle for the future of the North American continent.

5- Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

In the gripping sequel to Sleeping Giants, which was hailed by Pierce Brown as “a luminous conspiracy yarn . . . reminiscent of The Martian and World War Z,” Sylvain Neuvel’s innovative series about human-alien contact takes another giant step forward.

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

Here's to hoping that the rest of the year will bring us even more quality reads! =)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June19th)

In hardcover:

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien is down five positions, ending the week at number 11. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 1 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Cover art for the 10th anniversary edition of Patrick Rothfuss' THE NAME OF THE WIND

Patrick Rothfuss just unveiled the cover art for the 10th anniversary edition of The Name of the Wind (Canada, USA, Europe) on his blog.

It was done by Sam Weber. The new edition will also contain more than twenty illustrations by Dan Dos Santos, new maps, and many more goodies! Check out Rothfuss' blog to find out more about it! =)

Win a copy of Diana Gabaldon's SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL

I have two copies of Diana Gabaldon's Seven Stones to Stand or Fall up for grabs, compliments of the folks at Delacorte. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

A magnificent collection of Outlander short fiction—including two never-before-published novellas—featuring Jamie Fraser, Lord John Grey, Master Raymond, and many more, from #1 New York Times bestselling author Diana Gabaldon.

“The Custom of the Army” begins with Lord John Grey being shocked by an electric eel and ends at the Battle of Quebec. Then comes “The Space Between,” where it is revealed that the Comte St. Germain is not dead, Master Raymond appears, and a widowed young wine dealer escorts a would-be novice to a convent in Paris. In “A Plague of Zombies,” Lord John unexpectedly becomes military governor of Jamaica when the original governor is gnawed by what probably wasn’t a giant rat. “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” is the moving story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents during World War II. In “Virgins,” Jamie Fraser, aged nineteen, and Ian Murray, aged twenty, become mercenaries in France, no matter that neither has yet bedded a lass or killed a man. But they’re trying. . . . “A Fugitive Green” is the story of Lord John’s elder brother, Hal, and a seventeen-year-old rare book dealer with a sideline in theft, forgery, and blackmail. And finally, in “Besieged,” Lord John learns that his mother is in Havana—and that the British Navy is on their way to lay siege to the city.

Filling in mesmerizing chapters in the lives of characters readers have followed over the course of thousands of pages, Gabaldon’s genius is on full display throughout this must-have collection.

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

New Peter V. Brett Interview

With The Core (Canada, USA, Europe), final volume in the bestselling The Demon War Cycle, coming out in a few short weeks, I invited Peter V. Brett to do an interview to discuss the book and many other things. Despite being extremely busy, he accepted my invitation and provided some in-depth answers to most of the questions. This should give fans something to sink their teeth into as they wait for The Core to be published!

Here's the blurb for:

New York Times bestselling author Peter V. Brett brings one of the most imaginative fantasy sagas of the twenty-first century to an epic close.

For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose—men as close as brothers, yet divided by bitter betrayal. Arlen Bales became known as the Warded Man, tattooed head to toe with powerful magic symbols that enable him to fight demons in hand-to-hand combat—and emerge victorious. Jardir, armed with magically warded weapons, called himself the Deliverer, a figure prophesied to unite humanity and lead them to triumph in Sharak Ka—the final war against demonkind.

But in their efforts to bring the war to the demons, Arlen and Jardir have set something in motion that may prove the end of everything they hold dear—a Swarm. Now the war is at hand, and humanity cannot hope to win it unless Arlen and Jardir, with the help of Arlen’s wife, Renna, can bend a captured demon prince to their will and force the devious creature to lead them to the Core, where the Mother of Demons breeds an inexhaustible army.

Trusting their closest confidantes, Leesha, Inevera, Ragen, and Elissa, to rally the fractious people of the Free Cities and lead them against the Swarm, Arlen, Renna, and Jardir set out on a desperate quest into the darkest depths of evil—from which none of them expects to return alive.


- You finished the manuscript for THE CORE the same day your partner gave birth to your second daughter. How did you work out that kind of perfect timing?

Frantically. I planned to finish The Core by the end of 2016. I had this whole spiel about how I would submit it at 11:59:59pm on December 31. The baby was due Jan. 25, leaving me approximately a month to write Barren, the Demon Cycle novella I hoped to publish right before The Core.

Alas, I ended up losing most of December to doctor’s visits, hernia surgery and recovery. I was pulling all-nighters in January as the biological clock ticked, and turned in the first draft of the book around 4am on January 25th. Sirena graced us with her presence on the 26th and I allowed myself two months of paternity leave before getting to work on the second draft.

- THE CORE is the final volume in the Demon Cycle series. How daunting was it to write a novel that would close the show in a way that lived up to everyone's expectations?

Man, I’d been fretting over that for ten years. But every time I had doubts, I reminded myself I had a very strong outline, and held course. When I was confident, I worked. When I had doubts, I worked. Chipped a bit off the stone every day, solved each story problem in chronological order as I made a steady march to the end. Looking back, I don’t believe there is a significant difference in writing quality between the times I was confident and when I had doubts.

Now, with the final copyedited manuscript delivered to the publisher, I am as confident as I can be that I stuck the landing.

- At this point, only your agent, editors, and beta readers have read the manuscript. But how has the book been received thus far?

Everyone loved it, and at least one confessed to tears at the end. But there were some frank discussions about how the first draft could be improved that helped a lot. I definitely rushed the last few chapters in the days before the baby came, and that was immediately apparent on reread.

But after my own editing pass and two months of rewrites, I’ve addressed every concern, revising several chapters from the ground up. The current draft is an order of magnitude better IMO. My editor’s response after reading it was “Bravo, sir”.

Of course, reader reaction remains to be seen. No doubt there will be readers who don’t like all my choices, but there would be, regardless of how things ended. Regardless, I expect the vast majority of my readers to be more than just satisfied by the series climax.

- A while back on your Facebook page, you wrote a post saying that you had just finished writing a scene that had been foreshadowed in the very first volume. Was it hard/easy to tie up all the loose ends and bring everything together for a grand finale?

Yes and no. Some of the storylines in the series follow a smooth progression laid out in my original outline from almost a decade ago. Arlen and Jardir in particular face challenges, betrayals, ethical trials and character growth that had been laid out from the beginning.

The greater challenge was the large supporting cast that built of over the course of the series. The original plot provided an outline for many of them as well, but it was looser, as some characters grew in prominence and others were taken off the board as the story grew in telling. Getting everyone’s timeline to sync up for the final chapters, even as groups of characters operate in various settings, far removed from each other, was extremely difficult.

That said, no matter who your favorite character is, you can be assured they have their own hero moments, and a satisfying conclusion to their arc. Even minor characters from the earlier books make cameos and have moments to shine.

- Without giving anything away, can you give readers a taste of the tale that is THE CORE?

Without the demon king Alagai Ka, the demon hive order begins to break down. Lesser mind demons attempt to start new hives all over Thesa. Their hatchling demon queens will need enormous amounts of food in their early stages of egg production, but conveniently, the humans are walled into their cities like larders. The demons swarm, threatening extinction for all humanity unless Arlen and Jardir can overcome their differences and stop it at the source.

- You have unveiled both the US and UK cover art for THE CORE. How happy are you with these and all other covers that grace your books? Any favorites?

The new covers are amazing, but that’s no surprise. I owe a good deal of my success to Larry Rostant’s cover art.

I would argue the Desert Spear Jardir cover remains one of the most powerful and eye-catching covers in fantasy, but my personal favorite will always be the US Daylight War cover, the red Inevera. That was the first cover where I pitched an idea to Del Rey and they had Larry bring it to life exactly as I imagined. The Skull Throne and Core covers have been much the same, so I have real personal affection for them.

From the very beginning, I wanted to put a mind demon on the cover of The Core, and I am so thrilled that it is not only happening, but exceeds my imagination. The awesome people at Millennium FX built a demon model for Larry to shoot, and it is just terrifying. But it was also high time Leesha Paper got a cover treatment, so we made that, as well. If you’re interested in a world of detail about the process, I wrote a piece about it on

- Is the release of a new book always stressful, or does the feeling fades to a lesser extent now that you have gained a wider worldwide readership?

It’s still stressful, but now that I’ve been through the cycle a few times, I can see the curves coming and navigate them with greater ease. I’ll read all the reviews for a couple months, then drop off when they all start to sound the same. I’ve come to see criticism is mostly a matter of personal preference, and don’t take it as personally as I once did. I still want to be proud of my work and make my readers happy, and I bend over backward to produce the best work I can, but once it’s done I don’t second guess much.

- Now that you've made it to the New York Times Bestseller list, is there added pressure when the time comes to release something new? Readers likely have higher expectations with each new work you publish. Do you ever think about that, or about the fact that publishers now expect you to move a certain amount of units every time something with your name on it hits the shelves?

There is certainly pressure for whatever I do next to do well, but I don’t want to spend too much of my life tracking sales data, making charts, and fretting over publisher expectations. Some authors glory in that sort of thing, but for me that way lies madness. All I can really do is write the best books I can, and give it my all when it comes time to promote. I think some writers can become either convinced of their own greatness, or start to view their work as just a product on an assembly line, and that’s when quality can drop off. Thankfully I have never had those problems. Others get so tied up in knots over their spreadsheets and worry over reader/publisher expectations that it becomes crippling and leaves them unable to work. I feel that undertow every day, but have yet to be pulled in by it.

- With THE CORE being the final installment in the Demon Cycle series, what's next for Peter V. Brett? Do you already have new projects in mind?

The Core concludes the Demon Cycle with a great deal of closure. Every POV has a firm resolution, as does the overall story. I have plans for a sequel series that takes place 15(ish) years later. I already have main characters and rough plots worked out, but I am not in a hurry to get to it. For the first time in over a decade, I am creatively (and contractually) unfettered. I plan to take some time to bask in that, and will likely try something new before getting back to demon books. I have some ideas I am playing with, but it’s too early to talk about them in detail.

- What comes first for you when it comes time to consider your next novel: themes you wish to explore, a setting you're interested in, or characters you want to write about?

This question is very common, and I think misleading, because it implies that you need to choose. The reality is that all three work together. The characters shape the setting which shapes the plot which in turn shapes the characters. These are the water, soil and sunlight a story needs to grow.

- You have published a number of novellas linked to the Demon Cycle in the past. Are there any other pieces of short fiction on the way?

There is one more Demon Cycle novella, Barren, under contract. This story will tie directly into The Core, occurring simultaneously with events in that novel. But as with the other novellas, Barren can be read as a standalone book separate from the novels, and the novels can be enjoyed without reading the novellas, but they are designed to complement the novels in a way that deepens the story.

Barren is set in the town of Tibbet’s Brook, where the Demon Cycle began, and resolves the open plotlines and character arcs there. Fans of the Demon Cycle will see a familiar cast and setting. New readers will have a standalone story that also acts as an introduction to the Demon Cycle.

I have plot ideas for two other novellas, but like the sequel series, I am not in a rush to get to them.

- Looking back at THE DESERT SPEAR and how many readers took exception to what some considered your casual depiction of rape and its repercussions on people, were you taken aback by their reaction? If you could get a do-over, would you do anything differently?

While I appreciate and respect the concerns of those readers, I reject the assertion that the depictions of sexual assault and its repercussions in my books are casual. I did a great deal of research before addressing the topic—some of it based in personal experience helping friends who were victims of assault—and readers of the series as a whole will attest that characters continue to deal with the effects of trauma throughout their story arcs. I chose to include those situations and topics because I believe we serve no one by pretending such things don’t happen.

Out of the fourteen POV characters in my series, four—one of them male—are victims of sexual assault. That was deliberate, and not so far from real-world statistics. The assault does not define them, but in each character it absolutely played a role in the person they developed into, for better or worse. This was something that was important to me to address in this series. The inhumanity of humans was always more interesting to explore than the demons.

There is a running theme in the Demon Cycle books about survivors. People whose normal lives were turned upside down by trauma that pushed them onto a new path. Arlen Bales sees his mother torn apart by demons and is never the same again. Six-year-old Briar accidentally sets his house on fire and orphans himself. The idea that people shattered by tragedy can pull themselves together and go on to do amazing things is the essence of heroism in my books.

I certainly sympathize if sexual assault is not what some people want to read about when they pick up a fantasy book, or if they personally did not like the way it was handled. I stopped reading Lord Foul’s Bane when I was in college because I didn’t want to follow/root for a protagonist who was a rapist. But I did not immediately assume Stephen R. Donaldson was a bad person and start sending him hate mail.

There is a difference between not wanting to spend your personal time on a piece of art that presses the wrong emotional buttons for you, and personally attacking the artist without taking the time to understand who they are and what they were trying to say.

But for all the negative response, there have been overwhelmingly positive responses, as well. Readers, some of them victims themselves, who got in touch to thank me for not shying from the topic, and for showing how victims can go on to accomplish great things.

- Characters often take a life of their own. Which of your characters did you find the most unpredictable to write about?

I am something of a strict taskmaster, and plot my books meticulously. I keep my POV characters on a pretty short leash, but there are always exceptions, often in the form of supporting characters who cause unexpected disruption, like Elona Paper, or who grew unexpectedly like Gared and Wonda Cutter.

That said, I have a very clear idea in my head of my characters and their belief systems, and some of them are quite rigid. Sometimes the plot will call for them to behave in a way that is out of character, and they rebel. Usually about once a book, Leesha refuses to comply with a plot demand and I need to revise a few threads to accommodate.

- How has your interaction with fans and critics colored your choices in terms of characterization and plot? Has there ever been anything that you've changed due to such interaction in any of your novels?

No. Not ever. I love interacting with readers and hearing their thoughts and feelings on my work, but these books have been plotted for years, and I have never read a review or spoken to a reader that left me regretting a choice I made, or pushed me to alter my plans.

- Have the plotlines diverged much since you began writing the series, or did you have the entire plot more or less figured out from the very beginning? Were any characters added or further fleshed out beyond your original intention? Have you made any changes to your initial plans during the course of the writing of the series?

Yes and no. My original submission to Random House was a completed first book, The Warded Man, the first third of the second book, The Desert Spear, along with a VERY detailed outline for the remainder, and about five pages of bullet points for The Daylight War, The Skull Throne, and The Core.

I’ve kept to pretty much all of those bullet points, but of course they expanded over the years. I have outlines for each book that are hundreds of pages long. Characters and story arcs were added as I went to fill gaps and tell the story I wanted to tell, but it happened in an organic fashion, always moving the story toward the next of those original bullet points.

- Some authors mention that they're never fully satisfied with any of their books, that there is always the idea of the book one attempts to write versus the book that one actually managed to create. Looking back, give us an example of something that didn't quite work out the way you envisioned it. Given the chance, is there anything you would change in any of your novels?

I feel pretty satisfied that my books turned out the way I intended them to. I know that seems like a cop-out answer, but I don’t look at any of my books with regret. In first drafts there are always mistakes. Some of them are whoppers. But that’s what rewrites are for. I wouldn’t turn in a book I wasn’t 100% happy with.

- According to George R. R. Martin, most authors are either architects, who write novels based on detailed outlines, or gardeners, who have a general idea of where the storylines are going but prefer to watch things grow as they go along. Which type of writer are you and why do you prefer that approach?

There is a misconception that an author needs to be either a gardener or an architect, but it’s more a spectrum, with every author falling somewhere between the two. There are seeds George planted to see what fruit they would bear, and there were also secrets he was holding the door for since the beginning of ASOIAF.

Personally I skew pretty far to the architect side of the spectrum. Before starting a novel I write a stepsheet that can be upwards of two hundred pages long, outlining all the chapters and what happens in them before I start writing any prose. I don’t know any other author that takes a similar approach. It is just how my mind works, I guess.

But that said, while I was writing the climactic scenes in The Core, I was repeatedly amazed at how little things from the earliest books I had never meant as more than throwaway details bore unexpected fruit and sometimes resulted in moments so perfect I am tempted to lie and say they were intended all along.

- Have you ever written a scene, only to be stunned by your own reaction after reading it?

Not really, though I have occasionally surprised myself by getting choked up or laughing aloud when listening to my own audiobooks.

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

What is your view as to fantasy's function?

To suggest fantasy is mere escapism that cannot speak to higher truths is reductive, condescending and ignorant. However, to suggest fantasy is some unique art form that has exclusive access to revealing certain truths speaks of artistic delusions of grandeur.

My job is to tell entertaining stories and make a reader feel an emotional connection to a group of characters and their trials. It is my hope that such empathy and some of the concepts my books explore can be applied to readers’ own lives, but that is not their primary purpose.

- Some writers admit having a favorite book among those they've written previously, others say that their favorite is their current work in progress, and others still say it's always the next book that hasn't been written yet. How about you?

I love all my children equally.

- Neil Gaiman said of Lord Dunsany’s THE KING OF ELFLAND’S DAUGHTER, “...It’s a rich red wine, which may come as a shock if all one has had so far has been cola.” If THE CORE was a drink, which one would it be? Would you recommend downing it in one shot or sipping it slowly...?

Can I just answer with a GIF of an eyeroll?

- If your readers could only take one thing away from having read THE CORE (apart from enjoying the read) what would you want that thing to be?

That they should all buy my next book.

- If you could go back in time and offer some advice to Peter V. Brett at the start of his career, what would it be?

I’m not a big fan of messing with the timeline. Paradoxes and unintended consequences, you know. If anything, I would go back and slip him a flashdrive with all the completed books in the series. Ten year vacation!


When bestselling and award-winning SFF author C.J. Cherryh was named the 32nd SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master last year, I knew I had to read and review something she had written. Most of the author's fans consider Downbelow Station and Cyteen to be her best novels to date. Both have won the Hugo Award for best novel and both appear on basically every single "Best science fiction books of all time" lists out there.

I elected to go for Downbelow Station first because, even though it's part of the Alliance-Union series, the novel reads like a stand-alone. My only concern was that it might not have aged well. Originally published in 1981, the book was now 35 years old. And unlike fantasy, older scifi titles often tend to lose a lot of their luster as time goes by. Not so with Downbelow Station, I was pleasantly surprised. True, some of the technology was a bit obsolete. But it could stand on its own and give most recent space opera books a run for their money. All in all, in terms of plot and characterization, it was an excellent read!

Still, a lot of Cherryh fans opined that Cyteen was a better, more ambitious story. And it is. From the very beginning you realize that this is going to be something special. Cyteen is definitely one of the very best science fiction novels I have ever read. And yet, the closer I got to the end, the more it became evident that the author couldn't possibly close the show adequately with that dwindling pagecount. Problem is, Cyteen ends in an abrupt fashion and offers no resolution whatsoever. Little did I know then that the story continues in Regenesis, the direct sequel to Cyteen. I was shocked to discover that it took C. J. Cherryh twenty-one years to write that book! Imagine waiting for over two decades to find out how what is considered one of the best science fiction novels ever written ends. Makes you realize that George R. R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss are not that bad, right? This lack of a genuine ending prevented Cyteen from getting a perfect score, but there was no denying that the book remained an incredible read. And like Downbelow Station, though it was twenty-nine years old, Cyteen stood head and shoulders above most scifi titles still in print today.

Which now brings us to Regenesis. Considering that this is the sequel to Cherryh's masterpiece, expectations were lofty indeed. Trouble is, probably due to the fact that it took so long for the author to write this novel, she was unable to recapture the magic that made Cyteen such a memorable read. Indeed, Regenesis often acts as a somewhat political epilogue riddled with info-dumps which begins right where its predecessor ended. Unfortunately, it appears that it is little more than a transition work meant to bridge the gap between Cyteen and whatever fate has in store for Ariane Emory II and Reseune and the world of Cyteen's position in the greater scheme of things as far as the Union is concerned. And though Regenesis does provide its share of answers, it's obvious that readers will have to wait for the next volume to finally get all the answers they were expecting. Here's to hoping that we won't have to wait for another two decades for whatever comes next for these characters.

Here's the blurb:

The long-awaited sequel to the Hugo award-winning novels Cyteen and Downbelow Station.

The direct sequel to Cyteen, Regenesis continues the story of Ariane Emory, Personal Replicate, the genetic clone of one of the greatest scientists humanity has ever produced, and of her search for the murderer of her progenitor-the original Ariane Emory. Murder, politics, deception, and genetic and psychological manipulation combine against a backdrop of interstellar human factions at odds to confront questions that have remained unanswered for two decades…

Who killed the original Ariane Emory?

And can her Personal Replicate avoid the same fate?

Like Downbelow Station and Cyteen, Regenesis is set in the Alliance-Union universe. For years and years, space was explored by the Earth Company, a private corporation which became extremely wealthy and powerful. What is known as the Beyond began with space stations orbiting the stars nearest Earth. And those early stations were emotionally and politically dependent on the Earth Company. A number of star systems were found to lack planets suitable for colonization, so space stations were built in orbit instead, each of them a stepping-stone for further space exploration. Then, Pell's World was discovered to be habitable and Pell Station was built. This newly discovered planet altered the power balance of the Beyond forever, as Earth was no longer the anchor that kept this incredibly vast empire together. And Pell was just the first living planet. Then came Cyteen and others, and a new society grew in the farther reaches of space. Earth's importance continued to fade and the Earth Company's profits continued to diminish as the economic focus of space turned outward. When Earth began to lose control of its more distant stations and worlds, the Earth Company Fleet was sent to enforce its will in the Beyond. This led to a prolonged war with the breakaway Union, based at Cyteen. Caught between the two factions are the stationers and the merchanters who crew the freighters that maintain interstellar trade between planets and stations. This conflict came to be known as the Company War.

Like Cyteen, Regenesis occurs decades following its end. Unlike its predecessor, this one is less hard science fiction and more space opera. Cyteen is home to the research facility of Reseune, which holds the monopoly on all research and development of human cloning. The Union boosts its population and its army with genetically engineered and psychologically conditioned human clones. These azi, as the clones are known, are seen as an abomination by Earth and the Alliance. This is another dense and brilliant work that explores the concepts of free will, identity, and personality, as well as the ethics surrounding human cloning, genetic manipulation, social conditioning, and the psychological and emotional repercussions associated with these things. As was the case with Cyteen, it is well nigh impossible to put a distinct label on this book. It's a richly detailed and complex novel that is not always easy to read. Cyteen was an amazing science fiction psychological thriller/political murder mystery hybrid, while Regenesis leans rather heavily on the political murder mystery side. Which wouldn't be much of a problem if it was more of a self-contained tale, the one that fans have been eagerly awaiting for many long years.

Regenesis continues to follow the evolution of Ariane Emory's clone. Like her predecessor, she is brilliant and has grown up to become a cunning and manipulative young adult. But unforeseen events caused by political powers will push her into a corner and she'll soon realize that more than her life and the fate of Reseune hang in the balance. Indeed, the political future of the entire Union is at stake. Once again, there are several POV characters, chief among them young Ariane Emory, Jordan Warrick, Justin and Grant, Florian and Catlin, and Yanni Schwartz. Witnessing the progression of the relationship between Justin and Ari was interesting. The emotional and psychological anguish experienced by Justin in the presence of the child who would become the woman who raped him was particularly well-done in the previous installment and it was nice to see how trust is gradually growing between the two. The estranged relationship between Jordan Warrick and his son and its negative repercussions on everyone around them play an important role throughout Regenesis. Justin must finally come into his own and put his foot down to put his father back in his place.

As a hard science fiction title, Cyteen was definitely a cerebral read. The complexity of the science involved compounded by the convoluted plotlines and a century-spanning timeline forced you to concentrate and work more than a little. But the payoff was well worth the effort. Cyteen was a stunning, ambitious, and thought-provoking novel. A genius at the time of her death, rejuv treatments extended Ariane Emory's lifespan and allowed her to live for more than a century. And yet, there are hints that her life's work could not be completed in a single lifetime, and that perhaps this devious woman had planned for everything that would occur and may have messed with Justin and Grant's minds so they could help her pursue her quest for knowledge once her clone reached adulthood. This story was not over, not by a longshot. With Regenesis, readers were promised revelations unveiling secrets behind all those unanswered questions. Unfortunately, those answers are few and far between. Regenesis is indeed the sequel to Cyteen, but it doesn't move the story forward a whole lot. Sadly, there is very little progression as far as the plot is concerned. As I mentioned earlier, Regenesis is more of a transition work rather than a continuation of the storylines that began in Cyteen. I'm afraid that what fans have been waiting for for more than twenty years will have to wait for the next volume. Indeed, the more you read on, the more you understand that some sort of political coup is being staged, one that could change the fate of the Union for years to come. And that's what Regenesis is all about. It takes a long time for things to finally make sense, however, as readers keep hoping for those answers they were promised.

Like its predecessor, Regenesis is another extremely slow-moving novel at times. The fact that it's more of a political murder mystery wouldn't be a problem per se if revelations and explanations were not provided through the use of massive info-dumps. Disguised as dinner dates, meetings, etc, these info-dumps mostly take the form of long discussions where the characters sit down and talk about their problems and spoon-feed readers with what they need to know. And when I say long, I mean the better part of entire chapters spent following the conversations of two or more protagonists. As a result, the pace is miserable for the better part of the novel. When the proverbial shit finally hits the fan and the coup is being staged, the rhythm quickly picks up and everything changes. The endgame and the finale are gripping, and Cherryh closes the show with style and aplomb.

Which definitely makes you eager to find out what happens next. Problem is, God knows when the next volume in the Alliance-Union series focusing on Ariane Emory will be written. As things stand, there are no news pertaining to when that forthcoming sequel could see the light. In the end, Regenesis adds very little to all the concepts and characters that were introduced in Cyteen. The political intrigue made for an interesting read and a compelling ending, but there is no denying that this is not a worthy sequel to a work that is universally considered to be one of the very best science fiction novels of all time.

The final verdict: 7.75/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jim Butcher's Furies of Calderon, first volume in the Codex Alera series, for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In this extraordinary fantasy epic, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Dresden Files leads readers into a world where the fate of the realm rests on the shoulders of a boy with no power to call his own...

For a thousand years, the people of Alera have united against the aggressive and threatening races that inhabit the world, using their unique bond with the furies—elementals of earth, air, fire, water, wood, and metal. But in the remote Calderon Valley, the boy Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. At fifteen, he has no wind fury to help him fly, no fire fury to light his lamps. Yet as the Alerans’ most savage enemy—the Marat horde—return to the Valley, Tavi’s courage and resourcefulness will be a power greater than any fury, one that could turn the tides of war...

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download James Islington's The Shadow of What Was Lost, first volume in the Licanius trilogy, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada. It's supposed to be a must for fans of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.

Here's the blurb:

It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them - the Gifted - are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion's Four Tenets, vastly limiting their powers.

As a Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything.

To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian's wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is...

And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir.


I had a week-long vacation coming and I was looking for something "light" to bring along with me. Cherie Priest's Brimstone appeared to be exactly what I needed, so I took the book with me to Rimouski.

And in the end, though it's nothing truly special, this quirky love story made for a satisfying vacation read.

Here's the blurb:

In the trenches of Europe during the Great War, Tomas Cordero operated a weapon more devastating than any gun: a flame projector that doused the enemy in liquid fire. Having left the battlefield a shattered man, he comes home to find yet more tragedy for in his absence, his wife has died of the flu. Haunted by memories of the woman he loved and the atrocities he perpetrated, Tomas dreams of fire and finds himself setting match to flame when awake....

Alice Dartle is a talented clairvoyant living among others who share her gifts in the community of Cassadaga, Florida. She too dreams of fire, knowing her nightmares are connected to the shell-shocked war veteran and widower. And she believes she can bring peace to him and his wife's spirit.

But the inferno that threatens to consume Tomas and Alice was set ablaze centuries ago by someone whose hatred transcended death itself...

This tale occurs during the winter of 1920, in the state of Florida. Most of the action takes place in the town of Cassadaga, where a community of clairvoyants and other individuals sharing paranormal gifts make their home. The Great War in Europe is now over and physically, psychologically, and emotionally scarred soldiers have returned to the USA and attempt as best they can to resume normal lives. There is very little worldbuilding to speak off in this novel. For the most part, it doesn't take anything away from the story. And yet, I would have loved to get more background information on Cassadaga and its residents. To provide more meat around the bone, so to speak. But I understand that this is a character-driven tale, which is probably why what worldbuilding there is doesn't intrude much on the plotlines.

Brimstone features the perspectives of two main protagonists. Alice Dartle shares her family's gift of clairvoyance and she leaves her home and life in Virginia behind to travel to Cassadaga in search of answers and training. Profoundly scarred by the war, Tomás Cordero returned home a broken man. Even more so due to the fact that his wife passed away during his absence. Tomás now dreams of fire and somehow sets fire to his own home. Soon, he becomes a danger to himself and everyone around him. Unexpectedly, Alice touches his dreams of fire, which will set him on the path toward Cassadaga, where he hopes to find his own answers with Alice's help. The gender role reversal was nice but ultimately a little overdone, what with Alice being the bourbon-quaffing old maid go-getter and Tomás being the weaker, more vulnerable shell of a man, with only the chihuahua Felipe as a friend. The dog breed was what overdid it, I'm afraid. As a matter of course, these two take center stage throughout the book. The supporting cast was a little lackluster, with the sole exception being Dr. Floyd, and would have benefited from more depth.

I enjoyed how Tomás' dreams were connected to his life-changing experiences during the Great War and other historical events related to witch hunts. The endgame was particularly well-done and touching, bringing the story to a compelling ending.

Brimstone is a relatively short novel, weighing in at 324 pages. One would think that the pace would never be an issue in such a slim work of fiction, yet there are a few rough spots here and there. Cherie Priest took her own sweet time getting this story off the ground and some portions can be a bit boring. Still, the author truly delivered the closer we get to the end and she closed the show with an emotional finale that is quite fitting.

All in all, Brimstone is a quirky love story featuring two endearing and disparate protagonists sharing a special bond. For anyone looking for a good, if light, vacation read, Priest's Brimstone perfectly fits the bill!

The final verdict: 7.25/10

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

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

In hardcover:

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien debuts at number 6. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King and Richard Chizmar’s novella Gwendy’s Button Box is up one spot, finishing the week at number 13. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology returns at number 15. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 1 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Miles Cameron's The Red Knight for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

This is a world dominated by The Wild.

Man lives in pockets of civilisation claimed from The Wild. Within men's walls life is civilised, the peace punctuated by tournaments, politicking, courtly love and canny business. Beyond those walls men are prey - vulnerable to the exceptionally powerful and dangerous creatures which populate the land, and even more vulnerable to those creatures schemes.

So when one of those creatures breaks out of The Wild and begins preying on people in their homes, it takes a specialist to hunt it down or drive it out . . . and even then, it's a long, difficult and extremely dangerous job.

The Black Captain and his men are one such group of specialists.

They have no idea what they're about to face . . .

Forget George and the Dragon. Forget Sir Lancelot and tales of Knightly exploits. This is dirty, bloody work. This is violent, visceral action. This is a mercenary knight as you've never seen one before.

Extract from Brenda Cooper's WILDERS + Giveaway

I have a copy of Brenda Cooper's Wilders for you to win, courtesy of the folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Coryn Williams has grown up in the megacity of Seacouver, where her every need is provided for—except satisfaction with her life. After her parents’ suicides, her sister Lou fled the city to work on a rewilding crew, restoring lands once driven to the brink of ecological disaster by humans to a more natural state. Finally of age, Coryn leaves the city with her companion robot to look for her sister.

But the outside world is not what she expects—it is rougher and more dangerous, and while some people help her, some resent the city and some covet her most precious resource: her companion robot. As Coryn struggles toward her sister, she uncovers a group of people with a sinister agenda that may endanger Seacouver.

When Coryn does find her sister, Lou has secrets she won’t share. Can Coryn and Lou learn to trust each other in order to discover the truth hidden behind the surface and to save both Seacouver and the rewilded lands?

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

And here's an extract to give you a taste of the story!



The city sang a song of humanity. People and their companions sat in rounded robotic cars and talked together as they sped through the city on smart streets. Others rode a nearly infinite variety of wheeled devices on paths that ran by or between roads and through parks. These they variously pedaled and pushed or simply stood or sat upon. Singles and families alike walked through greenbelts stained orange and red with fall. Many delighted at the controlled chill that pinked their cheeks and the chance to show off their fall wardrobes. Most chose golds and greens and scintillating browns, but others fought the fall with pastel pinks and snowy whites. Some people chatted with other people, while others talked with their companion robots, with their dogs, or with their virtual coaches.

Many people moved less. They dove deep into the wells of themselves, painting and writing and searching for the next great idea, for the key to happiness, for the perfect body, the perfect fashion. Still others traversed the city’s data and pulled out threads of information, suggesting ways to make it even better.

Some walked alone and unhappy. These were left to their own devices as long as they followed the city’s simple rules and did not steal choices from anyone else.

Under the melody of humanity, the heartbeat systems of the city pumped water and waste, created oxygen, and ate extra carbon. The bones and structure started miles away, reporting and then damping extreme weather, controlling wind and rain and gloomy clouds from the snow-streaked Cascade Mountains to the wild Puget Sound. Automated decision makers in the city filled the air, danced between sensors, and raced through a tangled mesh of fiber optics that infused every street and building.

News packed the city, a glorious cacophony of conversation and facts. The people who owned property or businesses voted on ideas in their neighborhoods, and made change upon change, sometimes to fix problems and sometimes just for fun. This same social experiment filtered through everyone for votes on city leaders and laws.

Greens and blues imbued the city with a natural brightness. Grass lawns covered roofs, some bounded by community orchards of miniature trees no more than five feet tall and festooned with ripening yellow lemons, red apples, and sun-colored apprines. Veins of blue water crisscrossed the city almost like the roads.

A seldom-visible dome of managed air met the ground all around the city; Outside stayed Outside.

People could leave. They could take high-speed sleek hyperloops between cities, which meant never really leaving the protected Inside at all. They could kayak away, walk away, drive away, and even fly away. Even though they could do so, very few people did.

Most who did so never returned.

The very old remembered the times when the barriers between Inside and Outside were naturally permeable, when humans maneuvered cars by themselves, when the great preserves were ripped into being by force as nations everywhere started the great rewilding. But to everyone else, those times were no more than stories, tales of another year, easily dismissed and forgotten.

Those not born to the city had to prove their worth to get in. The tests had become quite difficult to pass as the world inside the cities became more interconnected and quick, more dependent on skills that could only be learned by living them.

Cities held most of the world’s population. Human computing systems, blood and gut bacteria, vitamins and medicines, workouts, and infinite streams of data and entertainment flowed through the city like the milk of a mother’s teat. Objects customized themselves to meet every whim and need of the city’s many inhabitants.

Outside, the great wilding continued like a wrecking ball, encountering resistance from those who had been displaced, stalling in the still-wild weather, or failing, as human and machine alike struggled to comprehend the complexities of biological design and redesign. A dance of chaos and success, of tears and death and rebirth, orchestrated by a combination of NGOs, law enforcement, scientists, and human workers. Assistance came from robots designed to enforce the rules of wild places, to do the heavy work, the destroying work, and the building work. All of these together culled invasive species and managed native ones, counted bears and cougars and bobcats and coyotes. The loosely federated North American cities funded this effort, in hopes of long-term survival.

As fall prepared to give way to winter, the city appeared to be infinitely stable.


On the last morning of the easy part of her childhood, fifteen-year old Coryn Williams stood on the top of the Bridge of Stars and watched Puget Sound shiver with winter. From the fenced observation deck, the seawall below looked thin and foreshortened. Whitecaps punctuated the waves, whipped up by a wind Coryn couldn’t detect. She knew what a breeze felt like, but not what wind that could whip creamed froth out of water might feel like. She imagined that it would pull at her skin and blow her hair around her face and try to force her to move with it.

Paula stood beside her, taller by far, dressed formally in a black uniform with white piping and her sea-blue scarf. She squinted as she took in the view, her smile slight but genuine. Her unblemished skin and perfect features could belong to a model, but instead they showed that she was Coryn’s companion. In spite of her nature, she seemed be genuinely interested in the horizon, the white ferries that plied the choppy water, and the pleasure of standing on top of the highest spot in Seacouver.

Coryn had finished her last assignment of the year this morning and sent it off to be graded. It was good, and better yet it was done. She had written about the great restoration with the help of her older sister, Lou, who had her own rather strong ideas. Coryn had compromised with her on the paper, accepting that the rewilding wasn’t even halfway done but not that progress had stopped and perhaps even fallen backward. Standing here on this bridge, with the vast sound to look out over and, beyond all that water, the white-capped mountains of the peninsula, she was even more sure she had been right: the city would be okay.

The bridge under them had stood since before she was born, the tallest bridge in Seacouver, starting just north of historic Pike Place, curving up and over the city in graceful loops, and landing in West Seattle. Three midspan spiral ramps joined the bridge deck to significant old-Seattle neighborhoods, like ribbons falling onto the city. An artist had designed the Bridge of Stars, a scenic skyway designed for walkers and cyclists and runners.

Lou couldn’t be right. Surely Seacouver would continue forever, or at least for years and years into the future, more years than Coryn would ever see.

Up here, she felt like she could touch the roof of the world. She’d earned this perch; only the fit could get here on their own. Coryn’s thighs still trembled a little from the long climb up on bicycles.

Paula, as always, seemed to understand her unspoken feelings. “You are conflicted. Does it feel good to be finished?”

“Oh, yes!” It did feel good. The paper had been a fight—they’d moved in the middle of it, and all the packing and unpacking, while familiar, took time. Her mother begged her father to move them regularly, as if the next house would be just right.

Coryn had stayed up every night for the last two weeks to finish on time. “I thought it would feel entirely different to be in high school.”

Paula raised an only slightly too-perfect dark eyebrow. “Does it feel different at all?”

“Not really. Now I have two weeks off, and that feels good, but every other year I’ve had two weeks off after finishing up. Maybe they should give us a longer break. After all, high school’s a big deal.”

“Don’t get too full of yourself,” Paula replied. She leaned over the bridge as if contemplating the idea of freedom from gravity. The wind plucked stray strands of dark hair and blew them around while Paula tried in vain to tuck them back into her bun. “Did you know that you always come to where you can see out of the city when a big thing happens in your life?”

“Do I?”

“You went to the edge of the seawall when you passed elementary school, you rode your bike all the way to the edge and back when Lou went to summer camp in Tacoma, and now you’re way up here, where you can see over and past the entire downtown. Where are you going to go when you finish high school? Space?”

“Silly robot. That would take years of school.” And money they didn’t have. She squinted, wondering if a largish black thing she saw might be a boat. “I’d like to see a whale.”

“They would appear very small from way up here.”

“There was a baby orca born last week. A girl, no less.” Coryn had printed a picture and pasted it on her bathroom wall beside a pic of wild horses running free in eastern Washington, and another one of a twentyfoot-long great white shark off of Guadalupe Island in Baja, California.

“You’re going to be late for your own graduation party.

Coryn didn’t respond. It would drive Paula slightly nuts—it always annoyed her when Coryn refused to do what was expected. But this was her day, not Lou’s. Besides, she wanted to burn the horizon into her memory.

Her mother hated the city, and so Coryn did most of her exploring with Paula. This particular bridge cost credits to access and she couldn’t just come up here any day she wanted. Her mom had given her the money for the trip, bending over her with a sweet smile. “Your first junior-high graduation present,” she’d called it. She had smelled of soap and medicine and unhappiness. But then, Mom always seemed to be unhappy these days. Dad, too. Coryn often felt like she lived in a different world than the one her parents inhabited. What was there to be afraid of, after all? The city was full of fascinating things, and if she got bored of real life, there were a million virtual worlds. More.

She didn’t really want to go home, not even for a special graduation dinner. Her parents would find some way to ruin the evening.

While Coryn counted ten long, slow breaths, she stared at the joining of sea and sky, at the wind-torn waves, at the far land where Hurricane Ridge had been slammed by its first snowstorm a few days ago. Bits of white still sparkled in the sun, matching the whitecaps, and a pale sky hung over the entire scene. “I want to watch this forever.”

“We have to go,” Paula insisted. “Your mother will be upset with you.”

Coryn turned to her, a slight spark of anger infusing her voice. “That’s not my fault.”

“Which has nothing to do with anything.”

Coryn stared out over the water, determined to remember the sharp ridges of the Olympic Mountains, the rippling white-caps, and the fascinating, unexpected gardens and pools on top of the biggest buildings. “I can’t wait until I’m eighteen and you can’t tell me what to do any more.”

Paula eyed her with the infinite patience of a companion robot. “Lou will be worried.”

Yes. And Lou would make her party fun. Even though she couldn’t depend on her parents to be in a good mood, she could depend on Lou.

She reluctantly turned away and pulled her AR glasses on. They were required for transportation, even biking. The city saw more clearly through her glasses than she did, always ready to keep her safe. Lines of travel and traffic began to paint themselves in a light wash over the real world, showing the foot and bike traffic on the bridge and, far below, the heavier city traffic. Green for cars, blue for bikes, yellow for peds, red for trains and other mass-transit. She swung her leg over her bike, settled her hands on the grips, and blinked twice to tell the city she was ready to go.

Maybe Lou would be home by now.

She pushed off into an opening in the bike traffic to glide down the long, gentle slope toward the South Seattle streets. The overlays on her vision sparked and changed as she moved, traffic control directing the complex dance of transportation. A blue light blinked to show her Paula had started down as well.

Wheels thrummed and wind pulled her hair back and whipped it against her cheeks. As she neared the bottom, the ramp plunged into the city, housing and stores rising around her as she powered down through skyscrapers. At the bottom of the bridge she slowed precipitously, barely managing to stay on her bike, cutting it close enough for traffic control to scream in her ear. She frowned, slid right, and almost fell, then headed home at a more dignified pace. Down here in the crowds, the city would notice and record safety risks, and she hated drawing attention.

Fifteen minutes later, she turned onto her family’s current street, Paula right behind her.

Blue and red circles of light stunned her eyes, the primary-school colors of ambulances and police cars. Warnings flashed in her peripheral vision. She squinted and rode forward. The city allowed her through while it detoured others right and left.

As she drew closer to home, a deep dread made her want to stop. She didn’t, but her thighs felt as if she wore stones on her feet instead of neon yellow sports shoes with purple laces.

Cars had chosen to park at odd angles, blocking the street. Men and women and robots in uniforms padded in and out of her house.

Maybe it was just an AR hack.

She ripped the glasses off her face.

Blue and red light washed across her face, forcing her to squint.

Someone spotted her. Lou.

She stood on the sidewalk, shaking, fists balled at her side, her hair wilder than usual, some of it falling over her thin face. Her blue eyes looked bright and wide. Red handprints smeared her shirt.

Coryn’s bike clattered on the street as she raced into her sister’s arms. Lou smelled of blood and fear. She felt like metal in Coryn’s arms, like the unyielding bridge, even though tears ran down her face and fell onto Coryn’s cheeks. Coryn’s breath came fast and she shivered, rooted on the street, nothing existing in that moment except her sister.

Paula grabbed both of their shoulders and hissed, “Stay here.” She marched straight into the house.

“What happened?” Coryn whispered.

“They . . . they died. Someone killed them, I think. I don’t know. I couldn’t stay. I came into the house and there was blood everywhere and blood on Mom’s face.” Her words stopped as she heaved for breath and clutched Coryn even closer. “Blood on her shirt and everywhere, everywhere, oh Coryn, it was everywhere. I’ve got it on me.” She pushed Coryn a little away and looked down. “And now you’ve got it on you, on your shirt; we’re stained with it.”

Lou was still seventeen. In a few months she would be an adult. Lou’s head rested on top of Coryn’s and Coryn’s arms circled her lower waist, her fingers running along Lou’s backbone.

Coryn watched the crowd seethe with uniforms and onlookers. When Paula finally came back outside, she wore one of her strict robotic expressions. It was the same one she used when she was furious with Coryn or Lou. “You can’t go in. I’ll take you up on the roof, and we’ll get some food, and we’ll wait together. The police will come find us as soon as they can.”

Coryn didn’t want to see whatever Lou had seen. Lou never came undone like this, never lost it, never cried. As frightened as she was about her parents, seeing Lou cracked into pieces was . . . impossible.

Lou always led. Always. Except now Lou trudged behind Paula with her head down, shoulders drooping, one hand holding Coryn’s loosely.

Paula drove them slowly and inexorably through the gathering crowd and away from the sirens. She took them into the apartment building next door to theirs and up the elevators to the roof. She had them move like they had when the girls were little, all in a line: Lou in front, then Coryn, then Paula watching over them both.

Lou sobbed and sobbed, blowing her nose. Still, she led them carefully through the patio tables. Coryn tripped on a table-leg and Paula caught her halfway down, a graceful arm appearing for Coryn to grasp onto before she landed in a flowerbed. A short bridge joined two rooftops. As they crossed it, Coryn looked down to where the revolving colored lights illuminated the gathering crowds and saw her bicycle on the ground, unlocked and orphaned. She had a sudden urge to turn around and put it away.

A few of their neighbors had come up onto the roof as well, people Coryn recognized but didn’t know well. One couple got up as if planning to speak to them, but Paula blocked them, murmuring soothing words. The robot directed the girls to a table in the middle of the roof and they sat silently.

A faraway look came over Paula, her eyes fastening on the horizon, or maybe on the thin ribbon of bridge far above them. Coryn knew the look; Paula was getting a lot of information and processing it. She’d notice if her charges left, or any kind of danger approached, but she probably wouldn’t demand anything from Coryn and Lou for a few minutes.

Lou looked even more lost in thought than the robot. A cat worked its way over to the girls, rubbing up against them both and head-butting Lou until Lou dropped her death-grip on Paula’s hand and touched the cat’s cheek. The cat stayed near them for a long time, circling and then stopping for pets and then circling them again. Its wide, golden eyes matched the brown and gold stripes on its tail and forelegs and contrasted with the brown fur that felt like silk under Coryn’s fingers.

“Be careful,” Paula admonished them. “That’s got to be someone’s pet gene mod.”

“Why?” Lou asked.

“It’s too perfect,” Paula said.

“Like you?” Coryn shot back, immediately regretting it.

“Of course.”

She didn’t call for an apology the way she usually did, but Coryn gave her one anyway. “I’m sorry, silly robot.” She had to work hard to get the word through her thick throat.

Paula smiled in approval and watched the girls entertain themselves with the cat until it appeared to get bored and walked off.

Even though she hadn’t known the cat, she felt bereft as it walked away and left them alone. They were lost. Alone. Everything had just changed.

Eventually, two policewomen made their way carefully through the crowded rooftop, one for each girl. The youngest one knelt by Coryn, a beautiful woman with the dark eyes and the old-amber complexion of an East Indian. “Hello,” she said in a honey-soft voice, a sad voice, “I’m Mara.” She knelt down so her eyes were even with Coryn’s. “You know that something happened to your parents?”

“They’re dead,” Coryn saw no reason to pretend she didn’t know. She’d known since she saw the blood on Lou’s shirt.

The policewoman’s eyes softened, and she bent her head and made notes on her slate.

“Why did they die?” Coryn asked.

“Do you mean how?” Mara asked.

She already knew that. Lou had told her they were killed. But they were just normal people, and that shouldn’t have happened. “No. I want to know why.”

Mara shook her lovely head; her thick, dark hair swished back and forth across her navy-blue uniform. She took Coryn’s hands in hers. Her long nails were painted a bright pink, and the little finger and the thumb on her right hand had started chipping.

Everything Coryn could see looked like that, colorful and crisp. The street lights shone unusually bright, with pale haloes around them. The cat stood on the edge of the roof, flicking its long tail back and forth. The beer in a nearby glass glowed yellow-orange.

Her parents were dead.

Mara reached for her, but Coryn turned away. Paula stood right behind her, opening her arms. Coryn leapt up into them. She gave the robot her weight as if she were still a small child, clutching Paula as if her life depended on it. She buried her head in the robot’s soft shoulder and squeezed her eyes shut.

If only they were back on top of the bridge, with the wind blowing beyond them and the possibility of a whale.