Review copies!

Five from yesterday

Five from yesterday

Three from today

Three from today

So the nice folks at Tor are determined to convert me to Mr. and Mrs. Darcy FIGHT CRIME: that’s Carrie Bebris’s Pride and Prescience, Suspense and Sensibility, North by Northanger, The Intrigue at Highbury, The Matters at Mansfield, and The Deception at Lyme.

Courtesy of Gollancz, we have Al Robertson’s CRASHING HEAVEN, and courtesy of Night Shade Books, Ellen Datlow’s anthology of THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR.

Books. Lots. Eeep.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, DRAGON IN EXILE

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Dragon in Exile. Baen, 2015 (forthcoming).

I have lost track of how many volumes Lee and Miller’s Liaden series runs to now. They aren’t all consecutive, that’s for sure.

Dragon in Exile is the latest, taking place after Dragon Ship and Necessity’s Child but returning to focus primarily on (mis)adventures of the main branch of Clan Korval on the planet of Surebleak, rather than on the trials and tribulations of Theo Waitley – or the somewhat exoticised “space Roma” that play so large a part in Necessity’s Child.

This is very definitely a series novel: it cannot stand on its own. The cast is large and various, and difficult for me to keep track of – and I’ve read the whole series, albeit no volume more recently than six months ago. Several incidents take place, but none seem to be the focus of the novel: indeed, the book seems to be setting up the pieces for conflict further down the road.

If you like spending time with the characters – and to be honest, I really rather do – you’ll probably enjoy this book. But to me it feels rather slight and directionless, and not the exciting new space opera I was hoping for. More explosions next time out, maybe?

Links of interest

Sonya Taaffe is running a Patreon for her discussion of films, among other things. One encourages supporting her.

Aliette de Bodard writes moving on “The stories I wanted to read:”

When someone who does look or sound familiar appears; when someone seems like they’re going to respect their ancestors and value their families–they’re the aliens. They’re the funny guys with odd customs colonists meet, the ones they try to commerce with or understand or (in the worst cases) subjugate. They’re the invaders that have to be fought back for the sake of civilisation.

And I think “what civilisation?”

Tansy Rayner Roberts writes about “All The Musketeer Ladies (2015).”

This xkcd might be my favourite.

Hi! I still have a Patreon! Only another $10 until I start producing long reviews JUST FOR YOU. (Well, for you as well.)

Asking to be paid for one’s work is weird. I mean, objectively, I think my labour is worth cash money. (I wish I didn’t have to think in money terms, but we’re not yet living in the post-scarcity socialist paradise.) But actually asking for money is odd. Runs up against all those old inculcated class prejudices about crass commerce and putting oneself forward.

(Alas! Love’s a lovely thing, but it doesn’t keep the lights on.)

Links of interest!

BBC Radio 4 on “Ursula Le Guin at 85″: Naomi Alderman talks to leading novelist Ursula Le Guin about her life and work and hears from literary fans including David Mitchell and Neil Gaiman. (And Karen Joy Fowler, too.)

It is a bloody awesome radio programme, I want to say. Le Guin is amazing. Also BBC Radio 4 will soon be broadcasting radio adaptations of The Left Hand of Darkness and the first three Earthsea books. This is BRILLIANT news.

Max Gladstone writes about action scenes and writing in “Fighting Words: Thoughts On Prose Style Prompted By John Wick.” (Why does Max Gladstone keep writing smart things? It makes a body jealous.)

Maureen Kincaid Speller writes a very interesting piece on “We Need To Talk About Dragons – John Mullan, George RR Martin, Game of Thrones and the triumph of fantasy fiction.”

CALIBAN’S WAR by James S.A. Corey

James S.A. Corey, Caliban’s War. Orbit, 2013 (2012).

Caliban’s War is the second novel in Corey’s “Expanse” series. All things considered, it is a much stronger novel, doing a number of things that interest me much more, than its predecessor. Caliban’s War builds on the setting of Leviathan Wakes, but its pacing is much stronger, and the three new viewpoint characters added to Holden’s are much more interesting than the Holden-and-Miller show of Leviathan Wakes.

Give me the POV of cranky old-lady super-politician-diplomats and badass female marines and my investment in a narrative goes well up, is what I’m saying. And Prax, the scientist whose search for his missing daughter drives a good section of the narrative, is a pure delight to read.

Holden remains, unfortunately, boring in the square-jawed American-hero way. Fortunately the characters around him are much more interesting.

It strikes me that this makes two books in a row in this series where the search for a missing female person has played a significant role in the development of the narrative. I wonder if that’s going to be an ongoing pattern?

This is a stronger book than its predecessor, and I’m glad I read it. It is also making me a convincing argument to keep reading: things exploded very entertainingly here.

I have a Patreon now. Please consider supporting.

Recently arrived review copies

Eight is a lot.

Eight is a lot.

Gollancz seems happy to send me their entire month’s worth of paperbacks. I’m not complaining, exactly – complain about receiving books? NEVER! – but I am starting to wonder exactly how fast the publicity department over there thinks one person can read.

So that’s Jon Wallace’s BARRICADE of infamous memory, Kristen Britain’s MIRROR SIGHT, Peter Higgins’ WOLFHOUND CENTURY and TRUTH AND FEAR (damn, but I think those are good books – I think I reviewed both of them when they were published in hardcover), Tim Powers’ EXPIRATION DATE, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s HARD TO BE A GOD, Robert Silverberg’s DOWNWARD TO THE EARTH, and a choose-your-own-adventure book by Michael J. Ward called DESTINY QUEST: THE EYE OF WINTER’S FURY.

Books in brief: Corey, Cambias, Wilde

James S.A. Corey, Leviathan Wakes. Orbit, 2012 (2011).

Discussed here.

James L. Cambias, Corsair. Tor, 2015 (forthcoming). ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. I would have liked this book a lot more without the random anti-trans bit.

Fran Wilde, Updraft. Tor, 2015 (forthcoming). Copy courtesy of the author.

Read for review. Very enjoyable debut.


James S.A. Corey, Leviathan Wakes. Orbit, 2012 (2011).

Now that James S.A. Corey (the nom de plume of writing team Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) is about to see the Expanse series launched into the realm of television, I though I should probably catch up on what all the fuss is about.

It turns out I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, setting: Corey has a really solid slower-than-light space opera setting here. The worldbuilding is detailed, well-thought-out, and hangs together well. It’s got atmosphere, dented and slightly used, and feels like it’s got depth of field. Even the political alliances are solidly thought through. Good setting is a major plus, and the storyline is decently entertaining – although the pacing staggers a bit in the middle.

On the other hand – and I say this as no judgment on quality – wow is this such a guy book. Let’s talk about how many brothels and bars there are IN SPAAAAAAACE. We first meet one of the two main characters, Miller, as he is interrogating a woman who is later identified as a prostitute. The other main character, Holden, is also a bloke – and he ends up captaining a ship with one woman in a crew of four. I’m not sure this book even passes the Bechdel test: although there are a handful of interesting female characters around, they don’t take up a great deal of space as people. One takes up a great deal of space as an idea: Miller becomes unhealthily fixated on the missing Julie Mao, to the point where he has visual hallucinations about her. I make dubious hand motions. This sort of thing fails to satisfy me: I expect better.

The alien superweapon schtick is cool creepy horror shit, though. And I could really use more space opera with good setting in my life – there are, after all, only so many times I can reread the Imperial Radch books before I have whole chunks of text memorised. I am assured there are more female characters in the next volume, so I will proceed. Cautiously.

I have a Patreon now. If you would like me to write more reviews, do please consider supporting.

James Tiptree Jr. and BSFA Award Winners

Congratulations to award winners!

The winners of the 2014 James Tiptree Jr. Award were recently announced. It’s a joint win for Monica Byrne’s The Girl In The Road and Jo Walton’s My Real Children, with an Honor List that includes Jennifer Marie Brissett’s Elysium, Emmi Itäranta’s Memory of Water, Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension, Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon, Aliya Whiteley’s The Beauty, the anthology Kaleidoscope edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, and stories by Nghi Vo, Pat MacEwen, Kim Curran, and Seth Chambers.

It’s a list mostly full of stuff I haven’t read yet, and which I now really want to read.

In other recent news, the BSFA Award was announced tonight. The winner for Best Novel was Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (following up last year’s tie with Gareth Powell), with Ruth E.J. Booth taking the prize in Short Fiction, Tessa Farmer leading the field in Art, and Edward James winning Best Nonfiction. (Information sourced from Twitter, since the BSFA website doesn’t seem to have the winners up yet.)

As for the other science fiction award of which so much news has been heard this weekend, I have few thoughts. Last year was an outlier for me in terms of how much interest I had in the Hugo Awards – the Worldcon was taking place in London, which meant I could attend, and the shortlist turned out to include me, among a bunch of people that actually pretty much reflected what I am interested in. Most years, as far as I can tell, the Hugo Awards bear very little relation to Stuff I Am Excited About.

I wasn’t expecting it to be so effectively hacked by people who sympathise with actual hate groups as backlash, mind you, but I have very little emotional investment in the Hugo Awards and Worldcon as a concept. Well done, Puppy Slate and G*m*rg*t*, for successfully applying a party whip to pretty much open-access pay-per-vote award nominations! You’ve dented a toy some other people like to play with, good show all around, your parents and preschool teachers would be very proud of you. How very… tedious.

I read over 200 novels last year, and a good half of them were probably 2014-vintage-new. Remind me to do a weekly post about a thing from last year that excited me, between now and August? I still have things to read from last year, as well. This seems like a good excuse to maybe read them.

And maybe go through the forthcoming Speculative Fiction 2014 for the purposes of finding Things That Excite Me. And talking about them.

Oh, I should probably mention. I have a Patreon now. In case anyone wants to pay me directly for book reviews. (Money is useful for things like lunch. And books.)

Several books recently read

Here are some books which I read in recent weeks.

Karina Sumner-Smith, Defiant. Talos, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Excellent sequel to a very good debut.

Kate Elliott, Court of Fives. Little Brown, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

A really excellent Young Adult fantasy novel. Will talk about it in a Sleeps With Monsters column, and also probably closer to the publication date if someone reminds me – it’s AMAZINGLY good fun, with interestingly crunchy bits. Also tombs. I am fond of tombs.

Elizabeth Wein, Black Dove, White Raven. Egmont UK, 2015.

Another excellent YA from Wein – not quite as heart-wrenching as her Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, but very good.

Stacey Lee, Under A Painted Sky. Putnam, 2015.

Historical YA debut. Two young women on the run for their lives in the 1849 American West. A lot of fun.

Sandra Barret, Blood of the Enemy. Ebook.

Fun fast not terrible space opera with queer women in.

Barbara Ann Wright, The Fiend Queen. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Conclusion to series. Structurally off-balance, but entertaining enough.

Julie Cannon, Because of You. Ebook.

Lesbian romance. Not particularly great.

Gun Brooke, Advance. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Space opera. Terrible worldbuilding. Prose not-so-great. Characterisation could use work. Somehow it still entertained me.

A.J. Quinn, Hostage Moon. Ebook.

Lesbian romance with serial killers in. Neither great nor terrible.

A.J. Quinn, Rules of Revenge. Ebook.

Lesbian romance with spies in. Neither great nor terrible.

Merry Shannon, Prayer of the Handmaiden. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Fantasy, variant of epic. Worldbuilding on the naive side. Prose okay. Characterisation pretty good. Entertaining.

Rae D. Magdon, The Second Sister. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Fantasy, sort of fairytale retelling (Cinderella). Could have used better worldbuilding and smoother prose. Still entertaining.

Rae D. Magdon, Wolf’s Eyes. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Fantasy, starts out looking like a fairytale retelling, develops werewolves, turns into a variant on epic. Could have used better worldbuilding, smoother prose, and some more thought in its structure. Still entertaining.

M.B. Panichi, Saving Morgan. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Near-future solar-system science fiction. Could have used a stronger structure, and the romance felt rushed, but it was fun.

M.B. Panichi, Running Toward Home. Ebook.

Sequel to Saving Morgan. Very uneven pacing and I’m not sure it has a plot so much as a collection of incidents, but I found myself entertained anyway.

Heather Rose Jones, The Mystic Marriage. Bella Books, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.


It’s not a romance, not structurally, though it appears to be being published as one: it’s a complicated novel of relationships, friendships, family, alchemy and intrigue. Jones has leveled up from Daughter of Mystery in terms of her skill with prose, narrative, and characterisation – and they were already pretty freaking good. The only point at which the novel weakens slightly is the climax: it is an effective climax-conclusion in emotional terms (although I really feel that one of the characters was a little short-changed), but in terms of concluding the current of intrigue underlying the novel, perhaps not so much.

I love it a lot. I am planning on writing a whole column about it.


Theresa Urbainczyk, Slave Revolts in Antiquity. Acumen, 2008.

A slight volume that nonetheless succeeds in providing a comprehensive – and enjoyably readable – overview of slave revolts in antiquity and their presentation in both the ancient sources and the historiography of slavery and antiquity. A useful addition to anyone interested in either slavery in antiquity or – particularly – the political situation during the late Roman Republic.