LUNA by Ian McDonald

Ian McDonald, Luna (US: Luna: New Moon), Gollancz UK/Tor US, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

The thing that lets me enjoy so much science fiction is that I don’t actually bother to pay attention to much science. Helium 3 mining on the Moon? Effects of lower gravity on humans? Tell me anything you like, I will suspend my disbelief while you entertain me! So, really, understand by this that I have no idea how plausible any of McDonald’s science in Luna is – but the story’s entertaining as all hell.

This is a complex, multi-stranded novel full of interesting characters and fascinating asides, set on a Moon that resembles a libertarian paradise – or hellhole, depending on which end of the wealth spectrum you’re on. (The only law is contract law.) It follows the Corta family/corporation, who’re the newest (and possibly the brashest) of the moon’s five great families. None of the characters are particularly nice people, but they’re all compelling and believable.

Then things start blowing up.

The most fun thing about this book, though, is how it treats the social aspects. McDonald’s thought about what a future enclosed society might look like, how it’ll treat gender and sexuality and marriage (all negotiable, in whatever configuration suits), what’ll count as wealth and poverty. This isn’t one of those SF novels that transposes the 1950s-1970s to shiny tech future – not that I’d expect McDonald to do that, anyway.

Good book. I liked it lots.

POSEIDON’S WAKE by Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynolds, Poseidon’s Wake. Gollancz, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Third in trilogy. I haven’t read the first two, so walking in to this was a lot like coming in to a play in the middle of the second act – but it stands as a complete thing in its own right very well. Reynolds has improved greatly since the last time I read one of his novels (which would be going on eight years ago by now, so that’s unsurprising), or this novel is working with material which I’m a lot more primed to like. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Multiple different machine intelligences, scientific journeys of discovery, sentient intelligent elephants, excellently interesting characters.

“The Terror,” which shows up towards the end as an alien intelligence’s protective mechanism to turn other people away from the record of their reaction to the knowledge that the universe will ultimately destroy itself… Well, it’s described in terms that mirror my periods of depression almost exactly. You mean there are people who don’t live with the knowledge that everything is doomed to annihilation and futility, and posterity is a myth and a lie? (Most of the time, I find the point in life is to be kind to other sentient beings and to do as little harm – and have as much fun – as possible, because kindness and being as good a person as possible are things that are worthwhile for their own sake, for the now that we have.) So I’m not sure the conclusion is as profound as it seems to think it’s reaching for.

But, you know. It’s a good book. I might have to read the first books in the trilogy now.

Recently arrived review copies

Six of them! I think this is the second picture of the the Bardugo book.

Courtesy of Gollancz: Bradley Beaulieu’s TWELVE KINGS and ALiette de Bodard’s HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS. Courtesy of Angry Robot Books, Ishbelle Bee’s THE SINGULAR AND EXTRAORDINARY TALE OF MIRROR AND GOLIATH. Courtesy of DAW Books, Seanan McGuire’s A RED-ROSE CHAIN. Courtesy of Henry Holt, Leigh Bardugo’s SIX OF CROWS. Courtesy of Tor Books, Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear’s AN APPRENTICE TO ELVES.

Recently arrived review copies. Also, links.

Five! Five of them!

Five! Five of them! All at once!

Courtesy of Gollancz, we have here Edward Cox’s THE RELIC GUILD, Greg Bear’s WAR DOGS, Philip K. Dick’s HUMPTY-DUMPTY IN OAKLAND, Ellen Kushner’s THOMAS THE RHYMER, and John Gardner’s GRENDEL.

And have some links:

Practically Marzipan: Sarah Hall, THE WOLF BORDER.

SF Signal: Tansy Rayner Roberts: “Fantasy, Female Writers, and the Politics of Influence.”

Shakesville: The Evolution of Criticising A Male-Authored Comic As A Female Reviewer.

io9: Animated Data Visualisation of WWII Fatalities.

Carrie Fisher explains to a little boy what ‘bipolar’ means, at Indiana Comic Con 2015.

And here are some more Fury Road links.

Recently arrived review copies

One here.

One here.

Courtesy of Tor Books, Tim Pratt, PATHFINDER: LIAR’S ISLAND.

And eight here.

And eight here.

And courtesy of Gollancz, Peter Higgins’ WOLFHOUND CENTURY, RADIANT STATE, and TRUTH AND FEAR. Followed by Patricia McKillip’s THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, Adam Roberts’ BETE, Jack Vance’s NIGHT LAMP, Harry Harrison’s BILL THE GALACTIC HERO, and John Hornor Jacobs’ THE INCORRUPTIBLES.

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.

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.


So many pretty books.

So many pretty books.


Ahem. Courtesy of Gollancz, Gavin Smith’s THE AGE OF SCORPIO and A QUANTUM MYTHOLOGY, and Alastair Reynolds’ POSEIDON’S WAKE. Courtesy of Talos, Eli K. P. William’s CASH CRASH JUBILEE. Courtesy of Tor Books, Will Elliott’s SHADOW, Ellen Datlow’s THE DOLL COLLECTION, and V.E. Schwab’s A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC. And courtesy of Little, Brown and Company, Kate Elliott’s COURT OF FIVES.

I, er, may have read most of that last already. IT IS AMAZING.

Review copies arrived

Six books, one cat.

Six books, one cat.


It’s a little unusual to get a parcel from Gollancz. Especially when I haven’t been asking them for a specific title.

Recently arrived review copies: Alex Marshall and Anna Sheehan

Two this time.

Two this time.

Anna Sheehan, NO LIFE BUT THIS, from Gollancz. A sequel, and I haven’t read (nor do I possess) the first book: anyone know anything about it?

And Alex Marshall, A CROWN FOR COLD SILVER, from Orbit. A debut novel, and one which comes to me with more than the usual recommendations from editor- and publicist-type people, so I’ll be interested to see what it’s like.

Recently arrived review copies

Stephen Baxter's ULTIMA.

Stephen Baxter’s ULTIMA.

Here’s Stephen Baxter’s ULTIMA, out of Gollancz, which will probably end up going to the library because I haven’t read the first book in the series.

Here are some lovely things from Tor Books.

Here are some lovely things from Tor Books.

From Tor, Beth Bernobich’s THE TIME ROADS, Weis and Krammes’ THE SEVENTH SIGIL (going to the library, because it is a late book in a series I haven’t read), Jo Walton’s MY REAL CHILDREN, Tina Connolly’s SILVERBLIND, and Liu Cixin’s THE THREE BODY PROBLEM.

Books in brief: Bear, Clark, Scalzi, Lee, Dalrymple, Rediker

Elizabeth Bear, Karen Memory. Tor, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

This book. This book. I don’t even know how to talk about it. I need to read it again and again. It did everything right for me. It’s all my narrative kinks rolled up into one – including some I didn’t even know I had, and some things I would’ve thought I’d hate to see but they’re done so well – and wrapped up with a positive ending and it all just works.


Except you can’t read it until next year. So I’m going to have to think about how to talk about it some more.

John Scalzi, Lock In. US: Tor, 2014; UK: Gollancz, 2014. Copy courtesy of Gollancz.

The last time I was writing up my books, I asked myself, “Have I forgotten something?” And it turns out that I had, because the night beforehand I’d read Lock In and it had not made enough impression to last. This is in many ways a very forgettable book: competent, but of the stuff of which airport paperbacks are made. A whodunnit with a couple of Sufficiently Advanced Technology elements. I really don’t have very much at all to say about it, and I’m damned if I can even remember the characters’ names.

Sharon Lee, Carousel Sea. Baen, 2015. e-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Third installment in small-town fantasy series. Will include in future SWM column. Interesting, soothing, pulls all its punches.

Elizabeth May, The Falconer. Gollancz, 2013.

Debut novel. Fairies. Violence. Scotland. Steampunk. It is crack and it is terrible and it is actually quite a bit of fun.


William Dalrymple, The Return of a King: the Battle for Afghanistan. Bloomsbury, 2013.

New history of the first British Afghan war, and one that makes liberal use of sources in the local languages. A fascinating read.

Marcus Rediker, The Amistad Rebellion: an Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom. Verso, 2013.

Rediker writes good history. This one is relatively short, for him, and very accessible: an account of the Amistad slave mutiny and the long struggle of the survivors to return to their West African homes. Solid, informative, compelling.

Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. Penguin, 2013.

A weighty (500+ pages excluding index, notes and bibliography, at 10pt-type) volume, but a deeply fascinating and extraordinarily well-written piece of history, that is astonishingly clear in its presentation of the complex factors and personalities on the European scene, and routes by which the decisions of the European powers ultimately narrowed down to war. A really excellent history book.

There was a multi-day party/review copies

Called a convention.

Plastic throne is fun.

Plastic throne is fun.

And I came home to find review copies had arrived in my absence. So now I am EVEN MORE behind.



That’s Peter Watts’ ECHOPRAXIA, Patrick Swenson’s THE ULTRA THIN MAN, D.B. Jackson’s A PLUNDER OF SOULS, Max Gladstone’s FULL FATHOM FIVE, Tobias Buckell’s HURRICANE FEVER, and Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory’s THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS, all courtesy of Tor; and John Scalzi’s LOCK IN, courtesy of Gollancz.

Review copies since last time

Six here.

Six here

That’s Brian McClellan’s THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN, Trudi Canavan’s THIEF’S MAGIC, Charlie Fletcher’s OVERSIGHT, Adam Christopher’s THE BURNING DARK, Stella Gemmell’s THE CITY, and Elizabeth Moon’s CROWN OF RENEWAL.

And four here.

And four here.

Followed by Kristen Britain’s MIRROR SIGHT, Ursula K. LeGuin’s THE UNREAL AND THE REAL VOLUME ONE, S.M. Wheeler’s SEA CHANGE, and Kameron Hurley’s THE MIRROR EMPIRE.