EXIT STRATEGY by Martha Wells

A new review over at Tor.com:

Murderbot novellas are usually a joy to read. Exit Strategy becomes even more of a joy to read in the emotional climax and dénouement, after the shooting is done and Murderbot is putting itself back together and having conversations while the Murderbot equivalent of woozy and concussed. It nearly died. Those were some poor life choices.

ROGUE PROTOCOL by Martha Wells

A new review over at Tor.com:

Murderbot is a very anxious sort of construct. People looking at it is distressing for it. And for all its ability with violence, and its claims that it’s very different to humans, really, no seriously—it’s a very human character. Intensely relatable.


A new review over at Tor.com:

Artificial Condition is the second of Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries, after last year’s All Systems Red. It could be subtitled “Murderbot makes a friend, finds it harder to pretend not to be a person, and discovers some truths about their past,” but that’s a really long subtitle, so it’s probably just as well it isn’t.


Sleeps With Monsters: The Adventures of Murderbot

A new column over at Tor.com:

Martha Wells is an amazing writer, whose work I’ve generally loved since first encountering The Element of Fire. When her novella All Systems Red came out last year from Tor.com Publishing, it was a delight to see Wells turn her considerable talents to original science fiction—space operatic science fiction with a sense of humour and a deep well of kindness. This year will see two sequels published, Artificial Condition (May) and Rogue Protocol (August), and—not a word of a lie—they’re both really good.


Books: Rucka, Wells, Addison

Greg Rucka, Whiteout. Oni Press, 2007. Illustrated by Steve Lieber.

Very different to the film of the same name. Rather better.

Martha Wells, Emilie and the Sky World. Strange Chemistry, 2014.

Reviewed for Tor.com. Fun book! Go read it!

Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor. Tor, 2014.

Review copy from Tor. I am to review it for Tor.com. This is an amazing book. I mean seriously bloody wonderful: excellent politics, nice quiet interpersonal stuff, such a wonderful compelling protagonist. GO PREORDER IT NOW.

Katherine Addison is the new pen-name for Sarah Monette. For those of us familiar with Monette’s other writing, I feel I should add that The Goblin Emperor‘s protagonist is much more likeable than many of the characters in The Doctrine of Labyrinths, and while the world-building is just as marvellously baroque the overall tone is much less noirish, much more optimistic.


Some recent books

I cannot do answering comments lately. Please excuse: excessive amounts of being swamped going on in life.

Timothy Zahn, Star Wars: Scoundrels. Del Rey, 2013.

I have always loved Zahn’s Star Wars novels. Scoundrel is Star Wars meets Ocean’s 11, with Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian the only original trilogy characters really appearing – and with Han in the role of the man organising the Grand Heist. It takes place some time before the Battle for Hoth, between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.

(A couple of my favourite extended universe characters – Kell and Winter – also appear here.)

It is a really well done heist narrative, with complications and recomplications, although I think one of the withholding-information tricks Zahn used in order to work another familiar character in did not, in final analysis, actually pay off.

Still really fun.

Martha Wells, Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge. Del Rey, 2013.

Another novel set after A New Hope and before Empire Strikes Back. Wells is an excellent writer and tells a good story – but for a novel purporting to focus on Leia, her character carries nearly none of the story’s emotional freight. So that was a little disappointing.

Not disappointing at all, however, is how filled with interesting female characters Wells’ vision of Star Wars is.

Nalo Hopkinson, Sister Mine. Grand Central, 2013.

A delightful urban fantasy with weird gods and weirder family dynamics set in Toronto. Well recommended.

D.B. Jackson, Thieves’ Quarry. Tor, 2013.

Urban fantasy set in Boston in the 1770s. Entertaining, but not especially my cup of tea. Characters felt a bit flat, and the central mystery felt more People Running Around At Cross Purposes than actively compelling.

Diane Duane, Star Trek: The Wounded Sky. Titan, 1989.

Duane’s Star Trek novels are always interesting space opera.

Kelly McCullough, Blade Reforged. Ace, 2013.

Entertaining second-world urban fantasy with assassins and a coup and Deeply Laid Plots. Fourth in series. Recommended.

Jeanne Lin, The Sword Dancer. Ebook.

Romance set in historic China. A bit odd (but that is a function of it being a romance), at points a bit slow, but entertaining.

Helen Lowe, The Heir of Night and The Gathering of the Lost. Orbit, 2010-2012.

Oh dear sweet overblown Grand Epic Fantasy. These books have serious structural problems and occasional line of direction fail. And yet. I would have loved these when I was thirteen, and they still curled into the Fond Of Overblown Destiny and COOL SHIT corner of my heart.

Madeleine E. Robins, Sold For Endless Rue. Forge, 2013.

Historical novel based on the bones of a Rapunzel story. I am a sucker for female doctors and Salerno, but I don’t think the structure worked as well as it might have. Still, very good book.

Alex Bledsoe, The Hum and the Shiver and Wisp of a Thing. Tor, 2011-2013.

One of these is a very good book: The Hum and the Shiver is an excellent work of small-town fantasy, playing up its liminality and strangeness. It does not resolve all its threads, but it resolves many…

Wisp of a Thing, on the other hand, is full of manpain, has some dodgy SPECIALNESS, and resolves with an extra dodgy nod at a happy ending which SKEEVED ME THE FUCK OUT, okay. Thanks for ruining The Hum and the Shiver for me, Wisp of a Thing.

Andi Marquette, Friends in High Places, A Matter of Blood, and Edge of Rebellion. Ebooks.

Fun, pulpy, not excessively well-written (but on the other hand far from terrible) space opera. With lesbians. That is not a lesbian romance in terms of its focus. With a feel somewhere between Star Wars and Firefly.

Gaie Sebold, Babylon Steel and Dangerous Gifts. Solaris, 2011-2012.

I do not know how to talk about these books. I love them a lot: they are like a cross between noir and sword-and-sorcery in the Conan mould – except centering women. It is sword-and-sorcery for the girl who wanted to grow up to be Conan (except better), and I’m very happy with that.

Elizabeth Bear, Book of Iron. Subterranean Press, 2013.

A brilliant standalone novella in the same world as Bear’s Range of Ghosts and Bone and Jewel Creatures. Read it.

Robert Graves, The White Goddess. Review copy, 2013 reprint.

I want those hours of my life back.


Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After.

Which I spoke of previously.

Pál Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary 895-1526. English translation by Andrew Ayton. I.B. Tauris, 2005.

Which I also spoke of previously.

Daniela Dueck, Hugh Lindsay, and Sarah Pothecary, Strabo’s Cultural Geography: the making of a kolossourgia. Cambridge University Press, 2005.

An interesting collection of papers on Strabo’s work.

Sleeps With Monsters: Martha Wells Answers Eight Questions

Over at Tor.com:

MW: As for characters, when I was growing up it was very hard to find adventure stories geared toward children or young readers with female main characters, or even with female characters who were active participants in the adventure and not just there to be rescued or to act as an antagonistic babysitter to the intrepid male characters. One of the reasons I was drawn to adult SF/F was because it was possible to find female characters who actually got to do things, though again there were a lot of women rescuees who didn’t see much actual action. I read Zelde M’tana by F.M. Busby at way too young an age, because the paperback cover showed a woman with a ray gun in her hand who clearly was not a victim and was not there to be rescued.

Sleeps With Monsters: Martha Wells’ Emilie and the Hollow World

A new column up at Tor.com: Sleeps With Monsters: Martha Wells’ Emilie and the Hollow World:

Emilie and the Hollow World is Martha Wells’ thirteenth and latest novel, hot off the presses from Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry. It’s also Wells’ first novel marketed to the YA demographic, and speaking personally, I was interested to see how Wells would approach a different audience.

Things haven’t been going so smooth, so blogging may be more erratic than usual.

Sleeps With Monsters: Martha Wells’ Wheel of the Infinite

A new column post at Tor.com: Sleeps With Monsters: Martha Wells’ Wheel of the Infinite:

There are two ways I can go about writing this instalment of our Martha Wells focus….

…No, wait, there’s really only one way. Because I cannot pretend to be anything other than utterly in love with Wells’ Wheel of the Infinite, her fourth novel. Originally published in 2000, by Eos (HarperCollins), I first read it in some dim, misty far-away past… possibly in my second year in college, so not really that long ago. I don’t remember having such a strong positive reaction on my first reading, which explains why this is the only the first time I’ve reread it since. Perhaps, like many things, it improves with time.

Sleeps With Monsters: Martha Wells’ The Wizard Hunters

New column post up at Tor.com: Sleeps With Monsters: Martha Wells’ The Wizard Hunters:

I’ll tell you three things I love about The Wizard Hunters. I love that Wells’ Ile-Rien has changed since The Element of Fire: it’s not technologically static, and now there are automatic firearms and motor vehicles and airships, and the atmosphere of wartime Vienne feels analogous to WWII Europe, with blackout curtains and telephones and rationing and periodicals having ceased production. I love Tremaine, and how she’s unsure of herself and bloody-minded all at once. I love the deft characterisation of other characters, like Florian and Ilias and Gil. I love how all the cool shit comes together, cleverly, with meaning.

Wait, that’s four things. Oh, well. I could keep going, but that’ll do for now.

Sleeps With Monsters: Martha Wells’ The Element of Fire

Over at Tor.com, Sleeps With Monsters: Martha Wells’ The Element of Fire:

Many critics, many reviewers, I think, find it difficult to talk plainly about the things that they love and the reasons why they love them. The temptation exists to direct your attention primarily to its flaws, to minimise or to justify the ways in which it falls short of objective perfection. (Not that objective perfection is a thing that exists, except theoretically.) It is possible to speak of flaws objectively, and of technique. Speaking of what you love and why you love it—speaking honestly—exposes yourself. It’s a form of intellectual nakedness.

This lengthy preamble is my way of talking myself around to confronting Martha Wells’ first novel, The Element of Fire.

Books in brief: Martha Wells, Karen Lord, Seanan McGuire, Ankaret Wells, Andrea K. Höst, Barbara Ann Wright

Martha Wells, Emilie and the Hollow World. Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry, 2013. Copy courtesy of the publishers.

A delightful YA novel from one of my favourite authors. Further details should follow at Tor.com.

Karen Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds. Ballantine/Del Rey (US), Jo Fletcher (UK), 2013.

A novel interesting on multiple levels, combining literary and SFnal approaches to worldbuilding and relationships. Perhaps not entirely successful, but interesting. Review forthcoming in summer Ideomancer.

Martha Wells, City of Bones. Republished by the author.

An excellent book, with excellent world-building and characterisation, which I really enjoyed. Right up until the very last page, which had to go all emotionally-complicated and very true to character but was not what I wanted to read just then.

Barbara Ann Wright, For Want of a Fiend. Bold Strokes Books, 2013. Epub. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Lesbian relationships as normative within a fantasy novel that, while a little rough around the edges, is not noticeably rougher than most of the midlist. I recommend this, and expect to be talking more about it on the Tor.com column.

Ankaret Wells, The Maker’s Mask and The Hawkwood War. Self-published; second book epub copy courtesy of the author.

A bit rocky getting started, but in general a delightful, well-characterised romp through weird and wacky tech and politics. It has a sense of humour. Oh, god, do you know how many stories don’t? Or substitute bitter snark and snappy one-liners? I will be speaking of this more later.

Andrea K. Höst, And All The Stars. Self-published. Epub.

A strongly enjoyable alien-invasion story, focused on a group of teenagers in Sydney. Well recommended.

Seanan McGuire, Midnight Blue-Light Special. DAW, 2013.

Another novel with a sense of humour. A lot of fun.

Seanan McGuire, An Artificial Knight, Late Eclipses, and One Salt Sea. DAW, various dates. Copies courtesy of the publishers.

McGuire’s Toby Daye novels make a lot more sense – and are a lot more fun – when you read them as second-world fantasies that just happen to take place in the same general area as a modern US city, and not as urban fantasy. I bounced off the second a while back, but the third is like popcorn. And so are the next two.

Popcorn. With hot butter and salt. I will be speaking more on them later, probably elseweb.