Future Visions

I picked this little science fiction anthology up when Microsoft emailed me to let me know that it was available for free. I mean, c’mon, who skips out on free stuff?
I know for some things of this sort I’ve done per-short-story review type things, but I’m a bit too lazy to do that.1
The concept for this anthology, so far as I understand it, was basically this: Microsoft invited2 a bunch of big-name science fiction writers to tour one of their research centers. From there, they were free to write whatever short story they wanted to, and so they did. The result was quite interesting – some of them were recognizably influenced by certain forms of research (the Skype team’s work on instant translation was very obvious in a couple of places) while others have very little connection – the final story includes a few small references to the same sort of translation technology, but paints it in a less-than-flattering light.
All told, it was an interesting read, good for reading in bits and pieces when you’ve only got a few minutes to spare, and who can beat that lovely low price of free?

  1. And, to be honest, I do those any time that I haven’t read the entirety of an anthology. This one I read cover-to-cover, with the possible exception of part of the comic that was included, as it crashed my Kindle when I was trying to read it. 
  2. Or, presumably, ‘paid.’ 

Humble Indie Comics Bundle

The Humble Bundle is a wonderful thing – it started off as games only, but they’ve since expanded into books and various other media. The short explanation is that it’s a charity, of sorts – you get a bundle of products, you choose your own price, and you choose the split between the creators of the products, a charity or charities, and a ‘Humble tip’ to help them keep their servers up and running.
I picked up the Humble Comics Bundle – Image, featuring Creators Own Worlds. Or whatever the correct capitalization of all that is supposed to be. Long story short, it’s a bunch of stuff published through Image that’s set in worlds created by the same people who did each comic – not part of, for example, the shared Marvel universe.
Now, I haven’t yet read everything in there, and I probably won’t read all of them for quite a while yet.1 But I’ve read a few, and I thought I’d share my thoughts here:


A violent little romp through Jamaica; it didn’t take too long to read, but told a nice short story. I’d put emphasis on the word ‘violent’ in that description.

Injection (vol. 1)

This one was really interesting, and I can’t decide if it felt like a TV pilot, one of the double-length ones that only ever airs as a ‘bonus content’ type of thing after the show got picked up, or if it’s more like the entire first season of a show. It’s a complete story, but it left a lot of room for sequels to follow up, and some prequels to fill in a bit. It’s dark and grimy and a lot mysterious, and I think it worked quite well. The art style fits the content very well, and I was left wanting more.

Nowhere Men (vol. 1)

Injection left me wanting more by dint of being a lovely self-contained story with plenty of room for expansion. Nowhere Men left me wanting more by being a tease with information. It’s set in a world where, rather than the Beatles taking over the world with their rock music, a group of four scientists rocketed to the global spotlight with their intellects. It’s a little bit unclear on when, exactly, everything is happening – a sort of smeary, always-now kind of setting is implied, so I think it’ll hold up pretty well – and shows off a lot of science-fiction going on in interesting ways. It’s also very mixed-media – the comic is interspersed with magazine interviews, book excerpts, and newspaper clippings that all help to fill in the world very well. Or, at least, from the public’s point of view – the actual story being told is a heck of a lot of dark-research and behind-the-scenes fighting going on. Very interesting, although the most aggravating plot twist in there is finding out that volume 2 isn’t out yet.

Jupiter’s Circle (vol. 1)

Oh my god it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a superhero comic. There’s a reason The Boys was one of my favorites, in spite of the brutal nature of that comic. This is a little bit less ultraviolence-and-everything-is-awful than The Boys; it’s all wrapped in a lovely post-WWII-early-Cold-War aesthetic, but it’s the same sort of “yeah, there are superheroes, and yes, everyone sees them as upstanding citizens, but… they aren’t.” It was, actually, this one that convinced me to buy the entire Bundle – the ‘preview’ showed us a bit of those heroes, and then the first of their ‘issues’ cropping up – one of them is a closeted gay man. Being the 1950s or so, this is a bit of a problem. And it all got more interesting from there.

Trees (vol. 1)

There’s a sweet little love story, a bit of political intrigue, some scientific what-now, and a hint of geopolitics. This one’s clearly lining up for the rest of the series, and I’m quite annoyed at it because the single biggest “I want to know what’s going on” plot line of the whole thing ended on a massive cliffhanger. But oh, it’s an interesting world – intelligent life showed up from somewhere beyond the Earth… and didn’t notice that humanity was there. Thus, the Trees: alien megastructures that landed wherever they felt – including one that crushed wide swathes of New York City during its landing, and flooded the rest. They’re apparently indestructible, at least to anything humanity is capable of throwing at them, and they’re harder to get any information out of than they are to actually damage. I’ll have to keep an eye out for the rest of this series.

Bitch Planet

The background details of this one are fascinating – it’s set in some kind of alternate future, although apparently the difference here is that feminism never happened- or went horribly wrong, somehow. The patriarchy rules, quite literally, and does so with an iron fist. Most of the story takes place in an off-world prison, and you see things in the list of ‘crimes’ for which people (all women) were sent there that include “seduction and disappointment” and “bad mother.” It’s a scary thought.


I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of this one, but it turns out that I quite enjoyed it! The best case scenario.
Irish-Japanese girl moves from Ireland to Japan, from her father’s home to her mother’s. There, she starts seeing things, understanding patterns at a way that shouldn’t be possible. Plus there’s all the weird monsters attacking her. It’s just a fun little comic,2 with an enjoyable story, a pretty good ending to it, and a few lovely little hat-tips to manga.3
My favorite scene was a moment in the background – one of the characters is the Cat-Child, or something like that, which basically means ‘she can turn into a bunch of cats.’ The first time you see that is just a little burst of light and a bunch of cats flying all over the place. Basically I was sitting here giggling about the fact that she just exploded into cats.


The introduction to this one is the writer, talking about how he was trying to write an optimistic character for once. And he succeeded, at that, creating someone that, despite living in a doomed city on a doomed planet, continues to be hopeful that everything will come out alright. And I like her for that.
So I don’t like the writer, because he then proceeds to take everything from her – she watches her husband be murdered and her daughters kidnapped. Her son dies in front of her. Her daughter is found and lost again.
An engaging universe for things to be set in, but one that’s already coming to an end. Too depressing for my tastes.

  1. I do actually have to do classwork every once in a while, it’s a Rule or something. 
  2. Well, “little” being “it’s a 330-page PDF,” but still. 
  3. I don’t know a whole lot about manga, but my roommate last year was a big fan and I picked up a few things. 

So Not A Hero

I actually read a book again! I’m slowly having more time for that, mostly because instead of binge-watching shows on Netflix I binge-do homework, and I’m starting to run out of homework for the semester. At which point I start reading again.
Anyhow, I just read S.J. Delos’ So Not A Hero – it’d been on my list for a while, and I finally got around to it when I realized that my Amazon Prime lets me get a free book every once in a while.
I quite enjoyed it, to be honest – there were a couple scenes of a graphic nature that I skimmed past, because I’m not really interested in that sort of thing, but other than that, I found it all enjoyable. Sure, there were one or two things that slipped past the editor,1 but it’s the first book Delos has written, and I’m certainly not going to be up in arms about one or two spelling mistakes. It happens.
Now, a bit of background on the story: it’s a Superhero Story, where people randomly become Enhanced, some sort of Mysterious Cosmic Energy2 giving them various superpowers.
The heroine of the story, an asian-american who goes by Karen,3 has just been evicted from her (rather terrible) apartment. The reason? Her landlord found out that she’s an ex-convict, out on parole at the moment. Her parole officer starts giving her a hard time about being down on her luck and is just generally an awful person.
You see bits and pieces of what she went to prison for, but the long and short of it is that she was a supervillain. “Crushette” may not be the best name, but there’s a lovely bit of tongue-in-cheek referencing to copyright law here where the book discusses a law that was passed after the first Enhanced folk started showing up, when “every city had their own Superman and Hulk.” The comic book companies leaned on Congress, and Congress made it illegal4 to use an existing superhero/villain name for yourself. Helpfully, they also established a centralized database of the names, which kept everything from getting too complicated.
And then, while waiting for the bus, Karen catches a plasma blast5 that would’ve hit the non-Enhanced people also waiting at the bus stop. She gets them to safety and helps the superhero in the fight take down a group of supervillains, some of whom she’d worked with in the past.
And he offers her a job, saying that there’s a spot open on his superhero team.
At which point she goes into a lovely little spiral of self-doubt and introspection, and the book becomes a sarcastic redemption story. Karen spent two years in a maximum-security prison: she’s not going to accept that good things can just happen to her, and she spent too long as a supervillain to not have some great banter ready for every situation.
From there, the book gets fun. The superhero team is a dysfunctional little group, the villains aren’t afraid to swear, and Karen has a running issue with the fact that, while she’s indestructible, her clothes aren’t.
Basically, it’s a villain-becomes-hero superhero story told for adults, and I quite enjoyed it. Give it a read.

  1. Or rather, weren’t edited in such a way that made me wonder if there’d been an editor at all – not egregious errors, just, like, spelling mistakes every once in a while. 
  2. I use capital letters to express my sarcasm 
  3. She changed her name to fit the ‘American standard’ to spite her family, it’s a whole plot arc. 
  4. Punishable by, if I’m remembering right, something like five years in prison. 
  5. Or something, I’m paraphrasing here – this is still the first two chapters that I’m describing, and the book is significantly longer than that. 

Young Wizards: Lifeboats

Hey, it’s been a while since I did a book review! My whole “read every book on my Kindle” project really slowed down when school started. I wonder why?1
This one is a bit of a cheat on that project, because I just got the book a week or so ago and have been slowly reading it since then. Nonetheless, I’m going to do a review.
So, let me start this off by saying that Diane Duane is one of my favorite authors. Seriously, she’s wonderful. The Young Wizards series is one of those things that I read growing up – I got the first book, So You Want To Be A Wizard, when I was in elementary school, and I (technically) own every book in the series now.2 It’s also wonderful because it feels like the characters grew up with me: when I started that first book, they were excited kids being dropped into a world of magic and adventure, just like I was when I first opened the book. By the time of Wizards at War – my first hardback in the series, which somehow gives it more weight both literally and metaphorically – they were in high school, taking the same classes I was. (And, in their spare time, fighting in a galaxy-spanning war, which I can’t really lay claim to without getting so metaphorical that I lose track of what I’m trying to say.)
Lifeboats is part of a three-piece cycle that Duane wrote, a ‘transitional trio’ that leads from A Wizard of Mars into the upcoming new book, Games Wizards Play.3
Some bits of the afterword, read last night right before I went to bed, stuck with me. And I think they’re very true. The book4 takes advantage of something Duane does that few other authors have taken advantage of: the ability to sell directly to the reader. Her eBooks Direct store sells DRM-free versions of most5 of her (and her husband’s) books. It’s a wonderful thing, and I’ve bought quite a few books that way. It’s a nice feeling to know that 100% of your purchase is going to the author, rather than being filtered through a supply chain and a publisher or two.
More importantly to the book, though, is the fact that Lifeboats was written entirely without the intervention of her publisher(s). It was direct-to-ebook, and that afforded her more freedom than normal. Going through a publisher, a book has to be marketable. It has to be something that people will buy. Market forces stop for no man.
Lifeboats, then, wasn’t a labor of economic forces. It was a labor of love. It was free to be whatever Duane wanted it to be.
And that showed: it expanded on a few side references from earlier books6 while dropping a couple others7 that I must now desperately hope get explained somewhere along the line.
And it was able to be something other than an adventure story following the hero around.
This wasn’t a ‘save the world’ kind of adventure. This was a ‘the world is doomed, try to save what’s left’ sort of thing.
The setting is a planet, close to the galactic core, that lives in the shadow of a moon almost the same size as the planet. The moon is an oppressive presence to our Earthling heroes, weighing down on them from above and providing a constant reminder of the doom that’s already underway: that moon is disintegrating, and as it does so it’ll wrack the planet below with tidal forces, earthquakes and tsunamis, all while raining pieces of itself down from above. A thousand Chicxulub impacts a week, and eventually something that’ll look like firing a bullet through a billiard ball when the metal core of the moon falls out of orbit and hits the planet with all the force that a sextillion tons of iron pick up by being in free-fall for weeks on end.
The main characters aren’t the main characters here: they’re just a viewpoint into a massive evacuation operation, a network of worldgates8 being used to evacuate the planet’s entire population, as well as a sizable chunk of the ecosystem as a whole and as much of the civilization’s cultural artifacts as possible. From Earth alone, something like 60,000 wizards were brought in to orchestrate the operation, and tens of other planets were also tapped for their wizardly resources. The scale of the operation is mind-boggling.
And we never get to see it, because we’re watching through Kit’s eyes as he acts like a cog in a much larger machine, keeping one of the worldgate complexes running while hundreds of thousands of people walk out of one of a set of small ‘feeder’ gates and into the larger upstream gate.
The book gets to spend more time looking at the relationships between the characters, expanding on the sort of thing that gets a few pages of introspection in one of the novels, but gets nearly a third of the book here.
And, quite frankly, I think that’s wonderful. It’s an expansion of the universe in all the best ways: the characters get more time in the spotlight, there’s a heck of a lot of world building, and we get to see people just… doing their jobs. It felt like a behind-the-scenes look into a world that I love, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
My only complaint is that it didn’t make good before-bed reading, because I wound up too invested in it and stayed up too late reading. And that’s the best problem for a book to have.

  1. Probably something to do with the fact that I’m taking 130% of a regular credit-load. Whoops. 
  2. I say ‘technically’ because there’s a few that were loaned out to people and never returned. I’m a bit more careful about keeping track of who I loan books to, these days. 
  3. I have a lot of excitement for that book and I have no idea when it comes out or anything. At this point, I know I’ll enjoy it, it’s just a matter of waiting or it to be released. 
  4. Actually more of a novella, I think, though the distinction between the two is a bit fuzzy and tends to change depending on who you ask and what time of day it is. 
  5. Not all, some aren’t available due to licensing restrictions from the original publishers. 
  6. I love any reference to the Crossings, and thus was overjoyed by the opening sequence of Lifeboats
  7. What happened at the Kola Superdeep Borehole? 
  8. Or, y’know, portals, for those who like the more boring words for things. 

Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 57

Not exactly a book, but still part of my read-everything-on-my-Kindle project. For this one, I’ll only be talking about the various works of fiction that were published in the magazine – I wouldn’t even know how to go about reviewing the bits of nonfiction, interviews and whatnot, that’re included in the magazine.
Since it’s a series of short stories, I’ll break it up into pieces.

And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead

All sorts of bad language included in this one, but a rather enjoyable read. Reminded me of Neuromancer with the cyberpunk aspect of the whole thing, as well as the overall sense of grittiness.


This one didn’t strike me as science fiction. At all. With H.G. Wells present in it, I was hoping for something along the lines of Warehouse 13.1 What I got was something that felt like it should’ve been part of the nonfiction section, filed under ‘depressing.’

Red Planet

Pretty good, and reminded me of the WWW trilogy by Robert J. Sawyer, though from the other side – the WWW books are pervaded by a sense of wonder at what’s possible, and a distinctive dint of the ‘blind people are broken’ ideology that pervades society on some level or another, whereas “Red Planet” focused on the benefits of being blind and why someone might choose to stay that way. Interesting.

Veil of Ignorance

Confusing and a bit hard to follow, but that was done on purpose. Definitely an interesting read, and done in something that reminded me of a space opera way, where the actual sci-fi aspects of things are glossed over entirely, accepted as normal.

Cerile and the Journeyer2

A sad little story, but an enjoyable one. Not a whole lot to say about it.

Things You Can Buy for a Penny

This one was interesting to read just because of the way that it was built in layers – pieces of story hiding behind one another. I quite enjoyed the overall aesthetic of it, a sort of folk tale with a light brush of horror, and definitely that genie-you-got-what-you-wished-for plot twist to each of the little pieces.

In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns

This was the novella included in the magazine, and I loved it. Futuristic murder-mystery aside, the setting for the whole story was a truly wonderful bit of speculative fiction. They took the current global warming crisis and ran with it, expanding biotechnology and the ever-spreading Internet of Things while highlighting the growing cost of traveling long distance and the energy scarcity that we’re creating for ourselves.
For being such a short story, there was certainly a lot of material in this one.
My final opinion is “this novella made the entire magazine worth the purchase.” If there had been nothing else of value in there,3 In the House of Aryaman would’ve made it entirely worth it.

  1. I wasn’t hoping for anything as awesome as Helena Wells, of course, but she’s rather hard to beat. 
  2. If you’re following along in the magazine, you’ll have noticed that I just skipped a couple things. You’d be right – I don’t write reviews of things I don’t finish reading, and I wasn’t able to make it through those two bits of fantasy. 
  3. And this was not the case, several of them were worthwhile reads, as I’ve mentioned above. 

Bleeding Violet

I’m still working on reading every book on my Kindle, it’s just slowed down a lot thanks to all that pesky school.
Bleeding Violet was next on my list, and it easily passed my “20% test”1 – I was almost halfway through the book in my first sitting, and only noticed when my roommate got back and asked why I was still awake.
Of course, I woke up the next morning, having gone to sleep right after putting the book down, frightened by some strange2 nightmares. The book is creepy, for a few different reasons. First off, it’s set in a town where things like ‘milkworms’ (they eat calcium, starting with milk and ending with ripping the bones out of your body), giant flying leech things (I don’t think the official name of these was ever said, or if it was I’ve forgotten), and ‘breeders’ (every ‘the bug laid its eggs in me’ horror story ever, crossed with hints of a vampire from Twilight). The first monster we get a good look at is a blob of color that lives in the windows of the high school3 and sucks the color out of people, leaving them as glass statues. So that all creates a nice scare factor in the book.
The part that’s really creepy, though, is the workings of the protagonist’s mind. She’s got a suite of medication for a suite of conditions, currently taking lithium to try to manage manic-depressive disorder, if I’m remembering properly. And by ‘taking’ I mean ‘only taking when someone bothers her about it.’ Her first conversation is with the hallucinated ghost of her father, and the suicidal urges she has are dealt with by the direct intervention of a wooden carving of a swan. She’s been institutionalized in the past, and a little ways into the first chapter you realize she’s covered in blood from (possibly) bludgeoning her aunt (and legal guardian) to death.
The story is told from her perspective, so we get to occupy her mind throughout, and it’s strange. Everything makes perfect sense to her, and you can almost follow along… until you realize exactly how strange a situation she’s in, what exactly she’s doing. Best example I can come up with? Trying to earn her mother’s love by offering to burn down her childhood home. It makes perfect sense at the time… right up until your brain goes, wait, what?
The creepiness, though, makes the book interesting, and it fits nicely with a space filled with unanswered questions. What is the Mayor? Why do people still live in a town filled with horrible monsters? What in god’s name is going on around here?
Of course, those aren’t the interesting questions, but I’m trying to avoid giving away too many spoilers. Go read the book, it’s fascinatingly dark.

  1. I decided, arbitrarily, that if a book hasn’t captured my interest by the time I’m 20% of the way through it, it isn’t worth my time to read the rest of it. Those books that I give up on I don’t write a review of, so you may not have heard of this before. 
  2. And most nonsensical 
  3. The main character being, of course, a high school student. 

The Astronaut Wives Club

Apparently I’m adding television shows to the things I review on here from time to time? What the heck, it’s still summer break, I’ve got time for it.
Anyhow, I just finished up the first season of The Astronaut Wives Club.1 The style kinda reminded me of Manhattan, with the following of a major historic event from a more personal standpoint, but Astronaut Wives captured my interest much better than Manhattan ever did. I really couldn’t say why, although it might have something to do with my slight obsession with the Cold War, rather than World War II.2
It’s a little bit hard to keep track of all the characters, at first – it starts off with the seven Mercury wives (and, to a lesser degree, their husbands) – and then adds the Gemini wives at some point. By the time Apollo rolls around, they aren’t really bothering to introduce the new set of astronauts and wives, they’re just accepting that it’s too many people.
That aside, though, the show is quite enjoyable. It’s historically accurate to a degree that I feel comfortable filing in moments of history that I learned from the show with the rest of my knowledge about the world, though I wouldn’t recommend it as a way to study for a test.3
The show is definitely predictable if you’re a history buff, but that is something that I am distinctly not, and the few specifics about the space program that I actually did remember, I managed to block out long enough that everything could be a surprise. That made a couple moments – one of which was one hell of a sucker-punch at the end of an episode – incredibly effective storytelling, and very emotionally charged at that.
Tl;dr: I enjoyed the show, and it’s worth taking the time to watch it once it pops up on Netflix.

  1. And I just now looked it up and saw that it was cancelled after one season, so apparently that should say ‘only season.’ Oh well. 
  2. What can I say, I’ve got a favorite historical period. 
  3. More because you won’t be getting tested on things like “who was cheating on who, and which wife was known for her baking prowess?” 

War of the Fae, Book 1: The Changelings

I think this one was a ‘free on Amazon’ book that I picked up, and let me tell you, as a marketing effort, that worked. The book ends on a one-sentence plot-twist that acts as an incredibly effective cliffhanger, so props to the author for that.
As to the content, it’s a general fit in the young-adult-fantasy-adventure genre: kid runs away from home (though, admittedly, the reasoning for that is more ‘young adult’ than ‘young adult,’ a slight change that helped to hold my interest), gets involved in a weird situation, finds out magic is real, yadda yadda saves the day. There’s a bit of a ‘hunger games’ vibe to the weird situation, and the ‘magic’ bits are more hinted-at than outright-confirmed for a while.1
The book gets bonus points for a female protagonist, and since I’m now staring at the end-of-book about the author page and just now finding out that the author is a female2 it makes sense how well she was able to portray the female mind. As a dude, I am eternally doomed to be unable to understand the inner workings of the other gender, and I’ve come to terms with that.
On the other hand, it gets docked a few points for two issues: first, the occasional Mary Sue moments with the protagonist – there are three main male supporting characters, and between the three of them at least two are very clearly in love with her.3 More points were docked for the fact that the closest the book has to LGBTQ representation is comparing the motions of a vampire, actively killing someone, to “a gay teacher [the protagonist] had in tenth grade.” Look, I get that every Disney villain ever has been a hodgepodge of stereotypically-gay traits,4 but I’m still going to be disappointed when anyone else gives in to the trope.
Other than that, the only issue I had was a single recurring spelling error,5 and overall I enjoyed the book. It’s easily worth what I paid for it, and the fact that that was ‘nothing’ is how I’m going to justify buying the next book in the series.

  1. Although, being a total mythology-and-legends nerd I picked up on it earlier than the average reader could really be expected to. I have a mental filter for these sorts of things, so it doesn’t interfere with my enjoyment of a book too much. 
  2. I think the ‘read every book on my Kindle’ thing I’m doing is going by author-alphabetical order, but I’m not actually looking at the names, so… 
  3. I’m not docking many points for that, though, because she’s the only girl in the group for most of the story, and I have a low opinion of the average man. 
  4. Hades, anyone? 
  5. ‘Break’: to separate. ‘Brake’: to stop. I don’t think the word ‘break’ is used anywhere in the book, but ‘brake’ shows up multiple times, and it’s spelled wrong each time. C’mon. 

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories

Sometimes I like anthologies, and other times I don’t. My theory is that it depends on whether or not one story catches my attention more than the others – if there’s just the one, I want an entire book of that and the inclusion of the rest just strikes me as a sad second.
This was that other case, where all of them catch my attention almost equally, and I enjoy myself the whole way through.
There were a few short stories that I liked more than the others, but again, nothing that stood out too much.
A Reversal of Fortune was surprisingly hopeful, for the kind of tale it was.
The Night Market was a lot sweeter than I was expecting, and I’d read more of this sort of thing.
I took a bit of issue with The Dog King, but I think that was mostly because it reminded me of Teen Wolf for no good reason.
In Vodka Veritas was a wonderful little story, and I think I’d read a sequel, though I get the feeling the sequel wouldn’t be quite as happy as the work itself. An impressive amount of ‘coming of age’ story crammed into a small amount of space.
The Coat of Stars was my favorite of the anthology, though not easily. It fit nicely in with my knowledge of the fair folk, and the sort of sad-turned-happy story that catches nicely in the mind. I wound up wanting to write, not my own continuation of the story, but my own version of it- a different cast of characters, but a similar situation. It was lovely.
The Land of Heart’s Desire was my second favorite, though by a thin margin. I actually put down the book while I was reading this one and texted my friend1 that he needed to add the anthology to his list of books to read. It was sad and sweet, and it felt like there was a lot of backstory that I’m missing out on, to the point that when I’ve got internet again I’m going to look up Holly Black and see if she’s written more in that world.

And now? On to the next book. I’m working my way through the list, collecting a lot of sun while I read this weekend. I must say, a stack of books and a sunny beach is a great way to wrap up summer vacation- I highly recommend it.

  1. More laborious than it sounds, because as I’m writing this I’ve got cell service in the ‘I had to stand on top of a car to make a phone call’ range. 

Eastern Standard Tribe

I finished reading Cory Doctorow’s Eastern Standard Tribe during my weekend camping trip – out in the desert, the river is great for swimming in once it warms up, but it takes until pretty deep into the day for it to be anything other than ‘borderline arctic’ temperatures, so I had plenty of time to read.
Anyhow, Eastern Standard Tribe. My favorite thing about Doctorow’s writing is how clearly he understands modern technology – there’s some nods to IRC in the book, and a lot of what I know about common cryptography I learned from his books.
EST has two plotlines going on at once, though both follow the same character, just at different times in his life. They’re separated by a few months, and the one in the ‘past’ runs faster than the ‘current’ one, catching up to where the one started by the end of the book.
I’m pretty happy with the plot of the book, actually – I still find the concept of the Tribes weird, but it got explained in a way that makes a lot of sense to me, so at least it didn’t stay confusing the whole time. The inclusion of all the user experience stuff was really interesting, and I quite enjoyed the MassPike music thing that wound up being a significant chunk of the plot.
It’s warming up enough that I’m going to get ready to head down to the water, so I’ll finish this up with yet another call to action: go read something Doctorow wrote. I don’t care if it’s Eastern Standard Tribe or not, but he’s a wonderful author, and everything he’s written is available for free on his website,


Mad Tinker's Daughter

I’m still going strong on the book-binge project, guys. It’s an excuse to sit around doing nothing but reading, how could I resist?1
Anyhow, today’s book was Mad Tinker’s Daughter, which I think was also one of those indie-book-bundle pickups.
Long story short, I loved it. The core concept is a little bit odd at first, but pretty easy to follow once you get into it: the twinborn. The story takes place across two worlds, and there are the occasional people who’re ‘twinborn’- born in both worlds, sharing the same appearance2 and a common mind. Some can occupy both bodies at once, others switch back and forth, running one body while the other sleeps.
The main character is the titular Mad Tinker’s Daughter, and a fierce tinker in her own right, inventing a magic-powered coilgun that she uses, within the first few pages, to crash something equivalent to a subway train. Full of police officers.
So, yes, she is a criminal, but in a system that’s hardly fair: the police officers are all a different species, the ruling caste of that world. Humankind occupy the same space that the african-american occupied prior to the Civil War: occasionally a freeman, but usually someone’s property.
It’s a mad romp through two different worlds, all of which are full of a lovely steampunk-adjacent aesthetic and enough of those lovely hints of ancient magic to keep me happy throughout. Sure, it’s the first book in the second trilogy set in these paired worlds, but I had fun trying to figure out what exactly was going on the whole time.
Anyhow, I’d recommend the book to anyone who’s got some spare time for reading. It definitely ends on a higher note than the last book I reviewed, though that’s all I’ll say for fear of giving away too many spoilers.
Go, read, enjoy! Literacy is never a bad thing, folks.

  1. I hope y’all don’t mind that my taste in books is almost entirely the action-adventure-fantasy-scifi blok; if you’re looking for more of the literature style, check out my friend’s blog. 
  2. And, presumably, parents. 

The Brotherhood of Delinquents

I’m currently engaged in a project of binge-reading: it started when I found my Kindle1 in one of the innumerable boxes and started scrolling through it trying to pick a book to read. I realized that, much like my Steam library,2 it’s full of stuff that I’ve never even opened.
So I went through it, put every unread book in a new to-do list,3 and got down to reading.
Sunday morning, I finished reading The Brotherhood of Delinquents by Jefferson Smith. To be honest, I have no idea how this book wound up on my Kindle – according to the app on my phone, it’s a Document rather than a Book, so I suppose it was from an Indie Book Bundle kind of thing? I’m at a loss.
Anyhow, I enjoyed the book quite a lot. It’s the sort of book I used to read a lot as a kid – the protagonist is quite young, an apprentice, and it’s got the whole “uncovering something amazing” vibe that I adore.
But that wasn’t my favorite part of the book. No, that honor went easily to the amount of world-building that clearly went into this book. From the fantasy-standard slightly-off-norm names for things (‘Reeve’ as a sort of governor/elected-military-leader position, for example) to the amount of historical references present,4 an impressive amount of thought went into the background of the book.
There’s a specific part of world-building that the book pulled off masterfully, though: the ‘ancient magics/construction’ archetype. The entire book takes place in a single town, a massive Keep built to an exacting standard to defend a kingdom that wasn’t often described. It’s a leftover of an ancient war, one that was ended with colossal magic to the tune of “the wastelands start within sight of the Keep walls, and continue for god-alone-knows-how-far.” Clearly, things have just gone downhill since the days of yore, because there’s no mention of anyone creating new magic, and there are frequent descriptions of people moving away from the Keep, and the decrepit war-machines still sitting around.
To be honest, I can’t quite pin down why I thought this so resolutely throughout the book, but I was stuck on one concept: this whole thing is in the future. I have no idea if that’s what the author was going for, but every bit of magic present struck me as something that could be easily pulled off with sufficiently-advanced technology. Every time some magic was used, I started picking apart how I’d do it in a science-fiction environment, and it all made sense. The ancient mage was a technological wizard, my mind decided.
And that sort of thing makes me love a book. In the fifth5 Septimus Heap book, there’s a vague reference to some ‘ancient drawings’ that portray… the Apollo missions. It’s a moment where you go “oh, holy crap, that all makes sense,” and I just adore those moments. If ever I write some fantasy, you can just go ahead and assume it’s set in a distant future where someone got good enough with technology that they said “screw it” and turned the control interfaces into a system of magic.

Anyhow, I’m going off-course. I’m too easily distracted to be a book reviewer.
Final say: I enjoyed the book, and I’m hoping there’s a sequel out there.6 Go read it.

  1. It’d been missing for a while. Moving is fun! 
  2. Currently featuring in the area of 100 games that I’ve never played 
  3. Quick shoutout to Things, the task-management app I prefer on both my MacBook and iPhone. 
  4. I can’t tell if I enjoyed or was annoyed by the amount of references to a single mythical hero. Like, it was nice that it kept going back to a single name, it created a bit of recognition, but it got a little bit overplayed. Though, that could be my raised-in-the-TV-age sensibilities – the myths of my childhood are far more numerous than any medieval society would’ve had access to. 
  5. I think, it could be earlier or later in the series, I’ve got no idea. 
  6. We still don’t have internet at the new house, so I’m sitting here writing this in Ulysses, and I’ll upload it next time I’ve got WiFi. Hopefully I’ll remember to check for a sequel when I do that, but I definitely won’t remember to go back and update this post. 

Pay Me, Bug!

I finished Christopher Wright’s Pay Me, Bug! last night, and I’ve gotta say, I enjoyed the heck out of it. It was a space opera in the best sense of the term; in fact, I think I’d argue that it’s the best example of a space opera I’ve ever read.1 It’s got, at least, that most important aspect of a space opera: a sense that huge things are happening… in the background.


The Improbable Rise of Singularity Girl

I finished reading The Improbable Rise of Singularity Girl last night. I also just got the book yesterday morning, so that really tells you what I thought of it. I can definitely see why it passed the Immerse or Die test.1 Which is, incidentally, how I wound up hearing about the book, as a tangential reference from an author I follow who has a book in the Immerse or Die StoryBundle. I’ve been meaning to get that book2 and read it at some point, and the descriptions of some of the other books fascinated me.3 So I dropped enough money on it to get the full bundle, Bonus Books included.4 And now, having burned through the first of those books in a single day, I figured, clearly I enjoyed reading it enough to ignore a bunch of my responsibilities5 and curl up in a chair and read for hours on end, so I should probably do it the honor of a review.


My Favorite Books

I’m dropping this bit of introduction in at the start to explain a bit: I wrote this post about a week ago, and I’m posting it now because a) I was too ill to do anything yesterday, and b) Terry Pratchett, mentioned below, passed away on Thursday. He was an amazing writer, and a huge inspiration to me and millions of others. I was consciously aware of the fact that he was dying – his decline due to Alzheimer’s Disease is a matter of public record – and I’d even read his last book, Raising Steam, which was almost painful to read. It was an amazing book, capturing that sense of building something that made me love The Truth so much, and it managed to include just about every character he’d ever written – a tall order in a series that covered more than 50 books and pieces of spin-off media. And it hurt so much because it was so clearly a goodbye. He knew he wasn’t long for this world, and he was able to say goodbye in such a beautiful way. So I’m dedicating this post to Sir Terry Pratchett: you were a phenomenal man, and you will never be forgotten.

Continuing my trend of ‘favorite [category of media]’ posts, I’m gonna talk about some of my favorite books today! (I did that post about what I’m reading a little while ago, but this is more about the stuff that I’ll go back to time and time again.)

Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

Easily my favorite book, this is (quoting the cover) a tour de force of a book, written as a response to her own “Tough Guide to Fantasyland,” which mocked the stereotypical fantasy novel. Dark Lord is set in one of those stereotypical fantasy novel, but from the other perspective: the ‘hero’ of the novel is actually a tourist, paying an exorbitant amount of money to an exploitative tour agency in order to go on an adventure in another world with magic and monsters. The book ignores those ‘heroes’ and instead follows the ‘dark lord,’ someone who was forced to take up the role to make the tourists experience a proper ‘adventure.’ In true DWJ style, the book starts off slow, but by the time you hit the midpoint of the novel, you realize that you’re physically incapable of putting the book down.

High Wizardry by Diane Duane

I had to think about which of Diane Duane’s books I wanted to mention – Omnitopia: Dawn was a strong contender, but I can still remember where I was when I got So You Want To Be A Wizard, the first book in her Young Wizards series (which includes High Wizardry). The series is one of my favorite of all time, and while I’m not entirely sure if the chronology matches up, I often attribute my wanting to be a programmer with the influence that the Young Wizards series had on my life. The idea that magic wasn’t some sort of inherent trait, but just the ability to convince the world to do what you wanted, combined with the concept that it was just a matter of saying a few words… Well, it got even better when, in High Wizardry, the concept of a computer as an instrument of magic was explored in a beautiful way that, aside from the very specific elements of the computer in question, still feels like science fiction.1

The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce

I tried, I really tried, but I couldn’t pick just one. Honestly, her other major set of works, the Tortall series, is also amazing, and should probably show up as another contender on here, but I had to put the Circle first because it’s what I read first. It’s a beautiful exploration of a unique system of magic with characters that I fall in love with all over again every time I read the books.2 Seriously, go read them, I cannot recommend them enough. And I’m still hoping for a movie series, it would be perfect.

The Truth by Terry Pratchett

Another one where it was hard to pick from a massive series, The Truth follows the invention and growth of the newspaper and newspaper industry in Ankh-Morpork, the ‘big wahooni’ of the Discworld. I’ve read just about3 every book Sir Pratchett4 wrote,5 and I’ve loved very nearly all of them. But it’s this one that stood out the most to me – the sense of something being built, plus the characteristic silliness6 and just a hint of hair-raising horror make it my favorite out of his works.

Honorable Mention

I’ve also got to throw a plug for David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster in here, just because that was the other book that was a big influence on my footnote usage. Another one I read in high school english, Cloud Atlas, goes in here, because of how I reacted when I read the last couple pages of Letters from Zedelgheim. No spoilers, but I’ll just say that I was blissfully oblivious to all of the subtext going on, and when I figured it out on the second-to-last page I dropped the book and sat in silence for a while, and was rather inconsolable for the next couple days. I’ll also drop a plug for Robert Sawyer’s WWW trilogy, which has had a lot of influence on my ideas about artificial intelligence, and another for Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, which is why I’m so hopeful about the future of 3D printing. A mention for Iain Banks’ Culture series, a beautiful, sprawling set of space operas which I adore. Finally, a shoutout to Patricia C. Wrede, who wrote both the Enchanted Forest series and the Frontier Magic series, both of which I would be happy to read another thousand times.

I read a lot, folks. Hit up those comments – have you read any of these books? And what are your favorites? I’m always looking for more to read!

  1. That is to say, it doesn’t feel out of date, at all. A ‘new millenium edition’ was recently released, which made it work out even better, but it honestly had aged beautifully before that. 
  2. I’m being deliberately vague about which series I’m talking about because, honestly, it’s true of both. 
  3. but not quite 
  4. He was knighted for his writing. Yes, he was that good. 
  5. I’m adding this footnote in as part of my editing sweep – I’ll admit to having had to blink back tears as I changed this to the past tense. 
  6. And footnotes, which clearly influenced me a lot.