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.