May 2021

ARCs

The Sword Falls – by A.J. Smith (5/01)

Goodreads

A man of the Dawn Claw will be the Always King. It will ever be so. They will always rule… but they will not always lead.

Prince Oliver Dawn Claw, heir to the Kingdom of the Four Claws, is thrust into a world he doesn’t understand as he waits for his father to die. Away from home, with few allies, and too many enemies, he faces a new and otherworldly threat to the Eastron from beneath the sea. Alliances break and masks fall, as the Dark Brethren reveal their true master.

Meanwhile, Adeline Brand, called the Alpha Wolf, refuses to wait, and becomes the edge of the sword that swings back at the Dreaming God. Assembling allies and crushing resistance, she enters a fight she doesn’t know if she can win, as the sea begins to rise.

Shadow of the Gods – by John Gwynne (5/04)

Goodreads

After the gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrið.

Now a new world is rising, where power-hungry jarls feud and monsters stalk the woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power for those braveor desperateenough to seek them out.

Now, as whispers of war echo across the mountains and fjords, fate follows in the footsteps of three people: a huntress on a dangerous quest, a noblewoman who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who seeks vengeance among the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world as it once more falls under the shadow of the gods . . .

Within Without – by Jeff Noon (5/11)

Goodreads

In the year 1960, rock and roll star Vince Craven hires private eye John Nyquist in his strangest case yet: to track down Vince’s image, long lost in a city of million borders.

The Apocalypse Seven – by Gene Doucette (5/25)

Goodreads

This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but a whatever.

The whateverpocalypse. That’s what Touré, a twenty-something Cambridge coder, calls it after waking up one morning to find himself seemingly the only person left in the city. Once he finds Robbie and Carol, two equally disoriented Harvard freshmen, he realizes he isn’t alone, but the name sticks: Whateverpocalypse. But it doesn’t explain where everyone went. It doesn’t explain how the city became overgrown with vegetation in the space of a night. Or how wild animals with no fear of humans came to roam the streets.

Add freakish weather to the mix, swings of temperature that spawn tornadoes one minute and snowstorms the next, and it seems things can’t get much weirder. Yet even as a handful of new survivors appear—Paul, a preacher as quick with a gun as a Bible verse; Win, a young professional with a horse; Bethany, a thirteen-year-old juvenile delinquent; and Ananda, an MIT astrophysics adjunct—life in Cambridge, Massachusetts gets stranger and stranger.

The self-styled Apocalypse Seven are tired of questions with no answers. Tired of being hunted by things seen and unseen. Now, armed with curiosity, desperation, a shotgun, and a bow, they become the hunters. And that’s when things truly get weird.

The Lights of Prague – by Nicole Jarvis (5/25)

Goodreads

I got granted this one just a couple days ago, requesting it after reading Rebecca’s review on Powder & Page.

In the quiet streets of Prague all manner of otherworldly creatures lurk in the shadows. Unbeknownst to its citizens, their only hope against the tide of predators are the dauntless lamplighters – a secret elite of monster hunters whose light staves off the darkness each night. Domek Myska leads a life teeming with fraught encounters with the worst kind of evil: pijavice, bloodthirsty and soulless vampiric creatures. Despite this, Domek find solace in his moments spent in the company of his friend, the clever and beautiful Lady Ora Fischerová– a widow with secrets of her own.

When Domek finds himself stalked by the spirit of the White Lady – a ghost who haunts the baroque halls of Prague castle – he stumbles across the sentient essence of a will-o’-the-wisp, a mischievous spirit known to lead lost travelers to their death, but who, once captured, are bound to serve the desires of their owners.

After discovering a conspiracy amongst the pijavice that could see them unleash terror on the daylight world, Domek finds himself in a race against those who aim to twist alchemical science for their own dangerous gain.

Other Releases

Project Hail Mary – by Andy Weir (5/04)

Goodreads

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission – and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crew mates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realises that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Son of the Storm – by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (5/11)

Goodreads

In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness—only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy.

But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire.

Hard Reboot – by Django Wexler (5/25)

Goodreads

Kas is a junior researcher on a fact-finding mission to old Earth. But when a con-artist tricks her into wagering a large sum of money belonging to her university on the outcome of a manned robot arena battle she becomes drawn into the seedy underworld of old Earth politics and state-sponsored battle-droid prizefights.

Is it time to get back to the books, yet?

The Blacktongue Thief – by Christoper Buehlman (5/27)

Goodreads

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.

Purchases

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn – by Tyler Whitesides

Goodreads

Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.

When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.

But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory—Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.

The Body Library – by Jeff Noon

Goodreads

In a city dissolving into an infected sprawl of ideas, where words come to life and reality is contaminated by stories, John Nyquist wakes up in a room with a dead body… The dead man’s impossible whispers plunge him into a murder investigation like no other. Clues point him deeper into an unfolding story infesting its participants as reality blurs between place and genre.

Only one man can hope to put it all back together into some kind of order, enough that lives can be saved… That man is Nyquist, and he is lost.

The Traitor God – by Cameron Johnson

Goodreads

After ten years on the run, dodging daemons and debt, reviled magician Edrin Walker returns home to avenge the brutal murder of his friend. Lynas had uncovered a terrible secret, something that threatened to devour the entire city. He tried to warn the Arcanum, the sorcerers who rule the city. He failed. Lynas was skinned alive and Walker felt every cut. Now nothing will stop him from finding the murderer. Magi, mortals, daemons, and even the gods—Walker will burn them all if he has to. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s killed a god…

Music

I gave it a once-over but couldn’t find anything I was interested in releasing this month. Now, there’ll probably be some album releasing that I missed, and there will doubtless be singles dropping, but for the moment I’ll just share a couple of my favorite singles from April.

Both are from Europe, I think. Smash into Pieces is Swedish. I’m not sure where Cosmodrome is from, but they speak English in what sounds like a Slavic tongue so… Russian? Lithuanian? They actually have a single out on May 1st, so I’ll probably feature it sometime next week assuming it’s any good.

A brand new Starset single came out while I was editing this piece. It’s a good song (not their best, but), a bit of a callback to Vessels. Not Transmissions level good, but not bad by any rate.

Currently Reading

A Necessary Evil – by Abir Mukherjee

Goodreads

The second Sam Wyndham mystery returns to 1920’s India, a land full of different religions, ethnicities and beliefs all thrown together and tucked under British Rule. Fresh off ruining his chances with Annie, Sam of course can’t get her out of his head. Meanwhile, the murder of a Maharajah’s heir pulls Sam and Banerjee out of Kolkata and north into the jungles of the Indian subcontinent. Here, in a somewhat autonomous kingdom, conspiracy and tension abound, and Wyndham and Banerjee must unravel the mystery before they become mere footnotes in yet another murder.

So far I’m quite enjoying my return to Colonial India. Hopefully the series’ll continue to deliver!

Voidbreaker – by David Dalglish

Goodreads

The conclusion to the Keepers trilogy finds all the threads come together at the most uncertain time. Though Adria and Devin have always lived for each other, Adria’s changing nature and Devin’s standing in the Order is straining their bond. And will her latest actions bring the two closer or tear them apart? And as the lines continue to blur, just whose side is each on?

Gaming

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a narrative-adventure game developed by Dim Bulb Games and Serenity Forge. Set in mid-20th century America, it finds a rough luck drifter stuck with a debt to some supernatural being. As the game’s lead protagonist, you’re tasked with collecting stories of the people that roam the land. Myths and legends come from somewhere, and over the course of the 15-30 hours you spend in the world, you’ll see how these tales originate and how they evolve through the telling. It’s an interesting premise and employs a few intriguing mechanics that I’d like to dig further into at a later time. I’m only about 5 hours in right now and… it’s fun so far. It’s keeping my attention, mostly. The travel mechanic seriously needs an overhaul, and it seems like there’s not enough consequence to one’s actions (or it doesn’t feel like it), but the gameplay is fun and interesting, and collecting all the stories and seeing how they evolve is becoming somewhat addictive.

Life

Got my second vaccine recently, and life came to a standstill while I got over the mini-COVID burst it instilled. Montana is one of the leading states in the nation in vaccine availability—due in large part to the number of anti-vaxers, deniers, anti-government types and COVID hoax people. Most places that have the vaccine here have started offering door prizes, gift cards, or other incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated. Furthermore, there’s be a marked rise in those that got their first dose only to skip their second. I understand their hesitation (I mean, I understand the hesitation to get something that has been largely untested on a large populace and may or may not have long-term side effects that haven’t manifested yet), but COVID and its recent strains are quite frankly terrifying. I’ve lived here long enough that I kinda even get some people’s hesitance to trust the government (to a degree), or accept the official story to anything.

Montana is roughly the size 380,000 sq. kilometers, which makes it slightly bigger than Japan or Germany. But where those other nations have 125 and 83 million people, respectively, we’re sitting at just over a million. Big, wide open spaces. Lots of undeveloped land, pasture, and forest. Small communities, spread out; between 15-20 towns of more than 5,000 people, 7 over 10k, and only 1 at around 100,000. People here spent the first half of 2020 hearing about the deadly pandemic without really seeing any effect of it. Some people here have a… unique mindset. Not everyone, mind. But especially those in rural communities, hundreds of miles from any town pushing 5,000, might go the entire year without getting COVID or meeting someone who had. Most towns here don’t have a police station, a hospital, or a fire station. They really on their own resources with help from their neighbors. The government doesn’t really play into day-today life. And so when the government came out telling people to beware the deadly deadly virus, most people didn’t take notice. Because they didn’t see it.

I live on the outskirts of one of the most liberal cities in my state. Missoula is a college town pushing about 80k. Most folks around here are better at masking, distancing, getting the vaccine, and usually vote blue. The rest of the state… not so much. Ever since these things became political we were doomed. I’m not really political. Half my friends bleed red and the other bleed blue. This last year divided everyone terribly. With the vaccine being deployed a bunch of us thought maybe those tensions could dial down a bit—but… nope, apparently not. Oh well.

Sorry that turned into a bit of a geography lesson but… “the more you know”, right?

23 thoughts on “May 2021

  1. That’s a very interesting lesson in political geography – thanks! 🙂
    Hang in there, Will – glad to hear you got your both doses, hopefully this vaccine will hold up against the new mutations, too! In NZ, we’re looking at July-September for the first dose for people in my group, which will be vaccinated as the last one. Looking forward to your review of A Necessary Evil 😀

    Liked by 1 person

          1. Heh, let’s put it this way: in the event of another lockdown resulting from the slow pace of vaccination in NZ, I hereby make you my complaining representative ! 🤣

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Hail Mary will be great, hopefully! I‘m also looking forward to Master of Djinn.

    Re:Montana – Wow, I had no idea! Thanks for the short lesson! 👍
    People should start bleeding green instead of any other color. I’m glad that we have a party specialized on that (they are literally called ‚The Greens‘), because everyone else only do the minimum they have to do.
    Being a left-liberal in Montana sounds like a PoC in a Nazi-dominated county. Is it that extreme?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! But lately (and also kinda always in America) it’s been one of the two. Not enough people take 3rd parties seriously.

      No, both our college towns are liberal havens, so it’s not a complete sea of red. Outside those, though… no… it’s more like being a known-dissenter in a Nazi-dominated country. People don’t like you, and won’t kill you or anything. They’ll just stick to verbal or possibly physical abuse.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That (mostly) two party system is a legacy from England, right?
        Having multiple parties is very complicated, though. Yes, you have a choice. One that might even been heard (instead of being wasted). But building stable government coalitions is always a struggle. And they always need to water down their ideals in compromises. Well, that’s better than having blocked everything by filibusters (are they only on federal level or also on state level?)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Michigan has blown up again. Our governor just announced a plan that when we reach 70% of the population vaccinated, we can lift the mandate. We’re currently at 49%. People not getting that second dose has been a huge problem. At my pharmacy, we are scheduled to do second doses next week so it will be interesting to see if the majority show up or now. People wanting the vaccine has already slowed down so much we’ve had to throw away a lot of doses recently. I hate it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great to hear you’re fully vaccinated! I have my first shot of Moderna scheduled for May 9. In Poland willing adults can get an appointment (for people under 60 it’s mostly for the first doze, it was restricted to seniors and selected vocation groups until recently), and it becomes clear we’ll have the same problem you describe, very soon – not enough people willing to get vaccinated. I do understand it, a bit, but I do not sympathize, they put everyone at risk and prolong the pandemic.

    “Where the Water Tastes Like Wine” is so nice! I love the music, graphics, atmosphere… haven’t played it a lot, but I plan to get back one day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congrats on not only getting vaccinated but on your positive attitude about getting vaccinated when you’re surrounded by people who won’t. I live in California which is a pretty liberal state, but even I know people who are too scared to do it! Silly people. On another note, you’re May looks like its going to be fun. I’m in the middle of Project Hail Mary and it’s bonkers!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. May is gonna be a full month! I’m reading Project Hail Mary now and hoping to get a review up next week. And good for you getting the vaccine. I’m of the mind if a person wants it, they should get it. Everyone needs to weigh their own risks given their own situation. That said, here’s why I’m not getting it yet – 1) I’m young, healthy, and I work from home, I don’t mingle with strangers or crowds often, and I keep to a rigorous sanitation routine. 2) I am in a low risk group that has a low chance of catching COVID or even getting too sick from it, but while I can afford to wait, there are people who need the vaccine more than me. As long as there are folks still lining up in the pop-up vaccination centers and appointments needed to get shots, I will wait. And 3) I just feel more comfortable to wait. I used to be in health research. There’s a reason why vaccines take years, sometimes decades to develop and pass safety tests. Medications, drugs, treatments that were believed safe, but are then later found to produce terrible side effects years later, are pulled from the market more often than anyone would like to think.

    So I think it’s great that you are considering all these reasons your friends, neighbors might not want to be vaccinated by putting yourself in their shoes. If they’re anything like me, most of them are likely not anti-vaxxers, or even all that political. They just don’t want to be injected with a vaccine that was pushed out the door without a full battery of testing, one that doesn’t have FDA approval but only granted emergency use authorization, and given my work experience in the field, I don’t blame them. I have a neighbor who’s a retired doctor who feels the same way, and he’s one smart dude who also doesn’t feel comfortable getting the vaccine because he’s big on long-term evidence-based drug testing. Like I said, people just need to weigh their own risks and needs. Don’t believe nutjobs that are demonizing this vaccine by spreading outlandish lies about it, but by the same token, don’t be so quick to believe anybody who also pushes the “this vaccine is absolutely safe” narrative because right now literally no one can make that claim especially regarding the long term. Question all claims, do your own research, and never simply rely on the media, or worse, their “factcheckers.”

    Anyway, sorry for the essay, but your post really hit home since I live in an area with a strange demographic mix as well (deep blue state, but red county) and I have friends all over the political spectrum as well, and in more cases than not, their choice to get vaccinated has nothing to do with how they vote. If more people can just be like you, step back and try to see why people might think or feel the way they do because of their life situation, and respect everyone’s health choices and what they want to do with their bodies, there might be more healing and less division.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow um. That was a lot! But all really thought out. I hear you, I probably would’ve waited myself, but they’re literally having trouble giving it away here. Plus I had covid twice and it sucked both times.

      I have no problem with people waiting to get it so long as they continue to distance and mask up. But a lot of people here have just stopped both. And I know some of them haven’t been vacced. Ever since masking became political, it’s fallen off around here.

      Like

      1. Well, I’m of the belief that all people, vaccinated and unvaccinated, should still continue to mask up and social distance anyway, since even those who have gotten the vaccine can still carry and pass on the virus without knowing. I suspect this was one of the reasons why bigger spikes initially occurred in states that have higher rates of vaccination – it shouldn’t make sense, but it does when you consider people don’t understand that just because you get the jab you aren’t “immune” – and that along with the complacency caused cases to jump.

        We aren’t quite at the point where we have to give incentives with vaccines around here yet, and I hope we don’t, because I actually think that pushes people away even more. From my personal experience, we already have elderly and minority/PoC communities that are mistrustful (at least mine is), and news of incentives in other states have already created this perception that “bribery” is required to make people get the vaccine, which is making the paranoia and mistrust even worse.

        And I have watched I Am Legend, also read the book, but sorry, I don’t remember much of it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The movie, at least, starts from a cancer vaccine. Then side effects.

          I’ve mixed feelings about the whole thing. They could’ve probably marketed it better. But it’d never make everyone happy, so… I think that a lot of people are just sick of things not being “normal” and have decided that the vaccine immunizes them enough so that they can just pretend everything’s fine. And that’s just… no.

          Read a lot? Stay in touch? Keep safe!

          Like

  7. I enjoyed the sampling of music this month, all new to me, especially Smash Into Pieces. I hope to listen to a bit more of their work. Glad to hear A Necessary Evil is working so far. It’s always great finding a new series to enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

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