August 2022

ARC

Eversion – by Alastair Reynolds (8/02)

Standalone

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From the master of the space opera, Alastair Reynolds, comes a dark, mind-bending SF adventure spread across time and space, Doctor Silas Coade has been tasked with keeping his crew safe as they adventure across the galaxy in search of a mysterious artifact, but as things keep going wrong, Silas soon realizes that something more sinister is at work, and this may not even be the first time it’s happened.

In the 1800s, a sailing ship crashes off the coast of Norway. In the 1900s, a Zepellin explores an icy canyon in Antarctica. In the far future, a spaceship sets out for an alien artifact. Each excursion goes horribly wrong. And on every journey, Dr. Silas Coade is the physician, but only Silas seems to realize that these events keep repeating themselves. And it’s up to him to figure out why and how. And how to stop it all from happening again.

The Warrior – by Stephen Aryan (8/09)

Quest for Heroes #2

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The story of Kell Kressia continues in Book II of the gripping fantasy duology. Kell, two time saviour of the Five Kingdoms, is now the King of Algany. He has fame, power, respect, and has never been more miserable…

Bound, by duty and responsibility, Kell is King only in name. Trapped in a loveless marriage, he leaves affairs of state to his wife, Sigrid. When his old friend, Willow, turns up asking him to go on a journey to her homeland he can’t wait to leave.

The Malice, a malevolent poison that alters everything it infects, runs rampant across Willow’s homeland. Desperate to find a cure her cousin, Ravvi, is willing to try a dark ritual which could damn her people forever. Journeying to a distant land, Kell and his companions must stop Ravvi before it’s too late. While Kell is away Reverend Mother Britak’s plans come to a head. Queen Sigrid must find a way to protect her family and her nation, but against such a ruthless opponent, something has to give…

The Oleander Sword – by Tasha Suri (8/16)

Burning Kingdoms #2

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The prophecy of the nameless god—the words that declared Malini the rightful empress of Parijatdvipa—has proven a blessing and curse. She is determined to claim the throne that fate offered her. But even with the strength of the rage in her heart and the army of loyal men by her side, deposing her brother is going to be a brutal and bloody fight.

The power of the deathless waters flows through Priya’s blood. Thrice born priestess, Elder of Ahiranya, Priya’s dream is to see her country rid of the rot that plagues it: both Parijatdvipa’s poisonous rule, and the blooming sickness that is slowly spreading through all living things. But she doesn’t yet understand the truth of the magic she carries.

Their chosen paths once pulled them apart. But Malini and Priya’s souls remain as entwined as their destinies. And they soon realize that coming together is the only way to save their kingdom from those who would rather see it burn—even if it will cost them.

Babel: An Arcane History – by R.F. Kuang (8/23)

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1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel.

Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?

Other Releases

The Surf – by Kwaku Osei-Afrifa (8/17)

Solar Satellites / Novella

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Elerie Astrada is hanging in almost-space, awaiting launch.

Ultsurf is a popular, high-stakes relay race contested at the edge of a planet’s atmosphere. It’s fast, hard and dangerous: it isn’t a bloodsport, but blood is often spilled. It is also highly illegal. And Ele is at the top of her game, just a few wins away from the major leagues.

But making the fastest Split isn’t Ele’s biggest challenge. When her childhood friend India blackmails her with knowledge of her Ultsurfing career, Ele’s thrown into the politics of money and power, and way over her head. As a pawn in India’s scheme, Ele digs up everything she can on her Ultsurf rivals, the Royals—through drugs, espionage and violence—to ensure her team’s victory.

It’s brought her to this moment. Everything is in place, every deal done. Then the starter whistle blows…

All of Our Demise – by Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman (8/30)

All of Us Villains #2

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For the first time in this ancient, bloodstained story, the tournament is breaking. The boundaries between the city of Ilvernath and the arena have fallen. Reporters swarm the historic battlegrounds. A dead boy now lives again. And a new champion has entered the fray, one who seeks to break the curse for good… no matter how many lives are sacrificed in the process.

As the curse teeters closer and closer to collapse, the surviving champions each face a choice: dismantle the tournament piece by piece, or fight to the death as this story was always intended.

Long-held alliances will be severed. Hearts will break. Lives will end. Because a tale as wicked as this one was never destined for happily ever after.

Purchases

The Winter Road – by Adrian Selby (2018)

Standalone

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The greatest empire of them all began with a road.

The Circle – a thousand miles of perilous forests and warring clans. No one has ever tamed such treacherous territory before, but ex-soldier Teyr Amondsen, veteran of a hundred battles, is determined to try.

With a merchant caravan protected by a crew of skilled mercenaries, Amondsen embarks on a dangerous mission to forge a road across the untamed wilderness that was once her home. But a warlord rises in the wilds of the Circle, uniting its clans and terrorising its people. Teyr’s battles may not be over yet…

Brother Red – by Adrian Selby (2021)

Standalone

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When the trade caravan Driwna Marghoster was hired to protect is attacked, she discovers a dead body hidden inside a barrel. Born of the powerful but elusive Oskoro people, the body is a rare and priceless find, the centre of a tragic tale and the key to a larger mystery…

For when Driwna investigates who the body was meant for, she will find a trail of deceit and corruption which could bring down a kingdom, and an evil more powerful than she can imagine.

Black Heart: Words on Wind, Adrift on Dreams of Splendor (Book 1) – by Mark Smylie (2022)

Artesia #2 / Black Heart #1 (of 3)

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The last survivors of the raid on the Barrow of Azharad have scattered to the four winds, each walking a separate path. For some, it is the path of noble service, as the households of great kings and warlords beckon, offering a chance to enter the fray of politics with the fate of nations on the line. For others, it is the path of secrets and magic, as the veil of the world parts to reveal the hidden truths that dwell in shadow and spirit.

And for Stjepan Black-Heart, royal cartographer and suspected murderer, it is the path of battle and sacrifice, as he is summoned to attend the household of the Grand Duke Owen Lis Red, the Earl Marshal to the High King of the Middle Kingdoms, on his latest campaign to find and kill Porloss, the Rebel Earl: an elusive quarry lurking behind an army of ruthless renegade knights in the wild hills of the Manon Mole, a land where every step could be your last, and where lie secrets best left undisturbed.

Leviathan Wakes – by James S.A. Corey (Special 10th Anniversary Edition)

The Expanse #1

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This 10th anniversary edition hardcover includes: 

A striking new cover
Stained edges and illustrated endpapers
A black and magenta foil case
A reversible cover that features the full, uncropped artwork of the original cover art
A new introduction from the authors
From New York Times-bestselling and Hugo award-winning author James S. A. Corey comes the first book in the genre-defining space opera series, The Expanse, introducing a captain, his crew, and a detective as they unravel a horrifying solar system wide conspiracy that begins with a single missing girl.

Humanity has colonized the solar system—Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond—but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for—and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations—and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

I’ve had my eye on this one since it released! While I’m not much of a Special Edition kinda guy, this one is just lovely. And shiny. Veeerry shiny. Plus it’s the beginning of one of my favorite ever science fiction series. I mean, yeah, I may have got it on sale, but I still bought it when I already own an ebook copy, so…

Currently Reading

Don’t have much to say about this yet, as I’m only about a quarter through it. So far, so good! Can’t wait/bummed for the series to be done—you know how it is.

Gaming

Big month for indie games. I completed three: Kim, a retelling of Kipling’s historic novel; Hyper Light Drifter, a hack n’ slash done in a lovely pixelly style; Death’s Door, a souls-born-esque game where you play a reaper ushering souls into the afterlife. Kim was a bit meh, but the other two I’d recommend. Each were rather short to complete the story, but Death’s Door took me 20 hours to 100%. I’ll include some links and previews, and some of my favorite shots from Hyper Light Drifter.

Life

A couple of new things. Quit my second job (because I hated it), and I’m a little lacking for hours from just the one, but I’m fine for funds right now so I figured I’d take it easy a bit and enjoy the last month of summer before I start looking in full. Got a camping/backpacking trip coming up next week (haven’t decided which to do), which will hopefully be fun. Was supposed to go this last week, but it’s been 100˚F each of the last 6 days, with under 20% humidity. Feels a bit oveny, but that’s to be expected for Montana summer. In fact, it’s probably the nicest summer in years. It’s the start of August now, and there’re no huge fires in the state yet. Our smoke levels are also not bad. Moisture and precipitation levels are around average. Mosquitos are really the only thing to complain about. Well, I guess that and prices. If it wasn’t for the need to eat, I wouldn’t even have to get a 2nd job. But well, kinda hard to stop eating.

I should have the reviews to at least some of the ARCs above out this month. Also, Ymir from July. Might even have a blurb about Kim out too.

Hope everything’s going well for everyone else! What are y’all excited for? Got any interesting plans for the rest of the summer? And what books are you looking forward to—any that we share?

Inhibitor Phase – by Alastair Reynolds (Review)

Revelation Space Universe
Inhibitor Sequence #4

Scifi, Space Opera

Orbit; October 12, 2021 (US)
Gollancz; August 26, 2021 (UK)

454 pages (paperback)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

4 / 5 ✪

I was kindly furnished an advance copy in return for a fair and honest review. Many thanks to Gollancz and many, many thanks to Orbit Books for providing me with a lovely, physical ARC! This in no way affects my partiality, or my cynicism. All opinions are my own.

Please Beware Minor Spoilers for the Revelation Space Universe.

224 years after the reappearance of the Inhibitors, humanity has become an endangered species, hiding in the galaxy’s darkest corners. Miguel de Ruyter lives on the airless world of Michaelmas—a godforsaken, pockmarked world at the edge of known space. Here, hidden in caves deep below the surface, humanity ekes out an existence. Three thousand people call Sun Hollow home, making it the largest known human settlement in space. Though for de Ruyter, it’s the only known human settlement.

But things are about to change.

When de Ruyter heads topside to destroy a colony ship—worried that the Wolves (the Inhibitors) will detect the presence of so many humans, the people of Sun Holloware prepared to destroy the newcomers before the they bring the Wolves down on Michaelmas—he comes away from the ship with a startling discovery. A lone sleeper casket, fortunate to survive the explosion. More fortunate still, the occupant, a woman known only as Glass, seems in good health if rattled by the experience. But when de Ruyter returns her to Sun Hollow all that changes.

It appears that Glass was not the desperate refugee that de Ruyter had taken her for. Within days of landing on Michaelmas, she has the colony on its knees, defenseless before her. They can refuse her nothing, but Glass only wants one thing from Sun Hollow: Miguel de Ruyter.

One man in exchange for the colony. And if de Ruyter agrees to go quietly, they’ll undertake the mystery that Glass came to Michaelmas to solve. The enigma of the Knights of Cydonia, a way to defeat the Inhibitors, a lost world known only as Charybdis, and the long-dead Nevil Clavain.

“Why’d you shoot it?”
I glared at him. “Would you rather I
hadn’t shot it?”
“I’d rather those other ones weren’t suddenly taking an interest in us.”

On the whole, Inhibitor Phase was an excellent read, just what I was hoping for for my return to the Revelation Space universe. I’ve only read the opening novel, Revelation Space, which only just hints at the wolves’ existence—but I still found this a satisfying continuation of the universe. Additionally, I think that new readers won’t have to hard of time of things. Inhibitor Phase doesn’t throw you in the deep end; instead building the universe from the ground up from the safety of an isolated haven before introducing the universe and history at large. If you’re a fan of the series you’ll probably know all these things already, but shouldn’t be too put off by the amount of hand-holding it does in the opening Part One.

Inhibitor Phase is written in first-person POV, and told over seven distinct Parts, which take place over a total of about 60 years. There’s a helpful glossary and timeline at the end, as well as a list of key characters and note on chronology. I used these all the time to square what I remembered with what I was being told—and it’s an incredibly helpful detail to have along. The events within are set after most of what happens in Absolution Gap (which I’ve heard is depressing), and while the tone isn’t completely positive, it’s certainly more so than not at all.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Inhibitor Phase! The story flows along really nicely after it departs Sun Hollow, and I had absolutely no problem getting along with the story. It reads quick and to the point, with a bit of flair, a bit of drama, and a bit of pace. In all honesty, I think it could get away with being 50% longer. I actually kinda felt that it glossed over some things in the interest of time; things that could’ve really become an adventure all in their own right instead of a footnote in another. But I know why it was done this way, and it’s really quite a good read the way it was written. But the best stories always leave you wanting more, and that’s what Reynolds does here. The plot flows quite nicely, with barely an issue—until the events of Part 6 (which will remain nameless in anticipation of spoilers). Then it takes some interesting license. And the story loses some of its cohesion. And don’t get me started on the ending. So… I know what they were trying to do. It all makes sense, in general, generally, on the whole. But explicitly… I have no idea what was going on. Everything just starts leaping all over the place.

While Inhibitor Phase is somewhat of a serious book—I mean, it has to do with the possible extinction or survival of humanity—it’s not without its fair share of humor. Which I found… good, I guess? Funny. Entertaining. Reynolds doesn’t do humor like Andy Weir. Or like Peter F. Hamilton. Or like Becky Chambers. Like so many other authors out there, he has his own peculiar brand of humor which you’ll either like or hate, either have to get used to or won’t.

“It isn’t as bad as it sounds.”
“You’re not stupid, and I’m reasonably sure you’re not suicidal. Explain how this helps us.”
“Good—at least you’re being open-minded. The fact is, we’re only considering a brief dip into the photosphere of the star: barely different to skimming the atmosphere of a planet.”
“Except it’s a star.”
“Don’t get too hung up on that. The photosphere is merely a transitional zone where the mean free paths for photon collisions undergo a large change. From
Scythe’s point of view, it will be no different to moving from plasma environment to a somewhat denser, more excited environment containing the same plasma.”
“Except it’s a
star,” I repeated.

TL;DR

Inhibitor Phase continues the Revelation Space Universe and Inhibitor Sequence Arcs in a very different way than the previous de facto concluding Absolution Gap (which, to be fair, I haven’t read but I’ve heard many things about—mostly that it’s depressing). Inhibitor Phase is a serious book, but there’s humor in it too. In fact, if the survival of humanity wasn’t at stake, I’d class it as a story about adventure, or a mystery to to solved. And solve it it does—to a quite satisfying degree over the course of its 7 separate Parts, 34 chapters and 450-odd pages. While a little artistic and scientific license is taken at the end, on the whole this is an immensely entertaining, satisfying read that I have no issue recommending to both old-timers and those new to Revelation Space. And I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here!

Welcome to Revelation Space – The Beautiful World of Books

One of the hallmarks of modern space opera, Revelation Space has been around for nearly twenty years, having first been published in 2002. While I’ve read remarkably few of this series, even I can’t deny the effect that it’s had on recent science fiction and space opera. While Alastair Reynolds pens each book as its own complete adventure, the overarching plot is set on a scale much grander, so that it doesn’t take much digging in to the series to realize that there’s more going on than what meets the eye.

Seven full-length novels have been published to date, of these there have been one standalone (Chasm City), two in the Dreyfus Emergencies, and then four in the Inhibitor Sequence—the most recent being Inhibitor Phase, released just this year. There’ve also been a number of novellas and shorts set in the same universe, many of which have been collected within the two omnibus editions found below. Since Inhibitor Phase is one of the books I have on tap for Sci-Fi Month, I figured this would be the perfect time to feature some cover art, while at the same time introducing the universe in a bit more detail.

The Inhibitor Sequence

Revelation Space

Redemption Ark

Absolution Gap

Say what you will about the Orbit reissues (on the right), but I’m intimately familiar with the Ace covers and vastly prefer them. For the first two, at least. I hadn’t started (or acquired) Absolution Gap yet and somewhat like the blue gas giant when compared to the scarred ice world. It doesn’t help that the craft on the Ace cover of Book #3 is so indistinct.

Inhibitor Phase

I’m currently reading this one and vastly prefer the sleek Orbit cover complete with dark ice and/or water with a planetary corona in the background. Nothing wrong with the Gollancz cover—it might actually be the only one I’ve seen with a Yellowstone that’s actually yellow.

Oh wait—that’s a star. Well, it features the Scythe prominently, at least.

Dreyfus Emergencies

Aurora Rising

Here we have three covers of the same book, each with a very different style! Additionally, the 2007 original issue of Aurora Rising actually bore the title The Prefect, before it was changed for additional release. I have no idea why it was changed, or when for that matter. I haven’t read this series, and can only guess what each publisher was thinking with each (very different) cover.

Prefect Fire

Here we have the Orbit vs. Gollancz covers of Elysium Fire. Only the two this time. Now, say what you will about the Orbit cover (at left), but personally I like this minimalist style and would probably choose it over the Gollancz edition. That said… at least the Gollancz cover features Tom Dreyfus, who bears the series’ name. When confronted with that tidbit, the Orbit cover just can’t measure up.

Standalones

Chasm City

Chasm City is a enclosed-environment city on the planet Yellowstone. And while these covers are two different takes on Yellowstone, neither shows the city itself. Which is disappointing, honestly. I mean, I’m quite partial to the reissue cover from Orbit (on the right)—with the planet and nebulae behind it—as opposed to the original Ace cover (to the left), but I would’ve liked to see something of the city itself rather than some generic (if lovely) planetary shots.

Novellas & Collections

Galactic North

Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days

Here we have the Ace covers for the novella collections, with Galactic North (the omnibus) and Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days (just those two novellas). Since it’s the same style throughout, I won’t over-analyze them. Although, I swear that’s the Pirate Starbridge from the Escape Velocity series (in both Glactic North covers)—anyone know? EV Nova is one of my all-time favorite games. Anyone else played those?

Anyway… books, covers. Ahem. So… has anyone read these? I know several of you have—Todd and Maddalena to start with. What did you think, is the series worth continuing with? I was so-so on Revelation Space but have been enjoying Inhibitor Phase more (at least so far).