Heads up: Blackbirds, the excellent first novel in Chuck Wendig’s brilliant Miriam Black series, is currently on sale for $1.99 on Kindle. The series is in the process of being re-released by Saga Press with all new shiny covers (although I admit I’m partial to the old Joey Hi-Fi covers), and I understand there’s some sort of TV series in the works too.
These are great, dark, astonishingly tense contemporary fantasy novels, and you should read them. Here’s my review of Blackbirds, and you can find reviews of the other novels in the series here.
On sale for $1.99 – what are you waiting for?
(Usual disclaimer: check the price before you buy because this is sure to be a limited time deal. Also, it’s quite possible this doesn’t extend beyond Amazon US.)
The Philosopher Kings is the direct sequel to Jo Walton’s excellent novel The Just City. If you haven’t read that first book yet, stop reading this now and instead check out my review.
The new novel is set about twenty years after the end of The Just City. The Masters are growing old, the Children have grown up, and the Children’s children (somewhat clumsily referred to as “Young Ones” to avoid confusion) are the first generation of true philosopher kings, born into the Just City without preconceptions, as envisioned in Plato’s Republic.
In some ways, The Philosopher Kings is very similar to The Just City: a gently flowing story that combines philosophy with science fiction and fantasy, switching back and forth between several points of view. Returning from the first novel are the god Apollo, still disguised in human form, and Maia. The new p.o.v. character is Arete (“Excellence”, appropriately), the daughter of Apollo and Simmea, a teenager growing up in the Just City.
Protector is a 3 star book in a 5 star series. I love these books and will continue to read them as long as Cherryh writes them, but this middle book in the fifth (!) trilogy set on the atevi world was purely comfort reading for me: it’s a joy to visit this incredibly detailed world and read about these characters. As someone else said somewhere, I’d be happy just reading about these folks having tea and chatting. The Cajeiri chapters are wonderful, and the bits about Cajeiri’s young human visitors are truly excellent. (Irene is being set up to be something truly special, I think.) Unfortunately, Bren’s sections in this one just drag, with a large amount of lecture-dialogue politics early on and a finale that felt painfully forced.
I’m sure that the next book will get back to this series’ usual excellence, and that the people who have read this far in the series will not stop reading — I most definitely won’t, and already look forward to book 15. Still, being honest: if the first book had been like Protector, I probably wouldn’t have made it this far.
(There’s a lot more to be said about this one, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers and, really, it’s nearly impossible to write about book 14 in a series without spoiling things.)
Note: if you haven’t read any books in this series yet, here’s my review of the first book, Foreigner, and a wonderful guest post by Ann Leckie written in reaction to part of my review.
In Robert Charles Wilson’s new novel The Affinities, as in many of his other novels, the world as we know it is about to be remade. The difference with many of Wilson’s previous works is that, this time, the change seems relatively mild—or at least, at first it does. There are no aliens. There are no disappearing continents or mysterious artifacts from the future or impermeable spheres surrounding the entire planet.
Instead, the big change arrives gradually, brought on by very human advances in social teleodynamics. New technologies, algorithms and testing methods allow a company known as InterAlia (“Finding Yourself Among Others”) to sort people who pay a modest testing fee into twenty-two Affinities. The members of each affinity are supposed to be hyper-compatible: they are more likely to cooperate with each other in all areas of life, from the personal to the professional.
Adam Fisk is one of the people who takes the InterAlia test and finds himself admitted to the Tau Affinity. Before attending his first Tau meeting, Adam is a bit lost in life: he is studying graphic design in Toronto, funded by his grandmother because he’s estranged from almost everyone else in his more conservative, business-oriented family in upstate New York. When Grammy Fisk passes away, the latent conflicts in his family explode—but luckily, the members of his new Tau group are there to fill the gap. So begins Adam’s new life in Tau, during a turbulent period in which the entire world will be changed by the new social structures known as the Affinities…
When I read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North last month, I was completely blown away by what I now consider one of the finest genre novels of the last few years, but because of scheduling issues I had to write my review for the author’s newest novel Touch before getting to Harry August. (You can find this review here.) Unfortunately, by the time I’d written that review, the two novels had sort of merged in my head, to the point where I’d now have to reread Harry August to be able to write a decent review.
There are after all some obvious similarities between Harry August and Touch, most notably the fact that they both deal with immortality, albeit in very different ways. There’s a circular form of immortality in the former: upon “dying”, Harry is immediately born again, under the same circumstances, to the same mother, on the same date. By contrast, in Touch the protagonist’s immortality is linear rather than circular: he can transfer his consciousness to another body by a simple touch.
Both of these novels are brilliant, but The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is without a doubt the better of the two, and one of the best genre novels I’ve read in years. It was also the first novel I listed on my Hugo Ballot this year.
Because of all of this, I feel a bit inadequate about still not having written a proper review, and so I am going to cop out by just linking to Paul Kincaid’s excellent review on Strange Horizons. It says many of the things I’d like to say, but in a much more coherent and thoughtful fashion than I could ever dream of.
So. Go read his review, then go buy The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and read it. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough.
Persona by Genevieve Valentine is an excellent novel. This probably will come as no surprise to those of you who have read the author’s two previous, critically acclaimed novels, Mechanique and The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, but as a newcomer to Valentine’s works I was quite blown away. (I should probably add that, based on feedback from friends and on those two books’ blurbs, Persona appears to be very different from her earlier work.)
Persona starts off in near future Paris, where Suyana Sapaki is about to cast a vote in the International Assembly (IA). Suyana is the “Face” representing her country in the IA, which means she has virtually zero decision-making power: she is a figurehead, a glorified spokesperson who says what she is told to say and votes the way she is told to vote.