Reviving FBR + My Favorite Books of 2015

reviewers-choice2015Well, it’s been quiet here at Far Beyond Reality, hasn’t it? For months now, I’ve just been in the mood to re-read older books, or, to be precise, to read books I don’t need to review, books I can just sink into and enjoy without having to take notes and eventually formulate what passes for a considered opinion in a review.

In other words, I’ve been reading for FUN. Many reviewers burn out at some point, dealing with the constant flow of new titles that need to be covered by specific deadlines. First world problems, I know, and I’m truly blessed to receive so many books and even make some money reading and reviewing them… but everyone needs a break sometimes, right? Well, this was my break.

(All of this is also partly due to the fact that my day job at has been considerably busier over the last 6 months or so, but that’s where I’m straying into “making excuses.” I just needed a break from reviewing is all.)

Anyway, all this to say that my break is just about coming to an end. I’m planning to post more regularly again in 2016. I’m toying with the idea of mixing in some more news-y items and even the occasional short opinion piece. Maybe some giveaways and guest posts again too, if I can get them lined up. We’ll see how it goes!

To kick things off, here’s’s 2015 Reviewers’ Choice post, which includes my favorite books published this year.

Posted in News and Other SFF-Related Ramblings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Trials by Linda Nagata

TheTrialsNovels like The Trials by Linda Nagata give me—or at least restore some of my—faith in the publishing industry.

Sure, there’s the story of how the book came to be in the first place: Linda Nagata, who wrote several critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful science fiction novels in the 1990s, self-published The Red: First Light in 2013 after a long break. Lo and behold, the indie-published title garnered critical acclaim, not to mention nominations for both the Nebula and the John W. Campbell Memorial Awards.

Soon after, the novel and its sequels were acquired by new SFF imprint Saga Press. A slightly revised edition of The Red was published in June, closely followed byThe Trials, with series closer Going Dark due in early November.

While I enjoy a good Cinderella publishing story as much as the next tired, jaded reviewer, I really love these books most of all for what they are: some of the most action-packed and intelligent military science fiction to be released in years.

(Spoiler warning: The Trials is the direct sequel to The Red, and it’s pretty much impossible to discuss the new book without including plot details from the first one. So, if you haven’t read The Red yet, stop here and go check out my review of the novel instead.)

Continue reading

Posted in Reviews, Science Fiction | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Guest post by Fran Wilde: The Novel as Landscape: Choosing What to See, What to Hear

Fran Wilde (Photo credit: Dan Magus)

Fran Wilde (Photo credit: Dan Magus)

For today’s guest post, I’m very proud to welcome Fran Wilde, author of Updraft.

Fran Wilde is an author and technology consultant. Her first novel, Updraft, is forthcoming from Tor/Macmillan in 2015. Her short stories have appeared in publications including Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Nature, and (Bibliography.). Her interview series Cooking the Books–about the intersection between food and fiction–has appeared at Strange Horizons,, and on her blog, You can find her on Twitter @fran_wilde and Facebook @franwildewrites.

Continue reading

Posted in Guest post | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Zer0esSo an Arab Spring hacktivist, an online troll, a wannabe Anonymous-style hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and a credit card scammer walk into a bar… Well, okay, the bar part isn’t necessarily part of Chuck Wendig’s new novel Zer0es, but wouldn’t that make for a great joke-writing contest?

Instead, Zer0es begins with the five aforementioned digital malcontents getting caught in various acts of online criminality, then being strong-armed by the U.S. government into working for them. The hackers can either do ten years hard time in a federal prison or spend one year working for Uncle Sam in what appears to be a secretive cyber-espionage project. Faced with a textbook example of “an offer they can’t refuse,” they soon find themselves at a remote location known only as “the Lodge.”

There, the five hackers are assigned a variety of missions, mainly penetrating the websites of seemingly unconnected companies and individuals. Slowly, however, it becomes clear that there is an actual connection: a sinister NSA program known only as “Typhon”…

Continue reading

Posted in Horror, Reviews, Science Fiction | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Savages by K.J. Parker

SavagesK.J. Parker appears to be in a very prolific period in his career right now. In addition to the ongoing serial novel The Two of Swords (my review), which just had its sixth monthly installment published in July, and last year’s short fiction/essay collection Academic Exercises, we are now treated to Savages, a brand new full length novel. (Plus, come October, a new novella over on!)

Maybe it’s the recent unveiling of his true identity that spurred all this activity? Whatever’s the cause, you’ll never hear me complain about more K.J. Parker on the shelves.

The setting for Savages, as for most of Parker’s output to date, is once again a vaguely recognizable (but really different) parallel of Europe during and after the breakup of the Roman Empire: there are Western and Eastern Empires, one with vaguely Roman-sounding names and one with kinda-Greek-sounding names, as well as some other parallels to countries and regions in historical central Europe. Fans of the author will catch references to, among others, Permia and Scheria, two countries that have frequently been featured in Parker’s fiction.

(The difference with the works of someone like Guy Gavriel Kay is that Parker, as far as I can tell from my very fuzzy knowledge of that period, rarely if ever refers to actual historical events and people. He mainly uses this setting as a nice, dynamic place to develop his wonderful plots and characters. By contrast, with Kay you can usually tell that character X is actually this or that king or poet or general with the serial numbers removed, and if you’re not careful you’ll run into major plot spoilers when you look up the real life history the novels are based on.)

Continue reading

Posted in Fantasy, Reviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Crooked by Austin Grossman

CrookedAustin Grossman’s new novel, Crooked, features a very different Richard Nixon from the one you may remember from history class. To illustrate, allow me to start this review with a brief quote from the book’s opening chapter, showing Nixon in the Oval Office:

I closed the blinds, knelt down, and rolled back the carpeting to reveal the great seal of the office, set just beneath the public one. I rolled up my left sleeve and cut twice with the dagger as prescribed, to release the blood of the Democratically Elected, the Duly Sworn and Consecrated. I began to chant in stilted, precise seventeenth-century English prose from the the Twelfth and Thirteenth Secret Articles of the United States Constitution. These were not the duties of the U.S. presidency as I had once conceived of them, nor as most of the citizens of this country still do. But really. Ask yourself if everything in your life is the way they told you it would be.

Well, the man has a point.

Continue reading

Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Reviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Library At Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

TheLibraryAtMountCharThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins is one of the biggest surprises of the year for me so far. A contemporary fantasy novel with strong horror elements, it sets up a wholly original fictional universe, complete with mythology going back tens of thousands of years. It’s easily one of the best novels I’ve read all year, and one I’m 100% sure I’ll reread at least once.

Carolyn is one of twelve children who were, at one point, regular small-town American kids, until Father took them in and made them his Pelapi, a word that means something like “pupil” and “librarian” combined. Father is a millennia-old deity who has collected the sum total of his knowledge in a huge Borgesian library, divided into twelve “catalogs” that each cover a subject like the gift of languages, war, time travel and so on. The children are each assigned a catalog and so, studying the arcane skills of Father, become incredibly powerful beings themselves. One can revive the dead, another can travel into the past and the future, and yet another becomes a practically invincible warrior.

Continue reading

Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Reviews | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Giveaway winners! (The Red giveaway)

TheRedAaaand the winners of this week’s giveaway are…

*drum roll*

For the hardcover copy of The Red: Tim G. of San Jose, CA

For the Audible code: Kris W. of Aurora, CO

Congratulations to both winners, and many thanks to Linda Nagata for providing these wonderful prizes!

For those of you who didn’t win, stay tuned as I hope to have several other great giveaways coming up soon, as well as the usual slew of reviews and SF/F-related ramblings!

Posted in Giveaways | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Lookin’ Good: Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

ChildrenofEarthandSkyRejoice, fans of intelligent, passionate, character-driven historical fantasy. Today Penguin Random House announced Children of Earth and Sky, a new novel by the great Guy Gavriel Kay.

I’ve been a huge fan of Kay for, well, decades now — ever since I found myself in tears on a New Jersey Transit train, reading The Lions of Al-RassanHe’s one of very few authors whose books I buy on sight, in hardcover, on release day.

Below the cut, you’ll find a larger image of the cover and the novel’s synopsis. Elsewhere on this site you can find my review of the author’s most recent novel, River of Stars, an excerpt of that novel, and an interview I conducted in 2013 with Guy Gavriel Kay.

Continue reading

Posted in News and Other SFF-Related Ramblings | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Two of Swords (1-5) by K.J. Parker

TheTwoofSwordsI’ve made it no secret over the years that I’m a big fan of K.J. Parker, purveyor of quirky and highly intelligent fantasy, formerly a mysterious entity whose real name or even gender was unknown but recently revealed (to my unending surprise) as comedic fantasy author Tom Holt. If you haven’t read Parker yet, stop here and go read Sharps now. You can thank me later. (Here’s my review.)

K.J. Parker’s newest venture is a serial novel entitled The Two of Swords. Orbit will be releasing a new installment every month — the first three were batch-published in April, and so far a total of six are available, the sixth and newest one just released today. I don’t have exact word counts, and the installments vary somewhat in length anyway, but they feel like short-to-medium novellas — the kind of thing you can read in a few hours. At $0.99 per installment, they’re a great way to get a monthly dose of Parker without breaking the bank.

Continue reading

Posted in Fantasy, Reviews | Tagged , | 1 Comment