What kind of mind can write about a faerie war in Shakespearian England and Lovecraftian Nightmares in depression-era Maine? The kind of mind that can also win a Campbell award for best new writer and then go on to notch a couple Hugos. That's the kind of mind that sits inside the cranium of Elizabeth Bear. We got a chance to talk to Ms. Bear and find out her mind on a few issues and ask her some of your questions too!
Frozen brides! An espionage finishing school! Time-traveling romances! The Sync Up host Veronica Belmont discusses the most outrageous — but riveting — reads for geek girls and reveals her favorite of the bunch. All Veronica's picks feature strong leading ladies, so needless to say you'll see these titles on our bedside tables. Watch the segment, and find out which five books geek girls should put on their reading lists.
Kevin Hearne was an English teacher who put up with rejection from twenty three agents and five publishers before he finally prevailed. Thank goodness he did! We would have never been able to meet Oberon! Oh, and Atticus too, of course. We ask Kevin many many things including if we can expect a TV or graphic novel adaptation, and why chicken apple sausages?
We're very excited that James S. A. Corey's 'The Expanse' is being made into a TV series! PLUS we sat down to chat with Andy Weir and Daniel Suarez. We learn you shouldn't go for a publisher, but go for an audience, and why you should NOT tell your friends your stories but make them read what you write instead.
Welcome to our Featured Reviews! In this series, we'll be highlighting book reviews by the S&L audience. If you want to submit a review, please check out the guidelines here! -Veronica
Review by Emily Carlson
Since this book is the third in the series, there are mild spoilers for the earlier books in this review! Be warned…
The Tyrant’s Law is the third book in the Dagger and the Coin Quintet by Daniel Abraham. The series as a whole follows the emergence of a cult, worshipers of a spider goddess who gives them the ability to tell the difference between spoken lies and spoken truth. As this cult gains prevalence in the political sphere after centuries of exile, the layers of lies and deceit within the court begin to crumble. The regent of the kingdom is a devotee of the new religious order, using its truth-telling abilities to interrogate and weed out dissenters from within the court. But as more and more men and women begin to doubt his motives and his abilities, his death list grows longer and his friends are fewer and far between. New power vacuums lead to chaos and the hungry spider goddess urges her followers to swallow all of the world into her cult of truth and to purge the world of all liars in the process.
Truth and lies, self-deception, genocide, imperialism, DRAGONS, banking, poisoned swords, MORE DRAGONS
Like the previous books, Tyrant weaves back and forth between plot-lines and characters, allowing Abraham to show us both sides of the war. Some characters are more interesting and original than others, and this form of narrative allows the reader to avoid boredom with any one story. Furthermore, Abrahams is obviously a darling of the emerging “low fantasy” sub-genre and this allows us a glimpse into multiple layers and classes of life within the kingdom.
Ultimately, Tyrant is about conquest and about the nature of deception – deception of the self and deception of others. One character named Kit, an apostate priest who has abandoned the spider goddess, points out the flaws in the human-lie-detectors taking over the country. Their lie detectors are only as reliable as the people they question. That is, priests can determine confidence rather than truth. If they were to ask, “Is it raining outside?” their lie detector would only be triggered if you knew you were giving the wrong answer. If you think it is raining but it’s actually try as a bone outside, their spidey-senses don’t get tripped. This leads to a multilayered understanding of the truths within the novel. It’s not as simple as who is lying, but rather who has the correct information and how are they interpreting it, etc.
There are also some real character gems within the novel. The tyrant whom the book is named for, Geder, is one of the most sympathetic and horrifying villains I’ve ever read. While he orders the slaughter of children and rages like a child himself, it is very easy to understand him on his own terms – a man who has always felt powerless and foolish and is now gifted with ultimate power and a gravity that makes his previous enemies shake in their boots. He tries to use his power to protect the young prince and give him a safe kingdom to rule when he comes of age. But he does it with a petty selfishness that leaves others horrified at his actions.
What’s Less Than Good
I have a real problem with one of the main characters – the gristled captain of the guard, Marcus Wester. He is a man tortured by his own past which has also lead him to develop a savior complex for any young women in peril. I have a hard time connecting with Marcus simply because he feels overdone and a little less than believable to me. Furthermore, his impulsive actions in the book feel forced, almost like a poor plot device to force the narrative forward, rather than authentic expressions of his desperation. Also, I’ve never been one for stoicism.
Additionally, Abraham’s general style is slow paced. This is definitely a commitment-level series and a commitment for a novel. Although it is enjoyable, many readers will probably find themselves tapping their fingers waiting for a chapter to be over. Don’t pick this book up expecting a fast paced read; it’s not Tolkien, but it is certainly weighty.
The Final Verdict
Sticking with Tyrant is not a bad thing; the plot in this novel seems to finally come fully into bloom (about time, after 900+ pages!) and a lot of what has been hinted at in the previous novels is finally developed. As a part of the series, Tyrant definitely represents the rising action. Tensions are boiling over, armies are moving, and characters are in peril. More than anything, this book made me excited for the Abraham’s upcoming release in the series, The Widow’s House. Fans of the series will be excited to finally get some answers (or at least some new questions to chew on until August), and I would recommend the series to anyone with some time on their hands and an affinity for slow-burn fantasy and the up and coming genre of gritty/low fantasy.
Chuck Wendig has a reputation for cursing. He also has a reputation for being a badass writer of amazing characters in inventive situations, across novels, comics and movies. He also invented cornpunk. Oh wait, he ALSO writes one of the best guides for writers ever made. But what is his favorite word? Well, now you'll just have to watch for that, and to see how many times our editor has to use the bleep button. Spoiler: he uses it more on the hosts than the guest.
From a debate on whether we should read early chapters from George R.R. Martin's "Winds of Winter" to the usefulness of Asimov's three laws, to our wrap-up of Altered Carbon, this is an episode that should contain a lot of wisdom. Who knows? It might!
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WHAT ARE WE DRINKING?
Tom and Veronica: Bulleit Bourbon
TV, MOVIES AND VIDEO GAMES
WRAP-UP Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan.
BARE YOUR SWORD
Hey Tom and Veronica!
Listener from Bosnia here. Since you're reading Altered Carbon I'd like to weigh in.
Kovacz which is a transliteration of Kovač. The last letter is read like a "ch" sound like in cheap, chore or champion.
The "a" is more like an "ah" sound rather than "ay". Like the second "a" in "large". And Kovač means "smith". So there you go! Takeshi Kovacz - Warrior Smith!
Not chiding you for the pronunciation btw; I just found that this was an appropriate excuse to contact you!
Love the show and I hope it keeps going strong for years to come.
All the best,
I hope (rather arrogantly) that this email gets picked up for the podcast because I would absolutely love hear Veronica mispronounce my name, because I'd find it quite charming!
Hey sword and laser!
I need some help. I'm trying to find a book I read once upon a time. It has to do with the the earths rotation stopping, I think because of an asteroid strike, and is an adventure set in what remains of civilization. I want to say it's by Navarro... But can't find any hints of it anywhere. Does this ring a bell?
Thanks and keep up the good work!
The Martian starts with our protagonist, Mark Watney (a smart Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation to me) getting struck by shrapnel from a communication satellite as he and his crew mates evac on Mars, leaving Watney behind. This premise could be very dry with all of the technical details about oxygenators and CO2 scrubbers and water reclaimers but author Andy Weir makes it interesting. Watney has such a great voice and he's very funny, pulling the reader into the story and immediately making Watney sympathetic.
Lucky for Watney, he is a botanist and mechanical engineer, making him well-suited to survive alone on another planet. He's able to fix problems that arise (make water from rocket fuel, build things out of spare parts, repair his home) and grow some food from Earth soil mixed with Martian soil (yay potatoes! Boo human manure. Smelly business). To keep things interesting, (Mark is alone. Things would get boring if things didn't go wrong) bad things sometimes happen. It's fun to see how Mark figures out how to solve these problems with his limited resources.
The book also follows NASA personnel on Earth as they make plans to rescue Mark. We also spend some time with Mark's crew mates aboard the Hermes. These characters aren't as fleshed out as Watney is but that's alright. After all, this is Mark's story. The NASA folks have interesting interactions and plenty of disagreements about the right course of action. I enjoyed the Earth parts as much as Mark's parts.
Not only is the plot to The Martian gripping but the writing is great as well. It's descriptive but not overly technical without sacrificing the emotion. The research that went into this book shows. Everything that happens seems totally plausible. The technology is basically modern day with perhaps a few advanced pieces of hardware but nothing that's space magic. I'm kind of floored that this is Weir's first novel. It completely blew me away. Maybe in a few years, this will be turned into a movie. Gravity meets Moon!
This week you’ll learn how Alastair Reynolds went from Cornwall to a doctorate in astronomy, to pushing ice across the vastness of space. How much do current scientific advances influence him? Does he feel a kinship with Mass Effect? What order should you read his darn books in? All these questions and more will be answered.
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Welcome to our Featured Reviews! In this series, we'll be highlighting book reviews from the S&L audience. If you want to submit a review, please check out the guidelines here! -Veronica
Executive Summary: If you enjoyed The Way of Kings, I'd be really surprised if you didn't like this one as well. Mr. Sanderson does an excellent job building on the foundation he laid down in the first novel.
This is a really hard review for me to write. I probably won't do the book justice. I'm very selective about which books I give 5 stars to, and even more selective about which books I deem favorites. When I read The Way of Kings it was easily added to both lists for me. And now so is this one.
While I didn't have the same wait as anyone who read the first book when it came out, there was at least enough time to build up a sense of anticipation and a little bit of dread while I waited for this book to come out.
Would Mr. Sanderson be able to build upon the momentum of The Way of Kings or would things recede a little like most series tend to do for me? A ten-book, 10,000+ page series is really ambitious. It would be easy for things to go off the rails at any point along the way. I'm here to say: so far, so good.
I can only assume that Mr. Sanderson is writing this series specifically for me. Sure there are other people out there who seem to like his books. But there are many who are critical about them. While I may be critical of some of his other books, you won't find that here. I loved every minute of it.
The pacing might still be considered slow by those who found that the case in The Way of Kings, but I think it moves along faster as he doesn't have to do the kinds of setup he did in the first book.
One common comment I saw about book 1 was: "What is the point of Shallan here?". This book should answer that question for those people. While The Way of Kings focuses on Kaladin, this is Shallan's book.
Don't fear Kaladin fans. You'll get plenty of him in this book, but he's just not the main focus here.
Once again this is a book that just kept building momentum as it went. It started as a book I looked forward to reading each night and changed to a book I had to force myself to put down.
The structure of the book is once again the same where you have 5 parts with various interludes between each. We are introduced to some pretty interesting new characters in these short interludes, as well as revisiting a few of those we met in The Way of Kings. I would have to say that while I enjoyed them all, Lift, the young thief was my favorite. I hope we'll be seeing a lot more of her in future books, and not just the interludes.
The prologue is set at the exact same time as the prologue from The Way of Kings, only told from Jasnah's perspective instead of Szeth. This was a cool approach that I hope continues in the next few books at least. I'd like see Adolin's and Dalinar's take on these events at least.
I'd be remiss to review a Brandon Sanderson book without at least mentioning the magic system. I love the world building so far and the characters, but it's the magic system that once again shines the brightest. We learn more about surgebinding and how it works, but there is still so much left to discover.
His creativity not only at coming up with rules for various magic systems, but at how he applies those rules in ways I would have never considered always makes for great sequences.
Overall I was really happy with this book. Kaladin is still my favorite character, yet I think I might have enjoyed this one more despite his reduced focus. Shallan really developed from an interesting side story into a proper main character in her own right.
I am already looking forward to and dreading just a bit book 3 of this series. Will Mr. Sanderson be able to work his magic yet again? Well since he's writing this series for me personally, I'm sure he will.
TV, MOVIES AND VIDEO GAMES
Our April book pick will be selected by Bryan Benson who backed our Kickstarter. Thanks Bryan. The book is "A Dance of Cloaks" by David Dalglish. -- Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. Aaron Felhorn has been groomed since birth to be Thren’s heir. Sent to kill the daughter of a priest, Aaron instead risks his own life to protect her from the wrath of his guild. Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.
Bryan also is an author so we're going to make HIS book our official alternate pick. So check out Brand by Bryan Alexander Benson as well! It's a fast-paced, Fantasy action novel with steam-punk tendencies. It is the first book in the Order of Luminan series. We'll have Bryan on for our wrap-up episode at the end of April.
BARE YOUR SWORD
How do you become an award-winning puppeteer AND award-winning writer AND a audiobook narrator? Easy. Be Mary Robinette Kowal. We ask the author of Without a Summer and Valour and Vanity how she fits in all those things and still has time to convincingly imitate Patrick Rothfuss and convince Sam Sykes to make debatable life choices.
Welcome to another Featured Review! In this series, we' highlight book reviews from the S&L audience. If you want to submit a review, please check out the guidelines here! -Tom
What do you get when you mix the epicness of Tolkien, exalt in the cool of “The Good The Bad and The Ugly,” are partial to Arthurian legend, and possibly (some have suggested) have overindulged in too much weed? You get “The Gunslinger” the first book in Stephen King’s Magnum Opus “The Dark Tower Series.”
This will be the third time I’ve read “The Gunslinger,” and each time I read it the more I appreciate it. Not for its plot structure, which is often times as broken as Roland--but more for its “vibe.” A certain coolness that exudes from a character who is chillingly relentless and unapologetically single-minded in his quest to the point of obsession.
Plus he has a massive pair of .45 calibre six shooters.
For those who have finished the series, there is a lot to appreciate in rereading the beginning. There are people and characters and places and events mentioned, sometimes only in passing, that will have veterans nodding their head. But for the first timer--a lot of it will be just gibberish. And a lot of first timers will hate the ending, or “non” ending, and possibly curse the day King was born. That’s why I often suggest that virgin Tower Knights skip this book altogether. There’s nothing in the plot you actually need to start the journey. Because as a beginning this book is hopeless to the point where many will despair of the quest before its begun. But as a prequel this book is fantastic. It will be like returning to an old lover and discovering something deeper about their soul.
Do yourself a favour cully and wait a book or two till you are ready. There is no rush for this one. Else by the time you can appreciate this story you will have forgotten it. “Time’s the thief of memory” as Vannay says. So will you cry off maggot and turn aside? No? It's too bad. It will be sad to see you broken and set upon a blind path. But if you are so determined to pull leather, then take your stance with legs set wide and I will do what I can, not to convince you to read this book, but rather to continue with the next, should you stumble on the way.
So come, let us have our Palaver, do it please ya.
Firstly I’d advise getting a copy of the 2003 edition or later. It has been edited and revised to fit better with the following books and possibly make a bit more sense for first timers. I would also recommend having a squiz at Robert Browning's poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” which inspired this book. It’s about 34 Stanza’s long and tells the story of a knight on an elusive quest for the Dark Tower, driven by duty and obsession
Somewhere beyond In-World, but not Mid-World. The world is broken.
‘The world has moved on,’ we say . . . we’ve always said. But it’s moving on faster now. Something has happened to time. It’s softening’
Clocks can’t be trusted and people measure time by other means, like Jake who counts one to two weeks as “3 poops.” Distance and direction is also adrift.
The landscape of the story looks pretty much like any barren wilderness in any Western. In fact, at the start, one could be forgiven for mistaking this book for a Western. But its not long before the reader will get the unnerving feeling that things are off kilter. Walk into Tull for example. It's your typical Western shanty complete with stables for your horse and a good old saloon come whorehouse. Except there’s a honky-tonk piano’s playing a rendition of “Hey Jude.” What the..? And pretty early on we get a random glimpse of a Taheen. Do you ken “Taheen?” Cry your pardon, but how could you, unless you had already read further into the series. Say sorry. Man’s body, raven’s head--this one anyway. There are old machines long disused, that were powered by electricity or atomics. There are slow mutants and threaded stock (non-mutated men and animals) are getting rarer. Ah, an alternate Universe? Or rather, a parallel Universe. Do you say so? One of many. "... there were many remnants of the gone world, just as there were demons.”
The boy who didn’t come from this place but vaguely remembers dying in a vaguely remembered other world. A world where the buildings are so tall they scrape the sky and people drink Coca Cola and watch teevee, and there is a Ka-tet of musicians who call themselves “Kiss.” Do you ken it? He loves the gunslinger, even though the gunslinger doesn’t deserve his love any more than his neglectful ma and da did--possibly less.
The Man in Black
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
In Browning’s poem he is referred to as a “hoary cripple,” a liar, a kind of devil who is all too happy to take deals to point out the road to obsession. In this story he is the sort of villain who resurrects a devil weed addict and embues him with eternal life--not because he wants him to be well, but because he wants the addict to suffer in his addiction forever. He offers a barren woman a child. A child king. Just kill the unkillable interloper first. Not because he wants his enemy dead, but because he wants his enemy damned. He gives his enemy a boy to love, but .... “While you travel with the boy, the man in black travels with your soul in his pocket.”
"This bad man . . . this Marten . . . he was a wizard. Like Merlin. Do they ken Merlin where you come from?”
“Merlin and Arthur and the knights of the Round Table,” Jake said dreamily.
The gunslinger felt a nasty jolt go through him. “Yes,” he said. “Arthur Eld, you say true, I say thank ya..."
What is a “gunslinger” in this world? Well its not a cowboy with a pistol. Roland Deschain comes from the heart of In-World. From Gilead in New Canaan. A city of castles.
Yar!” He paused. “When I was your age, I lived in a walled city, did I tell you that?”
The castles are ruled by knights called “Gunslingers.” So called because of the “Irons” that are the mark of their office. Roland’s father Steven Deschain was a direct descendant of Arthur Eld and Lord of his version of Camelot.
My father had by then taken control of his ka-tet, you must ken—the Tet of the Gun—and was on the verge of becoming Dinh of Gilead, if not all In-World
But the world has moved on. And Roland is the last gunslinger and he is on a mission to fix the Universe. To find the Dark Tower. Everything else, love, family, humanity, his very soul is expendable in the light of the greater good. See it well. See it very well indeed.
So have I convinced you yet to carry on to book 2? I hope so. Because I’ve seen the end of that journey and would have you set upon the path. Not because I am wise or good. Perhaps I just play the hoary cripple--I say true. I say thank ya.
Long days and pleasant nights
Welcome to our first Featured Review! In this series, we'll be highlighting book reviews from the S&L audience. If you want to submit a review, please check out the guidelines here! -Veronica
I dig the basis of this book. A generational spaceship has been exploring so long that it's forgotten its purpose (coughing-allegory). They find a planet that has evidence of horrible stuff that happened to the planet's inhabitants. The explorers quickly depart only to discover an enormous alien spaceship adrift. Next, they explore the alien spaceship and discover, wait for it, wait for it, horrible stuff that happened to what appears to be humans that mirror what they found on the planet.
Richard Paul Russo writes a slow burning SF thriller that ultimately fizzles. If you read this anticipating the end justifying your reading, disappointment lies ahead. But if you read this for the experience, then I think you can find happiness or at least some measure of satisfaction.
No spoilers, but my favorite character is the coffee-growing dwarf who occasionally drinks too much of his homebrewed whiskey.
I was underwhelmed with the whole theological dilemma that's hoisted and hung on the hook. Is there a God? If there's a God, why do bad things happen? Oh, they happen because we have freewill? Oh, we have freewill, and God feels guilty because he gave it to us?
There's nothing wrong in asking these questions or writing a story about them. I'm grousing because for as much as these issues were intended to drive the narrative, they're never satisfyingly resolved. In the end, they act as more of a distraction (allegorically ironic?) and less centrally relevant. I just wish Russo had been subtler and allowed the reader to make more of the connections rather than painting such a vivid theological landscape.
As previously mentioned, the book's conclusion is a bit flat. But the best part, my favorite part, was when they were exploring the enormous alien ship. So good, why didn't we get more of this? I could have been as happy as a clam at high tide to be shown more of those endless passages and odd little rooms with their secrets.