S&L Podcast - #236 - Time Travel is Frustrating

We wrap up what people thought about Time and Again by Jack Finney. Some loved the imagery, some got bored, and some thought he was just too hard on New York City.

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Louie: As previously reported, you can watch the first episode of The Expanse TV show right now. Three weeks before its SyFy premiere on DEC 14.
Joanna: On a different note, it's Worldbuilder's time again, and all kinds of creative and geeky activity and prizes are caught up in that. It's a big fundraiser for Heifer International run by Patrick Rothfuss.
Stephen: Nebula have released their reader guide for 2015 in all categories. 
Sandra: Nominations For the 2016 Nebula Awards Are Now Open    
Which reminds us, the Goodreads Choice awards voting just closed!   
Sandra: Orbit Books announced yesterday that they were expanding their SF/F line by 50% next year to publish a whopping 90 books starting in 2016.
9 sci-fi authors went to Microsofts research labs and wrote a book - @usuallymatt    

An Unattractive Vampire joins the Inkshares Collection
How is this for whiskey nerdism (deep breath):

First, both Tom and Veronica are drinking whiskey. Scotch, bourbon, Japanese, Irish, Canadian -- they're all whiskey. It's like how all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. Each subdivision of whiskey has its own rules. Scotch, for instance, can only be made in Scotland. You can make something exactly like it somewhere else, but you can't call it scotch. And even within scotch, there are sub-sub-divisions (single malt vs blend vs single grain, etc etc)

As for Japanese whisky (let's not get into whiskey/whisky right now): Tom is drinking whisky from Japan's first whiskey distillery, pioneered by a guy named Masataka Taketsuru, who loved Scotch, studied distilling in Scotland, and in 1920 fell in love with and married a Scottish woman named Rita Cowan. He returned to Japan, set up whiskey distilling at what would become Suntory, and met with very little success because Japanese drinkers did not like the burly taste of single malt (they preferred the tamer flavor of blended scotch) that Taketsuru so adored.

Ten years later, after his contract with Suntory was up, Taketsuru quit and started his own distillery with the aim of making Scottish style whisky again. And that's what Veronica is drinking: Nikka.

There was recently a massively popular soap opera about Taketsuru and Cowan called MASSAN that aired on NHK and caused a massive spike in interest among Japanese women in becoming whisky drinkers. Which is why, Veronica, that Nikka 12 year old you're drinking won't be available in the Us (or Japan) anymore. They're running out, and dropping age statements so they can use younger whisky without the stigma of a young age printed on the label (by law, the age on the bottle reflects the youngest whisky used; so if you make a brand by mixing 50% forty year old single malt and 50% 4 year old single malt -- you just made a 4 year old whisky). - Keith Allison
Help needed from the group - Where to start the Shannara saga?   
Next month: Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey       
Wrap up:    
Time and Again by Jack Finney
1880s via the 1970s (long but worth the read) 
What did you think?
Joanna: I found it kind of sleepy until I hit somewhere around 60%, and the Pickering plot picks up. For most of the book I was wondering if the author forgot about the [fact that Dazinger had asked Si to see his parents meeting, but then it got addressed in the very end.    
Colin: I listened to the Audible version of the book, and have to say that I enjoyed the experience. I instantly felt 'at home' with the conversational story telling style and was quite happy to be swept along wherever the story went - listening whenever I could until I had finished the whole thing.

That said, the story is not hard hitting, nor does it try to address big issues. The mechanics of the time travel, don't really bear close scrutiny. It just is what it is - a cleverly plotted mystery where the action happens to be taking place 90 years in the protagonist's past. I can see why some people could have been frustrated by the overly descriptive writing, but the richness of the text is really what sells the time travel aspect. The author must have researched it very closely - or he at least gives that impression."    
Matthew: I have to say other that other then the vivid descriptions of 1882 New York, I kind of hated this book. I grew to despise the main character, and in the last third of the book began to think of him as either, at best a well meaning idiot, or at worst self important anti-hero. After reading another thread, I see the Social commentary the author is trying to get at with the architectural changes of New York, and the anti-""ends justify the means"" style of government. However in the end I am left feeling dissatisfied.
Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at patreon.com/swordandlaser Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to patreon.com/swordandlaser.
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at swordandlaser.com/picks.


"An Unattractive Vampire" joins the S&L Inkshares Collection!

Back when we launched the S&L Inkshares Collection, we were thrilled with the quantity and quality of the entries we received. For that first contest, we decided to pick two books that epitomized the concepts of "sword" and "laser" to us, and The Life Engineered and Asteroid Made of Dragons were those selections.

All the while, another book was flying up the contest charts, and capturing our hearts (and blood). An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel:

After three centuries trapped underground, Yulric Bile—the Curséd One, the Devil’s Apprentice, the Thousand Year Old Vampyr—has risen only to find that no one in this time believes he is a vampire. Werewolf, they call him. Zombie. Mummy. Lich. Vampires, he discovers, have become very pretty, very weak, and most disturbing of all, very good. He resolves to correct this disgusting turn of events, or at the very least, murder the person responsible. Aided by a vampire wannabe, the eight-year-old reincarnation of his greatest foe, and a host of ancient horrors as far from sexy as it is possible to be, Yulric journeys from lost subterranean cities to pink suburban houses, battling undead TV stars and his fear of cars, for the right to determine, once and for all, what it truly means to be a vampire.

I'm very happy to announce that An Unattractive Vampire is officially joining the S&L Collection on Inkshares! Jim is also a S&L listener, so we're extra excited to welcome him to the family. 

S&L Podcast - #235 - The Practical Effects of Mallory O'Meara

We interview Mallory O'Meara, producer and screenwriter for Dark Dunes Productions, about Yamasong: March of the Hallows, a movie about an automated girl and tortoise warrior, with puppets, Nathon Fillion’s voice and more. We also discuss her love of horror fiction, and how weird it is that her grandparents have a torture shack in the woods!

Download directly here!

S&L Podcast - #234 - We Think We Know How Game of Thrones Ends

George R R Martin will only say that Game of Thrones will end in a bittersweet way. We’re pretty sure we know what that means. Also Chinese Nebula Award winners and our first impressions of Time and Again by Jack Finney.

Download directly here, and rate us on iTunes!

Tom:  Hakushu
Veronica: Taketsuru
Shocker: George RR Martin says Game of Thrones ending will be bittersweet
Winner of the Chinese Nebula Awards
Rob and Tamahome: New Star Trek TV show!
Tamahome: In non-Star Trek related news, Amazon opens its first brick n mortar bookstore
Alex: Looks like The Expanse will be getting a digital premiere starting November 23rd! 
Tamahome: Tamahome Tch. That's just what Captain Jim Holden would do, stream it to all the planets before its time.     
James: Philip Pullman's Dark Material trilogy is being made into a TV series. Hopefully they do a better job of it than the film as this is an amazing trilogy. 
Sandra: The 2015 World Fantasy Award Winners have been announced    

Interview with China Miéville

After my mention in episode 225 I will follow up with another reference to the BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06mblgl
I listened live to the first 5 minutes and wanted to stay in the car. Luckily, I have it waiting with your podcast for me in the future :)

Paul B
Time and Again by Jack Finney
T&A: Places and History
T&A: meta time travel observations

Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at patreon.com/swordandlaser Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to patreon.com/swordandlaser.
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at swordandlaser.com/picks.

Kickstarter Hangout with Kai Herbertz

Lo those many years ago when we kickstartered a second season of Sword and Laser video, one of our backing levels promised a 30 minute hangout which the backer could choose to make public or not. Well after literally years of scheduling we finally got a chance to hang out and chat with Kai Herbertz. Big thanks to Kai for backing the season! Be sure to check out Kai's fantasy book and the anthology he's trying to fund on kickstarter!

Age of Torridan by Kai Herbertz

Anthology Project: Arcane Arts

S&L Podcast - #232 - Is This Book a Traitor To Its Genre?

We wrap up our October book pick, The Traitor Baru Cormorant. Some people find the hero less than heroic. Some people find the genre less than fantasy. So why did Tom like it so much? Is HE a traitor? Also a short story vending machine and why we're so jealous of Ann Leckie's good taste.

Download direct here!

Tom: Templeton Rye    
Veronica: Rincon Del Tajo    
Winners British Fantasy Awards
This vending machine prints short stories to read instead of looking at your phone
J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter play 'Cursed Child' is an official sequel
Mark: Ann Leckie posts her "10 Best Science Fiction Books" list at Publishers Weekly
Joanna: An "eARC" of Lois McMaster Bujold's latest Vorkosigan book, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is available on the Baen website
Trike: Apparently someone found a map of Middle Earth annotated by Tolkien himself, in an old book belonging to the original map illustrator of both LotR and Narnia. Turns out Hobbiton and Oxford are on the same latitude."    
"Why Andy Weir needs to update his website," or "What short stories are you reading/have you read"    
Next month: Time and Again by Jack Finney    
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson    
Is this book fantasy?  Veronica asks, you answered
What's the message? (full spoilers)
Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at patreon.com/swordandlaser Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to patreon.com/swordandlaser.   
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at swordandlaser.com/picks.    

S&L Podcast - #231 - Can an Author Spoil Herself?

We have a delightful conversation with Catherynne M. Valente about decopunk, book awards, and why she fears spoiling herself about her own stories while she’s writing them.

Her decopunk book Radiance is out now!

Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons. Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to patreon.com/swordandlaser.

You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at swordandlaser.com/picks/. Download this episode directly here!

S&L Podcast - #230 - Reading Makes You a Better Person, Says Science

We cheer for Patrick Rothfuss winning the Hollywood game, jeer a little at Spielberg refusing to put a Delorean in the Ready Player One movie and peruse with careful academic curiosity a study showing the increase in empathy caused by reading.

Direct download here!
Tom: Bulleit
Veronica: Hendricks Gin and Tonic

Rob: Patrick Rothfuss signed some kind of multi-media (Movie, TV And Video game?) deal with Lionsgate.

Louie: No Spielberg references in the Ready Player One film adaptation.

John: Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Still Read Fiction. They tend to be more empathetic towards others.

Robert: Helene Wecker posted on her Facebook page that there will be a sequel to The Golem and the Jinni to be titled The Iron Season. It's a ways off but I think the wait will be worth it.

Stephen: One of the authors I suggested for future interviews was Jen Williams. Well, her books are now going to be available in the USA, via Angry Robot books. The announcement was made this week on Barnes and Noble's website.


Baby Brains, defined

On Spoilers & The Spoiler Tag


The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson    
Is this the modern fantasy 1984?

Race, Culture, and Empire


Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons.Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to patreon.com/swordandlaser.
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at swordandlaser.com/picks.

S&L Podcast Rewind: 'The Martian Influx' Redux

With the huge success of the film adaptation this month, we thought it would be fun to travel back in time to our interview with The Martian author Andy Weir and Influx author Daniel Suarez

If you're interested in picking up where that episode left off, you can follow this link to the Soundcloud page (audio should start at the 45:05 mark).

As noted, Patrons will receive this episode at no charge. Enjoy!

Download episode directly here.

FEATURED REVIEW: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

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 Bryan S. Glosemeyer, original on Goodreads here.

"The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason."

The opening line of Neal Stephenson's new 'hard SF' thriller, Seveneves, is bound to go down as one of the great opening lines in science fiction. I'm sure it will soon be mentioned in the same breath as William Gibson's opening line to Neuromancer. "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."

Seveneves: A Novel
By Neal Stephenson

So as you can see, the very first sentence packs quite a punch and the punches keep on coming. The clock is ticking till the sky itself burns for five thousand years. Will science and reason save humanity in the harshness of space? Or will politics and greed be our final undoing? Well, I won't spoil it for you, but if you are familiar at all with Stephenson's books, you'll expect very smart and very brave people try to save the world with their smarts and bravery.

Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. The premise is exciting and fun and the tension keeps ratcheting up and up. While this is most definitely 'speculative' fiction, he keeps the science grounded, yet fascinating. No artificial gravity, no warp drives, no energy shields. As usual, Stephenson does a great job of helping to make sense of the science for the average reader. But to do so means he does a lot of 'infodumps.' His books have always been high on the infodump quotient, Seveneves is even more so.

The book is divided into three parts, and I have to say I found the second act the most compelling, fast paced, edge of your seat reading. While there are smart people being heroic throughout the book, this is by far the most adventurous and heroic section.

I do have a few criticisms, and most of that has to do with character. Stephenson has never been one to dive too deep into his characters's inner worlds, but even so he could craft fleshed out, compelling and fun characters like Raz, Hiro, Jack Shaftoe. To be honest, I have to say that most of the characters fell pretty flat for me in Seveneves. I understand that the majority of them are scientists and engineers and they're not going to be the type to fall apart int an emotional mess when the shit hits the fan. But this is some pretty goddamn apocalyptic shit hitting the fan and I would expect even the coolest, logical engineer to have their emotions get hotter and go deeper than what we get here.

One character standout, though still lacking in the emotional depth I just mentioned, is the African American scientist/celebrity Doc Dubois. Any fan of Neil Degrasse Tyson won't be able to help but picture Dubois as Tyson. Even the speech cadences are there.

Again, without going into spoiler territory, the third act of this book was very reminiscent of Raz's quest in Anathem.

All criticisms taken into account, this is still a damn fun and exciting read. Fans of hard sci fi and doomsday thrillers are going to dig this a lot, I think.

Also, when I was reading it, I kept envisioning it not as a movie, but as a miniseries. With the right budget and enough hours to tell the story (5-6 hours I'd say) this would be awesome to see come to life on the screen.

BTW, I also made an online mixtape inspired by the book, especially parts one and two. You can check it out here!

S&L Podcast - #229 - Taylor Swift is a Fremen

We wrap up A Canticle for Leibowitz and explore all its science and religion feels. Also we welcome a new Expanse series cover, a new Gaiman baby and we discover why Taylor Swift IS the Kwisatz Haderach. 

Download direct here!

Tom: Water    
Veronica: Vitamin B12    

Shelfie Is Shazam For Your Bookshelf
SporadicReviews.com Next Expanse novel "Babylon's Ashes" cover-reveal! June 2016 is too far away!
Rob Secundus: Maybe not worthy of a segment, but alt-country/rock singer Ryan Adams just released a cover album of noted pop star and possible escapee from the realm of the fey Taylor Swift's 1989. Why does Adams think the T-Swiz is so succesful? Well, she's just like the Kwisatz Haderach!

Ryan Adams said, “There’s that special, very interesting ingredient where you hear a skeleton of the song, just the bones, and her voice, and you go, 'Well, of course, this person plays to 60,000 people.’ It’s like at the end of Dune, with Paul Atreides riding the Sandworm, and his eyes are all blue from the spice mélange. That’s totally how I see Taylor.”
Andy: Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer welcomed their child Anthony Gaiman on September 16th! 
terpkristin: So long, Oyster! The "Netflix of ebooks" is shutting down, and most of the team is apparently going to join Google. The co-founders were definitely hired by Google, but it seems that a bunch of the staff may have been, too. Will be interesting to see what Google does with this...if anything.    
terpkristin: Storybundle.com is doing a bundle of 11 books that were finalists or winners of the Philip K. Dick Award (honoring distinguished science fiction). It will be going on for the next 22 days, or until about mid-October. 
Warren: Scientists have for the first time confirmed liquid water flowing on the surface of present-day Mars.

I do my own podcast about games, gaming etc, recently there's been a metallic twang to the far end when recording our sessions via skype.

The sound in your podcasts is always superior. If its not terribly intrusive could you tell me what software you use to teleconference and record.

Thanks in advance.



Ok, I'm sorry for this kinda silly question. My wife and I have noticed that a few recent SF/Fantasy novels have been using the word "sussurrus" and its other forms quite a lot. Rothfuss, Tregillis, Scalzi, and Graedon for example. We always tell each other when we encounter the word in a book or story and say "Gotcha, page XX!"

Is there some kind of inside joke being shared among the author community, or a ritual use of the word, maybe an homage to someone?

I hope bringing this up doesn't squelch or make anyone self censor, not our intention. Just chasing a silly phantom.

Thanks for your great site and podcasts!

Next month: The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson    
Quiz to tell you who you are in Baru's world    
How Evil SFF Empires Create Ideal Citizens    


A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. 
Rachel [Spoilers]
ACFL: What to make of the crazy ending?

Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at patreon.com/swordandlaser Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to patreon.com/swordandlaser.
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at swordandlaser.com/picks.

FEATURED REVIEW: The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

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

The Low-Down:    

In a multiverse where magic is the product of the rise and fall of three celestial bodies, things can get a little complicated. Characters’ power waxes and wanes with the movement of these satellites, but the world seems to have reached a balance. However, that balance is shattered when the fourth, dark satellite – Oma – begins ascending. Oma, the Worldbreaker. Last time Oma rose, continents were literally torn in half by its power, and it seems that this generation will be no different. 

The Mirror Empire follows Lilia, a girl from a dying universe with an amber sky, as she is hurled into a new and thriving universe in escape from the dark forces gathering in her amber world. But Lilia is far from safe in her new blue-skied universe because the armies she fled haven’t given up the chase.

Key Themes:

Genocide, multiverses, TRULY NOXIOUS WEEDS, gender and sexuality, mystical orphans, THE DOPPLEGANGER, celestial bodies (wink, wink), BLOOD

What’s Good:

Hurley has bitten off an awful lot with her ambitious Mirror Empire. And for those of us who are bored with a linear and predictable narrative, this is a very good thing. Hurley seems determined to supplant nearly every fantasy troupe, even down to her five-gendered social structure with group marriage and funerary cannibalism. These bold rejections of what we take for granted in our own society are illuminating in Hurley’s hands. 

Take for example the thirty-something, war-hardened general returning home from her tour abroad to her teenaged, undereducated, ornamental husband. On one hand, this seems very familiar to fantasy fans (Drogo and Daenerys, anyone?). But on the other, it is completely unexpected and frankly, appalling. Readers might swoon at the scenes of Drogo and Dany together, might even excuse the some of the harsh treatment that Dany receives from Drogo. However, when the general dominates her husband and when we see how isolated he truly is, it’s harder to wear those same rose-colored glasses. 

The result is a novel that is challenging, though inducing, and at times shocking. But very much worth the time of any fantasy reader ready for something different. 

What’s Less Than Good:

Hurley has bitten off an awful lot with her ambitious Mirror Empire. What is this novel’s greatest strength can be its most frustrating weakness. Switching characters, universes, and social structures can be very confusing. Hurley pulls it off with a surprising amount of ease, but readers can still get lost easily. 

Furthermore, although Hurley is making wonderful strides towards fulfilling the potential of the unique world she created, only time (and more novels) will tell if Hurley is able to pull this off with the finesse demanded when an author deviates this much from reality. In my mind, the farther an author strays from reality, the heavier the burden is to make all of that mental strain worth our while.  

The Final Verdict: 

Maintain focus. If you can do that, The Mirror Empire is definitely worth the read. But for those of us who don’t want to leave a book with a pounding headache (I mean… not really, but you get it) this may not be the novel for you. The world Hurley creates is rich, engaging, and completely surprising. It is worth the effort the novel will require from you, but know that this is not a mindless read. So much of the world in this book is utterly new that it is bound to leave most people feeling a little star-struck. 

The world Hurley builds takes on a personality of itself, much like another character you are getting to know. It would be easy for the human characters to fade into the background of the novel and let the newness of the world stun readers. However, the characters in the novel are utterly profound. They are likable and revolting in turn, but in a way which reminds us of our own little green planet with a blue sky. The true wonder of this book is not the differences Hurley creates between her worlds and ours, but the similarities. Somehow, Hurley has managed to create a story where even with a radically different reality to ours, we are able to relate to and care about her characters. 

If you’re willing to go the extra literary mile, Hurley promises to deliver even more mind-blowing confusion in the upcoming Empire Ascendant dropping in October 2015. 

S&L Podcast - #228 - Is Present Tense for Baby Brains?

This week, things really go nuts when Veronica realizes that she likes Tom's book pick more than Tom does, which causes Tom to question everything he has ever known. Meanwhile, over on Goodreads, Thane questions whether present tense is the bane of genre fiction! Hmmm...

Download direct here!

Tom: Yorkshire Gold Tea
Veronica: Candy Peaches (eating)


Thane: Looks like BBC is doing The City and the City. A 4 part adaptation. The City & the City

Tamahome: I didn't know Octavia Butler's Dawn would be adapted to tv either.

Trike: Amazon is saying the first season of The Man in the High Castle will be available November 20, 2015. If you haven't seen the pilot, I highly recommend it. And I'm known as The Guy Who Hates Everything. (Which isn't true. I only hate MOST things. But this I love.)

Jason is referring to Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti, when he says:  I just found this tidbit on tor.com. This sounds exciting, the novella is read by Robin Miles and she worked closely with the author to get the right sounds and inflection to world build. Here's the synopis: "Binti is a brilliant young woman who is the first of the Himba community to be offered a place at the galaxy’s finest institution of higher learning." There is also a spooky race of bad guys.  Has there ever been a collaboration with an author to make a book sound right? "    ---(Tamahome found the Tor link)  

Stephen: Mark Lawrence has started a new story on Wattpad. It is a free western fantasy told in 19 parts.

Elizabeth: Turns out Uprooted may contain True Facts: io9. Medieval Skeleton Found Dangling From the Roots of a Fallen Tree.


Present Tense - Can you dig it? 

Epic Fantasy with Romance?


Dear Tom and Veronica,

I recently stumbled across a super-rad book from the University of Pennsylvania Press, ER Truitt's Medieval Robots, and I thought, what could be more Sword and Laser than that? I mean, ok, Space Dragons, maybe, and also actual laser swords. But still, Medieval Robots are probably the third most sword-and-lasery thing in existence. The title sounds like that of a really generically titled pulp, but it's actually a survey of automata in the Western Medieval world-- the fictional robots that feature in Medieval Romance and legend, the pseudo-fictional robots that feature in travelogues (turns out, the Middle East? Filled with robots!), and real, historical robots that were installed as curiosities in courts. Anyway, it's so rare that nonfiction stuff is relevant to the show that I thought I should share.
Rob S. 


I recently started listening to NPR's Ask Me Another, where Jonathan Coulton is the house musician, and heard one of their older episodes. On their July 31, 2014 show, Saladin Ahmed was a guest. This reminded me of your Bonus Interview with Saladin in 2012. I have not seen a video of Ask Me Another, so we cannot be sure whether Saladin/Jonathan are one person, but we do know that there is proof that they have been in the same place at the same time.

In case you have the time, I have included a link to that episode. The clip in question is "Can't Place the Place Name."



A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

ACFL: Walter Miller Jr.

A Science-Fiction Classic Still Smolders

Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at patreon.com/swordandlaser Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to patreon.com/swordandlaser.    

You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at swordandlaser.com/picks.

FEATURED REVIEW: Nemesis Games (Expanse #5) by James S.A. Corey

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 Robert Zak
Ed note: Review is mostly spoiler free, but reader beware!

Nemesis Games (The Expanse)
By James S.A. Corey

Executive Summary: Best one yet! I've always enjoyed this series, but I really loved this book. My only complaint would I don't have more to read! I can't wait for book 6.

Audiobook: Jefferson Mays is back! Huzzah! Don't get me wrong, he's not one of my favorite narrators or anything, but he is good. And the guy they got to replace him for book 4 was not. I was considering switching to text for this book if that narrator was used again. Thankfully I didn't have to. 

His accents for Avasarala and Alex are excellent as always. Everyone else isn't really anything special. He has good inflection and reads in a nice and clear voice. Hopefully they'll be able to get him for all the future books.

Full Review
The Expanse books have been a lot of fun since I finally picked them up last year. However I was starting to feel like maybe it was running out of steam.

I liked Leviathan Wakes and thought Caliban's War was even better. However I felt Abaddon's Gate and especially Cibola Burn weren't as good.

I've grown tired of the rotating POV's with new characters to follow around. Part of the problem is that Avasarala and Bobbie were so great in Caliban's War, everyone that followed was a disappointment.

Not only that, but they didn't really feature in books 3 and 4 and I think that's a waste. Thankfully that's been remedied in this book. While they aren't POV characters again, they do feature fairly heavily in the plot, albeit Bobbie moreso than Avasarala.

The other problem was I always found at least 1 or 2 of the POV to be less interesting than the others. The best part is that instead of forcing the readers to deal with some new characters they won't like as much, they chose to make the other 3 POVs the remaining members of the Rocinante. Not only do we finally get in the heads of characters I've come to love in the last 4 books, but we get more of their backstories as well, especially Naomi and Amos. 

In fact if you haven't read The Churn previously, I'd highly recommend doing so before this novel. I think you'll get a lot more out of Amos's storyline if you do. I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite plotline. They were all just so good.

So apart from excellent choice for POVs what really makes this book so great is the focus of the story. The stuff with the protomolecule in the last four books has been interesting, but this book mostly takes a break from that.

The tensions have long been bubbling between the three human factions of Earth, Mars and The Belt/OPA have finally come to a head. And just when I thought I was enjoying this book, BAM! It somehow got even better.

This is a very different story than last four. That may upset some fans, but for me it breathed new life into a series that seemed in danger of losing its way.

Some characters in this book made me so mad! Others made me scared or nervous. Just seeing Bobbie and Avasarala made me happy. I hated having to stop listening each day, and I couldn't wait to start listening again. 

To me that's the sort of thing that pushes something from a 4-star rating into the vary rare company of a 5-star rating. It also put it solidly on my favorites shelf. I will definitely be listening to this one again.

If I had one complaint it's that it's over! I can't wait for book 6! If you found yourself not as happy with the last book or two, I highly recommend giving this one a shot, I really think it's best one yet!

S&L Podcast - #227 - Cherie Priest and the Caverns of Inspiration

This weekend at DragonCon 2015 in Atlanta, we had the great fortune of chatting with Cherie Priest for an hour in front a live audience of Sword & Laser enthusiasts! Listen in to hear Cherie's rise from goth to glorious, the proper way to distinguish steampunk from goth, and why Lizzie Borden is not who you thought.

Then go buy her books!
Download direct show file here.

Vaginal Fantasy x Sword & Laser!

This month, both of my nerdy online book clubs combined forces and chose the same book: Uprooted by Naomi Novik! You've already heard our wrap-up on S&L, but make sure you watch the slightly more unhinged episode of VF. We cover sexy times, casting, magical systems, and otter relations.

More of Vaginal Fantasy at our website!

S&L Podcast - #226 - Embrace the Manic Pixie Dream Witch

We’re happy for the Hugos, sad for the last Terry Pratchett novel, and J.R.R. Tolkien has a new book. Plus, we wrap up Uprooted by Naomi Novik and make our peace with a trope.

Download directly here!

Tom: Yorkshire Gold Tea    
Veronica: Cab Sauv from Anderson Valley    

Why the Hugos Matter
Final Terry Pratchett novel "The Shepherd's Crown' Goes on sale tonight in UK
J.R.R. Tolkien's The Story of Kullervo Will Be Published In October
Brendan: Has this been mentioned yet? Gollancz to publish "Sharp Ends", a collection of short stories from the world of the First Law by Joe Abercrombie. A mix of new and old short stories.  
Rob Secundus: Well the official trailer for the martian is up. I thought the headline of this polygon article was probably hyperbolic, but nope! The trailer literally spoils every major plot point of the book.     

Tamahome: Syfy Keeps Making Scifi TV Shows, Puts Frederick Pohl's Gateway in Development

Dara: SyFy announced premiere dates for The Expanse and Childhood's end. Via EW: "The Expanse will kick off with a two-night premiere event starting Monday, Dec. 14 at 10 p.m. ET and continuing on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 10 p.m. ET, before moving to its regular Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET timeslot for the remainder of its 10-episode first season.

Warren:  The BBC audio drama version of The Foundation Trilogy (Public domain) Its about 7.4 hour long. I got the original unabridged audio book version years ago. Both versions are good.
Sandra: Mark your calendars! The Ready Player One film adaptation hits theaters December 15th 2017.     
Sandra: Caitlín R. Kiernan's Drowning Girl and The Red Tree Optioned For Film    
Tom I know you are a connoisseur of the BBC :)
BBC Woman Hour talking about SciFi and FanFic
-Paul B.


Greetings Supreme Sword and Supreme Laser,

First, I want to thank you both for all that you do. This group has introduced me to so many authors and books that I would have never found on my own. I've made friends with so many people in the forums and being able to connect with other geeky people has been such a joy. Thank you!

Now to my feedback... I think a Recommendations folder in the forum would be a great addition. People tend to post recommendation threads in the General and the What Else Are You Reading folders and that sometimes creates overlap or duplicate threads looking for the same types of books. It would help de-clutter the other folders and make it easier for members to post, search, and discuss recs. I figured that I would shoot my idea your way and you can do what you think is best with it.

Many thanks,


Tom and Veronica,
My story, "The Lesser Evil" was part of your Sword & Laser anthology. I wanted to send a quick note to let you know that the story is one of the finalists for the Washington Science Fiction Association's 2015 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction.


Thanks for the opportunity!  :) 



Peter V Brett & dice

Message: I was listening to episode #211 today while I walked (trying to catch up to current) and he lamented the fact that there were no 16 sided dice. There is a game called Dungeon Crawl Classic (by Goodman Games http://www.goodman-games.com/dccrpg.html) that uses dice that are non-standard including a d16.

-Jim H.

Next Month: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.    

 Uprooted by Naomi Novik    
Baba Yaga    

Slate, on the Dragon: "He’s like a fussy music theory professor forced to cut an album with an improvising jazz musician, but the resulting music is better than either could make separately."    
Uprooted: Manic Pixie Dream Witch    
 Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at patreon.com/swordandlaser Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to patreon.com/swordandlaser    
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at swordandlaser.com/picks.    

S&L Podcast - #225 - Why You Should Welcome the Robots

We chat with J-F Dubeau, author of The Life Engineered about why we should keep calm and build more robots. Also the good news of more Game of Thrones coming to TV thrilled the live audience at Nerdtacular 2015 as did our surprise host-swap! And thanks to Matt Avery of The Tadpool for the album art inspiration, and Greg Skinner for the original photo!

Recorded before a live studio of nerds, and thanks to Jeff Cannata of We Have Concerns for joining in! Download link here.

Sandra: Game of Thrones news HBO Planning Eight seasons now, and maybe a prequel season?   
Paul:    Didn't want to start a whole thread for this but I took my wife to 
Barnes and Noble for fan girl Friday and they were giving away free 
copies of Drive...the Expanse prequel short story to advertise the 
upcoming TV show. If your interested its worth it to add to your collection check if they have it at your local store.
J-F Dubeau author of Life Engineered      
Next Month: Uprooted by Naomi Novik    
Uprooted by Naomi Novik official site