God's War by Kameron Hurley

Buy God’s War by Kameron Hurley: book/eBook

Yesterday, Angry Robot Books announced the Worldbreaker Saga, a new fantasy/science fiction trilogy from Kameron Hurley (remember her?). “The Mirror Empire will be published worldwide in September this year, with the sequel to follow a year later,” explains Angry Robot.

Surprising to note, The Mirror Empire is set to release this September, a very quick turnaround in the world of traditional publishing, and sure to set some readers to shuffling around their fall reading list. It’s instantly become one of my most anticipated novels of 2014.

Hurley’s best known for her Bel Dame Apocrypha, a slim trilogy (by genre standards) about the bounty hunter Nyx, which Dan Hartland of Strange Horizons described as, “like a live grenade, lobbed with abandon and not a little mischief.” So, I was rightfully surprised when she described The Mirror Empire to me. “This is Game of Thrones meets Fringe,” she said. “Across three respectable doorstoppers.”

Along with the announcement, we also have an early synopsis:

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy.

Stretching from desolate tundra to steamy, semi-tropical climes seething with sentient plant life, this is an epic tale of blood mages and mercenaries, emperors and priestly assassins who must unite to save a world on the brink of collapse. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler struggles to unite a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayals, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, only one world will rise – and many will perish.

Art by Jung Park

Art by Jung Park

I caught up with Hurley to chat about the new deal an what to expect of her new trilogy. “his book has been a long time coming,” she said. “It’s one of those projects that brews at the back of your brain for nearly twenty years, waiting for you to achieve the skill you need to actually pull it off.”

Hurley’s first trilogy has been a huge critical success (most recently, God’s War was nominated for a BSFA), but she wasn’t ready to return to that world for novel-length material, so began this new project.

“After I finished my God’s War trilogy, I needed a break from writing a world mired in apocalyptic war… so of course I sat down and wrote The Mirror Empire, which is about a world at the brink of apocalyptic war with multiple worlds. Because one world at war just isn’t, you know, enough for me. It’s the most intricate and complex book I’ve ever written, and I had a lot of help along the way, in particular from my agent, Hannah Bowman, who has a very keen sense for how to thread together multiple plot lines over multiple worlds and… well… a lot of multiple things, as folks will note pretty early on.”

“I’m pretty jazzed to see what folks think of it.”

We See A Different Frontier by Fabio Fernandes & Djibril al-Ayad

Publisher: Futurefire - Pages: 220 - Buy: Book/eBook
We See A Different Frontier, by Fabio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad

There’s a saying my grandmother likes to use when people are eating dinner: instead of saying ‘I’m full’, she prefers ‘I’ve had an elegant sufficiency’. It’s this phrase which sprang to mind as I finished We See A Different Frontier: because everything about it, from the overarching themes of the stories themselves to their place and number in the collection, feels perfectly designed to amaze, impress and satisfy. It is, in every way that matters, an elegant sufficiency of stories; the kind of anthology that leaves you feeling eager – but not starving – for more of the same.

Bracketed by a preface from Aliette de Bodard and an afterword from Ekaterina Sedia, Frontier is a powerful, fascinating and deeply necessary examination of colonialism through an SFFnal lens – and, by extension, of its real-world history and legacy. In a genre which so often deals with questions of technology, expansion, power and revolution – spacefaring explorers discovering new worlds, rebels battling empires and dystopian states, humans negotiating with elves and aliens – the Western, imperial roots of much classic SFF also dictate that, even though there’s a glut of stories championing the underdog, exulting in their endless against-the-odds victories over a sea of evil masters, it’s comparatively rare for the oppressed heroes of science fiction to resemble those groups most oppressed in real life.

All too often, we shy away from stories whose oppressor/oppressed dynamics purposefully and overtly reflect our many real-world inequalities.

There are, for instance, any number of dystopian stories that lament the narratively-imposed lack of heteronormative romantic choice, but none I can think of that mimic the actual, real-world oppression of queer love. Similarly, and despite the awful volume of historical evidence that human colonialism and Western expansion have invariably been fraught with violence, evil and bigotry, our stories tend overwhelmingly to suggest the opposite, couching human colonists as either enlightened liberators or scientific progressives, and Western (or Western-style) hegemony as the system that supplants, rather than endorses, tyrannical empire, or which at the absolute best is shown to be open to abuse, not because of any inherent flaws, but due to the temporary lack of a Good King. All too often, we shy away from stories whose oppressor/oppressed dynamics purposefully and overtly reflect our many real-world inequalities: at best, we brush them off as didactic, simplistic and agenda-laden, their messages so obvious as to go without saying (because doing so makes us uncomfortable, natch), and at worst, as biased propaganda designed to make “us” look like the bad guys. Read More »

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Editor’s Note: Myke Cole submitted this essay on November 21st, 2013, parallel to the historic graduation of three women from the Marine Corps’ Infantry Training Battalion course It was the first time in the 238-year history of the Marine Corps that this happened. As we know, however, it is far from setting precedent for the rest of human history.

Today, the first three women graduated infantry school for the US Marine Corps. I don’t have to tell you how big a deal this is. It marks the start of an era where our military steps out of a dark age that has limited not only our esteem, but our combat effectiveness, permitting us to tap a resource we have ignored for years for a host of non-reasons too numerous and too farcical to review here.

Life imitates art, folks say. The inverse is also true, so it’s not surprising to see military fiction taking females more seriously, especially in combat roles. The Oh-John-Ringo-No set is seeing its twilight. It no longer represents the military we know, where women hold combat arms roles. It lacks the authenticity that readers of military fiction crave.

People are saying that this is a victory for women, that they have struggled and fought and finally earned the right to be held as equals behind the gun.

I call BS. Read More »

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

The release of Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance looms on the horizon like a highstorm. Tor continues to drum up excitement for a novel that is sure to be one of the biggest fantasy releases of the year, and heir apparent to Robert Jordan’s completed Wheel of Time series (’cause, something has to fill that spot on Tor’s release schedule, right?), with a generous dose of early-release chapters.

So far released: Prologue, 1, 2, Lift, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 & 9

(Please note: chapter seven has not been released early, so don’t skip it when you read the final book!)

And a little sneak peek (with, I suppose, minor spoilers for those of you sensitive to those things. In which case, why have you read so far through this post?)

Shallan sat again on her box on the ship’s deck, though she now wore a hat on her head, a coat over her dress, and a glove on her freehand—her safehand was, of course, pinned inside its sleeve.

The chill out here on the open ocean was something unreal. The captain said that far to the south, the ocean itself actually froze. That sounded incredible; she’d like to see it. She’d occasionally seen snow and ice in Jah Keved, during the odd winter. But an entire ocean of it? Amazing.

She wrote with gloved fingers as she observed the spren she’d named Pattern. At the moment, he had lifted himself up off the surface of the deck, forming a ball of swirling blackness—infinite lines that twisted in ways she could never have captured on the flat page. Instead, she wrote descriptions supplemented with sketches.

“Food…” Pattern said. The sound had a buzzing quality and he vibrated when he spoke.

“Yes,” Shallan said. “We eat it.” She selected a small limafruit from the bowl beside her and placed it in her mouth, then chewed and swallowed.

“Eat,” Pattern said. “You… make it… into you.”

“Yes! Exactly.”

You might be concerned that Tor is releasing too much of Words of Radiance before the book even hits store shelves. Worry not. By my calculations, the currently released excerpts only cover 0.000839% of the 17,000 page manuscript for Words of Radiance. That’s but a feather atop a mountain.

If you’re looking to catch up on The Way of Kings (Buy: Book/eBook), don’t forget about the reread going on over at Tor.com. If it’s anything like their other rereads, it’s great stuff.

Words of Radiance releases on March 4th, 2014. It is available now for preorder: Book/eBook.

Ben Kenobi by Phil Postma

Pixar-style Ben Kenobi by Phil Postma

Another day, another Star Wars rumour. This time, reports are floating around that Pixar, those awesome folk behind some of the best films of the past decade-and-a-half, are working on a Star Wars. Not Episode VII, presumably, but something entirely separate. Count me intrigued and, well fanboyishly optimistic.

Rob Bricken of io9, however, recognizes that it might be more of a leap-of-faith than a full blown rumour. “Anyone who remembers that Disney owns Star Wars, Disney owns Pixar, and Pixar makes good movies, could probably put all the facts together and come out with the same hypothesis,” he said. “So let’s all pretend it is true, and maybe we’ll force Disney to conform reality to our wishes.”

Adam Whitehead shares his own concerns about Disney’s intentions with the Star Wars Expanded Universe that currently exists in the Star Wars books, videogames, and comic books. “Something that irritates in all of this, “No-one cares about the Star Wars games, books and comics!” stuff is how BS it is,” Whitehead said on Twitter. “The Star Wars Expanded Universe-set materials have made about $6 billion. That’s more than the theatrical gross of the 6 movies. And about a third of the combined films theatrical gross+home video/DVD/Blu-Ray sales. Still very significant.” Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy has sold nearly 20 million copies by itself, which is more than George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (which is up to five books now), which illuminates just how important the EU is to a lot of fans. However, I wonder, how many of those 20 million were sold to the children and young adults that will become obsessed with the Pixar film and fill their parents’ ears for all the associated merchandise?