The Medusa Cycle – Emily Devenport

Sam Weber

Cover artist

I usually don’t have much time for reflection, but lately I seem to have nothing but time, and I find myself wondering – what sort of killer am I?

Technically I qualify as a serial killer, because I have been killing for many years. I probably also qualify as a mass murderer, because once I killed twenty-six people within a five-hour period.

Oichi Angelis is a worm. That is a very low manual labourer in the generation starship Olympia. But that changes after the ruling elite kills her. Whether she survives or not she is officially dead.

In the two books of the Medusa Cycle – Medusa Uploaded and Medusa in the Graveyard – Oichi wants a better life for herself and people like her, and to get that she has to kill the leaders of the ruling class. She gets help from Medusa, who is not human – and Oichi’s long and difficult road towards freedom starts.

Emily Devenport’s first novels in more than fifteen years are very welcome. This is Space Opera that we did not know we missed, until these books came along.

The books are page turners with a well defined and likeable protagonist, AI’s of different kinds, bio-constructs, huge generation spaceships, power plays, murders and all the twists, complications and surprises you could want.

Excellent world building, characters that are living, loving, adorable or scheming, cold and power hungry – and lots of things in between. In other words they are alive!

The Medusa Cycle has a satisfying ending in book two – but that does not mean that Emily Devenport cannot write more books in this universe, should she want to. I kind of hope she does.

To be Taught if Fortunate – Becky Chambers

Alyssa Winans

Cover artist

We exist where we begin, yet to remain there is death.

At the turn of the twenty-second century scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations.

The MERIAN is sent to explore four habitable planets fifteen light years from Earth. Its crew of four are sleeping while in transit, but when they arrive, they are woken up to survey the four planets.

This novella is concentrating on the ecologically survey the crew of the MERIAN is conducting. But at the same time it is also keeping in mind that Earth may change in the decades the expedition takes from the point of view of Earth – and the fact that Earth may not really be interested in the expedition anymore, because they may have other problems. 

Some readers may think that this sounds a bit dry, but as usual BECKY CHAMBERS’ story makes for an interesting read. Science, joy of new discoveries and living your dreams are what this book is about. There are no murders, violence and fatal accidents that many other authors might have chosen as essential for an interesting story.

You come away from this book knowing that you have been told a sincere and serious story of a possible future of human space exploration. And hopefully the feeling that it is important to keep exploring space if humanity wants to keep evolving.

 

The book ends with a quote:

 

As the Secretary General of the United Nations, an organisation of one hundred and forty seven member states who represent almost all of the human inhabitants of the planet Earth, I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet. We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship – to teach, if we are called upon; to be taught, if we are fortunate. We know full well that our planet and all its inhabitants are but a small part of this immense universe that surrounds us, and it is with humility and hope that we take this step.

– Former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, 1977, as recorded on the Voyager Golden Record.

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Middlegame – Seanan McGuire

Will Staehle

Cover artist

There is so much blood.

Roger didn’t know there was this much blood in the human body. It seems impossible, ridiculous, a profligate waste of something that should be precious and rare – and most importantly, contained. This blood belongs inside the body where it began, and yet here it is, and here he is, and everything is going so wrong.

Dodger isn’t dead yet, despite the blood, despite everything. Her chest rises and fall in tiny hitches, barely visible to the eye. Each breath is a clear struggle, but she keeps fighting for the next one. She’s still breathing. She’s still bleeding.

She’s not going to bleed for long. She doesn’t, no pun intended, have it in her. And when she stops breathing, so does he.

Roger and Dodger are twins, but they are adopted with Roger living on the east coast and Dodger on the west coast – so they don’t know this until much later.

In 1901 Asphodel D. Baker talked to the American Alchemical Congress about the Doctrine of Ethos, which she was prepared to incarnate. Asphodel is the master and mentor of James Reed, who is also her killer. In 1986 he presents the incarnation of the Doctrine of Ethos – newborn twins Roger and Dodger.

All this is the opening of Middlegame by Seanan McGuire.

She has written more than fifty books in just ten years. She has won Hugos, Nebulas, Locus awards and the John W. Campbell award. She is a New York Times bestselling author. She writes fantasy, SF, comics and you will also find elements of horror, thrillers and fairy tales. She writes both under her own name, and the pseudonym Mira Grant. She also sings and writes filksongs.

That is just a portion of what she has done, but it should give you an idea of her skills, productivity and popularity.

In my opinion Middlegame is the best book she has written – yet!

However, it may not be for everyone. If you need your books to fit into a certain genre, you will probably be frustrated by Middlegame. It has elements of fantasy, science fantasy, fairy tales, science fiction and …..

Also, if you need every little thing explained, well maybe you should not be reading fantasy or SF.

Seanan McGuire tries to do a lot of things with this book, and she mostly succeeds. 

Following Roger and Dodger as children, teenagers and adults is fascinating. As they slowly learn what they are, and what they have to become to survive, we are mesmerised by Seanan Mcguire’s way of making Roger and Dodger living, interesting and lovable characters. If you don’t feel love and interest for Rodger and Dodger, you might as well stop reading this fabulous book.

Middlegame clocks in at slightly over 500 pages, and I loved it all, but

there is so much blood, there is so much blood, there is so much blood……

Universe of Xuya – Aliette de Bodard


Cover artist:
On a Red Station Drifting – Nhan Y Doanh
Tithi Luadhtong (hardcover)
The Citadel of Weeping Pearls – Maurizio Manzieri
The Tea Master and the Detective – Maurizio Manzieri

Cover artist

The Universe of Xuya is the universe in which Aliette de Bodard writes most of her space operas.

This universe is a universe, where the Vietnamese are the rulers. They have developed mindships – run by artificial intelligences grown in human wombs.

The societies are based upon old Vietnamese and Chinese traditions and societies, which makes for a fascinating and strange (to a Westener like me) backdrop and gives Aliette de Bodard the possibility of writing space operas that are quite different from the usual ones based on Western military backgrounds.

Done with the beautiful and precise prose of Aliette de Bodard this makes for mind bending reading on top of the author’s very human and personal characters.

At the moment the author has written approximately 30 stories of varying length in this universe – and she is working on her first novel in the Universe of Xuya. 

Published separately at the moment are the three novellas above:

  1. On a Red Station Drifting
  2. The Citadel of Weeping Pearls
  3. The Tea Master and the Detective

In September 2019 a collection of her short works (with lots of Universe of Xuya stories and Dominion of the Fallen stories included) will be published by Subterranean Press. Press the button below to read more.

 

 

Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight will be published in September 2019 by Subterranean Press in a signed and numbered hardcover edition with a beautiful cover by Maurizio Manzieri:

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • The Shipmaker
  • The Jaguar House, in Shadow
  • Scattered Along the River of Heaven
  • Immersion
  • The Waiting Stars
  • Memorials
  • The Breath of War
  • The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile
  • The Dust Queen
  • Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight
  • A Salvaging of Ghosts
  • Pearl
  • Children of Thorns, Children of Water
  • Of Birthdays, and Fungus, and Kindness (original novella)
    • Story Notes  
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If you want to see some covers without disturbing text, please press the button below.

 

Cover artist: Maurizio Manzieri


 

Cover artist

The Citadel of Weeping Pearls – Aliette de Bodard

Maurizio Manzieri

Cover artist

The Turtle’s Golden Claw, Bach Cud’s masterpiece, diving into the furthest deep spaces, seeking traces of something that had vanished many years ago.

The Citadel of Weeping Pearls – and, with it, its founder and ruler, the Empress’s eldest and favourite daughter, Bright Princess Ngoc Minh.

This novella in the Universe of Xuya takes place later than Aliette de Bodard’s earlier novella “On a Red Station, Drifting” and the main character of that novella (Lê Thi Linh) plays a role in this one.

The Citadel of Weeping Pearls disappeared thirty years ago and was never seen again. Now the Empress tries to find it, as she is desperately in need of its weapons. This is a desperate move that may have dire consequences.

Once again the Universe of Xuya is a fascinating setting in the hands of Aliette de Bodard and as always this novella is a must read. 

At the moment Aliette de Bodard is working on her first novel in this universe – I can hardly wait. 

On a Red Station, Drifting – Aliette de Bodard


Cover artist: Nhan Y Doanh (left image)
Tithi Luadthong (right image)

Cover artist

She stood silent and unmoving as he dragged her into the trance: she got a brief flash of his credentials as Keeper of the Outer Gates for Prosper Station, and an even briefer flash of his family tree, the line of his greater ancestors lighting up in red, warm tones, all the way up until it intersected her own lineage. A cousin, somewhat removed. Hardly surprising, as most of Prosper Station came, ultimately from the same stock that had bred her: Lê Thi Phuoc, who had borne in her womb the Honoured Ancestress and Her four human siblings.

Lê Thi Linh arrives at Prosper Station as a fugitive from the war that has come to the Dai Viet Empire.

The Honoured Ancestress – the artificial intelligence born of a human womb – has guided and protected its human relatives on Prosper Station. Now, her mind is faltering, and the future of the station itself hangs in the balance.

This novella is part of Aliette de Bodard’s Universe of Xuya, where the Vietnamese rules the universe with their mindships. The combination of space opera and a universe based on old Vietnamese and Chinese society is both new and fascinating.  The vivid description in beautiful prose makes this  novella another great read by the author.

In 2019 it was published in a beautiful numbered and signed hardcover – the cover to the right of the two covers above.

In the Vanishers’ Palace – Aliette de Bodard

Kelsey Liggett

Cover artist

“Here” the dragon said. She held out Mother to Yên. Yên took her, arms bowing under the weight. Mother was old and frail, but to carry her as effortlessly as the dragon had… “She’s exhausted herself summoning me,” the dragon went on. There was no emotion in her voice.

Yên opened her mouth and tried to speak, but found no words in the scorched desert of her heart.

“Take care of her,” the dragon said. “I’ll be back.”

Failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, and she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement. But it turns out Vu Côn has other plans for her.

The Vanishers came, enslaved the people, poisoned and ruined the world – and then they left leaving monstrous beings and weird creations behind.

This short novel is not a part of any of Aliette de Bodard’s other worlds, neither the world of the Dominion of the Fallen or Universe of Xuya. However, the worldbuilding is just as beautiful and tight.

The characters and the story is fascinating, and I sincerely hope, that we shall see more of this world in the future.

As usual with this author – a must read. 

October Daye series – Seanan McGuire


All covers are by Chris McGrath

Cover artist

 

The “October Daye” series is the first and longest running series by Seanan McGuire.

October Daye (Toby) is a changeling – half fae and half human. Having to adopt to both worlds and survive presents some real problems. In this series we follow Toby as she finds out exactly who and what she is.

This is one of the very best urban fantasy series around. Right away Toby and her universe becomes real – and you cannot wait to follow her development and antics.

Be aware that the first couple of books in the series (Seanan McGuire’s first books)  shows her developing as a writer, but around book three and onwards her skills as a writer and storyteller has reached an awesome level.

Toby, her friends, the world and the stories are so alive that I dare you not to love this series.

October Daye:

  1. Rosemary and Rue
  2. A Local Habitation
  3. An Artificial Night
  4. Late Eclipses
  5. One Salt Sea
  6. Ashes of Honor
  7. Chimes at Midnight
  8. The Winter Long
  9. A Red-Rose Chain
  10. Once broken Faith
  11. The Brightest Fell
  12. Night and Silence
  13. The Unkindest Tide

If you would like to see some of the cover art without intruding text, please press the button below.


Here is a link to the website of Chris Mcgrath.

Cover artist

The Tea Master and the Detective – Aliette de Bodard

Maurizio Manzieri

Cover artist

That gaze again from Long Chau. The Shadow’s Child was used to respect or fear; to downcast eyes; to awkwardness, even, with people who weren’t used to dealing with a shipmind, especially one that wasn’t involved in passenger service.

The Universe of Xuya is filled with Vietnamese scholars and living mindships.

Long Chau needs to solve a problem, and she comes to the mindship The Shadow’s Child for help. They both have problems, but together they may be able to solve these as an aside to the problem Long Chau originally needed help for.

Besides being a space opera this beautiful novella is a pastiche of the Holmes/Watson pairing with Long Chau as Sherlock Holmes and The Shadow’s Child as Dr. Watson.

The Universe of Xuya is a fascinating construct. To a Westener like me, the idea of a universe dominated by Vietnamese makes for very interesting reading. I have no real knowledge of how the Vietnamese or Chinese cultures worked. Aliette de Bodard manages to bridge the gap of understanding and give at least a very interesting insight into Eastern societies of old. As usual her nearly poetical use of language makes her stories a delight.

Aliette de Bodard has written about 30 stories in her Universe of Xuya, where the Vietnamese and Chinese dominate and have created a society based on their old cultures from earth. The Tea Master and the Detective won the 2018 Nebula Award for best novella and is also nominated for the 2019 Hugo Award.

In September 2019 a collection of her short works (with lots of Universe of Xuya stories and Dominion of the Fallen stories included) will be published by Subterranean Press. Press the button below to read more.

 

 

Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight will be published in September 2019 by Subterranean Press in a signed and numbered hardcover edition with a beautiful cover by Maurizio Manzieri:

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • The Shipmaker
  • The Jaguar House, in Shadow
  • Scattered Along the River of Heaven
  • Immersion
  • The Waiting Stars
  • Memorials
  • The Breath of War
  • The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile
  • The Dust Queen
  • Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight
  • A Salvaging of Ghosts
  • Pearl
  • Children of Thorns, Children of Water
  • Of Birthdays, and Fungus, and Kindness (original novella)
    • Story Notes    
Read more

 

At the moment Aliette de Bodard is working on a new novel in the Universe of Xuya, which I am really looking forward to.

Press the button below to see another beautiful cover for a trade paperback edition of The Tea Master and the Detective .

Cover artist:  Dick Berger

Cover

 

Dominion of the Fallen – Aliette de Bodard

The House of Shattered Wings: Nekro
The House of Binding Thorns: Nekro
The House of Sundering Flames: Dick Berger

Cover artist

A Fallen. A young one, barely manifested in the world, lying in pain, somewhere close; somewhere vulnerable in a city where young Fallen were merchandise, creatures to be taken apart and killed before they became too powerfull and did the taking apart and the killing.

The fallen angels are the rulers of an alternate Paris. The Fallen are split up in factions, each belonging to a different house. The houses fought a devastating war with each other to gain ultimate power over Paris. 

Now the city is more or less ruined, the houses are weakened but still plot against each other – and at the slightest sign of weakness they pounce and try to eliminate the weak house.

Into these fights come other powers. Dragons living in the depths of the Seine and an exiled Annamite (Vietnamese) from the Imperial Court of Immortals.

Magic, power, arrogance – fear, poverty, desolation – love, kindness and compassion are all stirred in a big pot in the hope of getting a mixture that can satisfy and sustain the city and its inhabitants.

The pot is stirred by Aliette de Bodard. She is fantastic – that’s a fact.

Her mixture of Eastern and Western cultures gives the story an extra spice, that is fascinating for someone (that’s me) who does not have a real knowledge of old Vietnamese culture. 

This mix of cultures is carried out with a poetic use of language that makes every page a small wonder.

Already Aliette de Bodard has gotten 3 Nebula awards, 1 Locus award and 1 BSFA award for her shorter work and has been nominated for more Nebula and Hugo awards.

The first book in the Dominion of the Fallen trilogy won the BAFTA award for best novel in 2015.

These books should be read in the order they were published:

  1. The House of Shattered Wings.
  2. The House of Binding Thorns.
  3. The House of Sundering Flames.

Do yourself a favour and read these fantastic books.

The House of Sundering Flames was first published in a tradepaper edition by Gollancz (UK) with this cover:

As this is the first edition, this is the edition I have. I do not have the US edition, and the book has not been published in a hardcover edition.

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