The 5 winners of The Purifying Fire, the new Magic: The Gathering novel by Laura Resnick, have been drawn with the help of random.org. The winners are:

Jeff H, Pennsylvania
Timothy Y, Canada
Matt A, New York
Alan G, New York
Mihai A, Romania

Congratulations to all the winners! I hope you enjoy the book!

To celebrate the July 7th release of her latest novel, The Purifying Fire, Laura Resnick answered 5 interview questions and I have 5 copies of the book to give away. Currently, Laura writes fantasy, but she has also written several romances under the name Laura Leone. Her fantasy books include The Chronicles of Sirkara series, beginning with In Legend Born, and the Esther Diamond urban fantasy series, starting with Disappearing Nightly.

The Purifying Fire A Magic: The Gathering Planeswalker Novel by Laura Resnick
This book begins the story of Chandra Nalaar, the impulsive young fire mage whose exploration of the multiverse and the extent of her own volatile power draws the attention of an ancient faith that sees her as a herald of the apocalypse.

Sound interesting? Giveaway rules are below, but first, Laura answers some questions.

When you discuss the writing process, you mention research as one of the steps you take before you even write chapter one. What is the strangest fact you have come across when conducting research for one of your books?

I don’t know what the strangest fact has been (as a fantasy writer, I read a lot of strange research material), but I can certainly give an example. In my urban fantasy Disappearing Nightly, there’s a scene where the characters are wading through research books about bizarre supernatural disappearances and summarizing the improbable contents for each other. All of those distinctly strange anecdotes were taken from my own research. I’m not sure I’d call those anecdotes “facts,” but I did find them in books that purported to be nonfiction.

In another example, some friends considered doing an intervention when they found me with some “how to” books about becoming a sex worker (prostitute, porn actor, etc.). No, I wasn’t that broke and desperate; this was research reading for my last romance novel, Fallen From Grace.

Mephistopheles appears in your living room and offers you a deal – he will rewrite history so you were the author of one work of literature of your choice. Which book would you choose? Or if you decide making a deal with him is foolish, which book would tempt you to accept this offer the most?

I’d probably choose Katherine Neville’s The Eight, a terrific gazillion-word historical-contemporary mystery-fantasy puzzle-adventure about a priceless chess set and a secret alchemic formula. But I doubt I’d actually accept the deal, since I’d rather write more of my own books than get credit for Neville’s.

You’ve lived in the US, England, Israel and Italy. How has the experience of living in several different countries influenced your writing?

I’ve also crossed Africa overland. And what living in other societies teaches you is that there is no “normal” way of thinking and of doing things. “Normal” is just what’s locally accepted; in another place, the exact same thing sounds so strange, people think you’re making it up, or warped, or degenerate, or incredibly privileged, or quite silly. So my experiences of living in other societies have influenced my ability to see through the eyes of characters totally unlike myself and create believable fictional societies unlike my own.

Before you became an author, you had sworn to never become a writer. What changed your mind? Do you now wish you could go back in time to tell yourself to stick to your guns and stay out of the writing business?

Nothing changed my mind. After becoming a professional writer, I tried twice to quit. But this is my calling, like it or not. I wish I felt compelled to do legal work for vast, wealthy corporations with insanely generous benefits and bonus plans. (My parents also wish this.) But, alas, this is what I’m compelled to do. Go figure.

What is the one book you have lodged in your brain that you wish you could write but know you never will?

When asked what he’d do if he was told he had only a year left to live, Isaac Asimov said, “Write faster.” Indeed! I have absolutely no idea which of my gazillion story ideas will lose out to the Grim Reaper. But since I can’t live forever, and since I get new book ideas all the time, something certainly will.

Thank you, Laura, for taking the time to answer some queries!

If you would like to read more about Laura, she also stopped over at SciFiChick on Tuesday to discuss what she enjoyed most about writing for the Planeswalker series, her writing career, what inspires her, how she spends her leisure time, and her next projects on the radar. Yesterday she was over at SciFiGuy talking about her favorite scene from The Purifying Fire, her next fantasy novels, her experiences writing romance novels, and some of her all-time favorite novels.

Giveaway Rules
If you would like to win a copy of The Purifying Fire, I have 5 copies to give away courtesy of Wizards of the Coast. The giveaway is open to anyone, no matter what country you live in. To enter, send an email to fantasycafe AT novomancy DOT org with the subject line “Planeswalker” containing your mailing address. Mailing addresses will only be used for sending the books to the winners and emails will be deleted once the contest is closed. The giveaway will end on Sunday July 12 at noon (Eastern Standard Time).

Good luck!

As you may have seen yesterday if you read “The Education of Edward Cullen,” I asked a few people to write about the following topic this week since I am getting married in Las Vegas:

What Happens in Vegas…
Pick one of your favorite characters (or a group of your favorite characters). Describe what kind of trouble they would get into if they spent one week in Las Vegas.

I asked Seanan McGuire, author of a new urban fantasy coming out in September, Rosemary and Rue (which I’ll be reading and reviewing sometime in the not-to-distant future), if she’d like to write a piece about a favorite character of maybe one of her own creation. She agreed, and I was thrilled when she sent me this story about Velveteen from her superhero universe of short stories (several of which are available online).

Velveteen vs. Vegas

Velveteen—aka “Velma Martinez,” “The Super Patriots, Inc.’s Most Wanted Deserter,” and, when she was feeling particularly snarly, “The Bride of Chucky”—looked dubiously at the animatronic pirates in front of the casino she was supposedly meeting her contact in. The pirates continued in their sanitized piratical ways, which consisted mainly of hoisting empty tankards and plundering the ships of their fellow buccaneers.

“Fucked-up times five thousand,” she finally declared, opened the casino door, and went inside.

Stepping into the Jolly Roger Casino was something like stepping into the hybrid offspring of a Renaissance Faire and a strip club, only with more slot machines and less class. Busty barmaids wearing slutty pirate costumes that were probably purchased at a Halloween store clearance sale worked the crowd, distributing complementary cocktails to the high rollers and snubbing the tourists at the nickel slots. Velma froze in the doorway, realizing that, for once in her life, her formal “work attire” wouldn’t have stood out even in a “mundane world” locale. It was almost as disorienting as the casino’s carefully-controlled twilight.

Then a hand was at her elbow, and a redheaded woman with a sunny smile and an outfit that consisted almost entirely of sequins was tugging her gently out of the flow of traffic. “Vel?” she asked.

“Yeah.” Velma yanked her arm free, eyeing the woman. “You are?”

“Showgirl,” said the woman, in a tone that clearly denoted it as a name, rather than a job position. “They sent me to watch for you. Will you come with me? Fortunate Son would really like to meet you before…well, before things go any further.”

Velma briefly considered asking for the woman’s credentials, but dismissed the idea as unnecessary. Given the number of stuffed pirates and cuddly plush pirate ships scattered around the room, she could re-enact the siege of the Spanish Main if she had to.

“Great,” she said. “Let’s go.”

The population of super-powered humans in the United States has been rising steadily since the “Big Three” first made their appearance. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these “superhumans” have often chosen to settle in large metro areas, where their unusual tendencies are more easily overlooked. New York, San Francisco, Detroit, and Toronto sport some of the most dense superhuman communities in North America.

And then there is Las Vegas. A city where the flashier, more exotic superhumans tend to make their homes, from the glitter and flash of Vaudeville to the elegant probability-manipulations of Dame Fortuna. They are often ignored in favor of the mundane glories of the Strip, which is, after all unique. We all have heroes at home, but how many of us can say the same of Cesar’s Palace? In Las Vegas, the superhuman community can relax, knowing that they will never be the headline attraction. They like it that way.

Interestingly enough, the high density of probability-manipulators in Vegas—at least eight at last count, including Dame Fortuna, her daughter, the lovely Lady Luck, and Lady Luck’s husband, Fortunate Son—has resulted in The Super Patriots, Inc. having rather serious trouble establishing a true foothold in the area. Oh, nothing has ever been proven, but after losing eight branch offices to freak accidents (including the historically ridiculous Guinea Pig Stampede), they’ve stopped trying. The heroes of Las Vegas live untroubled by corporate regulations.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of what’s going on elsewhere in the superhuman community…

Fortunate Son stood barely over six feet, with desert-sand hair and eyes the blue of ten-dollar poker chips. He leaned against the side of a pool table as Showgirl led Velma into the casino’s back room, his eyes raking Vel up and down and making her wish she’d thought to wear the lead-lined underwear. His power profile didn’t say anything about X-ray vision, but with the Vegas heroes, you never knew.

“I expected something fluffier,” he said, after an uncomfortably long silence.

Vel bristled. “I expected something taller.”

Showgirl looked alarmed. To Fortunate Son’s credit, he just laughed, shaking his head. “Girl, you are a piece of work. You know you’re in the temple of fortunes, don’t you? We could trash your world with a snap of our fingers.”

“Uh, hello, have we met? I’m as close as a hero comes to excommunicated. If The Super Patriots catch me outside Oregon, I’m under arrest, the Governor of Oregon gave me back my heroing license for reasons I still don’t quite understand, and my parents just sold their life story to the Pow Network for six figures, while I’m counting quarters for a trip to Starbucks. How are you going to trash my world? Give me bad hair? I have conditioner.”

“How did you even get here?” asked Showgirl.

“The Princess dropped me off at the edge of town.” Velveteen didn’t have to feign her shudder. “Flying carpet rides from Portland to Las Vegas are so very not fun. But I’ll still call her for my ride home. It’s better than the alternative.” She turned her attention back to Fortunate Son. “So what was so urgent that you had to call me out of my home territory, and why do I care?”

“You must care, or you wouldn’t have come,” he noted reasonably. “As for what’s so important…we’ve got us a leprechaun infestation.”

“Those don’t exist.”

“They do if Lucky Charms is back in town.”

Vel groaned. “I thought he was dead.”

“Guess he had one more four-leafed clover to deploy. Anyway, they’ve infiltrated the casino, and things are going wrong a heck of a lot faster than Mama likes. They’re about the size of our mascots, so we figure they’re playing dolly, and—”

“You want me to call the toys and see what doesn’t respond.” Velveteen crossed her arms, eyeing him skeptically. “Why am I going to do you this favor?”

“Because there weren’t three original heroes,” said a voice behind her. It was one of those impossible old-style movie star voices, the kind that promised sin and salvation at the same time. Vel turned to see an elegant Rita Hayworth-clone blonde woman in a floor-length green satin sheath dress gliding up to the group, a small smile painting her cupid’s-bow lips. “There were four, darling, and I’m the one that got left off the books when they decided to go public.”

Velveteen’s mouth went dry. “You mean you—”

“All the dirt, darling, all the petty little back-room deals and nasty little lies, I’ve got it all on paper. You want to find Jolly Roger? This is where you start looking. All you need to do is one tiny little service for the heroes of Vegas, and our files are yours.”

If she could find Jolly Roger—last of the Big Three, the only one whose death had never been confirmed—she could give Marketing something to worry about beyond the activities of one middle-grade animator who’d decided she wanted out. The Super Patriots, Inc. would leave her alone forever after that.

“Right.” Vel sighed. “What do you want me to do?”

There were approximately two thousand, seven hundred, and eight toys of one description or another within the confines of the Jolly Roger Casino. Velveteen stood in the middle of the main casino floor with her eyes closed and her hands raised in front of her chest, concentrating. After a while, she started to shake slightly, and toys all over the building started to get up of their own accord, running to reach her.

There were exactly nine hundred and two leprechauns within the confines of the Jolly Roger Casino. Video tapes of their epic battle against the plush pirates, random Beanie Babies, and “I Love Las Vegas” teddy bears can be purchased at the casino gift shop for twenty-five ninety-five. Attempts to pirate this recording onto YouTube have met with a series of inexplicable failures, some of which resulted in melted computer monitors.

In the end, separating the combatants proved surprisingly easy. Leprechauns bleed. Plush pirates don’t. Which is why leprechauns make for a much more satisfying, if PG-13, version of Whack-A-Mole.

The Princess brought her carpet in for a careful landing on the roof of the Jolly Roger Casino, knocking her tiara askew and frightening off a large flock of pigeons. Velveteen waved before hoisting the first of the stack of file boxes and carrying it over to load onto the carpet.

“Do I want to know?”

“They’re pirates.” Vel shrugged, dropping the box and going back for the next. “I plundered.”

“You plundered what, the admin office?”

“Pretty much. Hopefully, it was worth it.”

“Well, what do you think?”

Velveteen paused, remembering the malice that had sparkled in Dame Fortuna’s eyes when she talked about The Super Patriots, Inc., and the way that she’d laughed when the toys tore the casino floor apart. “I think it was,” she said, finally. “Now let’s go home.”

“Mind if we stop for pizza on the way?”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Wanna bet?”

Thanks Seanan! Where can I meet up with Velveteen while I’m there? She sounds like fun! I’m going to have to read the rest of the Vel stories now, especially since I saw there is one entitled Velveteen vs. the Coffee Freaks – I’m very curious about that one being a bit of an addict coffee freak myself.

Since I am in Las Vegas this week to get married, I asked a few people to write about the following topic:

What Happens in Vegas…
Pick one of your favorite characters (or a group of your favorite characters). Describe what kind of trouble they would get into if they spent one week in Las Vegas.

In return, Thea and Ana of one of my favorite blogs, The Book Smugglers, wrote this hilarious story about what would happen if Edward Cullen from Twilight was sent to Vegas to undergo some behavior modification treatment under the tutelage of five literary leading men (Rhett Butler, James Bond, Batman, Sirius Black, and Dracula). I’d advise not drinking anything while reading this unless you want to clean up a sprayed liquid mess…

The Education of Edward Cullen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Edward Cullen is a pansy. We know it, you know it, everyone over the age of twelve knows it. As a vampire, he sucks (actually, he doesn’t. He only drinks blood from animals). As a man, he subscribes to the ‘Stalk-Them-Until-They-Can’t-Say-No’ school of wooing. In fact, he is such a creepy little wuss that even literary characters have no respect for the guy. With no hope in sight for the Emo-est vampire in existence, a small but prestigious organization decided to intervene.

This is the story of Edward Cullen as he is taken under the tutelage of…The Five.

Headed by Rhett Butler, the group is formed by some of literature’s most luminary leading men – Batman, Dracula, James Bond and Sirius Black. The Five’s mission? To take Edward Cullen under their wing and reshape the twat into a True Hero (or at least something a little less twatty). The best place to carry on the mission? Las Vegas, baby (of course).

And here is an exclusive account, day by day of what happened when Butler’s Five took Edward Cullen to Las Vegas.

This is the Education of Edward Cullen.

Day One – Lessons on Smooth Behavior: Final Assessment by James Bond (Agent 007)

I met the student today and wasn’t terribly impressed. Edward seems to be a nice chap but without any signs of sophistication. It is unbelievable that he has been around for almost a century and all that he can do is to pout and stare.

After I managed to get him into a bearable outfit (with the help of Mr Armani), we hit the bar at The Venetian. As a test, I told him to order a drink and he asked for Pina Coladas – The bartender could only stare in disbelief as I proceeded to explain the difference between a pina colada and a Vodka Martini, the drink of a real man. The strangest thing is that Edward doesn’t even drink anything, so the beverages were entirely for show. And he chose to be debonair with a pina colada. It was then and there that I knew I was in for a true challenge.

After our short lesson at the bar, we moved to the Casino where I tried my best to teach Edward on how to approach a woman without burning his stare through her face. It is all about a smooth approach and innuendos. It all went down the drain from the there, as he insisted that The Stare Till She Say Yes is the best and logical approach. It is no wonder that he is still a virgin. Most of the lovely ladies moved away from us and as the last one he made a move on, threw her drink at his face shouting “weirdo” I decided to call it a day.

I believe it is a lost cause.

I can only hope that Sirius Black will have a better day tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I should contact M. and tell her that I need a new pen-knife since I lost mine when Edward thought I was carrying a stake in my pocket and threw it away.

Day 2 – Lessons on Being Friends with Werewolves: Excerpt from Rita Skeeter’s ‘Daily Prophet’ interview with Sirius Black & Remus Lupin

“…after winning the Quidditch World Cup. In other news, wizard heroes exonerated for their part against He Who Shall Not Be Named (too easily let off the hook, in this reporter’s estimation) Sirius Black and Remus Lupin are back from an exotic trip overseas to muggle-paradise Las Vegas.

In an exclusive interview with yours truly, investigative genius and reporter extraordinaire, Sirius and Lupin revealed their intentions behind travelling to that cesspool of corruption!

“It was all because of a strange vampire boy from a small muggle town. Rhett [reporter’s note: None other than the delectable muggle hero, Rhett Buter] contacted me with the irresistible offer to promote werewolf awareness and improve relationships towards those afflicted with lycanthropy. Apparently this vampire boy had taken issue with the local wolf pack to the point of true danger. Naturally, Remus and I could not refuse and seized the opportunity to talk some sense into the poor lad.” Sirius’s eyes clouded over as he recalled the times he and his cherished friend Remus suffered as boys at Hogwarts, running free on nights of the full moon.

Remus added, “It was all for naught, unfortunately. We tried to talk to Edward about stepping out of his comfort zone and to see werewolves as people first, suffering from a horrible affliction. It’s something Edward of all people should have understood, tortured self-loathing vampire as he is – -”

At this, Sirius Black muttered with a look of pure menace on his furrowed brow, “You mean twat, is what he is.”

Remus then replied, “Now, Sirius, that’s not fair. Lycanthrope relations are strained even in our world, and some of that prejudice is understandable.”

Waving a hand dismissively, the angered Black continued, “That may be so, Remus, but Edward was impossible. I had half a mind to fix him with a nasty spell. In any case, we both realized that Edward’s fixation – especially with some poor young wolf, James? Jacob, was it? – was never going to change. So we enjoyed a so called magic show with two blokes in white glitter, had a good laugh, and apparated back here.”

So there you have it. Remember you heard it here, from Rita Skeeter, first. In the next column I discuss baby names for the next possible child from scarred hero, Harry Potter…”

Day 3 – Vampirism 101 with Dracula: the Count’s account to Rhett Butter as overheard by a passerby in a Bellagio bar

“The pupil and I met after dark at the roof top of the Bellagio. As we looked down at the people walking the Strip I felt the overwhelming urge to go hunting but alas, the Mission took precedent, as you know. As the First and Most Prominent Vampire, I took upon myself to turn this sorry excuse of a vampire into a Real Vampyr. The first part of the lesson was the most important one. Vampires drink blood to stay alive – from humans. Females, preferably. It is cause for much grievance amongst us, vampires that this Cullen family has spread false rumours that vampirism is a disease and that sucking blood from animals is an honourable form of living. Trying to explain about Power and the three rules of sucking blood (Dazzle then, Suckle them, Leave them) proved to be a complete waste of time. I proceeded to talk about shape shifting and how to amass power from nature – how a true vampire can control the weather and the animals and even shift into a bat or a wolf and that running in the forest and playing baseball with your pals are not all that he can do with his awesome powers.

He looked at me completely disgusted as though the mere idea of all this power disturbed him. Youth, these days – it is complete beyond me how we vampires, have been de-fanged by literature. It makes me sad and I wished at that moment, to go back home and spend some time with my beloved Three. Still, one last lesson needed to be taught but when I mentioned how Earth from his homeland needed to be used in order to secure his survival as he slept through the day, he only gasped in horror and said something about how it was during the day that he sparkled the best.

I quit right there and then and flew down to feed and play a strange variation of poker. I know not what happened to Edward after I left but I have no wish to set my eyes upon him again. ”

Day 4 – Lessons on how to Brood Without Being a Bitch: Video Testimonial from Bruce Wayne/Batman

BRUCE/BATMAN TO CAMERA: Edward Cullen. What a nightmare. Rhett called me with an intriguing prospect. Apparently this kid had some angst issues. Immortal, no human ties, etc ad nauseam. Normally I’d pass on Rhett’s offer, but he said that the kid’s use of the brooding anti-hero shtick was giving folks like me a bad name.

With that in mind, I fired up the batmobile and made a trip to Vegas. I also had some intel on the Riddler running a scam through Circus Circus, so I’d be killing two Edwards with one stone, so to speak. I set forward to meet Edward at the Mandalay Bay, where I found a reluctant boy with ridiculous hair glaring at everyone that walked by. I think he was wearing lipstick. I’m not sure.

I told the kid to walk with me. Took him to the Aquarium for symbolic measure. Sharks in their natural habitat. I told the kid that he, like the sharks in the tank, was a natural predator. Appeal is already on his side with the dangerous aura that our brand of hero share, so there isn’t any need to make ourselves stick out any more than we already do. I explained to him the virtues of blending in and of hiding in plain sight. But he was having none of it. Had the distinct impression that my words were falling on willfully deaf ears.

I also tried to talk to him about childhood trauma and how lucky he is to have a family that truly cares for him. By this point, I knew there was no way to get through to the kid. He seemed more interested in studying his reflection in the aquarium glass than actually listening to any of my advice. At that point I was interrupted with a call about Edward – I mean Edward Nigma – moving out through the Circus Circus casino causing general mayhem. I decided to leave the preening peacock to his brooding so that I could take care of business. And that’s the last I heard of him.

Day 5 – In which Edward and Rhett Butler have a one-to-one on How to Seduce a Woman

*excerpt from Butler’s journal*

“..and then I asked him how he usually approached a woman, to which he replied that he didn’t. He usually stays very still, lips pouting, eyes glistening, intensely staring at the young ladies until they come to HIM. I then asked what next, and he says he would play the “I can’t be with you, I am too dangerous” card. He seems to think that playing hard to get is the best attack, when coupled with the Stalk and Stare of course.

I explained that this is not how a woman likes to be courted.

He then interrupted me to say something about a woman called Bella which seems to think he is the Real Deal. I told him to forget about this Bella- he is 200 years old, she is 17. End of story. Plus, I know how it is to be obsessed with a singular woman. Been there, done that. And stalking really doesn’t work out too well.

He seems not to have the faintest idea on how to engage in Witty Banter either. He is far too serious and brooding and doesn’t seem to understand that a crooked smile goes a long way. Still, I tried to instil some levity in him, but that didn’t work either. Later on, I tried my best to teach how to read people so that we could hit the casinos and play a couple of hands but his need to behave like a creep is ingrained.

Nevertheless, I’m a sucker for lost causes once they are really and truly lost. I’ll keep at it with Edward for as long as it takes. As for Scarlett, well, she seems to be enjoying herself at the Orleans…”


After the week with The Five, Edward Cullen was never seen again. Rumours say he tried to out-sparkle the Disco Ball in Studio 54 at the MGM Grand, but the exertion was too much and he exploded, covering surprised and delighted clubgoers in a brilliant shower of glitter. Others say that he “disappeared” the same way that Holden Caulfield and Werther (the two previous pupils that The Five unsuccessfully attempted to educate) did.

The Five were dismantled after that week. They realised that the old adage, “Once a pansy, always a pansy” was in fact true. Batman proceeded to fight crime. Sirius Black continues to fight for Lycanthrope Tolerance with dear friend Remus Lupin. Dracula went back to Transylvania. James Bond remained in Vegas playing the casinos and the ladies.

It is said that Rhett Butler found out that Scarlet O’Hara was looking for a new husband as she conned her way through the casinos, and that he took her up on her offer and they got married again in the Chapel of Love on the same day that Kristen married her fiancée! According to local reports, the four of them went out celebrating together in what has been described as “the wildest night Sin City has even seen.” And that, dear friends, is the happiest ending anyone could have asked for.


Thanks for the story, Ana and Thea! I nearly died when I read this. The end was especially fitting because I bought my nail polish for the wedding about 2 hours before I received this in my email. The name of the nail polish? Frankly Scarlet.

Tomorrow there will be another edition of What Happens in Vegas by Seanan McGuire, author of the forthcoming novel Rosemary and Rue.


The first half of 2009 is officially over so I’ve been thinking about my favorite books read so far. So far this year I’ve read 28 books and reviewed 27 (all of them except for Last Argument of Kings, which I may just skip other than putting up a few thoughts since it’s been pretty thoroughly covered on other blogs and I haven’t had much time lately).

Here are my top 10 so far regardless of publication date:

1. The Last Hawk by Catherine Asaro
2. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
3.Watchmen by Alan Moore
4. Corambis by Sarah Monette
5. Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs (along with the other 2 books in the Mercy Thompson series)
6. Kings and Assassins by Lane Robins
7. Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman
8. The Oracle Lips by Storm Constantine
9. Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor
10. Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre

This year I’ve read a lot of books I’ve really enjoyed reading but very few that I really loved and kept thinking about after I was done. The top 5 on this list are easily the cream of the crop of what I’ve read this year (even if I didn’t like Corambis quite as much as the other books in the series it was still excellent and better than most of what I read this year).

What are your top reads of the year so far?

The Silver Metal Lover
by Tanith Lee
304pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.27/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.51/5

The Silver Metal Lover by the prolific Tanith Lee was originally published in 1981. It has one sequel, Metallic Love, published about 24 years after the first book. The Silver Metal Lover stands alone well as a complete story, and Metallic Love, which focuses on a different set of characters, actually takes place twelve years after this one. From what I have heard, the second book is not nearly as good as its predecessor, but not having actually read it, I can’t supply my own opinion on the matter. The basic premise of the story is a girl falls in love with a robot but The Silver Metal Lover is much more than that – both a bittersweet romantic tale and a coming of age story told from the perspective of sixteen year old Jane.

Jane is a wealthy teenage girl who has never had to think for herself: she’s perfectly happy to adopt her mother’s opinions as her own. She’s rarely had to make decisions on her own since everything from her ideal hair color to the perfect weight for her body type have been made for her and are regulated through treatments and pills. Her life consists of keeping up with the latest dramas of her “friends” (most of whom she admits she doesn’t even actually like) and pleasing her mother until she hears a singer on the street. When she sees his face, Jane thinks he is beautiful. However, he is not a man but S.I.L.V.E.R., one of the newest creations of Electronic Metals, Ltd., a manufacturer of robots who have a new line of machines that appear to be very human.

As much as Jane tries to forget about this robot, she keeps encountering him and eventually comes to the realization that she is in love with a machine. Although she is rich, Jane does have a monthly cap on her allowance to teach her responsibility and does not have enough money to buy Silver. Her friend Clovis concocts a plan to help Jane get what she wants from their friend Egyptia, who has rented Silver, but this time with the robot is fleeting. In desperation, Jane sells all her possessions and gives up her life of luxury in order to possess her one true love – and in the process, she grows up and learns a lot about herself.

The entire novel is a diary kept by Jane as she tries to resolve her personal issues with her love for the robot Silver and the likelihood of her mother’s disapproval. In the beginning, Jane is exceptionally melodramatic and cries… A LOT. The first time she saw Silver, she cried. When he came over and talked to her, she started crying again. After that, she went to her friend Clovis’s house where she broke down and wept some more. She is also not particularly independent and finds it comforting that her mother is opinionated so she does not have to be. Jane’s identity is very closely tied to her mother in the early part of the novel, as she barely has a thought that is not followed by her pondering what her mother would say about it. These traits do indeed make her somewhat annoying to start with, but she is not a stagnant character. Once Jane begins to realize the truth about herself, she makes a confession to Silver:
“I’m very stupid,” I said, “and very selfish. That’s because I’m rich and I don’t know much about real life. And I’ve been sheltered. And I have a lot of faults.”

This was a real turning point for Jane. Not only does she come to realize some of her flaws, but from this point on, she does grow a lot as a character and becomes much more likable (and less weepy, fortunately).

Throughout the novel both Jane and Silver change as they both become less and less victims of the ways they are supposed to function. Jane loves Silver even though he claims to be a mere machine that is incapable of emotion, a commodity that has been created and programmed to please any human being he is interacting with. Yet mainly because of Silver, Jane discovers who she really is underneath all the ways she personally has been programmed throughout her entire life. Likewise, Silver learns that he is not exactly what he has always believed due to his relationship with Jane.

Lee’s prose is beautifully poignant without being terribly dense, a combination I rarely see. The Silver Metal Lover is a fairly short, easy read, but there are some nicely written moments, such as Jane’s revelation that she is in love with Silver as he walks away from her:

And there was only him. Everything else became a backdrop, and then it went away altogether. And he went away and nothing came back to replace him.

I’ve written this down on paper because I just couldn’t say it aloud to the tape. Tomorrow, my mother will ask what I wanted to discuss with her. But this isn’t for my mother. It’s for some stranger – for you, whoever you are – someone who’ll never read it. Because that’s the only way I could say any of it. I can’t tell Demeta, can I?

He’s a machine, and I’m in love with him.

He’s with Egyptia, and I’m in love with him.

He’s been packed up in a crate, and I’m in love with him.

Mother, I’m in love with a robot…

It is true that Jane is a bit extremely dramatic sometimes, especially earlier in the book, but I think it’s perfectly fitting and believable for the diary of a teenage girl.

Although this story is touching and sweet at times, it is not all happy. Readers who enjoy neatly tied up happy endings will want to avoid this book. The ending did fail to affect me as much as I really felt it should have, but I think that is because Jane wrote about it after the fact so I had an idea of what was coming from how she opened that section.

Overall, I found this novel very readable and flew through it, but I also felt like it was missing something, partially because it failed to truly sadden me the way I thought it should have. That may have just been because I’ve found I don’t seem to get as emotionally involved in reading a story as I used to (or maybe I just haven’t been reading about the types of characters that I can really sympathize with lately). Once I put it down, I didn’t find myself thinking about it at all until I reread parts of it for writing this review. I actually appreciated it a lot more when I reread parts of it than I did while I was reading it and immediately afterward.

The Silver Metal Lover is a lovely story about love and growing up. As the journal of a sixteen year old in the process of learning about the world, it can be rather full of angst, but Jane does learn about herself and become wiser about herself and the world as she writes about her life and thoughts.