On December 31, a trade paperback/ebook special edition of Magic Bites, the first Kate Daniels book by Ilona Andrews will be released. This includes FAQs about the world of Kate Daniels, information on characters and factions, a faction quiz, some scenes from Curran’s point of view, and the prequel story “A Questionable Client” (about Kate and Saiman’s first meeting). It also has the best cover of any in the entire series, in my opinion.

Magic Bites Special Edition

This is the start to one of my favorite series, one that has some excellent character development as the series progresses. It also has action, the inclusion of several different mythologies, snappy dialogue, and wonderful secondary characters. Magic Bites isn’t my favorite book in the series (that would be the spectacular third book, Magic Strikes), but it’s also one I think I’d appreciate a lot more on a reread now that I know more about Kate and the secret she was so reluctant to divulge even to the reader.

Having just finished the Kate Daniels novella “Magic Gifts” and the related novel about Andrea titled Gunmetal Magic, I’m especially excited about this special edition. I love this series so much.

Read an Excerpt from Magic Bites

About the Special Edition of Magic Bites:


New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews invites you to experience the first novel in the “intriguing world” (Locus) of Kate Daniels with this special edition of Magic Bites

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t want it any other way…

This special edition includes in-depth information about the world of Kate Daniels, with descriptions of its characters and factions. Explore Kate’s Atlanta like never before with answers to FAQ and a quiz to find your place there. And don’t miss the prequel story “A Questionable Client,” as well as scenes of events in Magic Bites from Curran’s point of view.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration. Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This was a pretty big week for books. I splurged on the Bookcloseouts.com Black Friday sale, and that order showed up this week. Plus some finished copies and an ARC showed up. Two of the final copies are ones I already talked about when ARCs showed up so I’m not going to list them again. But in case you missed either of them the first time, here they are with their release dates and a link to the post where I do talk more about them:

1. Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton – January 1, 2013 (Read an Excerpt)
This is a really nice looking hardcover book. And massive. It sounds great and I really want to read it, but it will take me forever to read it at approximately 1,000 pages long!

2. The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman – Available Now (Read an Excerpt)

On to the rest of the books! All of them are from the book-buying spree other than the last three (one of which is not SFF but a book my husband cowrote and got a copy of this week).

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

I love Robin McKinley. When I first started really reading fantasy when I was in college, I ended up reading a few of her books since I tried to track down a Beauty and the Beast story I remembered getting from the library and loving when I was young. It turned out it was Beauty by Robin McKinley, and I loved it when I reread it as an adult as well. After that, I read Spindle’s End, The Hero and the Crown, and Rose Daughter. I’m not quite sure how I managed not to have The Blue Sword, especially considering it’s related to The Hero and the Crown, which I rather enjoyed (it’s my favorite of McKinley’s books after Beauty).

From the New York Times bestselling author of Sunshine and The Outlaws of Sherwood-now in trade paperback.

This is the story of Harry Crewe, the Homelander orphan girl who became Harimad- sol, King’s Rider, and heir to the Blue Sword, Gonturan, that no woman had wielded since the Lady Aerin herself bore it into battle.

Cyteen by C. J. Cherryh

Cyteen by C. J. Cherryh

This Hugo-award-winning science fiction novel sounds pretty interesting, and I’ve been intrigued by it ever since Courtney Schafer mentioned it in her interview. I haven’t read anything by Cherryh before, but she’s an author I’ve been meaning to read for awhile now.

A brilliant young scientist rises to power on Cyteen, haunted by the knowledge that her predecessor and genetic duplicate died at the hands of one of her trusted advisors. Murder, politics, and genetic manipulation provide the framework for the latest Union-Alliance novel by the author of Downbelow Station. Cherryh’s talent for intense, literate storytelling maintains interest throughout this long, complex novel.

Catch the Lightning by Catherine Asaro

Catch the Lightning (Saga of the Skolian Empire) by Catherine Asaro

This is the second published book about the Skolian Empire, but it’s last in chronological order. I’ve been slowly making my way through this series, which has quite a few books. Which book to start with is debatable since this is one of those series that follows a few different characters and is not published in chronological order. I usually see Primary Inversion, the first published, suggested as a good starting point, and I think either that or The Last Hawk is a good place to start out of the ones I’ve read. Skyfall is the first chronologically, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of the others even though I did like it.

In the distant future, the Skolian empire rules one third of the human galaxy, and is the most powerful of all. For the ruling family has the power of telepathy, and through it, the ability to communicate faster than light across the interstellar space. but their most determined enemy, the traders, who thrive on human pain, need to interbreed with a Skolian to gain their powers. And now they have her.

Forerunner by Andre Norton

Forerunner (Forerunner Series) by Andre Norton

I haven’t yet anything by Andre Norton, but I heard this one was good and added it to my wish list awhile ago. Not having read Andre Norton seems like one of those things I really need to remedy!

This book has a sequel, Forerunner: The Second Venture. There is an omnibus version containing both books titled The Forerunner Factor. There are many more books set in the same universe as this duology.

Andre Norton was one of the best known writers of science fiction in the genre’s history, and the subject of especially fervent loyalty and enthusiasm. One of her greatest triumphs is the Forerunner series, which has earned a place of legend among fans with such books as The Time TradersGalactic DerelictSargasso of Space, and many more.Forerunner is the definitive novel in that series. It also holds a special place in the history of Tor, as it is the first book Tor ever published.

“Kuxortal has always been,” Forerunner begins. This ancient port was established in the time of antiquity and has built and rebuilt itself on the ruins of former civilizations. Kuxortal is inhabited by a lowly race of Burrowers, who tunnel and excavate beneath the city’s towers and sometimes discover artifacts from the past. Simsa is a Burrower who has spent her entire life in the service of an older, crippled mentor, Ferwar, who had reputedly rescued Simsa from a trash heap when she was an infant. Simsa, with her blue-black skin and platinum hair, clearly comes from different stock than the other Burrowers, but Ferwar never revealed her origin.

When scavengers attempt to loot the treasures that Ferwar had left behind, it becomes clear that Simsa must flee. Especially when they discover that the scavengers consider Simsa one of the treasures that they have come to steal….

Glamour In Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

Glamour in Glass (Glamourist Histories #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal

This is the sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey, a fantasy book inspired by Jane Austen which I reviewed earlier this year. A third book, Without a Summer, will be available in April 2013, and there will also be a fourth book (Valour and Vanity).

Glamour in Glass was released in hardcover and ebook earlier this year, and there is an excerpt from it on Tor.com.

The first edition hardcover of this book is actually missing the first line, and there are some other corrections that didn’t make it into the book.

Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades debuted to great acclaim and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel. Glamour in Glass continues following the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a much deeper vein of drama and intrigue.In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to Belgium for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, Jane and Vincent’s concerns turn from enjoying their honeymoon…to escaping it.Left with no outward salvation, Jane must persevere over her trying personal circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison . . . and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country’s war.

The Novels of Tiger and Del Volume I by Jennifer Roberson

The Novels of Tiger and Del Volume I (Sword-Dancer Saga #1-2) by Jennifer Roberson

This omnibus contains Sword-Dancer and Sword-Singer. There are two more omnibus editions containing the remaining four novels in the series: Volume II contains Sword-Maker and Sword-Breaker and Volume III contains Sword-Born and Sword-Sworn. Jennifer Roberson is writing a new Sword-Dancer book and has plans to write another one as well.

I’ve been curious about these for awhile, but ever since seeing they were on Angie’s list of some of her favorite SF&F books by women, I’ve really wanted to read them.

He was Tiger, born of the desert winds, raised as a slave and winning his freedom by weaving a special kind of magic with a warrior’s skill. She was Del, born of ice and storm, trained by the greatest of Northern sword masters. Together, they discover a kinship and friendship that grows to love while facing dangers of both sword and sorcery.

Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott

Spirit Gate (Crossroads #1) by Kate Elliott

The next two books in the Crossroads trilogy are Shadow’s Gate and Traitor’s Gate, respectively.

After reading the Spirit Walker books, especially Cold Fire, I want to read all of Kate Elliott’s backlist. (Cold Steel is one of my most anticipated releases in 2013.)

World Fantasy and Nebula Award finalist Kate Elliott breaks new ground in a brilliantly original new fantasy set in a unique world of fabled cities, mysterious gods, and terrible dangers. From the first page readers will be swept up in the story of Mai and Captain Anji, as they become unwitting players in a conflict that began many years earlier, and which will shake the foundations of their land.

For hundreds of years the Guardians have ruled the world of the Hundred, but these powerful gods no longer exert their will on the world. Only the reeves, who patrol on enormous eagles, still represent the Guardians’ power. And the reeves are losing their authority; for there is a dark shadow across the land that not even the reeves can stop.

A group of fanatics has risen to devour villages, towns, and cities in their drive to annihilate all who oppose them. No one knows who leads them; they seem inhumanly cruel and powerful. Mai and Anji, riding with a company of dedicated warriors and a single reeve who may hold a key to stopping the deadly advance of the devouring horde, must try, or the world will be lost to the carnage. But a young woman sworn to the Goddess may prove more important than them all . . . if they are not too late.

A haunting tale of people swept up by the chaos of war, this is superlative fantasy adventure, rich in texture, filled with color and excitement, masterfully crafted by a brilliantly gifted storyteller.

Up Against It by M. J. Locke

Up Against It by M. J. Locke

I haven’t read anything by M. J. Locke/Laura Mixon, but I’ve heard really good things about this hard science fiction novel.

Geoff and his friends live in Phocaea, a distant asteroid colony on the Solar System’s frontier. They’re your basic high-spirited young adults, enjoying such pastimes as hacking matter compilers to produce dancing skeletons that prance through the low-gee communal areas, using their rocket-bikes to salvage methane ice shrapnel that flies away when the colony brings in a big (and vital) rock of the stuff, and figuring out how to avoid the ubiquitous surveillance motes that are the million eyes of ‘Stroiders, a reality-TV show whose Earthside producers have paid handsomely for the privilege of spying on every detail of the Phocaeans’ lives.

Life isn’t as good as it seems, though. A mysterious act of sabotage kills Geoff’s brother Carl and puts the entire colony at risk. And in short order, we discover that the whole thing may have been cooked up by the Martian mafia, as a means of executing a coup and turning Phocaea into a client-state. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s a rogue AI that was spawned during the industrial emergency and slipped through the distracted safeguards, and a giant x-factor in the form of the Viridians, a transhumanist cult that lives in Phocaea’s bowels.

In addition to Geoff, our story revolves around Jane, the colony’s resource manager — a bureaucrat engineer in charge of keeping the plumbing running on an artificial island of humanity poised on the knife-edge of hard vacuum and unforgiving space. She’s more than a century old, and good at her job, but she is torn between the technical demands of the colony and the political realities of her situation, in which the fishbowl effect of ‘Stroiders is compounded by a reputation economy that turns every person into a beauty contest competitor.  Her manoeuverings to keep politics and engineering in harmony are the heart of the book.

Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

This Star Wars novel will be released in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook on January 1, 2013. An excerpt is available on the publisher’s website.

To make his biggest score, Han’s ready to take even bigger risks.
But even he can’t do this job solo.

Han Solo should be basking in his moment of glory. After all, the cocky smuggler and captain of the Millennium Falcon just played a key role in the daring raid that destroyed the Death Star and landed the first serious blow to the Empire in its war against the Rebel Alliance. But after losing the reward his heroics earned him, Han’s got nothing to celebrate. Especially since he’s deep in debt to the ruthless crime lord Jabba the Hutt. There’s a bounty on Han’s head—and if he can’t cough up the credits, he’ll surely pay with his hide. The only thing that can save him is a king’s ransom. Or maybe a gangster’s fortune? That’s what a mysterious stranger is offering in exchange for Han’s less-than-legal help with a riskier-than-usual caper. The payoff will be more than enough for Han to settle up with Jabba—and ensure he never has to haggle with the Hutts again.

All he has to do is infiltrate the ultra-fortified stronghold of a Black Sun crime syndicate underboss and crack the galaxy’s most notoriously impregnable safe. It sounds like a job for miracle workers . . . or madmen. So Han assembles a gallery of rogues who are a little of both—including his indispensable sidekick Chewbacca and the cunning Lando Calrissian. If anyone can dodge, deceive, and defeat heavily armed thugs, killer droids, and Imperial agents alike—and pull off the heist of the century—it’s Solo’s scoundrels. But will their crime really pay, or will it cost them the ultimate price?

Limits of Power by Elizabeth Moon

Limits of Power (Paladin’s Legacy #4) by Elizabeth Moon

Limits of Power will be released in hardcover and ebook in June 2013. It is the fourth book in a series of five books that follow The Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy (Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold). The books in Paladin’s Legacy so far are as follows:

  1. Oath of Fealty (Read an Excerpt)
  2. Kings of the North (Read an Excerpt)
  3. Echoes of Betrayal (Read an Excerpt)

Elizabeth Moon is back with the fourth adventure in her bestselling fantasy epic. Moon brilliantly weaves a colorful tapestry of action, betrayal, love, and magic set in a richly imagined world that stands alongside those of such fantasy masters as George R. R. Martin and Robin Hobb.

The unthinkable has occurred in the kingdom of Lyonya. The queen of the Elves—known as the Lady—is dead, murdered by former elves twisted by dark powers. Now the Lady’s half-elven grandson must heal the mistrust between elf and human before their enemies strike again. Yet as he struggles to make ready for an attack, an even greater threat looms across the Eight Kingdoms.

Throughout the north, magic is reappearing after centuries of absence, emerging without warning in family after family—rich and poor alike. In some areas, the religious strictures against magery remain in place, and fanatical followers are stamping out magery by killing whoever displays the merest sign of it—even children. And as unrest spreads, one very determined traitor works to undo any effort at peace—no matter how many lives it costs. With the future hanging in the balance, it is only the dedication of a few resolute heroes who can turn the tides . . . if they can survive.

10 Print

10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 by Nick Montfort, Patsy Baudoin, John Bell, Ian Bogost, Jeremy Douglass, Mark C. Marino, Michael Mateas, Casey Reas, Mark Sample, and Noah Vawter

One of the authors of this collaborative book is my husband. The book has been mentioned on a lot of sites lately, including Boing Boing, which is pretty cool. The entire book is also available for free, even though there is a hardcover version as well.

This book takes a single line of code–the extremely concise BASIC program for the Commodore 64 inscribed in the title–and uses it aa a lens through which to consider the phenomenon of creative computing and the way computer programs exist in culture. The authors of this collaboratively written book treat code not as merely functional but as a text–in the case of 10 PRINT, a text that appeared in many different printed sources–that yields a story about its making, its purpose, its assumptions, and more. They consider randomness and regularity in computing and art, the maze in culture, the popular BASIC programming language, and the highly influential Commodore 64 computer.


The Siren Depths is the third volume in The Books of the Raksura by Martha Wells, whose work has been nominated for the Nebula Award. This science fiction/fantasy series has become one of my favorite recent book discoveries, both for its original setting of the Three Worlds and its endearing characters. For this reason, I was glad to hear that Martha Wells will be writing four novellas set in the same world that will be published as ebooks. At least the first two will feature the same characters as the novels.

This review will mention events from the previous two books. Since these are books I mostly enjoy for the world and characters, I don’t think there’s anything here that would have bothered me to know before reading the previous books, but that’s just my perspective. If you are not caught up on this series and do not want to read potential spoilers for the first two books, you may want to look at some links for the previous books instead:

  1. The Cloud Roads (My Review | Author’s Page with Excerpt)
  2. The Serpent Sea (My Review | Author’s Page with Excerpt)

The paperback version of the book was available before the official release date on December 4, but the ebook was not. Now that the official release date has passed, the ebook version of The Siren Depths is also available.

In The Cloud Roads, Moon was finally reunited with fellow Raksura after spending years wondering about what exactly he was. He found a home with Indigo Cloud as Jade’s consort, and the entire court had to move to a new home in The Serpent Sea. When they discovered the seed had been stolen from the mountain-tree they were now living in, Moon and the others had to recover the seed—or the heartwood in the tree would die, leaving them homeless once again. Now that the seed is back where it belongs, Moon and the other Raksura of Indigo Cloud are settling into life in their new home and looking toward solving the problem of their low numbers. Moon and Jade are trying to start a clutch, and Jade and Pearl are trying to decide if the time is right for the rest of the Aeriat to start new clutches. In the meantime, Moon’s quick thinking in response to some challenges Indigo Cloud encounters garners him some newfound respect, and he seems to finally be starting to become accepted as a member of the court.

One day, some visitors from Emerald Twilight arrive, but the queens of Indigo Cloud refuse to discuss the reason for their visit when asked. The Emerald Twilight Raksura return later, and then Moon learns what happened: their queen Ice suspected she knew Moon’s court of origin when she met him and contacted the Raksura of this court to see if they had lost him. They had, and they also had a rather unexpected reaction to discovering their missing consort was alive—demanding Moon be returned to them. Indigo Cloud feels that it has no choice but to comply with this other court’s wishes, although Jade insists she will follow and will get permission from Moon’s family to keep her consort. Yet Moon arrives to learn there are more problems than just dealing with his newfound family—they have a secret from the past involving the Fell and an augury has shown that they will learn more about it when the Fell soon return.

The Books of the Raksura are well-told stories set in a wonderfully imaginative world featuring some compelling characters. The Siren Depths shares the same strengths as the first two books, but it is one of those books that is richer for having read them. It is my favorite of the three, partially because I’ve grown attached to the various characters and the world over the course of the series and reading a new story about them was a treat. Another big reason I loved this one so much is that it addresses some of the unanswered questions in the series concerning Moon’s backstory and the Fell plan to cross-breed with Raksura. The Siren Depths was an engaging book from start to finish, and I think the focus on these previously unresolved mysteries made it especially absorbing, memorable, and satisfying.

The theme of finding a place to belong is a strong one in this series, and I love how it was still important in this volume without feeling like it was retreading the same old ground covered in the previous books. At the beginning of the book, Moon proves himself to be worthy of respect on a couple of occasions and many of the Raksura of Indigo Cloud begin to rely on him. Yet, just as Moon seems on the road to acceptance in his new life, he’s ripped away from his new family and left with a lot of doubts about his relationship with Jade. After all, Jade hid the truth about the reason for Emerald Twilight’s visit from him until she had no choice, and she’s been given a new consort as an apology from Emerald Twilight. As far as Moon’s concerned, it seems as though he’s been replaced, and he has doubts about whether or not Jade means it when she says she’s not willing to let him go, especially since Moon has been cast aside so many times before. It’s heartbreaking to see him forced to leave Jade and his friends behind to face the family he never knew—a family he feels abandoned him or surely they would have found him all those years ago. His longing for a place to belong is such a sympathetic situation, and I really loved both meeting his new family and seeing how Indigo Cloud dealt with the situation.

This series is simply written on the surface, but there is a lot going on underneath. The different races and cultures are very well-done and fascinating to read about. I also appreciate how it manages to show all kinds of different relationships with the main character instead of falling into the trap of mainly focusing on the one with the love interest. In this book Moon struggles with how much he can trust Jade, but theirs is not the only important bond. Moon also has complications with his new relatives and close friendships like the one he shares with Chime. My favorite relationship is the one between Moon and Stone, the ancient line-grandfather who found Moon and has become a friend, mentor, and somewhat of a father figure to him. Moon is also a caregiver, teacher, and friend to the orphans he found in The Cloud Roads. I love that Moon has all kinds of different types of relationships and how much more true to life the books are for details like that even though the world is so unlike our own.

One aspect of this series I’ve found particularly intriguing is how the Raksura are born into their roles. Raksura with certain characteristics have specific niches, such as warriors, queens, consorts, or mentors. It’s all very neat for most Raksura (the big exception is Chime, who has had to adjust from changing from a mentor to a warrior when that was what Indigo Cloud needed more). However, Moon challenges the conventions attached to a consort. Consorts around Moon’s age are typically shy and sheltered so he is completely different from the norm due to living as a solitary for so many years. In this book, I found it particularly interesting that Moon seemed to be a better warrior than those born warriors since he had more first-hand experience that came from surviving on his own for so long. The warriors would just rush in for the kill, while Moon would actually analyze the situation and think about the best way to approach it. It makes me wonder if some of these roles should not be so neatly assigned, and I like that there are parts like this that provide something to think about.

The one thing that bothered me about The Siren Depths is the same major problem I had with The Cloud Roads—the Fell seemed very evil, making them seem less like people than the Raksura did. I’m not completely sure it’s fair of me to feel this way since this world is not composed of humans, but a big reason it doesn’t quite gel with me is that the Raksura and Fell are related. The Raksura all have different personalities and a wide range of characteristics, yet the Fell always seem very black-hearted as a whole. I would have liked to have seen them have more depth, especially considering their common origin with the Raksura, which made it seem a bit odd to me that one of them seemed to be characterized as pretty thoroughly rotten. There are certain elements in this book that make me believe it’s possible the nature of the Fell is due to culture and upbringing rather than being an innate personality trait, but I’d still be curious to learn more about why the the Fell all seem to exhibit similar behavior or if there are any exceptions. All in all, that’s a minor complaint in what still succeeds as a very enjoyable novel, though.

The Siren Depths has more of what I’ve come to love about the Books of the Raksura—a compelling story, great world-building in a unique setting, and lovable characters with very realistic problems. In my opinion, it’s also the most satisfying installment in the series because it does provide some answers to questions set up in the first two books and remains absorbing from start to finish. It’s a wonderful addition to an imaginative series that I only love more with each new installment.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Read Chapters One and Two

Other Reviews of The Siren Depths:

Today I’m happy to share a guest post about mad scientists by Lev AC Rosen! His debut novel, All Men of Genius, was one of my favorite books I read last year (my review). I was quite drawn to the idea of this steampunk novel inspired by both William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and it ended up being just as wonderful as it sounded. The story mainly follows Violet, a young woman with an extraordinary gift for mechanics. Unfortunately, the academy of her dreams only accepts men, but she gets around this little problem by pretending to be her twin brother—and, of course, chaos ensues! I found All Men of Genius delightfully entertaining, at times both humorous and heart-warming.

All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen Lev AC Rosen

Please give a warm welcome to Lev AC Rosen!

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Science.

Mad science is like pornography; difficult to define beyond “you know it when you see it.”  After all, mechanical limbs were seen as mad science in the Victorian era, but now we use them all the time for amputee victims.  What if the scientist is nuts, but his/her invention seems pretty useful (think of those neurotic computer geniuses).  So when Kristen suggested my favorite mad scientists as a topic, at first I was very excited (cause, awesome), but then I started getting caught up in what exactly it meant.  So I’m going with the pornography definition.  If you disagree, think a scientist isn’t mad enough, or think I’m missing someone, just chime in in the comments.  There’s enough mad science to go around.  Also, I thought it would be déclassé to mention the mad scientists in my own book, All Men of Genius, but rest assured it is filled with mad science, including flying ferrets, killer robots, mind-altering chemicals and foul-mouthed rabbits.  But I’m not including any of that on the list.  That might just come across as shameless self-promotion.

So, anyway.  Favorite mad scientists.

Let’s start with the classic:  Dr. Jekyll.  Most Victorian mad scientists, like Jekyll, or Frankenstein, were mad, in my opinion, because their science was about manipulating the soul.  With Frankenstein, that meant creating life, but with Jekyll, it was more interesting – it was about distillation.  He wanted to purify himself, not through religious devotion or attempting to live a better life, but with chemistry.  What’s more fascinating is that once this goes horribly wrong – that is, once he creates Mr. Hyde, who is not, it is worth noting, a creature of pure evil, but merely one free of conscience – he becomes addicted to becoming Hyde.  Jekyll isn’t pure good – in this regard, his experiment failed.  Instead, what happens is he becomes a man who shrugs off Victorian morality (in fact, most forms of morality) and lives a life without second thoughts, doing what he wants, being debauched and not suffering any guilt over it… until he turns back into Jekyll.  And he admits to liking being Hyde – the freedom that comes with it.  After Hyde kills a girl he tries to stop, to keep away from the potion, but starts transforming without it, and eventually, he kills himself.  As a parable, it’s fairly obvious, but for the Victorian time, this addiction to amorality is fascinating and dark.  It’s not the lure of being bad that seduces Jekyll, you see, it’s the lure of not having any guilt about it.  He’s already bad.  And that’s sort of a wonderful way to show a mad scientist – his madness stems from his own repression of his inner madness… which just serves to make him crazier in the end.

Dr. Frankenstein is also up here, I don’t want to leave him out.  But Victor’s main source of madness is his ego – the idea that he can create life, thus proving he is just like God.  I generally think that this is sort of the background madness for all mad scientists, and since Victor, other forms of crazy have been piled on top of the huge ego.  And, as Victor pretty quickly feels bad about what he did, he then becomes crazy with guilt.  He’s worth noting and he is fascinating (the book is one of my favorites), but in terms of real madness, he’s pretty low on the totem pole.

Dr. Feelgood, as Sidney Gottlieb was known, is going to be the only real-life historical figure on this list.  Because I don’t feel comfortable diagnosing the “madness” of actual people.  But in Dr. Feelgood’s case, I’m going to be talking more about the legend (which has to be at least 50% exaggeration and rumor, right?) than the actual man, who obviously I have never met.  So, Dr. Feelgood wasn’t just the MKULTRA guy who said LSD is the way to mind control.  He’s also the guy who said “let’s send Castro a poison wetsuit” and “let’s poison Castro with thallium, so his beard falls out and he is powerless.”  He liked poisoning a lot.  But mostly he’s known for the whole “let’s test LSD on people and make them go insane.”  Now, I’m not entirely sure about the reasoning behind this, and maybe it’s not as crazy as it sounds, considering how much was known about LSD at the time.  I don’t know.  But he’s on this list because he became the iconic figure of the 60s drug-obsessed mad scientist, which lead to my favorite mad scientist, who I’ll get to right after…

Dr. Horrible.  What’s great about Dr. Horrible is that we get to see him go mad.  And he goes mad for love.  Awww.  He’s really the most sympathetic on the list; all he wants is to use his scientific genius to, like, steal crap, and maybe get Penny to notice him.  But that damned Captain Hammer steals her.  And then a horse threatens his life.  So he finally gets the nerve up, mostly, to kill Hammer, and of course can’t quite do it, so everything goes horribly wrong and Penny dies, making him cold and, I believe, genuinely mad.  I suppose we’ll have to wait for the promised sequel.  But I do love seeing the transformation, and how his science, although used for crime, come from a place of love.

And finally, my favorite mad scientist: Walter Bishop.  I know he’s old enough to be my father, but if Walter asked me back to his place, I would go in a heartbeat.  You just know it would be so much fun.  And Walter is genuinely mad – crazy in a sort of “pulling ideas out of nowhere, maybe this will work, maybe it won’t, have more drugs” sort of way.  Yes, everything he does is wildly dangerous, and yes he’s sort of a doddering old man, but he just makes it all look like such fun.  And he’s a great blend of good and bad; willing to do what it takes for a greater good, even if it means a bit of evil.  I just… cannot describe my love for him.  Terrifying and funny and sweet and insane all wrapped up in one package.  Who wouldn’t go home with that?

To learn more about Lev AC Rosen and All Men of Geniusvisit his website. You can also follow him on Twitter.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration. Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire

Midnight Blue-Light Special (InCryptid #2) by Seanan McGuire

Midnight Blue-Light Special will be released in mass market paperback on March 5, 2013. Though it’s not listed yet, I’d imagine it will be available in ebook format as well since the first book is.

I’m excited about this one since I really enjoy Seanan McGuire’s books, which have been getting better and better. Also, I had a great time reading the first book in this series, Discount Armageddon (my review). I love the concept of this series, Verity and the entire Price family, and the sense of humor.

There doesn’t yet seem to be a description of this book available online, so here’s the series description from the InCryptid page on Seanan McGuire’s website instead:

The Covenant of St. George was founded to uphold one simple ideal: anything that was not present on the Ark—anything they deemed “unnatural”—needed to be destroyed. Monsters. Creatures of myth and legend. All of them would be wiped from the Earth in the name of Man’s dominion. Unfortunately for them, not all the monsters agreed with this plan…and neither did all the human beings.

After their rather abrupt departure from the Covenant, Alexander and Enid Healy found themselves alone in the world, but with a simple mission of their own: to protect the cryptids of the world from those who would harm them without just cause. It was a cause that would eventually claim both their lives, leaving their children, and their childrens’ children, to take up the fight. Now in the modern day, their descendants struggle to stay beneath the Covenant’s radar, while defending the cryptids from humanity—and humanity from the cryptids.

Hellhole: Awakening by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Hellhole Awakening (Hellhole #2) by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

This science fiction novel will be released in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook in March 2013. Tor.com has an excerpt containing the first 100 pages of Hellhole, the previous book.

General Adolphus knows the Monarchy crackdown is coming. Now he needs to pull together all the resources of the Hellhole colony, the ever-expanding shadow-Xayan settlement, and his connections with the other Deep Zone worlds. On Sonjeera, Diadem Michella Duchenet has collected a huge fleet, led by firebrand Commissar Escobar Hallholme, son of the man who originally defeated Adolphus.

Uniting themselves and pooling their minds, the shadow-Xayans send a power surge along the original stringline path that links Hellhole with the Monarchy’s hub on Sonjeera. All of the Diadem’s battleships are currently approaching on that route, and when the mental blast wipes out all the substations, the battleships are effectively stranded.  

A bigger threat appears. Three asteroids come in from the outer reaches of the Candela system. On Hellhole, the awakened Xayans finally reveal information that has been hidden even from their own followers. A large group of powerful, rogue telemancers split away from the main race. Now that the Xayan civilization is reawakening, these violent fanatics have come back to destroy them once and for all. They are coming for Hellhole, and this time they will completely destroy it.

The giveaway for 1 copy of The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman is over, and a winner has been drawn. The winner is:


Congratulations, and I hope you enjoy the book!