Today I have three anthologies with stories by great authors to give away: Dangerous Women, Twenty-First Century Science Fiction, and Year’s Best SF 18. The descriptions for each can be found below, and the giveaway details are at the end.

Dangerous Women

Dangerous Women edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

All new and original to this volume, the 21 stories in Dangerous Women include work by twelve New York Times bestsellers, and seven stories set in the authors’ bestselling continuities—including a new “Outlander” story by Diana Gabaldon, a  tale of Harry Dresden’s world by Jim Butcher, a story from Lev Grossman set in the world of The Magicians, and a 35,000-word novella by George R. R. Martin about the Dance of the Dragons, the vast civil war that tore Westeros apart nearly two centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones.

Also included are original stories of dangerous women–heroines and villains alike–by Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Lawrence Block, Carrie Vaughn,  S. M. Stirling, Sharon Kay Penman, and many others.

Writes Gardner Dozois in his Introduction, “Here you’ll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster or clashes swords with the villain, and if you want to tie these women to the railroad tracks, you’ll find you have a real fight on your hands.  Instead, you will find sword-wielding women warriors, intrepid women fighter pilots and far-ranging spacewomen, deadly female serial killers, formidable female superheroes, sly and seductive femmes fatale, female wizards, hard-living Bad Girls, female bandits and rebels, embattled survivors in Post-Apocalyptic futures, female Private Investigators, stern female hanging judges, haughty queens who rule nations and whose jealousies and ambitions send thousands to grisly deaths, daring dragonriders, and many more.”

The Dangerous Women anthology contains following stories:
– Introduction by Gardner Dozois
– “Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie – A Red Country story
– “My Heart is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott
– “Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland
– “The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass
– “Bombshells” by Jim Butcher – A Harry Dresden story
– “Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn
– “Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale
– “Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm
– “I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block
– “Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson
– “A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman
– “The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman – A Magicians story
– “Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress
– “City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland
– “Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon – An Outlander story
– “Hell Hath No Fury” by Sherilynn Kenyon
– “Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling – An Emberverse story
– “Name the Beast” by Sam Sykes
– “Caretakers” by Pat Cadigan
– “Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector – A Wild Cards story
– “The Princess and the Queen” by George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire story

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction is an enormous anthology of short stories—close to 250,000 words—edited by two of the most prestigious and award-winning editors in the SF field and featuring recent stories from some of science fiction’s greatest up-and-coming authors.

David Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden have long been recognized as two of the most skilled and trusted arbiters of the field, but Twenty-First Century Science Fiction presents fans’ first opportunities to see what their considerable talents come up with together, and also to get a unique perspective on what’s coming next in the science fiction field.

The anthology includes authors ranging from bestselling and established favorites to incandescent new talents including Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow, Catherynne M. Valente, John Scalzi, Jo Walton, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Bear, and Peter Watts, and the stories selected include winners and nominees of all of the science fiction field’s major awards.

One of Publishers Weekly‘s Best Science Fiction Books of 2013

Year's Best SF 18 edited by David G. Hartwell

Year’s Best SF 18 edited by David G. Hartwell

Once again, the finest short-form SF offerings of the year have been collected in a single volume.

With Year’s Best SF 18, acclaimed, award-winning editor and anthologist David G. Hartwell demonstrates the amazing depth and power of contemporary speculative fiction, showcasing astonishing short stories from some of science fiction’s most respected names as well as exciting new writers to watch. In this anthology, prepare to travel light years from the ordinary into a tomorrow at once breathtaking, frightening, and possible with some of the greatest tales of wonder published in 2012.

Giveaway Details

Courtesy of Tor, I have a set containing the three above anthologies to give away! This giveaway is open to those with a mailing address in the US or Canada.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Anthology Giveaway.” One entry per person and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from the US and Canada are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Monday, December 30.

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

(Now that the giveaway has ended, the form has been removed.)

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 week brought one of my most anticipated books of 2014, and I also bought (and read) a novella. Both of these are by New York Times bestselling authors who write awesome books.

Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire

Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid #3) by Seanan McGuire

The InCryptid universe is a fun place to visit, and I just love the Price family so I’m pretty excited about reading this one! Half-Off Ragnarok is primarily about Alex, the brother of Verity (the main character from the first two books). I already like his girlfriend from the plot description since she, like me, is fond of big cats.

Half-Off Ragnarok will be released on March 4, 2014 (mass market paperback, ebook). If you’re in the US, you can enter to win a copy on Goodreads through January 4.

The first two books in the series are Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special, respectively.


When Alex Price agreed to go to Ohio to oversee a basilisk breeding program and assist in the recovery of his psychic cousin, he didn’t expect people to start dropping dead. But bodies are cropping up at the zoo where he works, and his girlfriend—Shelby Tanner, an Australian zoologist with a fondness for big cats—is starting to get suspicious.

Worse yet, the bodies have all been turned partially to stone…

The third book in the InCryptid series takes us to a new location and a new member of the family, as Alex tries to balance life, work, and the strong desire not to become a piece of garden statuary. Old friends and new are on the scene, and danger lurks around every corner.

Of course, so do the talking mice.

Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor

Night of Cake and Puppets (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2.5) by Laini Taylor

If Laini Taylor writes a book, I will buy and read it—which I did soon after learning that the ebook set in the world of Daughter of Smoke and Bone was now available. It’s a novella about Zuzana and what happened when she decided to sweep Mik off his feet. I didn’t love it as much as the full-length novels, but it was definitely worth the $2.99 I spent on it.

Night of Cake and Puppets is also available as an audiobook. There’s some background information on the novella on the author’s website and an excerpt on Entertainment Weekly.


In this new stand-alone novella from New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor comes the story of a romantic, funny, and fantastical first date. In Night of Cake & Puppets, Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone Trilogy–the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Told in alternating perspectives, it’s the perfect love story for fans of the series and new readers alike.

Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to meet him, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before finally leading him to the treasure: herself!

Violin Boy’s not going to know what hit him.

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 week brought one ARC, an early Christmas present, and a few books I bought because I simply cannot resist the Black Friday sales at Book Outlet, to my husband’s dismay. (But… I bought all hardcovers and trade paperbacks and not a single book was more than $4.19! How can I not take advantage of this every year?! And I showed amazing restraint by only buying 4 books out of the 15 or so I was interested in!)

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

Troubled Waters (Elemental Blessings #1) by Sharon Shinn

I have heard that this particular book is excellent, and I’d like to read more by Sharon Shinn since I’ve only read Archangel—so when I found the hardcover on sale I snatched it up!

An excerpt from Troubled Waters is available on the author’s website. The second book in the series, Royal Airs, was just released last month.


The author of the Twelve Hours series welcomes readers to a new fantasy world, where the elements rule.

Zoe Ardelay receives astonishing and unwelcome news: she has been chosen to become the king’s fifth wife. Forced to go to the royal city, she manages to slip away and hide on the shores of the mighty river.

It’s there that Zoe realizes she is a coru prime ruled by the elemental sign of water. She must return to the palace, not as an unwilling bride for the king, but a woman with power in her own right. But as Zoe unlocks more of the mysteries of her blood—and the secrets of the royal family—she must decide how to use her great power to rise above the deceptions and intrigue of the royal court.

Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds

Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidon’s Children #1) by Alastair Reynolds

I read Revelation Space and enjoyed it, and I thought this book sounded pretty interesting. An excerpt from Blue Remembered Earth can be read on the publisher’s website.

The second book in the series, On the Steel Breeze, was released in the UK earlier this year. It will be available in the US in June 2014.


One hundred and fifty years from now, Africa has become the world’s dominant technological and economic power. Crime, war, disease and poverty have been practically eliminated. The Moon and Mars are settled, and colonies stretch all the way out to the edge of the solar system. And Ocular, the largest scientific instrument in history, is about to make an epochal discovery…

Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his long-running studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey’s family, which controls the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans for him. After the death of his grandmother Eunice—the erstwhile space explorer and entrepreneur—something awkward has come to light on the Moon, so Geoffrey is dispatched there to ensure the family name remains untarnished.

But the secrets Eunice died with are about to be revealed—secrets that could change everything…or tear this near utopia apart.

City of Dragons by Robin Hobb

City of Dragons (The Rain Wilds Chronicles #3) by Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb’s Farseer, Liveship Traders, and Tawny Man trilogies are some of my favorites (and I CAN’T WAIT for the first book in the upcoming Fitz and the Fool trilogy!) so I’m collecting the books in The Rain Wilds Chronicles even though I haven’t read the first one yet. The books in the series are as follows:

  1. The Dragon Keeper
  2. Dragon Haven
  3. City of Dragons
  4. Blood of Dragons

This is a completed series.


Once, dragons ruled the Rain Wilds, tended by privileged human servants known as Elderlings. But a series of cataclysmic eruptions nearly drove these magnificent creatures to extinction. Born weak and deformed, the last of their kind had one hope for survival: to return to their ancient city of Kelsingra. Accompanied by a disparate crew of untested young keepers, the dragons embarked on a harsh journey into the unknown along the toxic Rain Wild River. Battling starvation, a hostile climate, and treacherous enemies, dragons and humans began to forge magical connections, bonds that have wrought astonishing transformations for them all. And though Kelsingra is finally near, their odyssey has only begun.

Because of the swollen waters of the Rain Wild River, the lost city can be reached only by flight—a test of endurance and skill beyond the stunted dragons’ strength. Venturing across the swift-running river in tiny boats, the dragon scholar Alise and a handful of keepers discover a world far different from anything they have ever known or imagined. Immense, ornate structures of black stone veined with silver and lifelike stone statues line the silent, eerily empty streets. Yet what are the whispers they hear, the shadows of voices and bursts of light that flutter and are gone? And why do they feel as if eyes are watching them?

The dragons must plumb the depths of their ancestral memories to help them take flight and unlock the secrets buried in Kelsingra. But enemies driven by greed and dark desires are approaching. Time is running out, not only for the dragons but for their human keepers as well.

Star of the Morning by Lynn Kurland

Star of the Morning (Nine Kingdoms #1) by Lynn Kurland

I’ve heard some good things about this romantic fantasy trilogy and thought I’d give it a try. The second and third books are The Mage’s Daughter and Princess of the Sword. A second trilogy has been completed, and the second book in the third Nine Kingdoms trilogy is scheduled for release next year.


From the USA Today bestselling author comes the first in a magical romantic fantasy trilogy.

Darkness covers the north, since the black mage has begun his assault on the kingdom of Neroche. Legend has it that only the two magical swords held by Neroche’s king can defeat the mage. Now the fate of the Nine Kingdoms rests in the hands of a woman destined to wield one of those blades…

In this land of dragons and mages, warrior maids and magical swords, nothing is as it seems. And Morgan will find that the magic in her blood brings her troubles she cannot face with a sword-and a love more powerful than she has ever imagined.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I have a mass market paperback copy of this that I bought at Borders and read years ago, and I had a lot of fun reading it. My husband got me a very nice hardcover edition with illustrations for Christmas (the wrapping paper had a huge rip in it so he let me open it early!).


Here William Goldman’s beloved story of Buttercup, Westley, and their fellow adventurers finally receives a beautiful illustrated treatment.

A tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts—The Princess Bride is a modern storytelling classic.

As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchman, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini—the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik—the gentle giant; Inigo—the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen—the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.

The Raven's Shadow by Elspeth Cooper

The Raven’s Shadow (The Wild Hunt #3) by Elspeth Cooper

The third book in The Wild Hunt series is currently available in the UK, and it will be released in the US in March 2014 (hardcover, ebook). Excerpts from each book in the series and a description of the upcoming fourth book, The Dragon House, are on the author’s website.


The Raven’s Shadow, the third book of Elspeth Cooper’s The Wild Hunt series finds war brewing on both sides of the Veil between the worlds.

The desert of Gimrael is aflame with violence, and in the far north an ancient hatred is about to spill over into the renewal of a war that, a thousand years ago, forged an empire. This time, it may shatter one.

Wrestling with his failing grip on the power of the Song, and still trying to come to terms with the horrifying events he witnessed in El Maqqam, Gair returns to the mainland with only one thing on his mind: vengeance. It may cost him his life, but when everything that he had to live for is being stripped away from him, that may be a fair price to pay.

Old friends and old foes converge in a battle of wills to stem the tide of the Nimrothi clans as they charge south to reclaim the lands lost in the Founding Wars. If they succeed, the rest of the empire may be their next target. And with the Wild Hunt at their head, the overstretched Imperial Army may not be enough to stop them.

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.

Unlike last week’s post covering two weeks, this one is short and sweet! Two books showed up, one of which I already discussed in an earlier post:

Year's Best SF 18 edited by David G. Hartwell David

Year’s Best SF 18 edited by David Hartwell

Year’s Best SF 18, containing science fiction stories published in 2012, will be released on December 10 (hardcover, trade paperback, ebook). The only cover image I could find is not accurate since it lists an author who does not actually have a story in this book (my copy says “Pat Cadigan” where the image says “Elizabeth Bear”). Other authors with stories in this book include Megan Lindholm, Paul Cornell, Yoon Ha Lee, C. S. Friedman, Ken Liu, Gene Wolfe, Aliette de Bodard, and Bruce Sterling.


Once again, the finest short-form SF offerings of the year have been collected in a single volume.

With Year’s Best SF 18, acclaimed, award-winning editor and anthologist David G. Hartwell demonstrates the amazing depth and power of contemporary speculative fiction, showcasing astonishing short stories from some of science fiction’s most respected names as well as exciting new writers to watch. In this anthology, prepare to travel light years from the ordinary into a tomorrow at once breathtaking, frightening, and possible with some of the greatest tales of wonder published in 2012.

To close the Sci-Fi Month series of posts I’ve put up in November I decided to go back and give some recommendations about some of my favorite sci-fi books and series of all time. Since my husband has been reading science fiction much longer than I have I also asked him to contribute some of his favorites, which are after the dividing line below. Of course there are a lot of good books that we’ve left out, but the ones we’ve included are some of the best of the best and we think they’re great books for anyone who is into (or wants to get into) science fiction!

Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro

Saga of the Skolian Empire by Catherine Asaro

This is one of those series that can be a bit daunting to begin—there are 18 works listed as part of the series on the author’s website, including 14 novels, and the books in the series are not published in chronological order. Skyfall is the first novel in chronological order, but while I enjoyed it, I didn’t think it was as good as some of the other books in the series or a necessary starting point. I’d recommend beginning with either Primary Inversion (the first in publication order and the book I started with) or The Last Hawk (my favorite in the series).

I must confess I’ve only read five of the novels so far myself, but since both Primary Inversion and The Last Hawk are among my favorite science fiction books I had to include them on this list! I love how well-rounded the books in this series are; they contain hard science, action and adventure, romance, fascinating societies, and interesting characters. Primary Inversion focuses on Soz, a fighter pilot in Skolian Space Command and the Emperor’s sister and heir, who meets and falls in love with a man belonging to the enemies of the Skolians. It’s been awhile since I read this one so my memory of the details is a bit hazy, but I found it a good introduction to the Skolian Empire and a difficult book to put down. The Last Hawk focuses on Soz’s brother, Kelric, who ends up on the planet Coba when his ship’s last engine fails. Coba was a very interesting place, due to both the role of the game Quis in their society and its matriarchy, and this was another book I found I could not stop reading.

Thinking about these books has made me want to pick up one of the others I haven’t read yet!

The Player of GamesThe Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

The Culture by Iain M. Banks

While I still need to read a lot of the Culture novels, I had to include them because The Player of Games is one of my very favorite science fiction novels! As mentioned with the books above, I love books in which games play a role in society and this particular novel features the empire Azad, where the ability to play a game with the same name determines the position one has with the best player ruling as Emperor. This was my first Culture book, and I thought it was a great introduction to the universe with its ideals. It’s an egalitarian utopia and many of the problems humanity faces are not an issue in the Culture, like money and disease. Basically, it’s one of the first places that pops into my mind whenever the question is raised about places in science fiction and fantasy books in which one would like to live. It’s not perfect, but it sounds like a pretty decent place to be for the average person! I also love the ship AIs and their names (ie., So Much for Subtlety, Screw Loose, Just Read the Instructions).

In Conquest Born by C. S. Friedman

In Conquest Born by C. S. Friedman

While I had some problems with the jarring point of view switches and slow beginning, I very much enjoyed C. S. Friedman’s first novel about two peoples at war (I’m starting to see a trend with science fiction books I enjoy). What I really appreciated about In Conquest Born was that it had a lot of focus on political machinations and enemies trying to outsmart one another and managed to pull them off well. Often books about intelligent people tell readers they are smart without successfully showing them as competent, but C. S. Friedman succeeded in making her characters fit within the parameters of what readers were told—and also at making them complex and interesting to read about.

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress has won a large number of awards for her fiction, and her trilogy beginning with Beggars in Spain is also wonderful (but I’m going to let John talk about those since he’s read them all numerous times!). After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall is a novella about what happens before, during, and after an apocalypse. It switches between timelines in a way that sets up some compelling questions about what exactly happened, and I thought it was very skillfully done. The very first chapter, in which a boy born after the apocalypse went back in time to abduct some children, had me riveted. I was very impressed by how much was conveyed in such a short book, and I also found it to be a real page-turner, as cliched as that sounds.

Warchild by Karin Lowachee

Warchild by Karin Lowachee

Normally I wouldn’t include the very last book I reviewed in a list like this, but Warchild is now so close to the top of my list of favorite books that I cannot possibly leave it off a list of science fiction book recommendations! The story begins when eight-year-old Jos Musey’s ship is attacked by pirates, leading to his eventual escape with an alien sympathizer who makes Jos his student in the war between EarthHub and the aliens. It has one of the most intense openings I have ever read since it is like being right in Jos’s shoes as his ship is attacked and he and the other children are taken by pirates. I also enjoyed that the war was complicated and there were flawed but ultimately decent people on both sides, and I just loved Jos as a character so much. He’s had it so tough, and I was incredibly emotionally involved in his plight. I can’t recommend this novel enough to those who don’t mind some darkness in their fiction.

The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

This novel, loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, won the Hugo Award in 1981. The planet Tiamat’s ruler alternates between a Winter Queen and a Summer Queen, each of which reigns for about 150 years. As the Winter Queen’s rule comes to an end, she is reluctant to give up her place and has some clones created in hopes that one of them will succeed her as the Summer Queen. The Snow Queen is largely the story of the one clone who could become Summer Queen, Moon. While it could be slow at times, I thought this book tied together very well in the end and I loved the characters and the divisions between the Winters and the Summers. I really need to pick up The Summer Queen at some point; it’s a massive book that will take me forever to read but I’ve heard it’s even better than The Snow Queen!

When Kristen asked if I wanted to add something to her sci-fi recommendations post I said I’d be happy to. After all, I’ve read it my entire life and I’ve even written about sci-fi related matters on this site before; what could go wrong?

Well, as it turns out, I have read it my entire life. That fact means that, not only is there a lot to choose from, but I’ve also read them at different times in my life when I’ve valued different aspects of the stories in them. I can’t just make a top ten list because the books are good for different, largely incomparable, reasons. Is reading about Callahan’s bar better than reading about Miri and her SuperSleepless? It’s like asking what tastes better, blue or logarithms?

So instead, I’m giving a few of the reasons why I like to read science fiction and a couple of exemplary books that highlight those characteristics. The categories are at least some of my answer to the question of what makes sci-fi worth reading, and the books are my answer to what makes sci-fi good.

Callahan's Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson Phule's Company by Robert Asprin


The Callahan books by Spider Robinson
Callahan’s bar is a transtemporal, transdimensional, and sometimes transsexual saloon where interesting things happen to unusual people. It’s unapologetically optimistic and believes that most people can be good while also knowing how to effectively deal with those who can’t. That’s about as narrow a description I can give the series because Robinson grabs bits and pieces from all over the place to populate his bar, but somehow all the odd bits work together to make a cohesive whole. Many of the best Callahan tales are short stories, so I’d recommending picking up a collection like Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon to get started.

Phule’s Company by Robert Asprin and Peter J. Heck
Phule’s Company is Asprin’s lesser known sci-fi counterpart to his more famous MythAdventures fantasy humor series. It’s set in the military of an interstellar empire–or at least, a military-of-sorts, since they’re much closer to mercenaries. The company is essentially a French Foreign Legion in space, filled with people who are trying to get away from their pasts who join in pursuit of the only real benefit service provides: anonymity. This particular company is run by one of the richest men in the universe, Willard Phule, who happily takes what sound like military problems and solves them with business sense and cash. The Phule series has the same humor and humanity that made the Myth books popular but manage to avoid a lot of the problems that dragged that series down when it was at its height.

Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster BujoldIlium by Dan Simmons


The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Vorkosigan Saga is massive in both scope and size, spanning many worlds, books, and nearly twenty years of Bujold’s career. It is also escapism at its best. The main body of the series follows Miles Vorkosigan, a properly mis-fit (note the hyphen) Lord from the planet Barrayar. He doesn’t fit in with the martial Barrayaran society due to birth defects that have left him physically frail. Instead he has to find other ways to serve his planet and people, with different books casting his as everything from swashbuckling space pirate to detective to…administrator. The series is tied together by an overarching sense that stories should be entertaining above all, but once that is accomplished they can also be vehicles to explore deeper issues such as medical ethics and dealing with “the other.”

Ilium and Olympos by Dan Simmons
Ilium and Olympos are escapist in a completely different way than the Vorkosigan Saga. While Vorkosigan appeals to the sense of narrative and play, Simmons’ books appeal to the intellect. Set in a bizarre-but-functional collision between Mars and Troy, these books pull together incredibly disparate threads from across time. You truly need to be a scholar of English (and often Greek) literature if you’re going to pick up on all of the references and allusions Simmons drops in. The key, though, is that Simmons manages to do this without making readers feel like they’re doing hard labor to understand what is going on. It’s a little bit of the technique used on Lost: leaving breadcrumbs to tempt you into following up and hint at deeper connections but not making the story dependent upon following up on those hints. Luckily, Simmons is a vastly superior writer to anyone who worked on Lost and his story actually, you know, comes together in the end.

This Perfect Day by Ira LevinFoundation by Issac Asimov

Societies and People

Dystopias: 1984 by George Orwell, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, This Perfect Day by Ira Levin
I’ll lump these together because the odds are pretty good that, if you’re this far into a post on sci-fi recommendations, you’ve probably heard of these books already. The possible exception is This Perfect Day, the most recent book on the list (from, uh, 1970), but it is similar to the others in tone and feel. I believe that part of sci-fi’s mission is to make us think about the world we live in and, more importantly, the world we want to live in. These dystopias all warn against different versions of worlds gone wrong. They don’t come with the trappings of most recent books, for better or for worse; they are about ideas over empathy and societies over people. Readers who are used to modern sci-fi may have trouble with them because of that, but they are at the core of what it means to tell a science fiction story and so I still recommend them to anyone who is interested in the genre.

Utopias: Foundation by Issac Asimov, The Culture by Iain Banks
On the other end of the dystopian axis are books set in utopian societies. I wrote a post about Asimov’s universe a while ago that goes into much more depth than I’m including here so I’d suggest you read that if you are interested in his universe (which I’ll defend as broadly utopian, though certainly a utopia complicated by reality). As Kristen discusses above, the Culture series is a modern take on interstellar utopias, filled with books where technology is neither the cause of nor solution to the problems of the galaxy. Instead it’s all about the societies and people in them, particularly the less developed ones that provide wonderful contrast points with the near-utopian Culture itself.

Beggars in Spain by Nancy KressRainbows End by Vernor Vinge


Beggars/Sleepless trilogy by Nancy Kress
This is another series I’ve written about before on this site. Several times, actually, and with good reason: Beggars in Spain has stood atop my list of favorite books for nearly two decades and there have been very few books I’d even consider challengers for the title. I’ll again point you to my previous post for more details, but all I can say is this: read it. Now. Yes, I know there’s another paragraph before the end of the article. I don’t care. Vinge is well known, he doesn’t need the publicity. Just go find a copy and dig in.

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge
Kristen and I have somehow managed to skip Rainbows End when we reviewed several of Vinge’s other books here, but suffice it to say that it continues his long history of excellence in both form and concept. It is set in the rapidly-approaching year of 2026 when virtual communities and augmented reality have created the opportunity to choose the world you want to live in and the people you want to interact with. I’ve found it an incredibly prescient book and have recommended it to my New Media students for years as a story that understands the implications of new technologies on society. That it manages to portray those implications embedded in such an interesting story is part of what makes authors like Vinge and Kress exemplary.

Sci-Fi Month

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 is a long one since I didn’t manage to fit one of these posts in last weekend. All my blogging time then went toward finishing Warchild by Karin Lowachee so I could stick to the schedule I’d made myself for Sci-Fi Month (but that was fine since I ended up LOVING Warchild, which is now one of my favorite books ever!).

That also means I didn’t get to mention the Mind Meld at SF Signal I’d recently participated in as I had been planning to. It’s about the importance of anthologies, and there are a lot of different answers and anthology recommendations.

Several books came in over the last two weeks, including two I’ve talked about before. One is even a book by one of my favorite authors that I LOVED that an awesome friend got signed for me at a con, which made my week! The other was released earlier this month, Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach (also known as Rachel Aaron, the author of the Legend of Eli Monpress series).

On to the rest of the books!

The Silvered by Tanya Huff

The Silvered by Tanya Huff

The Silvered was released in the UK earlier this month (paperback, ebook). It was first released in the US about a year ago and is available in hardcover, ebook, audiobook, and mass market paperback. An excerpt from the beginning of the book is available on the US publisher’s website.

I’ve heard The Silvered is quite good, and I rather enjoyed Tanya Huff’s novel The Fire’s Stone so I was excited to start reading this one—enough so that I already started reading it! Right now I’ve only read through part of the second chapter, but I like what I’ve read so far.


The Empire has declared war on the small, were-ruled kingdom of Aydori, capturing five women of the Mage-Pack, including the wife of the were Pack-leader. With the Pack off defending the border, it falls to Mirian Maylin and Tomas Hagen—she a low-level mage, he younger brother to the Pack-leader—to save them. Together the two set out on the kidnappers’ trail, racing into the heart of enemy territory. But with every step the odds against their survival, let alone their success, grow steeper…

Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest

Fiddlehead (The Clockwork Century #5) by Cherie Priest

The conclusion to The Clockwork Century was just released earlier this month (trade paperback, ebook). The previous novels are as follows:

  1. Boneshaker
  2. Dreadnought
  3. Ganymede
  4. The Inexplicables

An excerpt from Fiddlehead can be read on the publisher’s website.


Ex-spy ‘Belle Boyd’ is retired – more or less. Retired from spying on the Confederacy anyway. Her short-lived marriage to a Union navy boy cast suspicion on those Southern loyalties, so her mid-forties found her unemployed, widowed and disgraced. Until her life-changing job offer from the staunchly Union Pinkerton Detective Agency.

When she’s required to assist Abraham Lincoln himself, she has to put any old loyalties firmly aside – for a man she spied against twenty years ago.Lincoln’s friend Gideon Bardsley, colleague and ex-slave, is targeted for assassination after the young inventor made a breakthrough. Fiddlehead, Bardsley’s calculating engine, has proved an extraordinary threat threatens the civilized world. Meaning now is not the time for conflict.

Now Bardsley and Fiddlehead are in great danger as forces conspire to keep this secret, the war moving and the money flowing. With spies from both camps gunning for her, can even the notorious Belle Boyd hold the war-hawks at bay?

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac

Killer of Enemies is published by Tu Books, a publisher dedicated to young adult science fiction, fantasy, and mystery books with diverse characters. I recently read one of their science fiction novels, Tankborn by Karen Sandler, and really enjoyed it.

An excerpt from Killer of Enemies, published in hardcover and ebook earlier this fall, is available online.


Years ago, seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lived in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones—people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human—and there was everyone else who served them.

Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets—genetically engineered monsters—turned on them and are now loose on the world.

Lozen was not one of the lucky ones pre-C, but fate has given her a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities. She hunts monsters for the Ones who survived the apocalyptic events of the Cloud, which ensures the safety of her kidnapped family. But with every monster she takes down, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is not just a hired gun.

As the legendary Killer of Enemies was in the ancient days of the Apache people, Lozen is meant to be a more than a hunter. Lozen is meant to be a hero.

Malice by John Gwynne

Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen #1) by John Gwynne

This fantasy debut, the winner of the 2013 David Gemmell Morningstar Award, will be released in the US on December 3 (trade paperback, ebook). It is already available in the UK. An excerpt from Malice can be read on the US publisher’s website.


A black sun is rising …

Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors under King Brenin’s rule, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage.

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed shields in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars.

High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Some are skeptical, fighting their own border skirmishes against pirates and giants. But prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.

Last to Rise by Francis Knight

Last to Rise (Rojan Dizon #3) by Francis Knight

The conclusion to the Rojan Dizon trilogy will be released on November 26 (trade paperback, ebook). The previous books in the series are as follows:

  1. Fade to Black (My review)
  2. Before the Fall

An excerpt from Last to Rise is available on the publisher’s website.


The concluding volume of the Rojan Dizon series where magic must save a city on the eve of its destruction.

The towering vertical city of Mahala is on the brink of war with its neighbouring countries. It might be his worst nightmare, but Rojan and the few remaining pain mages have been drafted in to help.

The city needs power in whatever form they can get it — and fast. With alchemists readying a prototype electricity generator, and factories producing guns faster than ever, the city’s best advantage is still the mages.

Leading the alchemists is Rojan’s sister, with a risky plan to help tap the mages’ strength and overcome the armies marching towards them. With food in the city running out and a battle brimming that no one is ready for, risky is the best they’ve got . . .

Apparition by Trish J. MacGregor

Apparition (Hungry Ghosts #3) by Trish J. MacGregor

This stand alone sequel to Esperanza was released earlier this month (hardcover, ebook). Another related book, Ghost Key, came out after Esperanza and before Apparition.

An excerpt from Apparition can be read on


Trish J. MacGregor returns to a mythic city high in the Ecuadorian Andes in Apparition.

Tess and Ian have been living in the high city of Esperanza for years, along with Tess’s niece, Maddie, and her partner, Nick Sanchez. They thought they could rest, that they had defeated the brujo threat to our plane of existence. But they were wrong.

A new and greater threat has formed, a new tribe of the hungry dead, seeking to possess the bodies of the living in order to experience the passions of physical life. This new tribe has found the door to the physical plane that is Esperanza, and they threaten all human life. Only the outnumbered Light Chasers and their human allies can stand against the evil brujos.

A Dance of Blades by David Dalglish

A Dance of Blades (Shadowdance #2) by David Dalglish

The Shadowdance books were originally self published, and they are now being released in quick succession by Orbit Books (trade paperback, ebook). There have been some changes to the newer versions, and you can learn more about the differences between the self-published editions and the Orbit editions on the author’s blog.

The first book, A Dance of Cloaks, was released last month, and A Dance of Blades just became available earlier this month. A Dance of Mirrors will follow next month.


It’s been five long years since the city learned to fear…

The war between the thief guilds and the powerful allegiance known as the Trifect has slowly dwindled. Now only the mysterious Haern is left to wage his private battle against the guilds in the guise of the Watcher – a vicious killer who knows no limits. But when the son of Alyssa Gemcroft, one of the three leaders of the Trifect, is believed murdered, the slaughter begins anew. Mercenaries flood the streets with one goal in mind: find and kill the Watcher.

Peace or destruction; every war must have its end.

Fantasy author David Dalglish spins a tale of retribution and darkness, and an underworld reaching for ultimate power.