Simon Owens from bloggasm wrote to inform me that free ebooks are only the first of many offerings Tor will soon have available online. Two anonymous sources divulged that Tor plans to build an online community for science fiction and fantasy fans, including social networking, original short fiction, and nonfiction.

The rest of the details on Tor’s new web-based science fiction and fantasy community can be found here.

In case you missed this earlier post about Tor’s free ebooks, here is the place to go to register for their newsletter and free ebooks.


by William Gibson
288pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 2/10
Amazon Rating: 4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.06/5
Good Reads Rating: 4.06/5

William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the first book in the Sprawl trilogy, is the novel that began the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction. When it was published in 1984, it was a very revolutionary work, and it was certainly influential in modern day terminology since it made the term “cyberspace” popular (it was originally coined in one of Gibson’s earlier works, the short story “Burning Chrome”). The frequent comparison to the body and “meat” is probably also responsible for the use of “meatspace” in reference to the real world. Undoubtedly, Neuromancer was a very important novel; however, it is not a very good book when considered purely on its own merits as a story.

Case was a talented cowboy, a data thief who worked for wealthier data thieves, until he stole from one of them. Instead of outright killing him, his employer damaged his nervous system badly enough to prevent Case from working in his profession. Case becomes a suicidal drug addict until a man named Armitage finds him and offers to repair his nervous system in return for the use of Case’s abilities as a cowboy. He undergoes surgery, and awakens to find that the same substance that destroyed his nervous system before was put inside of him and will be released if he does not finish his job quickly enough. Case is partnered with Molly, a street samurai, and ordered to steal the construct containing the consciousness of one of his former mentors. Soon Case and Molly find themselves trying to put together the mystery of Armitage’s past and figuring out how the AI entity Wintermute is involved.

Neuromancer is a relatively short book, only 271 pages long in mass market paperback. The first 100 pages are excruciatingly boring and the next 171 are often still fairly boring, making this the longest short book I have ever read. The plot develops at a glacial pace, and the prose is filled with fictional technical jargon. The meaning of some of these terms can be inferred from context at times, but normally not immediately, and Gibson has a tendency to throw out a lot of these words at once. At first, this is fun since it gives the book a certain high-tech, future feel, but it is overdone to the point where it is just confusing and tedious.

Some of the ideas in the story were probably very interesting in 1984, but anyone with a passing familiarity with science fiction today has probably seen these same concepts explored many times in a more interesting fashion. Artificial intelligence and its autonomy, virtual reality, and engineering the body to use technology are all common story elements within the science fiction genre today. This book does not delve in to these concepts, but shows them as a part of everyday life without examining the implications in depth.

The characters in Neuromancer are shallow and two-dimensional. Very little can be gleaned about their personalities from their actions and none of the characters ever feel real. More is revealed about the technology that is wired into their bodies than their hopes and dreams and motivations. The dialogue is often poor, and whenever a character talks about his or her past, it lacks emotion, feeling more like a big info dump.

Neuromancer contains a world that was imaginative when it was written in the early 1980s, but it does not hold up well over 20 years later. Because the strength of the book was exploring a world that is now common, the other obvious flaws–the lack of a strong plot, well-written prose, and deep or interesting characters–become fatal once that strength has been removed. I would not recommend reading it to others unless they really want to be able to say they read the first cyberpunk novel.


Before They Are Hanged, the second book in Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy, was supposed to be released in the U.S. on March 25. Maybe it still is in most stores, I don’t know. However, Amazon actually has it in stockas of today.

I really enjoyed the first book in the trilogy, The Blade Itself, so I think I may have to head over there and order myself a copy. It was nothing ground-breaking, but it was enjoyable with interesting characters.

As always, free shipping is a must so maybe I’ll order The Well of Ascension while I’m there…


by Neil Gaiman
400pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.18/5
Good Reads Rating: 4.08/5

The first novel Neil Gaiman wrote after gaining his reputation as a comic book writer was Neverwhere, a stand alone story based on the BBC mini series Gaiman worked on. (Having seen the mini series before, I was amazed at just how similar the book and mini series were.) As is to be expected from anything by Gaiman, Neverwhere is an enchanting tale, strange and a little crazy. If almost anyone else had attempted this story, it would probably be somewhat silly. Yet somehow, whenever Gaiman writes something, he pulls everything together in such a way that it works really well.

Richard Mayhew is an ordinary London citizen with a decent but dull job and a pretty but snooty fiancee named Jessica (NOT Jess!). On the way to an important dinner with his Jessica’s boss, Richard and Jessica find a young woman lying on the sidewalk, hurt and bleeding. To Jessica’s great chagrin, Richard insists on helping the girl even if it means missing the dinner and losing Jessica. Richard brings the woman, who is called Door, back to his apartment and cleans her up.

Once Door has returned to her home, Richard finds that he no longer seems to exist. He can’t hail a cab, his coworkers ignore him, Jessica can’t even remember his last name, and his landlord doesn’t even notice him bathing when he shows some potential tenants every room in Richard’s apartment. Convinced Door has something to do with this occurrence, Richard decides to find her and becomes introduced to the London Underground – people who have “slipped through the cracks” of London – and is caught up in finding out why the rest of Door’s family was killed.

The world of the London Underground is unusual and fascinating, and while it coexists with our world, it is very different. This world has many common fantasy elements – some magic, unusual creatures, and assassins yet it is also unlike standard fantasy. It is not at all the typical tale of a modern day person who is whisked to a magical land full of castles, beautiful princesses, and fairies where they may have to work on the side of good to defeat an evil dark lord. Many of the people are the homeless of London, and the “lords and ladies” are not well dressed or at all refined. There are residents who speak with and revere rats and sewer folk who collect rubbish from their smelly home. It’s not a lovely and pleasant place, which makes it more realistic and gives it a sort of charm.

The story is paced very well without a boring moment. It is a fairly short, very plot-oriented story with sparse descriptions and a lot of dark, whimsical humor. I particularly enjoyed how Gaiman twisted the standard quest story, but unfortunately I cannot go into much detail about that without giving too much away.

The characters themselves are not explored in depth, but sometimes “good” and “bad” were not as apparent as one might have expected. The people of the London Underground certainly helped bring the story alive.

I would recommend Neverwhere to those who enjoy entertaining, well told mythical adventures.


To celebrate the 7th birthday of his blog, Neil Gaiman is going to make one of his books available online for free for a month. The free book has not yet been determined as Neil has requested readers to vote for the book they think is the best starting point for someone who has never read any of his work. American Gods is winning by a lot right now, and the closest contender after it is Neverwhere.

To read more and vote, go here.

By registering on Tor’s website, you can receive emails containing free digital science fiction and fantasy books. The first book is going to be Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire (a rather good book), and it will be followed by Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. After that, they will send more books but the site does not say what they are.