Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships May 25

Happy Friday, you hoopy froods, and happy Towel Day! Today we’re talking MEM by Bethany C. Morrow and The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst, young Aragorn, the Nebulas, and more.

board game pieces, similar to chess, but shaped like five separate individuals, set on a blue illustrated surfaceThis newsletter is sponsored by Penguin Teen.

Unforgivable betrayals, devious motives, and forbidden love collide in the first installment of internationally bestselling author Sally Green’s epic new fantasy series, perfect for Game of Thrones fans.

In a land tinged with magic and a bustling trade in an illicit supernatural substance, destiny will intertwine the fates of five players:
A visionary princess determined to forge her own path.
An idealistic soldier whose heart is at odds with his duty.
A streetwise hunter tracking the most dangerous prey.
A charming thief with a powerful hidden identity.
A loyal servant on a quest to avenge his kingdom.
All are driven by ambition, honor, and desperation on the cusp of war. But who will be left standing when the smoke clears?

The Nebulas have been awarded! Huge congratulations to the winners — there are a lot of personal and Book Riot favorites in here, and I talked about Rebecca Roanhorse’s “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience TM” in the Short Fiction episode of SFF Yeah.

Elementary, my dear Watson: Along with the many in the mystery/thriller genre, here are a few speculative takes on Sherlock Holmes. (I’m a huge fan of that Aliette de Bodard series as well!)

There’s been no official statement yet, but rumors abound that Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings TV series will follow Aragorn. This sounds at least plausible to me (although I have to say that if I had my druthers we would get the Adventures of Galadriel).

Let’s get steamy: Need more erotic fantasy and sci-fi in your life? Here’s a list. There are some classics on there, as well as a few surprises.

Emo zombies! It’s a thing. This headline made me laugh so hard, and then I actually read the piece, and can’t really argue with any of their recommendations. I will add, however, that if you need a “cozy” zombie movie to chase all those feelings (BECAUSE THAT ALSO EXISTS), may I recommend Fido?

Because you don’t have enough nerdy swag, here are some very excellent further options. I need the Octavia Butler AND the Ursula Le Guin shirts, to round out my collection (which already includes this one).

Today’s reviews include got extracted memories and tree spirits.

MEM by Bethany C. Morrow

a pale, washed-out image of a bank vault doorWhat if you could pull a memory from someone’s mind? Set in Montreal in an alternate 1900s, MEM plays with identity, personhood, and medical ethics. In the process of playing with these concepts, Morrow delivers a thought-provoking and page-turning novel.

The inventors of the procedure specifically wanted to help their patients heal from trauma — and what better way than to just remove the trauma entirely? A human can undergo the treatment up to three times in their lives, and many of those able to afford the procedure do just that. The resulting Mems are embodied, zombie-esque creatures, stuck in the loop of the memory that created them until they die. All except for Elsie, a.k.a. Dolores Extract #3, who has survived for decades as a fully functioning being. While she’s not exactly granted full personhood, and remains the property of the original Dolores, she is granted a certain level of freedom. But then she’s recalled to the Vault; procedures are going awry, Dolores is in failing health, and the scientists think Elsie holds the information they need to make things work again.

As Elsie learns more about both herself and the science that created her, she’s also thrown into interactions with new people that shake up the life she’s known. What does it mean to be a person? What makes one memory different from another? What makes Elsie so special? The answers are connected in MEM, and the journey to them is an excellent one.

Atmospheric, beautifully detailed, and thought-provoking, MEM is a strong debut, and I can’t wait to see Morrow’s next works.

The Queen of Sorrow (Queens of Renthia #3) by Sarah Beth Durst 

a blue and purple tinted image of two people looking towards a castle on a mountain, with birds flying all around themLast June, I reviewed Books 1 and 2 in the Queens of Renthia series, and I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since. I said it then and I’ll say it again now: this is a great summer reading series, full of blood, magic, intrigue, and heroines you can’t help root (ahem) for.

Daleina, Naelin, and their friends and family survived the invasion of Renthia and are focused on rebuilding. It should be fine: there are two queens now, working together. What could go wrong? Naelin’s children getting kidnapped, that’s what. As Naelin struggles to control her emotions and do what’s best for her family as well as her country, Daleina has to try to out-think her former best friend, now her greatest threat.

The main plot alone would make this a good third book; the expansion of the world makes it a great one. As Daleina and Naelin head out on their adventures, they dig deeper into the origins of Renthia and the neighboring countries. Why are the spirits the way they are? What if there was another way to co-exist? And just what is Baen anyway? Durst deepens her world-building as she expands the scope of the story, with the result that while I’m content with how the current story arc has tied up, I need MORE. Thankfully, in the afterword she mentions she’s working on a companion story; hopefully we won’t have too long to wait.

And that’s a wrap! You can find all of the books recommended in this newsletter on a handy Goodreads shelf. If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.

Always know where your towel is,