Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships for February 28: Do a Combat Roll

Happy friday, shipmates! It has been cold as heck here in Colorado… hopefully you’re somewhere warmer, or if not, you’re getting to curl up under a blanket with a good book and a mug of your favorite hot beverage of choice. It’s Alex, with some news items (there was a lot of book news this week!) and some combat-heavy books to peruse for you.

In the department of things I can watch again and again: this amazing video of an owl in flight.

And on a completely different level, were you aware of the viral moment on twitter where we learned how fast a javelina can run? A lot of people set that video to music. Here’s my favorite.

News and Views

A hard-hitting essay about The Hunger Games and revolution for mass consumption: The Revolution Will Be Dramatized

Three Crows magazine did an interview with Tamsyn Muir about, among other things, Gideon the Ninth and the fanfiction controversy. TW for discussion of child abuse.

Amazon is partnering with Macro TV and Ava Duvernay’s production company for the adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Dawn.

File 770 brings you the 2019 edition of Novellapalooza! If you’re looking for a short-but-not-too-short-read recommendation, this is an amazing place to go.

Alix E. Harrow would like to tell you about her next novel.

Rest in peace, Clive Cussler.

Beer inspired by Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy.

Drama dots!

The next Star Wars universe major project: The High Republic. Let me tell you, as a resident of Colorado, I really have to wonder if they thought hard enough about that name.

Smithsonian Curators Remember Katherine Johnson.

A 46,000-year-old preserved bird.

On Book Riot

10 Dark Fantasy Books Like The Witcher

Cover Reveal: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Bookish Candles for Fans of The Raven Cycle

Free Association Friday: Combat-Heavy SFF

the rage of dragonsI just finished reading The Rage of Dragons, which is honestly a little darker than I normally like to go in my fantasy, but it still gripped me from start to finish. (And after a slightly long “training montage” middle, it takes a left turn into some absolutely dizzying fantasy politics that had me on the edge of my seat.) But one thing that really stands out in this book is just how focused on the feel, mechanics, and intensity of absolutely brutal sword fighting and hand-to-hand combat.

So I was thinking, what are some other books that have a major focus on the nitty-gritty of combat… and make it interesting instead of a dry play-by-play? (And I’ll admit right here that I’m skirting military scifi, because that’s really its own whole topic.)

The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust is a fantasy take on The Three Musketeers, following the story of a young noble from the country who wants to make his way in the emperor’s court. And it’s got SO MANY SWORD FIGHTS. And magic duels. There’s just a lot of fighting in this book.

Jade City by Fonda Lee has a fighting tournament that’s a major turning point for one of the characters, and to go with the tournament there is some intense kung fu action.

cover image: a young native american woman in a leather jacket holding a sword standing on top of a pickup truck with a young man inside and lightning in the sky behindTrail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse is about a lady who hunts monsters and also has to fight plenty of humans who don’t like her. There’s a lot of down and dirty combat. There’s also an (illegal) fighting pit that gets a moment in the spotlight.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman does not actually have as many sword fights as some of the other books, but it more than deserves a place on the list because the fight between Wesley and Inigo is full of so much intense fencing nerdery.

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner is not as intensely nerdy about its fencing as The Princess Bride, but it is approximately a million times gayer.

And then as honorable mentions for intense combat that isn’t so up close and personal:

ninefox gambit by yoon ha leeNinefox Gambit is the token scifi for this list and it opens off with an amazing ground forces battle scene of “calendrical warfare,” which involves using math to just rip your opponents to shreds. Then some quick thinking leads our protagonist into giant ship-to-ship battles… and a war that will end up encompassing billions of lives.

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik has often been shorthanded as Master and Commander but with dragons instead of ships, and for good reason. The level of detail and thought that goes into Patrick O’Brian’s (or C. S. Forester’s a la Horatio Hornblower) loving and intense descriptions of ship-to-ship combat and sailing action in his novels is basically replicated here… with massive dragons crewed by humans.

See you, space pirates. You can find all of the books recommended in this newsletter on a handy Goodreads shelf. If you’d like to know more about my secret plans to dominate the seas and skies, you can catch me over at my personal site.