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John Rast went to the Ren Faire looking for a simulated fight, with blunt swords and safety equipment. His final opponent is a living, fire-breathing dragon, and John is in the fight of his life. He is spirited away to the hidden base of Knight Watch, the organization that stands between humanity and nefarious forces the rest of the world doesn’t know about. John and his reluctant teammates must find out who is pulling the strings before all of Knight Watch falls prey to a well-concealed puppet master reigning terror over the world.
Happy Friday, shipmates! We’re at the midpoint of September now, and hopefully you’re getting to feel the change in the seasons. I’ve gotten to have my AC off for a week and a half now, though all of the wildfire smoke is making having the windows open a little iffy. Yes, it’s Alex, with a few news items and my favorite quarantine reads so far. Stay safe out there, and I’ll see you for new releases on Tuesday!
Excellent thing for today: a new song from Janelle Monáe
News and Views
News about Leviathan Falls, the final book of The Expanse
Alasdair Stuart writes about Warren Ellis for Sarah Gailey’s personal canons series.
A reflection on gender, joy, and worldbuilding, set off by an observed revision in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.
The second season of The Mandalorian has a trailer
Which Hugo finalists don’t have a Wikipedia page? (The list is actually shorter than I might have guessed.)
Argh, apparently it makes no difference to the deluge of robocalls whether you answer them or not.
On Book Riot
This week’s SFF Yeah! Podcast is about the multiverse
You can win a copy of Ink and Sigil by Kevin Hearne
Free Association Friday: Favorite Quarantine Reads (so far)[lolsob]
Today I celebrated my one year anniversary at my job, which is a Big Deal. And then I realized that it’s also the six month anniversary of my job going into lockdown… which is… sure something. Though I’m no longer spending over an hour a day on public transit, my reading time has gone way up. This might also have something to do with the fact that I injured my right hand opening a beer growler (hush, the orthopedic doctor assured me that’s a perfectly valid injury, and I have never felt so seen before), so I can’t play video games right now.
So what’s the best book I’ve read in each month of this super fun and exciting period in all of our lives? It’s a silver lining, at least.
Back Half of March: Lady Hotspur by Tessa Granton – It’s a gender bent Henry V that is also Extremely Queer in all the ways, and a massive meditation about love and duty and the way prophecy (and expectations) can seriously f*** people up. Just call me out by name next time, Tessa. (You don’t need to read The Queens of Innis Lear first—I didn’t—but you might get a bit more out of it that way.)
April: Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling – This might be a little too satirically dystopian for me, six months in, but in April it was still extremely, nastily funny. It helps that it’s definitely making fun of capitalism and politics and there are no pandemics involved, just snitty delivery drones in a horrible world that’s run by Definitely Not Amazon.
May: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone – This book has won about a zillion awards now, and all of them are well-deserved. My favorite thing to come out of this is apparently lesbians are now picking each other up on dating apps by identifying if they’re a red or a blue. This is the best kind of crossover with reality. (Full disclosure: I have the same agent as Amal and Max.)
June: Stealing Thunder by Alina Boyden – Considering I wrote an entire Friday piece about how much I love this book and why, so this should come as no surprise. To sum it up: “There’s a lot of discussion about stories of queer suffering in general. … There definitely needs to be space for us to process our traumas and explore darker themes, and do so when we are our own intended audience. But we so infrequently get a chance to explore our wishful fantasies and our joy, particularly not when major publishers are involved. That’s why Stealing Thunder was a shot of sunlight directly to my heart.”
July: The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson – I literally read this book in two nights because I could not stop reading it, even though it kept me up waaaaaay past my bedtime. It’s tonally like the movie The VVitch, which makes it way more horror than my weenie self can normally handle, but it’s feminist and wrathful and takes blood revenge for the way society is built on the lives and bodies of women. Plus the voice of the book is gorgeous.
August: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson – I am still haunted by this book. Another one with incredibly strong voice, and plot twists that had me whispering “Oh, shit!” at the end of every other chapter. A multiverse novel like I never could have imagined. I want everyone to read this book!
Front Half of September: Savage Legion by Matt Wallace – Honestly, I’m not that much into epic fantasy because it tends to be so stuck in its own world build and convoluted plots that it lacks the emotional meat I crave. This book does not have that problem, and it’s a deep examination of the way outwardly perfect, enlightened societies treat their least powerful citizens and control information. It’s a scream of primal rage at the lionization of men who have to make “necessary” and “difficult” decisions that treat people like things. (Full disclosure: I have the same agent as Matt.)
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.