More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Richard Morgan's excellent Thirteen for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The future isn’t what it used to be since Richard K. Morgan arrived on the scene. He unleashed Takeshi Kovacs–private eye, soldier of fortune, and all-purpose antihero–into the body-swapping, hard-boiled, urban jungle of tomorrow in Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, and Woken Furies, winning the Philip K. Dick Award in the process. In Market Forces, he launched corporate gladiator Chris Faulkner into the brave new business of war-for-profit. Now, in Thirteen, Morgan radically reshapes and recharges science fiction yet again, with a new and unforgettable hero in Carl Marsalis: hybrid, hired gun, and a man without a country . . . or a planet.

Marsalis is one of a new breed. Literally. Genetically engineered by the U.S. government to embody the naked aggression and primal survival skills that centuries of civilization have erased from humankind, Thirteens were intended to be the ultimate military fighting force. The project was scuttled, however, when a fearful public branded the supersoldiers dangerous mutants, dooming the Thirteens to forced exile on Earth’s distant, desolate Mars colony. But Marsalis found a way to slip back–and into a lucrative living as a bounty hunter and hit man before a police sting landed him in prison–a fate worse than Mars, and much more dangerous.

Luckily, his “enhanced” life also seems to be a charmed one. A new chance at freedom beckons, courtesy of the government. All Marsalis has to do is use his superior skills to bring in another fugitive. But this one is no common criminal. He’s another Thirteen–one who’s already shanghaied a space shuttle, butchered its crew, and left a trail of bodies in his wake on a bloody cross-country spree. And like his pursuer, he was bred to fight to the death. Still, there’s no question Marsalis will take the job. Though it will draw him deep into violence, treachery, corruption, and painful confrontation with himself, anything is better than remaining a prisoner. The real question is: can he remain sane–and alive–long enough to succeed?

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Lev Grossman's The Magicians for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Quentin Coldwater is a brilliant but unhappy young man growing up in Brooklyn, NY. At 17, he remains obsessed with the fantasy novels he read as a child, set in the magical land of Fillory. One day, returning home from a college interview gone awry, he finds himself whisked to Brakebills, an exclusive college for wizards hidden in upstate New York. And so begins THE MAGICIANS, the thrilling and original novel of fantasy and disenchantment by Lev Grossman, author of the international bestseller Codex and book critic for TIME magazine.

At Brakebills, Quentin learns to cast spells. He makes friends and falls in love. He transforms into animals and gains powers of which he never dreamed. Still, magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he thought it would, and four years later, he finds himself back in Manhattan, living an aimless, hedonistic existence born of apathy, boredom and the ability to conjure endless sums of money out of thin air.

One afternoon, hung over and ruing some particularly foolish behavior, Quentin is surprised by the sudden arrival of his Brakebills friend and rival Penny, who announces that Fillory is real. This news promises to finally fulfill Quentin’s yearning, but their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than Quentin could have imagined. His childhood dream is a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, THE MAGICIANS pays intentional homage to the beloved fantasy novels of C. S. Lewis, T.H. White and J.K. Rowling, but does much more than enlarge the boundaries of conventional fantasy writing. By imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions, Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.

You can alsoget your hands on the digital edition of George R. R. Martin's Dreamsongs, Volume 1, an excellent collection of short fiction, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Even before A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin had already established himself as a giant in the field of fantasy literature. The first of two stunning collections, Dreamsongs: Volume I is a rare treat for readers, offering fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.

Gathered here in Dreamsongs: Volume I are the very best of George R. R. Martin’s early works, including his Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker award–winning stories, cool fan pieces, and the original novella The Ice Dragon, from which Martin’s New York Times bestselling children’s book of the same title originated. A dazzling array of subjects and styles that features extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume I is the perfect collection for both Martin devotees and a new generation of fans.

Quote of the Day

Nothing is as cruel as a righteous man.

- MARK LAWRENCE, Grey Sister (Canada, USA, Europe)

Serpent in the Heather

There was a lot to love about Kay Kenyon's latest alternate history fantasy novel, At the Table of Wolves. So much so that I couldn't resist and decided to jump into the sequel sooner rather than later! The first installment was an introduction to what appeared to be a vaster and more ambitious tale, and I was curious to discover where the author would take her story next.

And I'm glad I did, for Serpent in the Heather is even better than its predecessor. Building on the events and storylines from At the Table of Wolves, Kenyon raised the bar higher and elevated this series to another level. Time will tell if she can continue to up her game with each new volume. And yet, given how special The Entire and the Rose turned out to be, this bodes well for things to come.

Here's the blurb:

Now officially working for the Secret Intelligence Service, Kim Tavistock is back to solve another mystery—this time a serial killer with deep Nazi ties—in the sequel to At the Table of Wolves.

Summer, 1936. In England, an assassin is loose. Someone is killing young people who possess Talents. As terror overtakes Britain, Kim Tavistock, now officially employed by England’s Secret Intelligence Service, is sent on her first mission: to the remote Sulcliffe Castle in Wales, to use her cover as a journalist to infiltrate a spiritualist cult that may have ties to the murders. Meanwhile, Kim’s father, trained spy Julian Tavistock runs his own parallel investigation—and discovers the terrifying Nazi plot behind the serial killings.

Cut off from civilization, Sulcliffe Castle is perched on a forbidding headland above a circle of standing stones only visible at low tide. There, Kim shadows a ruthless baroness and her enigmatic son, plying her skills of deception and hearing the truths people most wish to hide. But as her cover disguise unravels, Kim learns that the serial killer is closing in on a person she has grown to love. Now, Kim must race against the clock not just to prevent the final ritual killing—but to turn the tide of the looming war.

In my review of the first installment, I opined that the worldbuilding was very interesting and opened up countless possibilities. Nobody was quite sure just how the bloom came about, but it was widely believed that the deaths and the suffering engendered by World War I generated the birth of the Talents, those supernatural abilities, in ordinary men and women, especially in the countries that had dealt with the Great War. The action takes place a few months following the events of At the Table of Wolves. The Nazis have risen to power and Germany is rearming, preparing for the great conflict to come. The British, with their heads still up their asses, refuse to face the fact that war is coming again. And although they have begun their own program, they are about a decade behind the Germans in terms of training people with Talents for warfare. It felt as though there was so much room for growth concerning the Talents and I was looking forward to see what Kenyon had in store for her readers in that regard. What we saw in At the Table of Wolves barely scratched the surface and the potential for more was enormous.

We do learn more about Talents in general, but the sad truth is that the British know very little compared to their German counterparts. And though I like what we've seen thus far, I often feel that Kay Kenyon plays her cards too close to her chest. Given that we discover things at the same pace as the POV protagonists, learning such secrets by small increments is understandable but could be detrimental to the series in the long run. Here's to hoping that the third volume will open up the story in that regard. Still, the addition of Dries Verhoeven's Talent to the mix was great. We just need to see more Talents unveiled to add more layers to what is becoming a more complex tale with each new book.

In At the Table of Wolves, I enjoyed the fact that the military and the secret services had screwed up their only chance to discover what the Germans were preparing and it came down to an ordinary woman with a peculiar Talent to try to save her country. A few people with very limited resources had to find a way to obtain proof of the danger by putting their lives on the line. Ordinary people who needed to accomplish extraordinary things. And although the foiled German invasion was an eye-opener for the British, it's still up to those same few individuals to protect Great Britain from her enemies.

With both Kim Tavistock and her father Julian working as undercover agents, none of them can reveal their secret identity to the other and this builds up a lot of tension in their relationship. Having played a large role in thwarting the German's plan to conquer her country, Kim went through training in the arts of espionage. Nevertheless, she remains a somewhat raw recruit. At first exciting, it gradually dawns upon her that having a security clearance and a being a spy can be extremely hard on her private life. Her conscience is seldom at ease with what she is required to do and what she's becoming. But when her peculiar Talent appears to be the only thing that can possibly help shine some light on a series of murders, Kim has no choice but to put herself in danger once more.

Kim and her father are the main points of view throughout the novel, yet the supporting cast is made up of a number of engaging characters. Due to her Talent, Alice plays a bigger role in Serpent in the Heather, which was good. Owen Cherwell has been promoted and is not necessarily comfortable with his new functions. Dries Verhoeven offered a different, always interesting perspective. New faces such as Dorothea Coslett, Powell Coslet, Idelle Coslett, and young Martin were all compelling in disparate ways. Elsa is also back from her injuries and makes for an interesting spy. All in all, the characterization was well-done on every level.

Once again, the pace of this book was exactly what it needed to be. As the secrets between Kim and her father continue to pile up, the tension builds up toward another endgame that delivers an even more satisfying finale this time around. Events force both Kim and Julian to make dire and life-changing choices, something that should have important repercussions in future installments.

My only complaint thus far would have to be the decidedly episodic format of these two books. From now on, Kay Kenyon will have to raise the bar even higher and not just throw Kim into danger in the hope that her Talent will force someone to reveal secrets while she acts as a journalist working on a new story. Given the quality of both At the Table of Wolves and Serpent in the Heather, the potential for bigger and better things is definitely there and expectations will understandably be higher in the future. We'll have to wait and see if the author can rise to the occasion.

I commend this series to your attention. If you're looking for something different, look no further and give these two novels a shot!

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Octavia E. Butler's Lilith's Brood: The Complete Xenogenesis trilogy for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Three novels in one volume: the acclaimed science fiction trilogy about an alien species that could save humanity after nuclear apocalypse—or destroy it.

The newest stage in human evolution begins in outer space. Survivors of a cataclysmic nuclear war awake to find themselves being studied by the Oankali, tentacle-covered galactic travelers whose benevolent appearance hides their surprising plan for the future of mankind. The Oankali arrive not just to save humanity, but to bond with it—crossbreeding to form a hybrid species that can survive in the place of its human forebears, who were so intent on self-destruction. Some people resist, forming pocket communities of purebred rebellion, but many realize they have no choice. The human species inevitably expands into something stranger, stronger, and undeniably alien.

From Hugo and Nebula award–winning author Octavia Butler, Lilith’s Brood is both a thrilling, epic adventure of man’s struggle to survive after Earth’s destruction, and a provocative meditation on what it means to be human.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Octavia E. Butler including rare images from the author’s estate.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (February 12th)

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One maintains its position at number 3 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 7 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Nalo Hopkinson's The Salt Roads for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In 1804, shortly before the Caribbean island of Saint Domingue is renamed Haiti, a group of women gather to bury a stillborn baby. Led by a lesbian healer and midwife named Mer, the women’s lamentations inadvertently release the dead infant’s “unused vitality” to draw Ezili—the Afro-Caribbean goddess of sexual desire and love—into the physical world.

As Ezili explores her newfound powers, she travels across time and space to inhabit the midwife’s body—as well as those of Jeanne, a mixed-race dancer and the mistress of Charles Baudelaire living in 1880s Paris, and Meritet, an enslaved Greek-Nubian prostitute in ancient Alexandria.

Bound together by Ezili and “the salt road” of their sweat, blood, and tears, the three women struggle against a hostile world, unaware of the goddess’s presence in their lives. Despite her magic, Mer suffers as a slave on a sugar plantation until Ezili plants the seeds of uprising in her mind. Jeanne slowly succumbs to the ravages of age and syphilis when her lover is unable to escape his mother’s control. And Meritet, inspired by Ezili, flees her enslavement and makes a pilgrimage to Egypt, where she becomes known as Saint Mary.

With unapologetically sensual prose, Nalo Hopkinson, the Nebula Award–winning author of Midnight Robber, explores slavery through the lives of three historical women touched by a goddess in this “electrifying bravura performance by one of our most important writers” (Junot Díaz).

Quote of the Day

There are many poisons that will induce madness but none perhaps so effective as love.

- MARK LAWRENCE, Grey Sister (Canada, USA, Europe)

About a hundred pages into this one and it's pretty good thus far! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140 for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Kim Stanley Robinson returns with a bold and brilliant vision of New York City in the next century.

As the sea levels rose, every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city.

There is the market trader, who finds opportunities where others find trouble. There is the detective, whose work will never disappear - along with the lawyers, of course.

There is the internet star, beloved by millions for her airship adventures, and the building's manager, quietly respected for his attention to detail. Then there are two boys who don't live there, but have no other home - and who are more important to its future than anyone might imagine.

Lastly there are the coders, temporary residents on the roof, whose disappearance triggers a sequence of events that threatens the existence of all - and even the long-hidden foundations on which the city rests.

New York 2140 is an extraordinary and unforgettable novel, from a writer uniquely qualified to the story of its future.

The Fifth Season

I know it may sound odd, what with N. K. Jemisin winning the Hugo Award for best novel twice, but thus far I had only read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms from her. The book was a solid debut, no doubt about it. Yet like most SFF debuts, it featured a number of flaws, most notably a first-person narrative that can be tricky at times, as well as a corny love story and some decidedly clichéd villains. Still, all in all, Jemisin's fantasy debut was an original and enjoyable read.

Although the characterization was subpar, N.K. Jemisin scored points for exploring themes such as slavery, sexism, racism, and the abuse of power. She wove these deeper issues throughout the various plotlines, sometimes subtly in the background and sometimes in more flagrant fashion. Regardless of how it was done, this was what ultimately gave soul to the novel.

And though I was in no hurry to continue on with the Inheritance trilogy, this is what made me want to read The Fifth Season. Since everyone appeared to agree that this was her best work to date (since then the sequel, The Obelisk Gate, has also won the Hugo Award), I felt that this was the book I had to read next. So I bought myself a copy and I'm glad I did. Indeed, The Fifth Season delivers on all fronts and I can see why it was nominated for all those genre literary prizes.

Here's the blurb:


A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

The Fifth Season is a blend of fantasy and science fiction. More fantasy than scifi, mind you, but there is science involved in the premise. The worldbuilding is particularly interesting and just might be my favorite facet of this novel. The Earth has changed dramatically and has become an extremely geologically unstable world. Seismic activities cause enormous volcanic eruptions and tsunamis that wipe out vast chunks of the planet's population periodically. These catastrophes generating extended winters are known as Fifth Seasons and they can last for years and decades. The Stillness is the only continent known to exist. Orogenes have the ability to manipulate thermal, kinetic, and related forms of energy to address seismic events. Trained at the Fulcrum and closely supervised by the Guardian order, they are despised and feared due to the potentially devastating powers they wield. In addition to the Fulcrum, there is also a network of nodes manned by orogenes positioned throughout the Stillness to help reduce or quell seismic events. Such an unstable and unforgiving environment makes for a truly original setting, something that we haven't seen before, and I loved everything about it. The novel begins with a new breaking of the world, one that might signal the true end of existence, for this new Fifth Season could last for centuries and even millennia.

The tale features three points of view. It is evident that those three perspectives will meet at some point, but for the better part of the book they are not concomitant. The first POV follows Essun's tale. A mature orogene with a buried past who kept her talent secret, she had two children with a man. The story opens up with Essun discovering the corpse of her young son. He was beaten to death by his father upon discovery that he was orogene. The man fled the village with his daughter and Essun follows him in order to kill him for what he did. Little does she know that the apocalyptic civilization-ending catastrophe that occurred in the South will have dire consequences on her quest. Her only hope is to find her daughter alive, for the girl may also possess her mother's powers. The second storyline follows Damaya, a young girl whose orogeny manifested itself for the first time. Her parents sell her to a Guardian who will take her to the Fulcrum to be trained. From her POV, we discover how young orogenes are educated to serve and protect the Stillness. The third thread follows Syenite, an orogene with great potential who must accompany Alabaster, one of the most powerful orogenes in the world, on a mission. She is also expect to get pregnant by him and give birth to what could be another potent orogene. It's obvious that these three perspectives take place at various moments in the tale's timeline and I liked how Jemisin was able to weave them all into a convoluted tapestry of events that comes together beautifully toward the end.

There is a good balance between the three storylines that keep the plot moving at a nice rhythm. The Fifth Season may not be a fast-paced novel, but it is definitely a page-turner. However, N. K. Jemisin may have kept her cards a little too close to her chest regarding fascinating concept such as the floating obelisk, the Fulcrum, the stone eaters, and the past are concerned. A little more information would have been appreciated. The cryptic bits and pieces that she provided just made you want to discover more and more and more. Though it wasn't telegraphed per se, I saw the moon thing coming from a mile away and kept wondering when it would be addressed.

For the most part, The Fifth Season is one vast introduction to an even bigger tale. I can't really say more about the three seemingly disparate perspectives without giving anything away, but the structure of the plot precluded the secondary characters from playing major roles in what happened. I have a feeling that the supporting cast will have greater importance as the story unfolds in the sequels. Here's to hoping that this will be the case, for Tonkee and Hua seemed to have a lot of potential and I'm looking forward to see them take their rightful place in the scheme of things.

With all three plotlines coming together in such superb fashion at the end, I was truly disappointed by the cliffhanger ending. True, it makes it impossible for anyone not to read the second volume, The Obelisk Gate, but for me it was also a bit of a letdown. After such a compelling and absorbing read, I felt the novel deserved a real ending.

The Fifth Season is a demanding yet very rewarding read. Like in Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon, the author drops you off in a very complex world where litte makes sense at the beginning. Just buckle up and enjoy the ride, for Jemisin takes you on an ambitious and emotional journey across uncharted waters. And even if the ending or lack thereof left me put off, the first installment in The Broken Earth series is a gripping read filled with engaging characters and an enthralling setting.

Hard to put down.

The final verdict: 8.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Peter F. Hamilton's The Dreaming Void for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Reviewers exhaust superlatives when it comes to the science fiction of Peter F. Hamilton. His complex and engaging novels, which span thousands of years–and light-years–are as intellectually stimulating as they are emotionally fulfilling. Now, with The Dreaming Void, the first volume in a trilogy set in the same far-future as his acclaimed Commonwealth saga, Hamilton has created his most ambitious and gripping space epic yet.

The year is 3589, fifteen hundred years after Commonwealth forces barely staved off human extinction in a war against the alien Prime. Now an even greater danger has surfaced: a threat to the existence of the universe itself.

At the very heart of the galaxy is the Void, a self-contained microuniverse that cannot be breached, cannot be destroyed, and cannot be stopped as it steadily expands in all directions, consuming everything in its path: planets, stars, civilizations. The Void has existed for untold millions of years. Even the oldest and most technologically advanced of the galaxy’s sentient races, the Raiel, do not know its origin, its makers, or its purpose.

But then Inigo, an astrophysicist studying the Void, begins dreaming of human beings who live within it. Inigo’s dreams reveal a world in which thoughts become actions and dreams become reality. Inside the Void, Inigo sees paradise. Thanks to the gaiafield, a neural entanglement wired into most humans, Inigo’s dreams are shared by hundreds of millions–and a religion, the Living Dream, is born, with Inigo as its prophet. But then he vanishes.

Suddenly there is a new wave of dreams. Dreams broadcast by an unknown Second Dreamer serve as the inspiration for a massive Pilgrimage into the Void. But there is a chance that by attempting to enter the Void, the pilgrims will trigger a catastrophic expansion, an accelerated devourment phase that will swallow up thousands of worlds.

And thus begins a desperate race to find Inigo and the mysterious Second Dreamer. Some seek to prevent the Pilgrimage; others to speed its progress–while within the Void, a supreme entity has turned its gaze, for the first time, outward. . . .

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Peter F. Hamilton's The Temporal Void.

Pierce Brown contest winner!

This lucky winner will get his hands on my advance reading copy of Pierce Brown's Iron Gold! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Peter Wilson, from Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Quote of the Day

The people we love are the ones who hurt us the most, after all.

- N. K. JEMISIN, The Fifth Season (Canada, USA, Europe)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances, the third collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman, for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things—which includes a never-before published American Gods story, “Black Dog,” written exclusively for this volume.

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.

A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (February 5th)

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is up one position, ending the week at number 3 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down four spots, finishing the week at number 7 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Dan Simmons' Phases of Gravity for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A New York Times–bestselling author’s moving novel about an astronaut returning to Earth, and the small steps and giant leaps love requires.

Richard Baedecker thinks his greatest challenge was walking on the moon, but then he meets a mysterious woman who shows him his past. Join Baedecker as he comes to grips with the son and wife he lost owing to his passion for space exploration, his forgotten childhood, and the loss he experienced during the deadly flight of the Challenger. The most difficult exploration of his life is not the cold, rocky crevices of the moon, but the warm interior of his heart. Brilliant and beautifully written, Phases of Gravity is a masterpiece about love and loss that transports readers far beyond the confines of space and time.

Phases of Gravity is a thoughtful, deeply involving novel from an author who has earned numerous honors, including the World Fantasy Award for Song of Kali and the Hugo Award for Hyperion.

You can also download Stephen R. Donaldson's Lord Foul's Bane, the opening chapter of one of the very best fantasy series of all time, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

He called himself Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever because he dared not believe in the strange alternate world in which he suddenly found himself.

Yet the Land tempted him. He had been sick; now he seemed better than ever before. Through no fault of his own, he had been outcast, unclean, a pariah. Now he was regarded as a reincarnation of the Land's greatest hero--Berek Halfhand--armed with the mystic power of White Gold. That power alone could protect the Lords of the Land from the ancient evil of Despiser, Lord Foul. Only...Covenant had no idea of how the power could be used!

Thus begins one of the most remarkable epic fantasies ever written...

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 29th)

In hardcover:

Pierce Brown's Iron Gold debuts at number 3. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 3 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One maintains its position at number 4 (trade paperback).

The Handmaid's Tale

I feel like such an idiot to have waited this long to read this novel. Honestly, especially given that the author is Canadian, I should have read it thirty ago. The Handmaid's Tale was a nominee for the Man Booker Prize, the Nebula Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, as well as a panoply of other literary awards. One would have thought that this should be enough to entice me.

But Margaret Atwood has always come across as more than a little condescending and pretentious by refusing to acknowledge that she wrote science fiction and maintaining the she was writing speculative fiction. Hence, I've always been reticent to fork out my hard-earned money for works by writers who piss on the genre.

If not for the fact that the recent TV series was so well-received, I would probably not have given this novel another thought. But the more rave reviews the television adaptation garnered, the more it piqued my curiosity. As a matter of course, there was no way I could watch the show before reading the book. So I bought The Handmaid's Tale and decided to bring it with me on my Central American adventure.

The afternoon I arrived in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, I lay down in a hammock and the next thing I knew I had read half of the novel. To my surprise, I finished the book the next day during Happy Hour. Given its size, The Handmaid's Tale was supposed to last me about a week. After all, vacations are not about reading all day. But Offred's plight captured my imagination and I couldn't let go. I went through this novel in about 24 hours. Yes, it's that damn good. And then some!

Here's the blurb:

A gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has become one of the most powerful and most widely read novels of our time.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules.

Like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid’s Tale has endured not only as a literary landmark but as a warning of a possible future that is still chillingly relevant.

The Handmaid's Tale was first published in 1985. Regardless of the genre, titles that are more than three decades old often don't age well. And yet, this chilling cautionary tale is quite actual and is an even more powerful read in 2018 than it likely was back in the 80s. In the wake of the last American election and with Donald Trump's presidency and the atrocities committed by crackpot regimes in countries such as Syria, it felt as though this book had been written just last year. As Atwood mentioned in her introduction, fears and anxieties proliferate these days. Basic civil liberties are perceived as endangered, along with many of the rights women have fought so hard to win over the last decades. In such a divisive climate, hate for many groups appears to be on the rise and scorn for democratic institutions is being expressed by extremists of all stripes. Due to such political and social turmoils, The Handmaid's Tale is a work that everyone should read right now.

Given the current political climate, the premise of the book doesn't sound so far-fetched. The president has been assassinated and the entire Congress has been gunned down. The USA has suffered a coup and its liberal democracy has been replaced by a literal-minded theocratic dictatorship. The Constitution has been suspended and the Republic of Gilead is based on 17th-century Puritan roots. A think tank known as the Sons of Jacob was behind the President's Day Massacre and its aftermath, and thus created what would become the new republic. Using biblical symbols, the authoritarian regime restored an extreme version of the patriarchy. Moving in to seize doctrinal control of the country, this new religion is in the process of destroying all familiar religious denominations such as the Catholics and the Baptists. Jewish people were given a chance to immigrate to Israel and are now being eliminated if they stayed behind. Quakers have gone to ground and are helping desperate people to escape to Canada. Strangely enough, Muslims are barely mentioned. The Handmaid's Tale is a chilling visionary tale. The more so based on the fact that, in light of all that's currently taking place in the USA today, it could happen. And that's truly frightening.

The better part of the novel occurs in and around Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard University. One of the very best educational institutions in the world, it was once a Puritan theological seminary and probably why it was chosen by the new republic. The Secret Service of Gilead, akin to the SS of the Nazi party, is housed inside the Widener Library. And the Harvard wall is used to display the dead bodies of the executed enemies of the regime. The country's population is declining due to a toxic environment and female fertility is considered a premium asset. Under such a totalitarian yoke, the ruling class monopolizes fertile women and they are assigned to them as Handmaids. The biblical precedent behind this is the story of Jacob and his two wives, Rachel and Leah, and their two handmaids. The selected women's only purpose is to give birth to viable babies. In the book, women are forbidden to read, own property, control their own money, or have jobs outside of their homes.

This horrifying near-future is told from the perspective of Offred. In an act of hope or desperation, she recorded her story so that someone can someday find it and share it with future generations. We never learn Offred's true name, though we discover that she used to be married with a man named Luke and they had a daughter. She had a job, her own money, a future. And it all came crashing down when the Republic of Gilead took over. Having given birth once in the past, she was selected to become a Handmaid and has been assigned to a Commander so he can hopefully make her pregnant. Offred's story is as compelling as it is thought-provoking. Portions of her tale takes place in the present, but there are often flashback scenes in which we learn how the socio-political order unraveled and collapsed altogether and how the Sons of Jacob seized power and changed life as everyone knew it. Offred's plight, both past and present, is often heartbreaking. The flashbacks featuring her daughter and how they were betrayed at the end certainly pack a strong emotional punch. One thing I found quite interesting was that, despite her own suffering, Offred shows a lot of empathy and can sympathize with the pain of others, especially other women, such as the Wives, the Aunts, the Econowives, and the Marthas.

This book was paced to perfection. Every single chapter added another layer to the tale and forced you to keep on reading. Fascinating and disturbing, it was a page-turner of the highest order. Oddly enough, what happened to her in the past was just as absorbing as her current plight. We are the sum of all our experiences, and it was engrossing how Offred's past affected her as a Handmaid. The dire contrast between her two lives, before and after the coup, was gripping.

I found The Handmaid's Tale to be deeply moving. Doubtless, it is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. Perhaps the most powerful given the actual worldwide socio-political climate. It is a decidedly bleak tale for the most part, but there are signs of hope here and there throughout the book. Usually this would have annoyed me, but I loved the fact that we don't exactly know if or how Offred's survived the end of the novel. And that Offred's account discussed at an academic conference in the future doesn't shed much light on her own fate. This could be construed as a cop-out by some, yet I felt that it was the perfect ending to such a tragic story.

Captivating, distressing, touching, and heart-rending in equal measures, Margaret Atwood wrote a masterpiece. The Handmaid's Tale deserves the highest possible recommendation.

The Final verdict: 10/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Octavia E. Butler's Earthseed: The Complete Series for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winner’s powerful saga of survival and destiny in a near-future dystopian America.

One of the world’s most respected authors of science fiction imagines an apocalyptic near-future Earth where a remarkable young woman discovers that her destiny calls her to try and change the world around her. Octavia E. Butler’s brilliant two-volume Earthseed saga offers a startling vision of an all-too-possible tomorrow, in which walls offer no protection from a civilization gone mad.

Parable of the Sower: In the aftermath of worldwide ecological and economic apocalypse, minister’s daughter Lauren Oya Olamina escapes the slaughter that claims the lives of her family and nearly every other member of their gated California community. Heading north with two young companions through an American wasteland, the courageous young woman faces dangers at every turn while spreading the word of a remarkable new religion that embraces survival and change.

Parable of the Talents: Called to the new, hard truth of Earthseed, the small community of the dispossessed that now surrounds Lauren Olamina looks to her—their leader—for guidance. But when the evil that has grown out of the ashes of human society destroys all she has built, the prophet is forced to choose between preserving her faith or her family.

The Earthseed novels cement Butler’s reputation as “one of the finest voices in fiction—period” (TheWashington Post Book World). Stunningly prescient and breathtakingly relevant to our times, this dark vision of a future America is a masterwork of powerful speculation that ushers us into a broken, dangerously divided world of bigotry, social inequality, mob violence, and ultimately hope.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie's survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born.

Outsiders from birth, these half-human, half-fae children spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October "Toby" Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas...

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery...before the curse catches up with her.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Joe Hill's Strange Weather for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill.

"One of America’s finest horror writers" (Time magazine), Joe Hill has been hailed among legendary talents such as Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, and Jonathan Lethem. In Strange Weather, this "compelling chronicler of human nature’s continual war between good and evil," (Providence Journal-Bulletin) who "pushes genre conventions to new extremes" (New York Times Book Review) deftly expose the darkness that lies just beneath the surface of everyday life.

"Snapshot" is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by "The Phoenician," a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.

A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump. . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in "Aloft."

On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. "Rain" explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.

In "Loaded," a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.

Masterfully exploring classic literary themes through the prism of the supernatural, Strange Weather is a stellar collection from an artist who is "quite simply the best horror writer of our generation" (Michael Kortya).

At the Table of Wolves

As you know, I was a big fan of Kay Kenyon's The Entire and the Rose and I've always felt that she never got the credit she deserved for that science fiction series. In any event, I wasn't even aware that she had started writing a new project titled the Dark Talents. I never received a galley for the first volume, At the Table of Wolves, so I was surprised when the author emailed me to inquire if I'd be interested in an ARC of the second installment.

Kenyon quickly hooked me up with digital editions of both books and I was happy to upload them on my tablet so I could bring them along for my Central American adventure. And since I've been going through my reading material at an alarming rate, I was glad to have them with me. The more so because I went through At the Table of Wolves in just a few sittings.

I was a bit concerned that it would be too similar to Ian Tregillis' excellent Milkweed Triptych trilogy, which is one of the very best speculative fiction series of the new millennium, but Kay Kenyon's series is a totally different beast. The premise might bear resemblance to that of Tregillis, true, but the plots are completely different.

Here's the blurb:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy meets X-Men in a classic British espionage story. A young woman must go undercover and use her superpowers to discover a secret Nazi plot and stop an invasion of England.

In 1936, there are paranormal abilities that have slowly seeped into the world, brought to the surface by the suffering of the Great War. The research to weaponize these abilities in England has lagged behind Germany, but now it’s underway at an ultra-secret site called Monkton Hall.

Kim Tavistock, a woman with the talent of the spill—drawing out truths that people most wish to hide—is among the test subjects at the facility. When she wins the confidence of caseworker Owen Cherwell, she is recruited to a mission to expose the head of Monkton Hall—who is believed to be a German spy.

As she infiltrates the upper-crust circles of some of England’s fascist sympathizers, she encounters dangerous opponents, including the charismatic Nazi officer Erich von Ritter, and discovers a plan to invade England. No one believes an invasion of the island nation is possible, not Whitehall, not even England’s Secret Intelligence Service. Unfortunately, they are wrong, and only one woman, without connections or training, wielding her talent of the spill and her gift for espionage, can stop it.

The worldbuilding was quite interesting and opens up countless possibilities. Nobody is quite sure just how the bloom came about, but it is generally believed that the deaths and the suffering engendered by World War I generated the birth of the Talents, those supernatural abilities, in ordinary men and women the world over. The Nazis have risen to power and Germany is rearming, preparing for what is to come. The British, with their heads up their asses, refuse to face the fact that war is coming again. Which is why they are about a decade behind the Germans in terms of training people with Talents for warfare. There is so much room for growth concerning the Talents and I'm looking forward to see where Kenyon will take her story in the sequels. What we saw in At the Table of Wolves barely scratches the surface and the potential for more is enormous.

I enjoyed the fact that the military and the secret services screwed up their only chance to discover what the Germans are preparing and it comes down to an ordinary woman with a peculiar Talent to try to save her country. Intelligence warns of an impending attack and something that has to do with a storm, but the British have few details to help them pinpoint the time and the place where the invasion would be staged. Moreover, the British government refuses to take the threat seriously, claiming that their superior fleet could handle whatever the Germans can send their way. Hence, a few people with very little resources must find a way to obtain proof of the danger by putting their lives on the line. Ordinary people who must now accomplish extraordinary things.

Kim Tavistock, a former journalist who got fired in the USA, is back home and now works for the British government. Unbeknownst to her father, who is also a spy deep undercover, due to her Talent she has been recruited by Monkton Hall. Untrained in the arts of espionage, due to the spill she nevertheless finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy that goes well beyond what she ever imagined possible. Her innocence will burn her a few times, but when her life is at risk and the odds are stacked against her Kim will have no choice but to bite the bullet and try to make the best of numerous bad situations. She will soon realize that she must quickly get out of the hole she dug herself into, or else become a casualty in a war that is about to begin.

The supporting cast is made up of a number of compelling characters, chief among them Julian, Kim's father, Erich von Ritter, the German spy, Georgi Aberdare, the femme fatale, and Owen Cherwell, her colleague who's in over his head with this spying mission. There are also some poignant scenes involving Rose, a mentally challenged maid. Kim and her father offer the dominant perspectives throughout the novel, but there are additional POVs that allow readers to witness events unfolding through the eyes of other protagonists. All in all, the balance between the points of view worked rather well.

At the Table of Wolves is paced just right. As the misunderstandings between Kim and her father pile up, for both are undercover and can't tell the other the truth about themselves, the tension builds up toward an endgame that delivers a satisfying finale.

In many ways, At the Table of Wolves is an introduction to a bigger and more ambitious tale. It will be interesting to see how the aftermath plays out in the forthcoming second volume, Serpent in the Heather.

There is a lot to love about this alternate history fantasy novel, and for some reason it has flown under the radar since it was released a few months back. Here's to hoping that this review will entice readers to give it a shot.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download China Miéville's Kraken for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from China Miéville’s Embassytown.

With this outrageous new novel, China Miéville has written one of the strangest, funniest, and flat-out scariest books you will read this—or any other—year. The London that comes to life in Kraken is a weird metropolis awash in secret currents of myth and magic, where criminals, police, cultists, and wizards are locked in a war to bring about—or prevent—the End of All Things.

In the Darwin Centre at London’s Natural History Museum, Billy Harrow, a cephalopod specialist, is conducting a tour whose climax is meant to be the Centre’s prize specimen of a rare Architeuthis dux—better known as the Giant Squid. But Billy’s tour takes an unexpected turn when the squid suddenly and impossibly vanishes into thin air.

As Billy soon discovers, this is the precipitating act in a struggle to the death between mysterious but powerful forces in a London whose existence he has been blissfully ignorant of until now, a city whose denizens—human and otherwise—are adept in magic and murder.

There is the Congregation of God Kraken, a sect of squid worshippers whose roots go back to the dawn of humanity—and beyond. There is the criminal mastermind known as the Tattoo, a merciless maniac inked onto the flesh of a hapless victim. There is the FSRC—the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit—a branch of London’s finest that fights sorcery with sorcery. There is Wati, a spirit from ancient Egypt who leads a ragtag union of magical familiars. There are the Londonmancers, who read the future in the city’s entrails. There is Grisamentum, London’s greatest wizard, whose shadow lingers long after his death. And then there is Goss and Subby, an ageless old man and a cretinous boy who, together, constitute a terrifying—yet darkly charismatic—demonic duo.

All of them—and others—are in pursuit of Billy, who inadvertently holds the key to the missing squid, an embryonic god whose powers, properly harnessed, can destroy all that is, was, and ever shall be.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Kate Elliott's A Passage of Stars for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In the crackling first book of Kate Elliott’s Highroad trilogy, strong-spirited Lily Ransome leaves her home planet—and the life she’s always known—to rescue an abducted friend.

Willful as well as physically brave, Lily Ransome is dissatisfied by the options available to her on Unruli: She can either join her family’s lucrative mining business or begin procreating. When Heredes, her beloved martial arts instructor, tutor, and father figure, is kidnapped by alien bounty hunters, Lily spurns the expectations of her home planet and ventures into space to find him. Befriending a persecuted minority class of humans called the Ridani, she becomes involved in an intergalactic rebellion and finds love in an unexpected place—as well as true strength within herself.

A Passage of Stars is the first book of the Highroad trilogy, which continues with Revolution’s Shore and The Price of Ransom.

Quote of the Day

We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.

- MARGARET ATWOOD, The Handmaid's Tale (Canada, USA, Europe).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Julie E. Czerneda's Survival for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Herself a biologist, Julie E. Czerneda has earned a reputation in science fiction circles for her ability to create beautifully crafted, imaginative, yet believably realized alien races. In Survival, the first novel in her new series, Species Imperative, she draws upon this talent to build races, characters, and a universe which will draw readers into a magnificent tale of interstellar intrigue, as an Earth scientist is caught up in a terrifying interspecies conflict. Senior co-administrator of the Norcoast Salmon Research Facility, Dr. Mackenzie Connor, Mac to her friends and colleagues, was a trained biologist, whose work had definitely become her life. And working at Norcoast Base, set in an ideal location just where the Tannu River sped down the west side of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast was the perfect situation for Mac. She and fellow scientist Dr. Emily Mamani were just settling in to monitor this year's salmon runs when their research was interrupted by the unprecedented arrival of Brymn, the first member of the alien race known as the Ohryn to ever set foot on Earth.

Brymn was an archaeologist, and much of his research had focused on a region of space known as the Chasm, a part of the universe that was literally dead, all of its worlds empty of any life-forms, though traces existed of the civilizations that must once have flourished in the region. Brymn had sought out Mac because she was a biologist -- a discipline strictly forbidden among his own people -- and he felt that through her expertise she might be able to help him discover what had created the Chasm. But Mac had little interest in alien races and in studies that ranged beyond Earth, and as politely as she was capable of, she tried to make it clear that she was unwilling to abandon her own work.

However, the decision was soon taken out of her hands when a mysterious and devastating attack on the Base resulted in the abduction of Emily, and forced Mac to flee for her life with Brymn and the Earth special agents who were escorting him. Suddenly, it appeared that Earth itself might be under attack by the legendary race the Ohryn called the Ro, the beings they thought might be the destructive force behind the Chasm. Cut off from everything and everyone she knew, Mac found herself in grave danger and charged with the responsibility of learning everything she could that might possibly aid Earth in protecting the human race from extinction...

French cover art for the new edition of Steven Erikson's GARDENS OF THE MOON

Marc Simonetti just unveiled the cover art he created for the new French edition of Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon. WOW!!!

Just awesome!

Quote of the Day

Sanity is a valuable possession; I hoard it the way people once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes.

- MARGARET ATWOOD, The Handmaid's Tale (Canada, USA, Europe).

Can't believe I've waited this long to finally read this novel. It's absolutely amazing! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time, the 2016 winner of theArthur C. Clarke Award, for only 2.49$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Winner of the 30th anniversary Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel.

Adrian Tchaikovksy's critically acclaimed, stand-alone novel Children of Time, is the epic story of humanity's battle for survival on a terraformed planet.

Who will inherit this new Earth?

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age - a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?