Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Thank you all —

Thank you all for writing and posting reviews for Winter of Ice and Iron if you’ve already done so.

Or for telling me privately that Winter is one of your favorites or that you think it’s the best thing I’ve had published. Seriously, thank you for letting me know. This means a lot to me.

I get a good deal more enthusiastic about working on current projects when I see that my most recent title is enjoying a positive reception from readers, especially those of you I know personally.

While a handful of reviews make it clear that Winter isn’t for everyone … too bad, but not surprising … I’m happy to see so many positive reviews going up around the internet. Not to dwell on ratings, but do you know, Winter is the first of my books to pop up above 4 stars on Goodreads? You’d think The Floating Islands would have, or at least I would have thought so, but no.

Winter’s rating won’t have settled down yet of course. It doesn’t have many ratings yet — feel free to help out with that on either Goodreads or Amazon or both if you haven’t already — but I am guessing Winter will settle down pretty close to four, hopefully above. This is definitely a nice Christmas bonus.

Here are some lines I am particularly likely to quote in the future:

Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

[A] lush and deliciously imaginative world …. The story is tense throughout, with attention focused on its characters and the implications of its worldbuilding. Kehera’s resolute devotion to fighting against the odds even as the world shifts and realigns around her carries through to the cosmically satisfying ultimate battle.

Barnes and Noble

The impressive worldbuilding never gets in the way of the narrative, which remains focused on the characters first — particularly on Kehera, whose steadfast commitment to her mission in the face of incredible odds will keep you rooting for her to the climactic ending. Consider this one proof a satisfying epic fantasy doesn’t have to mean an epic, multi-volume page count.

Washington Post

Rachel Neumeier’s Winter of Ice and Iron (Saga) walks familiar fantasy territory but marks new ground with her emotionally complex characters. … Kehera’s bond with her brother and her newfound companions is deeply felt. Neumeier doesn’t rely on heaving bosoms or overwrought confidences to convey the way people care for and love one another.

Utopia State of Mind review

There’s very little I can say that can even do any sort of justice to the wonderfully intricate story, the characters that get under your skin, and the intrigue seeping through the pages. … The prose is atmospheric and you can almost feel the chill, the ominous tones, and the tension. … This is a dizzying book of magnitude, politics, love, and family. The plot is astounding because of its depth, details, and surprises. … You need to take your time with this, to become immersed in this slow burning fantasy that will reward you if you devote your time to it.

Kirkus Best SFF for November

In this dark fantasy, the fate of four kingdoms is at risk when war threatens the already-uneasy peace between them. Kehara Raehema, princess of the most vulnerable of the Four Kingdoms, embarks on a mission to buy some time. Meanwhile Innisth Eanete, Wolf Duke of Pohorir, whose father is perhaps the leading driving force towards war, wishes to unite the people in peace despite his father’s plans. Kehera and Innisth soon find themselves drawn together as unintentional allies and the only path towards peace might just be joining forces against a greater evil emanating from spirits inhabit the earth itself.

Book Page

Winters in Rachel Neumeier’s Winter of Ice and Iron can get pretty rough. As snow and ice blanket the Four Kingdoms, the obsidian winds rip down from the mountains, the night lasts for days and massive winter dragons terrorize commoners and nobles alike. Fortunately for us, the characters that Neumeier weaves into her tale of ambition, duty and family are more than ready to face it all. … [B]oth Kehera and Innisth hold ties to Immanent Powers, one of Winter of Ice and Iron’s most inventive elements. These magical, non-sentient elementals naturally form over generations, drawing power from the earth, the creatures and the people that inhabit their realm. Neumeier confidently employs these Powers, lending an ethereal and whirling grace to every appearance they make in the narrative. They are both the paint used to color this world and a reflection of the people that wield them.

And Kehera and Innisth are just as enthralling. The two ricochet off one another, giving each a sense of purpose and forward motion. Even with other memorable characters throughout, Kehera and Innisth command the reader’s attention from the moment they meet. … Winter of Ice and Iron is dark and unflinching, but also surefooted and heartfelt. From their first meeting through the gripping final sequence, real emotion and real history drive Kehera and Innisth’s ever-evolving relationship.

Joy Ward (author)

Neumeier’s book is a new classic of fantasy and deserves every award! The story is new and enthralling! The characters are excellent, fully designed motivations and fascinating. In all, this book is one of the best in the fantasy field! Fans of George RRMartin, Lois Bujold, Glen Cook and other masters of fantasy would be well advised to read this and be carried away by it!

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Weird Science Tuesday

So, how about this?

World’s Largest Laser Could Solve Our Energy Problems

With lasers, scientists can recreate fusion reactions that occur within the center of the Sun and create the most extreme conditions on Earth. With the largest laser in the world, you can create temperatures of more than three million degrees Celsius. At this temperature, atoms can no longer exist. The electrons are stripped away from their respective nuclei and you’re left with a soup of ions and electrons – this is a plasma, the fourth state of matter….If done correctly, this fusion reaction could be self-sustaining and the energy produced from the reaction will be larger than the losses, a condition known as ignition….Although NIF are yet to achieve ignition, scientists are working super hard to get there and maybe one day our electricity will come from ‘man-made’ fusion reactions.

It sounds a little pie-in-the-sky, but interesting.

Here’s another:

Mach Effect Propulsion 2016 – it is proven, replicated and will scale to fast interstellar travel

The Mach-Effect thruster is a propellantless propulsion concept that has been in development by J.F. Woodward for more than two decades. It consists of a piezo stack that produces mass fluctuations, which in turn can lead to net time-averaged thrusts. So far, thrusts predictions had to use an efficiency factor to explain some two orders of magnitude discrepancy between model and observations. Here (M Tajmar) presents a detailed 1D analytical model that takes piezo material parameters and geometry dimensions into account leading to correct thrust predictions in line with experimental measurements. Scaling laws can now be derived to improve thrust range and efficiency. An important difference in this study is that only the mechanical power developed by the piezo stack is considered to be responsible for the mass fluctuations, whereas prior works focused on the electrical energy into the system. This may explain why some previous designs did not work as expected. The good match between this new mathematical formulation and experiments should boost confidence in the Mach effect thruster concept to stimulate further developments.

Hmm. Well, in the meantime it could be a handy SF plot device.

Continuing with seriously weird science:

“Structural” water makes for strong new glue

The concept of “structural water” has a long history. It is well known that water molecules near a suitable surface are compelled to ordered themselves into hexagonally shaped, single-layer sheets. In biological systems, molecules can bind to the surface or interior of proteins, which helps make them stable. …The key to making hydrogen bonds strong enough to form a sticky polymer was to use a type of compound called crown ethers. These are ring-shaped molecules that contain numerous oxygen atoms, with two carbon atoms between each. The oxygen atoms are able to form many hydrogen bonds with water. Individually they are weak, but become strong when added together. The team found that their best version of the crown ether molecule, which they called TC7, was a non-sticky powder when dry, but formed a strong adhesive when a small amount of water was added.

Sticky water. Huh. Who knew?

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Recent-ish Reading: Light in the Darkness, a Noblebright Bundle

Obviously I didn’t read this whole thing, twelve books, all that recently. I’ve been poking at it for some time now. Naturally not all the books proved to suit my taste – a mixed collection of twelve books, that’d be asking a lot. But I turned out to like several of them quite a bit, and since I would probably never have read them without picking up the bundle, it was worthwhile overall.

The bundle started off strong, thus:

The King’s Sword, by CJ Brightley. I liked it a lot.
The Emperor’s Edge, by Lindsay Buroker. I read this some time ago. I liked it a lot.
The Last Mage Guardian, by Sabrina Chase. I liked it a whole bunch.
Pen Pal, by Francesca Forrest. Gets my vote for best writing. I loved parts of it.

Alas, after this, the bundle took a turn for the worse, at least with regard to my personal taste. Thus:

Beneath the Canyons, by Kyra Halland. This one did not work very well for me.
Into the Storm, by Angela Holder. Ditto.
On the Shores of Irradan, by Ronald Long. Ditto.
Six Celestial Swords, by T A Miles. Ditto, alas, because I was prepared to love the setting.
Rise of the Storm, by Christina Ochs. Ditto, unfortunately, and I was starting to give up hope.
Hope and the Patient Man, by Mike Reeves-McMillan. It was okay.
Lhind the Thief, by Sherwood Smith. Alas, not for me.

And the the last title included in the bundle:

The Keeper and the Rulership, by Emily Martha Sorensen. A contender for best setting, I liked this one a lot.

Okay, so that’s the list. Below, brief (very brief) reviews.

1) The King’s Sword. I liked it a lot, despite the description, which starts: A disillusioned soldier. A spoiled, untried prince. …

Nice cover. The horse could do with a better croup, but basically that’s an attractive, eye-catching cover.

I’m not so very keen on bitter disillusionment and I hate spoiled brat protagonists, but in fact neither character entirely fits those descriptions. I suppose Kemen, the soldier, is a bit bitter about being medically discharged without any kind of severance pay, but I wouldn’t say he is exactly disillusioned. He’s experienced, competent, practical, and honorable. The prince, Hakan, is indeed untried, but not really spoiled. He’s intelligent, willing to learn, naturally kind, and honorable. They are both quite likable, especially as Hakan grows up a bit, though as I say, he’s not such a child as all that even at the beginning. Plotting was not entirely a strength: as far as I’m concerned, the bad guy was possibly a little over the top for badness, plus not very competent, so the central conflict was resolved rather easily. Nevertheless, this was a good, enjoyable story, easily carried by characterization and solid writing. I believe it’s the first of a series and I just picked up the sequel.

2) The Last Mage Guardian.

I liked it even more than the one above. I liked both protagonists – a young man who’s decided to give it a go as a writer and a young woman who’s the heir of a mage guardian, even though everyone knows women can’t be mages. She’s awkward, shy, and tentative about stepping into the role her uncle left for her. He’s a nice guy who’s a bit more experienced, and though he’s not a mage, he’s got skills of his own. They make a quite appealing team, and the writing was good. Again, I’ve picked up the sequel.

3) Pen Pal.

This one is quite a lot harder to comment about. The writing is very good indeed, in my opinion the clear standout in this bundle. The setting is contemporary-ish but quite unusual and appealing. The format is epistolary, which I’m always ready to enjoy. The girl who throws the message-in-a-bottle into the sea in the first place – Em – is a totally charming protagonist. She’s about twelve, contemporary American but from a tiny subculture. Forrest definitely captures her voice. I just loved her, and I also loved her complicated family.

The recipient of the message, Kaya, is a political prisoner in a tiny island nation somewhere tropical. She belongs to a peaceful minority culture that is being oppressed for absolutely no reason by the Evil Repressive Government. The Repressive Government and all its agents are Blatantly Evil. The minority culture and everyone in it are Good. I simplify a little, yes, but honestly, only a little.

Kaya’s voice is very well done and in fact I kind of liked her, but you know what? I already agree that it’s wrong for a repressive government to crush a peaceful minority culture for no reason except that they think it’d be fun to commit cultural genocide. China crushing Tibet’s culture is the closest analogous situation I can think of to what’s going on in this story, and hello, yes, I totally hate what China did to Tibet. But I really do not care to be urged to hate this kind of cultural genocide in a fictional setting. I could barely stand to read Kaya’s sections, especially toward the end.

I did read most of Kaya’s sections, though, because the writing was so good. Nice plotting, too, with threads of supernatural influence weaving back and forth between the two widely separated cultures, drawing Em and Kaya toward the ultimate conclusion. I have to recommend this novel, especially if you enjoy epistolary stories – as long as you can stand to be bludgeoned over the head with a Cultural Genocide Is Bad message.

4) Beneath the Canyons. In (3) above, we see that great writing can encourage me to go on with a book when I am not super-keen on other aspects of the story. Here in (4), the opposite situation obtained. I wasn’t all that keen on the writing style, which involved a fair bit of infodumping near the beginning. Plus the dialogue did not particularly appeal to me. You might recall that I found some of the writing in The Emperor’s Edge series clunky, but the dialogue so vivid and sparkling that it compensated? This one seemed more the other way around, with nice descriptive passages but dialogue that seemed a bit obvious and boring. Plus the author was clearly setting up a swoony type of romance that did not seem likely to appeal to me. Right up front the female lead seemed indecisive, passive, maybe incompetent. This is not the kind of protagonist that appeals to me, so I did not get very far in this book. The setting – weird western – was interesting, though. If you happen to like fantasy western settings, you should by all means give this one a try; I can see it appealing to readers with slightly different tastes and inclinations.

5) Into the Storm. I skimmed this one, out of a mild desire to see how the overall plot came out. The thing is, it’s a total soap opera kind of story, with the protagonist falling in love with a completely unsuitable guy and then clinging to that marriage for years when it is clearly not working. Meanwhile the guy she’s really in love with also marries a totally unsuitable and quite unpleasant woman and goes on clinging to that marriage for that whole period. Honestly, watching protagonists stumble through their day-to-day lives for years, screwing up their personal relationships and incidentally their children, does not make for a very enjoyable reading experience.

Worse, for me, were the fantasy elements of the story. Mages have these animal familiars, see, except each animal familiar – whether it’s a horse, dog, pig, falcon, hedgehog, lizard, you name it – is exactly like a human person, with generally no attributes of the animal species to which it supposedly belongs. The falcon is a little human person with feather. The dog is a cheerful human person with fur. This is just . . . words fail me. These animals are endowed by the Mother, a beneficent goddess, with human-level intelligence. Apparently with human personalities as well, I guess. Why make them animals at all if they’re going to just be furry, weirdly shaped people? There actually is a plot-driven reason for this, but I don’t care. I detested the animal familiars too much to care. I didn’t like the characters, I didn’t like the magic system, I hated the animal familiars, I was underwhelmed by the beneficent goddess, I didn’t like the plot – you’re going to have who captain the ship at the end? And you actually think this guy can be trusted?

So, yeah. basically not for me.

On the Shores of Irradan, by Ronald Long. So not in the mood for a bear companion after the above. More importantly, I was unimpressed by the history lesson in the prologue and not very keen on the overall writing style.

Six Celestial Swords, by T A Miles. I was prepared to love the alternate China setting, if not super excited by the Two. Distinct. Prologues. The first prologue explains the history of the world, something I generally dislike in prologues. It’s a creation myth type of thing though, which isn’t so bad. The second introduces a protagonist, Song Da-Xiao, Empress of Sheng Fan who seems unusually good-hearted for an Empress but is in dire trouble for some totally unexplained reason. There are hints in these prologues of occasional clunky writing, but I was willing to go on with the story until Chapter One opened this way:

At the edge of the civilized world, Xu Liang opened his eyes. For an instant, the orbs glistened an almost pearlescent shade of blue behind the sheen of unshed tears viewable in the reflective surface of a nearby box.

I’m afraid that was it. “Glistening orbs” does not work at all for me as a descriptor for eyes; I stuttered to a complete halt when I hit that phrase. The whole sentence seems clunky and just unappealing, so at this point I went on to the next book in the bundle.

Rise of the Storm, by Christina Ochs. Here we have a young prince who seems pretty ineffectual when faced with his uncle, a duke who seems to be determined to overstep his authority. The prince, Kendryk, struggles with vague unease, a sense that events are getting out of control – there’s this religious stuff, heresy and whatever, and he’s not sure what to do about it. Right now Kendryk therefore seems indecisive and hesitant, qualities that, as I mentioned above, I seriously dislike in a protagonist. His hesitance is expressed in sentences like this:

And yet, something niggled at him, egging him on. He told himself he was content with his life as it was, but failed to quash a vague unease, a strong sense he had yet so much to learn and do. Perhaps the gods had sent this priest to show him what he still needed to know and light the way to some great understanding. The part of him that always held back, that always took care to consider the consequences was defeated, at least for the moment.

This writing seems vague; also clunky. It’s fine with me if Kendryk is an introvert, but he seems to be thinking about himself in ways that real people aren’t likely to. Language choices seem awkward, jamming phrases together that, first, don’t seem to fit together – niggled at him, egging him on – and, second, use slangy phrases like “egging him on” that seem out of place in a secondary world.

Then we switch point of view. Then we quickly switch pov again. None of the various pov protagonists really grabbed me. I don’t usually care for fast shifts between points of view, and with a writing style that didn’t much appeal to me anyway, I went on to the next book.

Hope and the Patient Man, by Mike Reeves-McMillan. Okay, whew, I was glad to hit a story that worked somewhat better for me. I dislike the names – Hope is one thing, but Dignified? Industry? This is not a naming convention that will ever sound okay to my ear. The story was okay, though it turned out to be a soap opera about the characters’ day-to-day lives as they sorted out their various relationships. There wasn’t really much story in this story; it was kind of a slice-of-life fantasy in which nothing very important happened. Detailed lessons about relationship counseling did not make for especially compelling reading. Still, I did read this one all the way through, though not with a lot of attention.

Lhind the Thief, by Sherwood Smith. I read this some time ago and actually it did not work very well for me. I should add that I listened to it as an audiobook and by now it’s clear to me that anything at all that bothers me in a book will bother me ten times worse in audio format. However, I just did not much care for Lhind as the protagonist and was not too keen on the secondary characters either. Also, it drives me absolutely crazy when Yet. Another. Superpower. just turns up from nowhere when you happen to need it. Even worse, I detest the superpower where animals obey you – but just because they want to! Not because you force them to! Only they unanimously choose to do everything you want because your desires are just so important to them! – sorry, but ugh. I have hated that particular superpower for a long time and sure enough, I hated it in this story as well. So even though I’ve really enjoyed everything else I’ve read by Sherwood Smith, this one, not so much.

The Keeper and the Rulership, by Emily Martha Sorensen.

Okay, this is a first person narrative, the narrator is a teenage girl, and I practically threw my Kindle across the room when I hit this line at the bottom of the first page: I honestly didn’t know which boy I preferred. Wow, a love triangle! Gosh, look here, the young female protagonist is trying to choose between the Nice Guy and the Bad Boy. Could anything in the world be less interesting?

Well, it turns out the setting is so creative and unusual that even this utterly clichéd situation is tolerable. Magic is grown – literally grow, in the form of plants. Everything depends on gardening; flower arrangements are strictly codified and very important. Landowners have a lot of wealth and power and vassals work for landowners, except the vassals aren’t tied to the land and can leave if they like, so that’s not so bad, maybe? Especially as it starts to seem likely, not too far into the story, that the protagonist, Raneh, is going to ditch both the Nice Guy and the Bad Boy.

People pay for things with status. They also gain status if others admire them, lose it if others scorn them – status flows from one person to another somehow, as though it’s being emitted and absorbed, like some sort of energy. It’s not clear if this entire flow of status is included under the umbrella of what people mean when they say “magic,” but this might turn out to be an issue considering all the magic in the Realm is rapidly fading away. Raneh suspects she might be able to guess at one or two vital connections between the fading of magic and her own totally illegal gift for magic. For a landowner to have access to magic is an automatic death sentence, so Raneh is a touch reluctant to mention her own observations to anyone else . . . and then the Ruler of the whole realm drops by for a visit and all of a sudden everything becomes more complicated.

Okay, in this one, the characters do not seem very interesting at first, but some become more complex as the story moves ahead. The plotting does not offer particularly astonishing twists and turns; the experienced fantasy reader is likely to see most plot twists coming. On the other hand, the setting and worldbuilding are snazzy and the writing is good. Also, this is definitely a YA story. I can see younger readers really getting into the story because they may not tend to notice clichéd characters and plot elements as much as older readers. I’d recommend this particularly to anybody who enjoy inventive worldbuilding and especially to those of you with younger teen readers who are into fantasy.

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Bestsellers without buzz

Here’s an interesting article at Publisher’s Weekly: The Accidental Bestseller — Editors tell us the stories behind their sleeper hits

Some books arrive labeled “can’t miss,” or have such a hefty advance that publishers do everything they can to assure that they won’t miss. But what about the sleepers? Those books that worked their way through the publishing pipeline quietly, launch with little buzz, and somehow find their way to bestseller lists anyway? Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie had been abandoned unread in a box when an editor went on maternity leave and decided not to return. Dusted off and published by her replacement, it has sold 8.8 million copies.

Well, that’s a charming story. I mean, Because of Winn-Dixie and also this tidbit about its acquisition. Let’s see what other titles editors pick out as their favorite surprise bestsellers:

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker … well, that’s certainly a cute title. I hear Goodnight Moon practically drives parents batty because their tots want it read to them every single night. Maybe those tots could be persuaded to mix it up with this one?

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead … yes, actually, this one is on my TBR pile.

Crank by Ellen Hopkins … sounds dark dark dark. It’s about a girl addicted to meth. Also, this cover:

I mean, dark.

There are seven others listed, including the cute spy school YA title I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, which I have read, and this one, which sounds truly intriguing:

Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson

The editor says: “So when Tobin got up to the podium and read these words: “I was raised in a gaunt house with a garden; my earliest recollections are of floating lights in the apple-trees,” I was filled with a mixture of emotions, but mostly terror. There were at least two words in the first hundred that were completely unknown to me….I had thought before that evening that Feed would be the highlight of my editorial career. And yet here was Tobin, confounding expectations and moving from the dystopian future into the heart of American history—and again overturning conventional thinking, this time about the Revolutionary War.”

First, what could the two words be? Using the Look Inside feature at Amazon, I propose that Pentateuch might have been one. I can’t guess about the other.

Second, the prose is quite something. So is the novel’s whole conception. Here’s the book description from Amazon:

It sounds like a fairy tale: He is a boy dressed in silks and white wigs and given the finest of classical educations. Raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers, the boy and his mother — a princess in exile from a faraway land — are the only persons in their household assigned names. As the boy’s regal mother, Cassiopeia, entertains the house scholars with her beauty and wit, young Octavian begins to question the purpose behind his guardians’ fanatical studies. Only after he dares to open a forbidden door does he learn the hideous nature of their experiments — and his own chilling role in them. … this deeply provocative novel reimagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.

Hard to quite imagine. I picked up a sample.

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Friday’s Puppy Post: Fame comes to some of us young

So, as you may know if you follow me on Facebook, my babies had a photo shoot this past Wednesday. I assume they will probably appear on a bag of puppy food sometime in the near-ish future, but I don’t know when. Also, I don’t know how many of them might appear on the bag — the photographers took zillions of pictures of each puppy separately, then two or three puppies together.

Boy 1 (Lee) was the favorite, with his even face markings, but Girl 2 (Leda) was also a favorite for her fearless, spunky personality and general adorableness. Nor were Boy 2 (Lex) or Girl 1 (Layla) entirely left out.

The photo shoot gave the puppies a long day, but they played and slept comfortably in their dressing room — they had their own; we didn’t have to share with the Rottweiler puppies in the next room — and when necessary they went out to an x-pen I set up in a grassy spot outdoors. The weather was beautiful, so that wasn’t a problem.

Here are some pictures I took myself:

That is Leda on the computer screen up front — I cropped it out to let you all see it better:

Now here’s another cropped image showing how super-cute three of the puppies were together:

Here is Lee, showing his natural talent for modeling. Yes, someone was ready to catch him if he jumped off the plinth, which was about four feet up.

And last, here is Lee again, after the shoot was finished. He was so sleepy! All the puppies crashed and slept all the way home.

Best of all, not only do my babies — one or more — get to be stars and appear on a well-known brand of dog food, but also they made enough in that one afternoon to pay for all my pet food for 2018. So a major win all the way around! What goooood puppies!

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Stories featuring the moon

Over at Kirkus, Thea from The Book Smugglers has a post about SFF set on the moon:

Artemis & Other Moon-Inspired Science Fiction Stories

While there are lots of things to say about Artemis—from a characterization and authenticity viewpoint, in particular—the book dives deeply into life on the moon and how such a society could work. The tradition of the moon and its ingratiation in the sci-fi canon is strong—here are some other moon-centric SFF reads, inspired by (or as alternatives to) Artemis:

…And then we get a list.

Off the cuff, I can think of two books set on the moon:

1) Growing Up Weightless by Ford, a book I really liked in many ways but which offered a terrible ending . . . well, that’s not fair. One aspect of the ending upset me a good deal, so that I have never been able to re-read the book. Which was otherwise very good indeed, so maybe eventually I will actually pull it off the shelf again and just brace myself for the ending.

And then of course

2) The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein.

So let’s see which books Thea picked out … yes, I see quite a few books I haven’t read (as well as Heinlein’s classic). I have read one:

(3) Life as We Knew It, by Pfeffer.

Thea acknowledges this one is cheating, since it doesn’t take place on the moon. It sure doesn’t. This is the one where the moon sudden approaches the Earth for no explained reason, wreaking total climactic havoc and ending life as we knew it. It’s quite good, though I have some serious caveats with the plot.

But if we’re going to include it, then hey:

(4) Seveneves by Stephenson is clearly eligible under the rule that the moon rules the plot. You remember, this one starts with the idea that the moon shatters into a zillion pieces for no explained reason, wreaking WAAAY more havoc than just moving it a little closer.

Okay, if you’re a fan of Lunar stories, click through and check out Thea’s list.

Anybody got a favorite moon book neither of us mentioned?

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Series that shift genre from one book to the next

Over at tor.com, Tobias Buckall has a post about series that start off in one genre and then shift to another.

I have an example of this on the tip of my tongue, but . . . no, it’s hopeless right now, so let’s just go on and see what Buckall has in mind.

There are certain expectations that a reader might have when reading novels billed as sequels or as part of a series. Chief among them: that a novel will fall into the same general category as its predecessor. The third book of a high fantasy series is unlikely to be a cyberpunk romance…One volume largely sets the ground rules for a world going forward; the works that follow hew to the existing worldbuilding.

Except when they don’t.

Okay! That is indeed an odd thing for an author to do. What examples does Buckall have in mind? He mentions several, but he focuses on this one;

The two most recent books by Frank Bill also fall firmly into this category. His 2013 novel Donnybrook was a taut, pulpy work set in and around an underground fighting competition–imagine Achewood’s “The Great Outdoor Fight” filtered through the sensibility of James Ellroy at his most nihilistic and you’d be pretty close to the mark. … Bill’s new book, The Savage, depicts a near-future America in the throes of collapse. The government has imploded, militias dot the landscape, and those who have survived have largely learned to live in a more archaic manner. … Moving from crime fiction to a work that’s outright dystopian is a bold choice…

Interesting! Both books sound too gritty and/or grim for me, but what an intriguing direction for Frank Bill to take his later book. Though come to think of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot of near-future-world-falls-apart novels in the next few year. I’m sure it will get rather tiresome. This isn’t even the first I’ve heard of, and I’m not making the least attempt to seek them out.

Meanwhile, yes, I can think of a handful of examples where a series shifted genre, or at least subgenre:

Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series shifts from romantic comedy to a substantially more serious romantic drama kind of subgenre.

Diana Wynne Jones’ Dalemark quartet features four books all of which are good, but the series shifts from pretty standard YA fantasy (Cart and Cwidder and Drowned Ammet) to a lovely but very distinctive fairy tale kind of story (The Spellcoats) to a more serious high fantasy at the end (Crown of Dalemark).

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series didn’t just improve as he went along; it also started off as light humorous fantasy (The Colour of Magic) through more serious (though of course still funny) YA and adult fantasy, to hilarious social satire wrapped in Discworld attire (Making Money and so on).

Okay, those are the ones I can think of. There are also single books that shift genre partway through — Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children switches from horror to fantasy halfway through; and Dan Wells’ I Am Not A Serial Killer switches from contemporary YA (I guess?) to fantasy (or maybe horror).

Lots of the time, it does seem these shifts work pretty well as long as they are subtle. I personally have never considered The Spellcoats really connected to any other work, regardless of marketing. As far as I’m concerned, the shift in tone and style was too great to make it possible to read as part of a series. I’m sure you’ve all read the Dalemark books, right? What did you think?

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The Page 69 Test

Had you heard about this?

The Page 69 Test — If you just read page 69 of a novel, would you want to go on to page 70? Would page 69 be fairly representative of the book as a whole?

This is a website that asks those questions. Authors post about page 69 of their books.

Including, ahem, me. Here is The Page 69 Test applied to Winter of Ice and Iron.

…I should perhaps add that any particularly attentive reader will notice that I edited page 69 down a trifle and included a paragraph from page 70. These alterations made the post I wrote read more smoothly and were approved by the site. So it’s not a “just page 69 and that’s all you get, sucker” kind of test, fortunately.

Also, perhaps now that I’m aware of the Page 69 Test, I’ll take care to set someone’s hair on fire on that page next time.

Not that setting someone’s hair on fire would have been entirely in keeping with this chilly artwork —

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Do you like social media?

Here’s an article in Vanity Fair: THE END OF THE SOCIAL ERA CAN’T COME SOON ENOUGH

Will a future generation look back in 10, 20, or maybe 100 years from now and wonder, mystifyingly, why a generation of humans believed in these platforms despite mounting evidence that they were tearing society apart—being used as terrorist recruitment tools, facilitating bullying, driving up anxiety, and undermining our elections—despite the obvious benefits and facilitations they provide? Indeed, some of the people who gave us these platforms are already beginning to wonder if this is the case. Last month, I wrote a piece detailing how some early Facebook employees now feel about the monster they have created. As one early Facebook employee told me, “I lay awake at night thinking about all the things we built in the early days and what we could have done to avoid the product being used this way.”

I don’t find these concerns super-persuasive. [It would help if the author of this piece wrote with greater precision. Did anyone else stumble over “mystifyingly”? Obviously the author meant “mystified.” Also, I expect that probably the author meant “believed these platforms were harmless” or something like that.]

On the other hand, I just started using Facebook this year, plus I skim past and ignore all posts having to do with politics. Maybe I haven’t hit the “driving up anxiety” part yet.

Also, I’m aware that relatively well-designed studies appear to indicate that scrolling through Facebook exacerbates problems with depression, at least in some people. I have to ask myself: am I immune? Not spending enough time on Facebook to notice an effect? Unaware of the emotional effects I might be experiencing? … who knows.

Instead of big, impressive problems with Facebook, I have tiny, trivial problems! I will now do my part to solve those, thus putting off The End of Social Media, by offering the following FACEBOOK LAWS, which should immediately be followed by all users because even if they do not have the force of actual law, they should.

1) Do not EVER Share, Like or comment on any post that uses the phrase, “I bet this ________ can’t get 1000 Likes.” Let those blatantly manipulative posts die.

2) Do not EVER Share, Like or comment on any post that uses the phrase, “Comment Yes if you agree!” or anything similar. Even if you totally agree. Because, SAA.

3) Do not EVER Share, Like or comment on any post that shows a scared or upset animal that is supposed to be cute. That boxer being dragged through the snow comes to mind. If in doubt about whether the animal enjoyed the experience shown in the post, do your part to kill the post.

4) ALWAYS share wonderful videos of cute, happy animals, good people rescuing animals, and so on. Especially if you are my Facebook friend. I love those.

5) Despite what other people might have said in the past, you cannot post too many cute pictures of your pets or your children. Keep ’em coming!

6) When debating the eternal pit bull question, whichever side you are on, NEVER use the word “viscous” when you mean “vicious.” Double check before you hit post! If unsure, choose a different word. Declaring that pit bulls are / are not viscous makes you look like an idiot.

Also, btw, pit bulls are generally wonderful dogs! Of course a few individuals are pretty scary, but so are individuals of any breed (except Cavaliers, of course.)

Okay, if we wanted to take this to 10 Laws, what would the other four be? Anything that particularly annoys you on Facebook?

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