Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent Reading: Freedom’s Gate, Freedom’s Apprentice, Freedom’s Sisters by Naomi Kritzer

I picked up Freedom’s Gate by Kritzer after reading some short piece of hers that was up for a Hugo a year or so ago — was that just last year? — so we see that every now and then it does make a difference to an author to have something of theirs nominated.

Then it took a little while for me to try the book because I knew it was the first book of a trilogy and I needed to have time for that; also it’s harder to whittle down the TBR pile if you read one book and buy two more. Sigh.

But! This is a really good trilogy, so I’m glad I tackled it. Naomi Kritzer is firmly on my radar now, that’s for sure.

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Here’s more or less what Goodreads says about it:

Twenty-year-old Lauria is the favorite aide to Kyros, a powerful military officer. On his authority, she is messenger, observer, and spy. But now she is entrusted with a mission more dangerous than any that have come before Freedom’s Gate. . . . After years of relative peace, word has come to Kyros that the bandit tribe known as the Alashi is planning an offensive. It is up to Lauria to infiltrate the Alashi by posing as an escaped slave . . . [while] her own views are gradually changing, calling everything she believes about her world into question.

I don’t know, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up for either the cover or the general description. But I’m glad I tried it because it’s right up there as one of my favorites for the year so far.

Reasons You Should Try This Trilogy:

1) Well-drawn complicated characters. Lauria is the main protagonist; she’s a free woman who serves the Greek Kyros, who is a member of the ruling class. Then she infiltrates the Alashi as a spy. Then she genuinely switches sides. Then she gets caught up in various personal concerns and political complications and winds up striving to change the world. During the course of all this, she changes and grows a good bit, quickly becoming a much better person while never becoming unbelievably nice.

Tamar is a slave who escapes to the Alashi with Lauria; she becomes a more and more important character as the story unwinds and takes an important pov role in the third book. The relationship between Lauria and Tamar changes and develops, with Tamar starting off in a more sidekick kind of role but then becoming Lauria’s equal. I think Kritzer made Tamar a pov protagonist because she had no choice; the story had started to sprawl and she needed to show more of it than just Lauria’s part. But it worked fine to bring Tamar into a pov role.

Then there are a lot – a LOT – of secondary characters, many of whom are important and most of whom are nuanced and complicated. I particularly liked Lauria’s mother, whom we only see a little bit in the first book but who takes a more important role in the third. Mother-daughter relationships are important in this story, though secondary to sister relationships. Most of the important characters are female, but there are good, strong secondary male characters as well. Characterization is a real strength in this trilogy

2) No romance! Or almost none. For a bit, just briefly, it looked like Lauria and Tamar might shift from a sworn-sister relationship to a more romantic relationship. This didn’t happen, and I’m glad. Modern American society is so sexualized that sometimes it seems impossible to find a novel where friendship doesn’t turn sexy. There are all kinds of romantic relationships in this trilogy, but all of the romance stays thoroughly in the background and there is no implication that sexual and romantic relationships are the only truly important relationships.

3) Worldbuilding and Mythology. My goodness, what a wonderful take on Greek mythology. Alexander lived a long, long time and eventually became a god, casting down Zeus, whom he imprisoned under a mountain. Prometheus and Arachne are important mythological figures as well. It’s not clear how much of this mythology is literally true, but it’s great background. The dominant Greeks, the subjugated people they conquered, the djinni enslaved by the Weavers, the imprisoned rivers . . . it all makes for a wonderful backdrop for this story, not to mention furnishing the overarching quest.

4) Nuanced ethics. Is it right to demand that slaves seize their own freedom before welcoming them, as the Alashi do? What about freeing slaves who don’t want to be free? How do you define freedom anyway? What about killing a lot of people in order to free slaves, is that okay? Is it all right to use an enslaved djinn for a good cause? What if you decide it’s not; do you have to try to stop everyone else from using enslaved djinni too – even for a good cause?

Can you earn forgiveness for past evil by current good works? Can you demand forgiveness? What if someone keeps hating you for something you did a long time ago, how do you deal with that? What if you love someone but can’t get her to agree with you about important things, how do you deal with that?

Lots of complicated ethical situations and choices add depth to this trilogy. Plus, it’s all worked in smoothly enough that nothing ever seems preachy.

5) Presentation of bipolar syndrome. The Weavers – sorcereresses who gain power by enslaving djinni – almost inevitably suffer from bipolar syndrome, which gets worse the more djinni they bind. It’s not explained why; this is one bit of the worldbuilding that you just have to accept because there’s no particular reason for it. But the presentation seems to ring true to me. For part of the trilogy, after attempting to bind a djinn, Lauria herself suffers from alternating melancholia and “cold fever” – the one with a slowing and sluggishness of will and thought, the other with a grandiose conviction that she is the chosen one who cannot fail in her quest to free the rivers and change the world. Which incidentally adds a nice twist on the Chosen One trope to the story.

6) Quality of the writing: Top notch. Not ornate or flowery or lyrical, but smooth and unnoticeable. Pacing is good, neither too much nor too little description for my taste. Relationships are important and complex but not angst-ridden or despairing.

Things That Didn’t Work Quite So Well:

Um . . . not much is coming to mind here. The plotting is complicated, as you might expect in a single story that has room to stretch out in a trilogy. But every aspect of the plot comes together well in the end, despite several surprising twists that I didn’t see coming. I mean, I didn’t scream in shock as can happen with Andrea K Höst or Elizabeth Wein, but I certainly was startled into laughing out loud several times, in sheer surprise. If Kritzer had been less deft, I might have found some of those twists unbelievable. However, she made everything work. Every single twist fit neatly and believably into the story.

Overall Rating:

Definitely a keeper, this is a series I’ll enjoy re-reading in a couple of years. Despite the overflowing TBR pile, I’ll certainly be picking up more of Kritzer’s books in the near future.

If You Liked …

This trilogy reminds me pretty strongly of Sherwood Smith’s Inda series. Of course the worldbuilding is very different, but if you liked that, I bet you’ll enjoy this.

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Good News Tuesday

This is promising:

Cannabidiol slashes seizures in kids with rare epilepsy, study finds

Among children taking cannabidiol, the decrease in the frequency of convulsive seizures — which involve a loss of consciousness, stiffened muscles and jerking movements — was 23 percentage points greater than the decrease in seizures among children taking a placebo. The study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human trial.

They were looking specifically at children with Dravet Syndrome, which is described as “a severe childhood-onset epilepsy that causes multiple kinds of seizures, developmental delays, speech and language problems, behavioral issues and movement and balance problems.” Sounds pretty awful. If nearly a quarter of those children respond well to cannabidiol, wow. Especially since other treatments are apparently not super useful for this syndrome.

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Stuck in Research Hell

Here’s a fun post by Abria Mattina at Writerology: Seven Signs You’re Stuck in Research Hell

I used to be the absolute worst at research. It wasn’t the research process I couldn’t handle—just that my research never ended. I didn’t know when I had enough information to reinforce my outline. I never called my research “done” and turned my attention to writing. . . . I was stuck in a cycle of pseudo-productivity, doing research that made me feel like I was progressing while simultaneously doing nothing to advance me toward my goals. It didn’t help that I love to write genre fiction. I’m editing a science fiction at the moment, and gearing up for another stab at my historical fiction manuscript.

This has never happened to me! Partly because I don’t care that much about perfect authenticity and partly because I’m too lazy to go get yet another book off the shelves downstairs and partly because I lack a great internet connection, but mostly because I generally find myself satisfied with the first reputable-seeming website that tells me how many crossbow bolts can be fired per minute or whatever.

Also I can just call my brother and ask how big a typical medieval army is and how far a guy can travel on horseback in a day and stuff like that, and he’ll just know. So that’s handy.

But you do run into people who seem to get lost in the research part of writing. Sometimes I think that’s because their hobby is actually worldbuilding, not writing, which is perfectly fine as long as they’re happy with that. But if they want to go on with the writing, of course it would be better to get out of research hell and start writing. Here are Mattina’s seven signs:

1. Your story sounds like a textbook.

Actually I think this is exactly what the Silmarillion sounds like. A history textbook. I skimmed it rather than actually reading it. Of course worldbuilding certainly was Tolkien’s primary focus, so there you go.

2. Your story sounds like a catalog of facts.

Not sure I can think of any examples . . . not good examples . . . I remember one passage held out as a bad example which really did read like a catalog of facts.

3. You’ve forgotten what your story is actually about.

This is funny: “Maybe when you started it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set at the height of the Mongolian empire—and now there’s all kinds of stuff in there about bow mechanics, religious rituals, horses, a side plot about tattooing, and what was the climax supposed to be again?”

Can’t you just see that happening? Of course I might enjoy all those details about tatooing and maybe your book doesn’t have to hew so close to the original, but one can see what Mattina means here.

4. You’ve lost your passion for the book.

Yep, that would be a problem. Though certainly getting lost in research is not necessarily going to cause you to lose passion for your story. All kinds of things can do that, including tightening deadlines and getting stuck in the plot. I think there you might be trying to regain lost passion by doing research. That might even work.

5. You can’t tell the difference between useful information and trivial factoids.

I don’t know. Some of those trivial factoids could probably be worked in gracefully to delight your readers. Look at Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy to see how she works in tons of wonderful details that add depth rather than tedium.

6. Your huge collection of material on some topic starts to look too small.

Probably Mattina is right. Just write the book already.

7. You don’t feel ready to write even though you have 1500 pages of research notes on hand.

Hah. At that point you need an index for your notes just to make them usable. Again, just write the book already. You can look up details as you need them.

I have never, ever taken more than a couple pages of notes about stuff before tackling a book. Of course it helps to be writing mostly secondary world fantasy that is supposed to have the flavor of a particular region, not a historical novel that is supposed to accurately represent a specific period and place.

For a while there I could tell you all about the eight kinds of granite found in Vermont, btw. Somehow it never seemed necessary to insert quite that level of detail into the Black Dog world …

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Beginnings: Recent Samples

My Kindle is sure filling up with samples – and, yes, full novels – but certainly lots of samples. Sixty-eight samples at the moment. Let’s take a look at the ten titles most recently added to my Samples folder and see if any look particularly promising from the very beginning – or the reverse: if any look like they ought to just be gently discarded without any further investment of time.

1. Buffalo Soldier, Maurice Broaddus

Desmond Coke pinched a clump of chiba leaves from his pouch and rolled it into the fine pressed paper. He was down to his last few leaves, perhaps enough for one or two more sacraments before he’d be down to stems and seeds. He sat alone underneath a cotton tree, lit his spliff, and dreamt of home. Exhaling a thin cloud of smoke, he leaned against its gray trunk. The dried brown vines draping it crunched beneath his movement. Under the strange western sky, the dark and loathsome trees crowded the hillside. Before bedtime, his mother used to tell him stories of how duppies danced among their branches or hid among the caves. If he’d been particularly troublesome that day, she’d tell him of the powerful spirit, Old Higue, and how the creature would hang her skin along the branch of a cotton tree before she went about her grim business. The tree reminded him of home, but he was far from the shores of Jamaica. They both were.

Grim-ish. But evocative. I don’t know if I’ll wind up liking it, but I will certainly go on with it.

2. Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome

Roger, aged seven, and no longer the youngest of the family, ran in wide zigzags, to and fro, across the steep field that sloped up from the lake to Holly Howe, the farm where they were staying for part of the summer holidays. He ran until he nearly reached the hedge by the footpath, then turned and ran until he nearly reached the hedge on the other side of the field. Then he turned and crossed the field again. Each crossing of the field brought him nearer to the farm. The wind was against him, and he was tacking up against it to the farm, where at the gate his patient mother was awaiting him. He could not run straight against the wind because he was a sailing vessel, a tea-clipper, the Cutty Sark. His elder brother John had said only that morning that steamships were just engines in tin boxes. Sail was the thing, and so, though it took rather longer, Roger made his way up the field in broad tacks.

Well, now, that’s horoughly charming. I’m very pleased Pete kept mentioning this one in the comments until I finally picked up a sample.

3. Lonen’s War, Jeffe Kennedy

Oria squinted into the heat shimmer rising in the distance beyond the high walls of the city. Maybe if she looked long and hard enough, the weapons of the clashing armies would give off a telltale glitter or the shouts of the men would echo back. But even though her high tower gave her one of the longest views in Bára, she remained blind and deaf, stuck in her chambers, remote from the battle underway. Just as she’d lived most of her life isolated from the rest of the world.

Despite the lack of other evidence of war, the hot wind seemed to carry an unfamiliar smell to her rooftop garden. Layered among the scents of sand, the brackish bay, and distant ocean came something new. Something like roasting meat, redolent of rage, despair, and determination. An unsettling combination unlike anything she’d ever experienced. But until this, no one had attempted to Bára in her lifetime. Not for a long time before that either, according to the histories.

This one really doesn’t stand out for me. Part of the reason is that metaphors are iffy when you just start a SFF novel. Is the protagonist actually blind and deaf? The emphasis on scents almost makes it seem like she might be. I am mildly peeved at this confusion. Also, nothing about the smell of roasting meat suggests rage, despair, or determination to me and I don’t really see how it could suggest such things to anyone. I’m mildly peeved at this description as well. Offhand I would kind of expect to delete this sample, maybe without even finishing the full sample (depending on how long the sample turns out to be).

4. Mirrors, Lazette Gifford

I tried to block what I felt from the world – from both worlds – while my fingers brushed across the ancient harp’s strings.

Bright music filled the small room as I played “Carolan’s Ramble to Cashel.” Plants trailed flowers at my shoulders, half-masking the front window of the upstairs apartment. The semi-opaque curtains formed a veil between me and the troubles in the world beyond my sanctuary.

I’m not a good musician, but playing helps when I’m troubled. Today I sensed subtle changes in the air and tried to ignore the growing apprehension those changes created. I listened only to each bell-like note in the near silence of my home.

Somewhere else a car honked and people argued, but not here in this plae. I created a sphere of peace and tranquility and played, content for at least a few minutes more.

No one else sensed the trouble in the air.

Not particularly drawn in, but I would go on with this and see how the story develops.

5. Dancer, Lazette Gifford

Devlin stood beneath the high woode benches and tried not to wince every tme she heard a creak or groan from the wood. The last set of bleachers had collapsed ten years ago, killing more than fifty people and maiming others. Safer now people assured her, but she didn’t believe them. Devlin didn’t trust low-tech work on backwater worlds.

And she didn’t think much of Forest anyway.

Devlin’s plans hadn’t included coming to see the show today. She’d watched one bear dance and found the show a disgusting display of brutality. Pitting a human against a local animal was barbaric and she didn’t know how these people could watch.

Devlin couldn’t decide whether anyone would send someone of her rank and tech abilities to such a low tech world. Someone from the office could have filed these reports. She’d enjoyed working on Caliente better than her and she’d despised that world. Forest might be a lovely planet, but she hated the people. Hated them all and knew she’d lost her objectivity.

Same as the other one by Gifford; not especially catchy but I’d go on with it.

6. Song of the Summer King, Jess E Owen

Fresh morning air lifted clouds and gulls above the glimmering sea, and drew one young gryfon early from his den. Too early, just before sunrise when forbidden darkness still blanketed the islands.

The sun rose unhurriedly from the sea, and Shard strained against the steep sky, breathing deep, challenging himself to the highest possible dive. The sea spun below him. His mind flickered lighting in the thin air and he shoved down panic. Some would call it too high.

His wings drew in and flapped out sluggishly, feeling separate from his body. He had to bank, to get lower, breath the deeper air.

Night sparked at the edge of his mind. His dreams flocked up from the night before. Nightmares of the impending initiation hunt.

Ah, a young, impulsive, possibly idiotic protagonist. Redeemed, however, by being a gryfon. I’d go on with this because hey, gryfons.

7. Thieftaker, DB Jackson

Ethan Kaille eased his knife from the leather sheath on his belt as he approached Griffin’s Wharf, the words of a warding spell on his lips. He had sweated through his linen shirt and nearly through his waistcoat as well. His leg ached and he was breathing hard, gasping greedily at the warm, heavy air hanging over Boston on this August eve. But he had chased Daniel Folter this far – from the Town Dock to Purchase Street, over cobblestone and dirt, past storefronts and homes and pastures empty save for crows and grazing cows – and he wasn’t about to let the pup escape him now.

The western horizon still glowed with the last golden light of day, but the sky over Boston Harbor and the South End shoreline had darkened to a deep indigo. Hulking wooden warehouses, shrouded n a faint mist, cast deep elongated shadows across the wharves. Clouds of midges danced around Ethan’s head, scattering when he waved a hand at them only to swarm again as soon as he turned his attention back to his quarry.

Possibly too gritty for my taste, though it might work for me – I’d have to go on with it to see. Also, I recall a commenter’s warning about the protagonist killing a dog. I’m willing to go on with it, but rather cautiously and if the rest of the sample doesn’t really grab me, I’d let it go.

8. Enchanted, Inc, Shanna Swendson

I’d always heard that New York City was weird, but I had no idea just how weird until I got here. Before I left Texas to move here, my family tried to talk me out of it, telling me all sorts of urban legends about the strange and horrible things that happened in the big bad city. Even my college friends who’d been living in New York for a while told me stories about the weird and wonderful things they’d seen that didn’t cause the natives to so much as blink. My friends joked that an alien from outer space could walk down Broadway without anyone looking twice. I used to think they were exaggerating.

But now, after having survived a year in the city, I still saw things every day that shocked and amazed me but didn’t cause anyone else to so much as raise an eyebrow. Nearly naked street performers, people doing tap-dance routines on the sidewalk, full-scale film productions – complete with celebrities – weren’t worth a second glance to the locals, while I couldn’t help but gawk. It made me feel like such a hick, no matter how hard I tried to act sophisticated.

Take this morning, for instance.

And then she describes a girl with butterfly wings. Well, the style is not all that appealing, but it’s not bad either. If I were in the mood for a light UF kind of story, I’d try this.

9. Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee

At Kell Academy, and instructor had explained to Cheris’s class that the threshold winnower was a weapon of last resort, and not just for its notorious connotations. Said instructor had once witnessed a winnower in use. The detail that stuck in Charis’s head wasn’t the part where every door in the besieged city exhaled radiation that baked the inhabitants dead. It wasn’t the weapon’s governing equations or even the instructor’s left eye, damaged during the attack, from which ghostlight glimmered.

What Cheris remembered most was the instructor’s aside: that returning to corpses that were only corpses, rather than radiation gates contorted against black-blasted walls and glassy rubble, eyes ruptured open, was one of the best moments of his life.

Five years, five months, and sixteen days later, surrounded by smashed tanks and smoking pits on the heretic Eels’ outpost world of Dredge, Captain Kel Cheris of Heron Company, 109-229th Battalion, had come to the conclusion that her instructor was full of shit. There was no comfort to be extracted from the dead, from flesh evaporated from bones. Nothing but numbers snipped short.

Grim, grim, grim. But this one has certainly gotten all the buzz this year. I’d certainly go on with it on that basis.

10. Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor

On the second Sabbat of Twelfthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky.

Her skin was blue, her blood was red.

She broke over an iron gate, crimping it on impact, and there she hung, impossibly arched, graceful as a temple dancer swooning on a lover’s arm. One slick finial anchored her in place. Its point, protruding from her sternum, glittered like a brooch. She fluttered briefly as her ghost shook loose, and torch ginger buds rained out of her long hair.

Later, they would say these had been hummingbird hearts and not blossoms at all.

They would say she hadn’t shed blood, but wept it. That she was lewd, tonging her teeth at them, upside down and dying, that she vomited a serpent that turned to smoke when it hit the ground. They would say a flock of moths came, frantic, and tried to lift her away.

That was true. Only that.

Grim also, but this time in a surreal kind of way. As it happens, I prefer poetic-surreal-grim to gritty-ugly-realism-grim. I like the moths. I think I like the moths. Not even quite sure. I’ll have to be in the right mood for this one, that’s for sure

***

Okay vote for your favorite! Mine is easy:

#2, Swallows and Amazons. That delightful opening paragraph makes me smile. After reading just this bit, I pulled it out of my “Samples” folder into the general clutter of unread ebooks, where it is now resting right at the top of my electronic TBR pile.

As it happens, I’m making an effort to whittle down the physical TBR pile right now. But yep, I’ll definitely be getting to this one sometime relatively soon.

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Public service message: take care when exercising with your dog

Here’s an article at the Atlantic that caught my eye: What Is Jogging Doing to Your Dog?

It’s tough to keep teenage Goldens and German Shorthaired Pointers exercised. I know that. But this article is completely correct about the importance of keeping a careful eye on your dog if you take him biking or jogging.

Heat is a big issue for all dogs, in fact, especially in neighborhoods with limited parks and green space. Not only can dogs overheat, says Joseph Kinnarney, the former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, they can burn their paws.

“The only way dogs can dissipate heat is through panting, and that requires being able to lose water, so they get dehydrated very quickly,” says Goldstein. “You see runners with little bottles for themselves and nothing for their dog. They’re going to need water more than you do, so if you think you need water, they’re going to need double that amount.”

Make this a mantra: If you feel hot, your dog feels hotter. If you feel overly hot, your dog may be in danger of heatstroke. If you take your dog out in the summer, take lots of water for him. And step in if your dog doesn’t have common sense. I had to stop Dora from chasing dragonflies once. She was obsessed, but it was really hot that day. I made her come in after half an hour.

In the summer, I touch the surface of any blacktop before letting my dogs step on it. It’s easier for me to carry a dog across a parking lot than it would be for someone with a Great Dane, but if you have a big dog, you may need to go around black surfaces. A friend of mine had a dog burn all four feet on a parking lot once. Watching a dog try to limp on all four feet at once will permanently sensitize you to this issue.

Jogging on hard surfaces can damage a dog’s joints. Especially if you go on and on and don’t stop. Lots of dogs will try really hard to keep up with you even if they’re in pain, and of course repetitive stress injuries may not cause enough pain to make them want to stop — until it’s too late.

Exercising your dog is great, but please be careful.

. . . Also. Let me just add, although you may not have an experienced, knowledgeable breeder handy, if you do, it doesn’t hurt to have someone like that stack up your dog and take a look at his structure before you start jogging with him. I really hate watching a dog run past me or jump up on and down off of the rocks at Pickle Springs (a rough hiking trail) when its structure plainly predisposes it to serious injury.

This dog has very poor angulation behind. I’m afraid it would be liable to serious injury if its owner took it jogging or hiking very often or for long distances.

This otherwise nice German Shepherd has weak front pasterns. Jumping down off anything is liable to lead to eventual breakdown of the joints. A smaller dog with such poor front pasterns would probably eventually break down in the front just from jumping off the couch.

The point of good structure is not just bragging rights in the show ring. Structurally poor dogs are unsound and are likely to experience physical breakdowns as they get older. Your vet is not likely to know much about soundness and structure. Veterinarians concentrate on accidents, injuries, and diseases, and don’t (generally) focus at all on structural soundness.

Pat Hastings’ book, Structure in Action, offers a pretty good look at the functional consequences of poor structure. An Eye for a Dog by Robert Cole is my favorite book about canine structure.

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Good News Tuesday

First up, this:

With 800 offspring, ‘very sexually active’ tortoise saves species from extinction

Fifty years ago, there were 14 members of Chelonoidis hoodensis, in Española, an island of the Galapagos Islands — 12 females and two males. They did not even need the other guy. Since 1976, Diego has fathered more than 800 young — 2 of every 5 hooded tortoises in existence, according to genetic testing.

Good heavens. Well, it’s rather a population bottleneck, but hey, the species can deal with lack of genetic diversity better than extinction, I’m sure.

Similar story, but cuter:

These adorable foxes, once nearly extinct, have made a record-breaking comeback

The Channel Islands, off the coast of Southern California, are the only home of a species of tiny fox that looks like a plush toy. How the island foxes got there from the mainland is up for debate — maybe with Native Americans, maybe on storm debris. But fossils show they’ve lived on the islands for many thousands of years.

Along the way, these descendants of mainland gray foxes evolved into four-pound “island dwarves” whose size was better suited to survival in their isolated habitat with its slim resources. Though they are omnivores the size of a cat, in this environment they were long the top predators. They ate lizards, birds, deer mice and plants.

Imagine a four-pound fox being a top predator. Wow. That’s not the size of a cat despite the statement above. Who the heck has an adult cat that weighs as little as four pounds? Anyway, they’re off the endangered species list. It took a major effort to remove feral pigs from the islands — not surprised — pigs are even worse than cats or goats when introduced to islands. Good for everyone involved in this effort!

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Well, this is a crushing disappointment

So, did you know William Gibson apparently wrote a screenplay for Aliens III?

Without knowing a thing about it, I am sure it was greatly superior to the actual Aliens III movie, which I have done my best to forget in its entirety.

Here’s what this post at a site called vulture.com says:

One of the many problems with Alien 3 was its lack of escalation. The first film in the franchise, Ridley Scott’s Alien, was a claustrophobic monster movie about a small group of underqualified people trying to escape a murderous creature. The sequel, James Cameron’s action masterpiece Aliens, opened up the concept by adding a squad of soldiers, a massive space colony, and — as the title suggested — more than one bad beast. Then 1992’s Alien 3, the directorial debut of a young David Fincher, was … a claustrophobic monster movie about a small group of underqualified people trying to escape a murderous creature.

Yeah, I’d agree that lack of escalation was ONE of Alien III’s problems.

What a pity Gibson’s version didn’t get filmed! Especially given this bit:

“Having been deprived of Ripley, I became aware of how much I’d liked Bishop” — the benevolent android played by Lance Henriksen. But he couldn’t just have Bishop in the spotlight, so he reconciled with the fact that Michael Biehn’s gentle Space Marine Hicks would have to take a more prominent role. All the elements were in place. Gibson sat at his Apple IIc, fired up Microsoft Word (he didn’t have any script-writing software; the biggest challenge of the script was “doing all the tabulation by hand,” hitting keys a million times to center things), and got to work.

I loved Bishop! And I liked Hicks a whole lot too. Can you imagine how much better any movie would have been if it just brought those two characters more front-and-center?

Anyway, read the whole thing if you are interested. And join me in weeping for what might have been.

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What are people *really* reading?

I suspect the NYT Bestseller List is going to get a shove toward irrelevance from this: Introducing Amazon Charts – A Bestseller List for What People are Really Reading and Buying

The above is a link to The Passive Voice Blog.

Here is a link to the actual Amazon Charts page

I will add, I cannot even begin to imagine re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale, which I loathed in college.

Also, very interesting to see how many of the top twenty most-read books this week are . . . Harry Potter books. Wow. Like a quarter of the whole list. I would have assumed those would have faded out of the top twenty most-read category by now, but no. Not one is on the most-sold list, though. I guess that means Amazon is tracking people reading ebooks and listening to audiobooks they bought previously.

I expect this list to have no impact on my personal reading or buying habits, but it’s still interesting to see what ideas Amazon comes up with.

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Okay, fine, I’ve gone and picked up yet another story bundle

Here’s a fifteen-book military SF bundle.

Aargh. So hard to turn bundles down even when you are iffy about some of the authors involved AND have a huge TBR pile already. After all, if you come across just three or four titles you really enjoy, you get your money’s worth.

The bundle includes:

Assault on Alpha Base by Dough Beason
Better to Beg Forgiveness by Michael Z Williamson
Comrades in Arms by Kevin J Anderson
Empire’s Rift by Steven Rzasa
March or Die by Andrew and William Keith
One Day on Mars by Travis Taylor
Sniper by Jonathan Brazee
Strong Arm Tactics by Jody Lynn Nye
The Golden Queen by David Farland
Triorion: Awakening by LJ Hatchmeister
Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo
Phule’s Company by Robert Asprin

There are also three or so anthologies in the bundle, but of course I’m not super interested in those. One’s novellas rather than short stories, though, so I may take a look at that one.

Of the whole bunch, I have previously read only the last one, Phule’s Company . . . which I liked quite a bit. If you’re familiar with Robert Asprin, then you know he’s pretty good at writing humorous SF and fantasy. Not a very easy thing to pull off, but he does it.

I really have not much cared for other books I’ve tried by Anderson. The others, well, we’ll see. I doubt I’ll find anything here I like nearly as much as Tanya Huff’s Valor series, but that’s a high bar.

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Just letting you all know —

Posting will continue over the next couple weeks, but is likely to be spotty. I’ve scheduled some posts in advance, but I’ll be away from a good internet connection for a good deal of the time from now until June 5th.

If you happen to have a comment caught in moderation, which sometimes happens even with an email address that should go right through, it may take a couple days for me to free it up.

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