Social Divides in the Solar System

illustrated by Jun Cen

Try turning off all the lights at night, moving through your house in total darkness, through interiors where no ambient light reaches, feeling your way down familiar hallways, counting the steps on the stairs until you reach the landing above and moving deftly around corners as the walls guide you. I did this as I went from my basement reading spot to bed, getting a sense of the life Chocky lived, with only four senses instead of five. But I did this only, as the author of the story might put it, in a touristy sort of way.

The Tourist” by Alex Sherman (on Tor.com from free) creates a world that more than sufficiently immerses you in its scant 16 pages; it feels plausible. Just like in James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse series, moving out into the solar system creates social divides, haves and have-nots, and the Morlock-like denizens in the belly of this hostile far-flung rock in the desert of the solar system are at once fascinating and pitiable.

The tourist is studying for a Ph.D., hoping to learn more about what is essentially a lost civilization deep in the Amazon forest of the stars.

Like any speculative fiction of note, this story turns the reader’s expectations upside down in the best of ways. The tourist can’t see what’s going on (literally) and is dependent on the local guide to help find what he came looking for. But Chocky isn’t just introduced as a device to help the tourist along – he has his own needs, desires, and fears.

The tourist only has a short time to be with the moles/Squatters (as they are called), but in that period he discovers more about the society than any before him, and perhaps gets more than what he bargained for.

This story could be allegory for how we might treat whole segments of society — whether it’s Blacks, the poor, the elderly — and ignoring their pain and suffering, conveniently placing it in the dark. Or perhaps that’s just me projecting in the time of covid-19 and social unrest after the murder of George Floyd by police.

Either way, I can see myself as being both the disenfranchised and the privileged — Chocky and the tourist — and wondering that if their roles were reversed, would things be any different.

4 of 5 stars

Josh

Opposing the Devil Requires Plan A, and Plan B

The Hugo-nominated novelette “For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll is a riot. The opening scene sums up the hijinks readers can expect:

“The whole asylum is his, and let no demon forget it! For he is the Cat Jeoffry, and no demon can stand against him.”

The story is brimming with personality, and I love its layers of depth told in a simple fashion from Jeoffry’s perspective. I don’t have a cat, but I’ve seen enough America’s Funniest Home Videos to know the author captures feline habits and quirks perfectly. 

Jeoffry has no equal and can smite imps and chase down devils who would dare oppose him or torment his human owner. That is until he comes up against Satan. It is nothing short of a battle for the soul of humankind and it’s up to Jeoffry to resist the devil’s temptations and outwit the father of lies. It gets hysterically good. 

When you’re done, you won’t soon forget Jeoffry and his human. And of course, there’s “NIGHTHUNTER MOPPET!” along with cursing cats. 

5 of 5 stars.

Read for free at Tor.com: https://www.tor.com/2019/07/10/for-he-can-creep-siobhan-carroll/

– Josh

Enduring Favorites Make Apple’s Sci-Fi Best Sellers List

The Corridors of Time.jpg

The 1966 Corridors of Time by Poul Anderson hits the #1 spot on Apple’s sci-fi ebook best sellers list this Memorial Day weekend. After coming off the incredible time-travel novel Recursion from Blake Crouch, I’m looking for another book in the same vein to grab my attention. The description of The Corridors of Time has me fairly jazzed up:

The corridors of time connect the ages to each other. Through them, one can travel backwards and forwards over the history of man. But rival factions have waged war for centuries: the gates onto time are bitterly fought for and jealously guarded.

📊Explore the full rankings of science fiction best sellers from the weekend in our interactive graphic where you can change the view and get deeper insights.

Several authors had multiple books, with John Scalzi having a whopping six best sellers.

John Scalzi

  • THE LAST EMPEROX
  • THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE
  • THE CONSUMING FIRE
  • OLD MAN’S WAR
  • THE GHOST BRIGADES
  • THE LAST COLONY

James S. A. Corey

  • THE BUTCHER OF ANDERSON STATION
  • LEVIATHAN WAKES
  • THE CHURN

Pippa DaCosta

  • TRUST
  • ESCAPE
  • TRAPPED

Becky Chambers        

  • LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET
  • RECORD OF A SPACEBORN FEW

Cixin Liu & Ken Liu     

  • THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM
  • DEATH’S END

Messing With Time Is Just Complicated

Spoiler-free review.

Blake Crouch creates a compelling time-bending story that keeps readers invested and guessing all the way through. It takes a disciplined mind to bring to life a story where the implications of time travel are thoroughly considered and brought to life in vivid fashion.

Every change in the timeline wreaks unintended consequences (but that’s every time travel story). Then the characters get a shot at resetting and fixing things (again, every time travel story).

But the fashion in which Crouch shapes these tried and true tropes is brilliant and beautiful. It’s a heart-breaking tale of hope, regret, and sacrifice.

Recursion lives up to its name (and book cover art) with a never ending loop of ‘what ifs’. It’s tight, complex, and demanding of your attention.

The experience is immersive too. I was trying to play out the scenarios along with the characters, working through the implications of messing with the past. But I was helpless, as the characters are, when the best laid plans fail.

Many stories falter or stumble in the third act, but Recursion shines, bringing our protagonists through harrowing trials and never taking the easy way out. This story is extremely good and could sit firmly in a top 10 list of time travel stories in any media.

5 of 5 stars

– Josh

Book 1 from Hugo-winning Wayfarers trilogy tops Apple SF best sellers

May 17, 2020

The first book in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers sci-fi trilogy moved up from #8 last week to the top spot on the Apple ebooks sci-fi best sellers this week. At $2.99, the novel “The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet” is a steal. The trilogy won the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction series.

Other bargain books round out the top three:

  • #2 BRAVE NEW WORLD | Aldous Huxley $1.99
  • #3 CHILDREN OF TIME | Adrian Tchaikovsky $2.99

The priciest best seller is the stunning Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by Cixin Liu costing $25.99.

Having read the first book, the story redefined for me what science fiction could be. It’s a complex, mind-warping ride about the possibilities of technology and other civilizations.

Sidenote: “Halo: The Fall of Reach” has been a best seller for at least two consecutive weeks. I remember it having great space naval battles, but Master Chief got short changed in the narrative. There are better books to spend your money on in my opinion, even for hardcore Halo fans.

Explore more best sellers below and click on the image to interact.

– Josh

Click image to interact

SF Best Sellers from Apple Stuffed with Star Wars and Classics

May 11, 2020

It looks like “May the Fourth Be With You” continues to hold sway over fans of a galaxy far away. No less than seven Star Wars books are currently Apple ebook best sellers, including the highest priced book on the list, the $15 adaptation of the film “The Rise of Skywalker.” Maybe it will make fans happier than the movie did?

Several Hugo and Nebula short-listed books from 2020 and years past also make the list. And I’m happy to see an Arabic translation of “Dune” cracking the top 50. Great sci-fi has no limits.

We also have another sci-fi classic, “Ender’s Game”, going strong. That book got me into reading again, so I’m glad to see a new generation discovering it.

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– Josh

Click for interactive version

Q: What will the Top 100 Best Selling Kindle ebooks of 2019 cost you? A: $538

kindle 2019 best sellers

Subscribing to Kindle Unlimited ($10/m) will give you access to $400 worth of the top 100 best selling Kindle ebooks for 2019 but how many of these would you actually read? It’s the Netflix problem, but in book form.

So you basically save 75% off the cover price if you subscribe to Amazon’s ebook streaming, um, ebook renting service rather than licensing ebooks outright. Are there any gems here? Browse by clicking on the image and see for yourself.

Most common among the 2019 best sellers are $5 ebooks (44 titles), all of which are on Kindle Unlimited, but none of the four most expensive best sellers ($15 each) are part of the service.

Priciest Kindle Best Sellers ($15 each) Aren’t on Kindle Unlimited:

#1 Where the Crawdads Sing
#59 The Guardians: A Novel
#18 Educated: A Memoir
#53 Becoming

Personally, looking at this list gave me that feeling of browsing the Wal-Mart bargain DVD bin. But hey, to each his or her own.

– Josh

 

An Age of Games and Dragons: SFF Bestsellers on Kindle 2007-2017

kindle bestsellers_sff07-17_

Click image to interact

The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones book series ruled the 2010s in sales on the Kindle e-reader (owned by Amazon). The first book in each series was a best seller for 5 of the 11 years. George R. R. Martin’s ongoing fantasy tale had a consecutive 5-year streak while Suzanne Collins’ dystopian saga held a record for 4 and then reappeared in 2017 after a 3-year hiatus.

While Amazon categorizes The Hunger Games in the “Teen and Young Adult” genre, I would disagree. This was an important fictional story for the new century that transcends such a simple designation. The story stars a younger set of protagonists but centers on heady topics such as authoritarianism, survival, and society’s decay (in the form of a live televised blood sport where children are forced to kill each other). On some levels, it rivals Game of Thrones in scope and depth of character and does so without the need for full-on graphic violence. And a big bonus; the story is complete.

The Hunger Games’ main character defies an entire government and society designed to make her fail, and Katniss’s will to survive her brutal reality is still one of the most riveting narratives in dystopian written fiction.

– Josh

Star Wars’ Sarlacc Passes Judgment

sarlacc viz

Click image to interact

It was the cry heard around the galaxy. The 2015 film “Star War: The Force Awakens” allowed Disney to reboot the book narratives around our favorite Jedi. Decades of novels that told very different stories of what happened after the second Death Star was destroyed were essentially sidelined. A new crop of novels appeared, and I just kind of shrugged. It’s still too painful to talk about.

I couldn’t help but a have a little fun with the Star Wars galaxy and show how bloated it’s become. The merciless Sarlacc (from Return of the Jedi) has gobbled up most of the Star Wars stories to leave only the strong few.

As much as I loved Star Wars a long, long time ago, I only casually pick up some of the newer offerings. Star Wars for me just doesn’t warrant the time investment anymore. Rogue One was the last ‘story’ to really deliver in my opinion. May the Fourth be with you (and may the Force get back on track)! Enjoy the Sarlacc’s final judgments!

– Josh

 

 

Hungry for more Hunger Games?

 

hunger games viz image2

Based on Goodreads’ book data, the answer is ‘yes’.

With a prequel novel to The Hunger Games trilogy coming in May 2020, it looks like the odds are in the favor of series’ fans. Ten years after Katniss took on Panem and started a revolution, we’re now getting a tale about a young President Snow. But the jury is out on whether this villain’s story can captivate audiences the way the exploits of the heroine from District 12 did.

My quick take on The Hunger Games: This was an important story for the new century. I have a strong emotional connection to the tale, which is ostensibly a young adult series, but centers on heady topics such as authoritarianism, survival, and society’s decay. I remember when (spoiler) died. Yeah, I cried. There, I admitted it. And Katniss’s defiance of the Capitol and her will to survive a brutal televised blood sport is still one of the most riveting narratives in dystopian fiction.

All three Hunger Games stories make the list of books on Goodreads that have a million or more ratings. The first story in the trilogy has more 5-star ratings than any book on the list, save for book one of a series starring a certain boy wizard. NOTE: There are 54 books with 1M+ ratings based on 2017 data. It’s likely higher now.

It’s interesting to note that the first books of the Hunger Games and Harry Potter series were in a deadheat in 2017 for most overall ratings. Harry has since surpassed Katniss with 6.6M ratings vs. 6.1M ratings respectively as of April 2020.

Explore the “1M+ ratings book club” by clicking on the image and get ready some more Panem mayhem!

-Josh