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.

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe.

– 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

 

The Beginning of the Murderbot Diaries is Unexpected and Entertaining

Ok, this was a welcome distraction and promising introduction to a great character, the murderbot.

This is a novella that goes by fast and has echoes of Alien and Lost in Space. The action is brief but highly entertaining (“This is how we fight: throw ourselves at each other and see whose parts give out first.”) and the story spends its time letting us get to know this cyborg killing machine from a first-person perspective (It’s called the Murderbot Diaries). Saying anything about murderbot or its personality would be spoiling about 80% of the fun.

The story generally is about murderbot’s perception of humans and what it wants for itself. The story hinges on you caring about murderbot, which it succeeds in, with wry humor, inner monologues that are laugh-out-loud, and the portrayal of the bot’s progression toward trusting the humans.

It’s all too brief and the ending is just satisfactory for me. I loved how murderbot shined as the hero but the last major action scene felt clipped as the reader moves to the feel-good end. But I’m looking forward to more of this character in the next adventure.

SPOILERS:

A story about a bot that is about as shy as the most introverted human, loves its day-time TV shows, and is indifferent to its job (the Company buys the cheapest parts, and it makes for crappy working conditions). I got to say, this was the last thing I was expecting from this story, but it’s hilarious.

The humor: “Yes, talk to Murderbot about its feelings. The idea was so painful I dropped to 97 percent efficiency. I’d rather climb back into Hostile One’s mouth.”

The pathos: “Maybe this was how murderbots died. You lose function, go offline, but parts of you keep working, organic pieces kept alive by the fading energy in your power cells.”

The action: The above quote about running into battle and see who gets shots up the most and fails first.

The drama: “You have to kill me.” (tear jerker).

Making a friend: “My insides melted. That’s the only way I could describe it. After a minute, when I had my expression under control, I cleared the face plate and had it and the helmet fold back into my armor.”

Being a badass: “You used combat overrride modules to make the DeltFall SecUnits behave like rogues. If you think a real rogue SecUnit still has to answer your questions, the next few minutes are going to be an education for you.”

I loved the ‘moment’ when the humans have to figure out why Deltfall is all dead, and if they can trust their murderbot, who they now realize has been a hacked bot with free will the whole time. Murderbot leaps off the bed and grabs the augmented human by the throat. Hubsystem had lied to the humans and said murderbot was immobilized, but it wasn’t and it still chose not to hurt them (aside from this little demonstration for the one guy it didn’t like.)

Yes, I envisioned this bot as a female (even though it’s asexual) and the main reason the story holds up is how humorous the bot is. This is a Hugo- and Nebula-Award winning novella, which I didn’t know going in, and I’d honestly say without the main character being as intriguing as she/it is and the growing connection she has to her clients, the plot would be kind of generic. But that didn’t detract me from being entertained by this neurotic, sometimes heroic, binge-watching little bot.

4 of 5 stars.

Now off to more adventures with murderbot!

-Josh

 

Committed? Speculative Fiction’s Longest Series

We took a look at some of the most celebrated fantasy and sci-fi series in contemporary speculative fiction. Seeing the results made us feel a bit better about our sometimes soul-torturing decisions on what series to leave off our bucket list.

This isn’t a definitive list, just a conversation starter. We sourced it from a 2017 blog post at Adam Whitehead’s blog The Wertzone, so it may be a bit dated. But don’t worry, “A Song of Ice and Fire” (aka Game of Thrones) won’t be changing anytime soon…

Let the debate begin over what was left off and let the celebration begin on getting one step closer to deciding which series are worth the commitment!

– Josh

sff long series

Click image to interact

What Do Our Choices in Thrillers Say About Us? Goodreads’ Mystery & Thriller Week

Goodreads just listed their top 100 Mysteries & Thrillers based on popularity as of this month. What that translates into basically is how many people clicked a star rating for a particular book. The more ratings, the more popular the book. Not too scientific, but it gives readers a baseline comparison in the genre (unless some ratings are spammed…).

While getting the crowd’s opinion for gauging pop culture taste is a tried-and-true tradition, it bears examining fan faves here a little bit more closely.

I present an only *slightly* deeper look at popularity on Goodreads using number of reviews (rather than ratings) and avg. rating for a book. I think it’s a much better gauge of quality of a book (whether you love it or hate it) to give it a review. It’s hard to fake reading a book when there’s a review with it, but some fake reviews likely still exist.

So what do these picks say about our taste in thriller fiction? I’ll let you decide.

Goodreads’ full list can be found here.

– Josh

 

thrillers_# reviews

 

thrillers_avg rating

 

A Dark Sci-Fi Tale That Unhinges Its Characters and Readers

Spoilers neatly quarantined in their own section.

Evie, Mas and Don. What a trio.

The free short story “Skinner Box” is complex, holding more emotional resonance and depth than some novels. It shows the nature of human relationships when in isolation (apt timing during COVID-19) and such layered levels of deception that the reader must pay keen attention, unravel the different meanings, and contemplate the implications.

In short, it’s damn good. I read it twice to appreciate the nuances and the agendas of the characters, all thinking they know the true mission they have been sent on in this interplanetary trip through the solar system.

This story is filled with trauma, of the abuses, physical and emotional, we visit upon our closest loved ones. The abuse is essential to the story. It’s not just senseless violence (this story is rated M), and it plays out in ways critical to understanding what the crew is attempting. The aha moment at the end forces the reader to view the violence in an entirely new light.

Everything ties neatly with the technology experiments taking place on board the ship (the reward and punishment in the skinner box trials, conditioning the nanites) and the desires of the people on board. It’s nothing short of brilliant how the story can be read completely differently the second time. It’s dark sci-fi at its best and Carole Johnstone is one of my new must-read authors. This tale would also fit nicely in an animated short-story anthology like Netflix’s LOVE DEATH + ROBOTS.

What perhaps is the story’s crowning achievement in my mind is the acceptance each character has of his or her fate and embraces it despite the risks, understanding that freedom is just an illusion.

SPOILERS:

Don’t do it, don’t read the excerpt that follows. It gives it all away. Come back after you read the story.

>>>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>
>

I am an unsupervised machine learning model with a continuously learning AI program.
I am bio-evolution.
I am one-shot learning.
I am the singularity.
“I’m transhuman.”

This was an extraordinary reveal. It was all about Evie. She was the test subject, she was the potential answer to solve space travel for one evil corporation. I don’t know what the literary mechanic is called when a character’s whole reality comes undone, but I could feel Evie’s anxiety as the understanding of her existence dawned on her.

So the mission was to figure out how to make interplanetary travel possible with long periods of isolation. Human-to-human didn’t work and robot-to-human didn’t work. What would? Perhaps an AI that thinks it’s human AND can resist the stimuli (whether it’s abuse, or other harsh conditions) and maintain its ‘programming’. Evie thinks that the ‘other man’ – Boris the cyborg on a previous mission, or her human lover Mas on this mission – is the test subject. She’s trying to see if they’ll do her bidding in killing her husband for her. Why? Don is beating and raping her, but thinking it out logically, doesn’t that make the abuse a part of the test conditions to make the cyborg sympathetic and the lover angry? It’s one giant twisted and perverse scientific experiment to make long-haul space travel a reality.

But Evie is really the one being tested. First with the cyborg Boris, who agrees to murder, but then self-terminates as his programming dictated; then with a man she develops feelings for and wants to protect by committing the murder herself (so Mas doesn’t have to).

It’s an unsettling look into the human soul and how we can deceive one another. Not to mention our ambitions at playing God. In the end, it’s not just the nanites in a skinner box, but the crew as well in their dysfunctional ship.

5 of 5 stars.

– Josh