Jan 16

Scientific American on Exordia

Exordia by Seth Dickinson

“In Seth Dickinson’s 2015 debut novel, The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a fiercely willful woman from a colonized island plots her revenge against a brutal empire. This fascination with weighing the value of specific lives against a greater good also powers his new book, a mind-shredding first-contact epic. A spaceship or weapon or something has appeared in Kurdistan, where its mysteries get puzzled over by a sprawling cast. There are nukes, alien brain locks, intergalactic warfare and a scope that keeps expanding long after the stakes seem clear. This thrilling novel grips hardest when Dickinson’s characters must reason through the science of seemingly impossible phenomena.” — Scientific American

Dec 21

Wall Street Journal on System Collapse

System Collapse by Martha Wells

“The world in this current timeline has been a bit bleak lately. Fortunately for readers of alternate futures, the writer Martha Wells has delivered to us a hyperblast of joy: another wonderfully delightful offbeat adventure of the artificial consciousness readers have come to know as Murderbot.

The Murderbot Diaries started in 2017 with “All Systems Red” and reach their seventh installment with “System Collapse.” These compact, delightful stories are set in a downbeat future in which corporations control humankind’s interstellar colonies and keep many in lives of servitude. An even worse fate is life as a SecUnit, a Security Unit cyborg usually tasked with killing troublesome people and controlled by a module that eliminates free will. Our first-person narrator has been crafty enough to hack itself free—but instead of taking revenge on its creators and destroying every terrible human it encounters, this SecUnit (which decides to call itself Murderbot) would rather watch TV.

If you’re expecting a fast-moving android-becomes-human emotional arc, you’re going to be disappointed. Murderbot learns a little more about humans in each book but mostly remains grumpy, bored and uncomfortable when forced to spend time with its all-flesh counterparts.

In “System Collapse,” the Barish-Estranza corporation is offering to help the colonists of a planet whose machines have been contaminated by alien tech. But the company’s proposal to relocate the colonists sounds almost too good to be true. (It is.) Working with a cognitively powerful (and equally testy) spaceship called ART and a few human friends, our cyborg hero must fight off berserk robots, keep the good humans safe from the bad ones, and figure out how to convince the colonists that the corporation is not on their side. Murderbot also suffers frozen moments of human-style post-traumatic stress—all the more mysterious because the episodes seem to have been caused by an incident that never happened.

The SecUnit remains every bit as snarky and funny as it has been in the last six books, the perfectly conceived action as nearly nonstop as ever. (And we finally get to see the benefits of Murderbot’s TV addiction.) If there is anything negative to say about “System Collapse,” it’s that there doesn’t seem to be an actual system collapse. And sometimes the bits with humans emoting over things go on a little long (but that might be the Murderbot in me talking).

Outside of this series, Ms. Wells has written many other excellent books, including “Witch King,” which was reviewed here earlier this year. If you need something light, a little violent and laugh-out-loud hilarious, dive into this series: You may find that you have more in common with Murderbot than you think.” — Wall Street Journal

Dec 18

Alexander Skarsgård to star in Murderbot Diaries series from Apple!

Martha Wells’ bestselling Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning book series The Murderbot Diaries, is being adapted by Chris and Paul Weitz (About a Boy) and Paramount Television Studios.

Apple TV+ has picked up 10 episodes starring and executive produced by Emmy winner Alexander Skarsgård (Succession). The Weitz brothers are writing, directing and producing under their Depth of Field banner. Andrew Miano also executive produces alongside for Depth of Field. David S. Goyer executive produces alongside Keith Levine for Phantom Four. Wells will serve as consulting producer. Wells is represented by Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass Literary Agency and WME.

Dec 13

Witch King is a NYT Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2023 pick!

Witch King by Martha Wells is on the New York Times Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2023 list!

“Martha Wells’s WITCH KING (Tordotcom, 414 pp., $28.99) is an immersive throwback to a beloved species of 1990s fantasy doorstop, full of cataclysmic intrigues between mostly immortal families, rounded out with a list of dramatis personae and a map. The titular Witch King, Kai, wakes from an enchanted sleep to find that he and his best friend, Ziede, have been betrayed and imprisoned, and that Ziede’s wife, Tahren, is missing. They escape and embark on a quest to find Tahren and root out the conspiracy that separated the couple.

Wells is working at the height of her powers here, and it’s relaxing to be carried along for a ride in the company of such a phenomenal storyteller.”

Dec 11

Shelf Awareness on The Olympian Affair

The Olympian Affair by Jim Butcher

“A secret superweapon capable of wiping out entire populations tips a world into full warfare in the action-packed The Olympian Affair, second in the steampunk Cinder Spires series from Jim Butcher (The Aeronaut’s Windlass).

Humanity has long lived in the Spires, high above the dangers of the planet’s surface. Fleets of airships sail among them, powered by ether and carrying out trade–and, of course, war. The Spire of Aurora’s armada has unleashed a new weapon that has completely destroyed some smaller outposts, and it won’t be long before they take on more ambitious targets. Spire Albion will need all its diplomatic force at the upcoming trade summit at Spire Olympia in order to gather allies to stand against them, but there may be dissent growing in the Auroran ranks. Not everyone is comfortable with wielding Spire-destroying weapons.

The result is a thrilling tale of high-stakes duels, monstrous creatures, and diplomatic negotiations featuring a wide cast of appealing characters, including some talkative cats. Although this is the second in the series, new readers and those who haven’t read The Aeronaut’s Windlass since its release in 2015 will quickly be able to orient themselves. The multiple plot threads, including battles between airships and opponents facing each other down with crossed blades, sometimes move around so much that a chapter’s cliffhanger may dangle for some time, but any frustration is purely due to the successful creation of suspense. Readers will be eager to see where the series goes next.” — Shelf Awareness

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