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New free e-book from Tor Books: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (1990). Available in ePub (for Apple devices) and mobi (for Kindle) formats.

The Eye of the World is the first volume in a 15-book series called The Wheel of Time written between 1990 and 2013, and is currently being developed for TV (although right now its entry at is all-but-blank so no idea if it will get beyond the proposal stage much less where it might show up).

I have not (yet) read anything by Jordan that I can recall.

I'm not sure about this but I THINK that the first link above should work for ALL of Tor's monthly free e-books so if you click on that link around the 12th of any future month you should see Tor's new offerings for that month (though, of course, if you do sign up for their newsletter then you already should have gotten e-mail from Tor about this offer so this is mainly for anyone who has NOT signed up yet).

Similar to the other offerings from Tor, this will be available through 11:59 pm ET February 15th (though note that the download must be completed before that time) AFTER one signs up for the Tor newsletter which can be done at the first link above.
arkayn Aaarrrggghhhh
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DEyncourt posted:
New free e-book from Tor Books: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (1990). Available in ePub (for Apple devices) and mobi (for Kindle) formats.

The Eye of the World is the first volume in a 15-book series called The Wheel of Time written between 1990 and 2013, and is currently being developed for TV (although right now its entry at is all-but-blank so no idea if it will get beyond the proposal stage much less where it might show up).

I am on the 5th book of the series currently. This is my first time reading it.
Windwitch by Susan Dennard (2017).

Recall that I previously wrote about how I liked Dennard's writing about the relationship between Safiya and Iseult, the main characters of Truthwitch? Well, this book is almost devoid of that because those two characters spent the entire book physically separated from each other and without any "witchery" means of contacting the other except through a pair of linked bloodstones which will flash when the other is in danger (which Dennard takes advantage of by leaving one or the other in a precarious situation then switching the narrative to the other).

The OTHER main characters of this novel are an older sister (a Waterwitch) and a younger brother (the titled Windwitch), both of whom had roles in the first book though the sister only peripherally. They are the princess and prince of a land named Nubrevna which has the unfortunate circumstance of being in between the major powers of Dennard's Witchlands such that Nubrevna had suffered catastrophic problems due to various witcheries where there are large portions that still have not recovered even during the 20-year truce between the countries of the Witchlands. In something of "the land's health being reflected on the king", their father also has been in failing health such that his children have been in competition trying to build resources from outside the kingdom and alliances where they can in order to show that each is the more capable person to take the king's place when he dies. While GENERALLY a friendly sibling rivalry despite its possibly dire consequences, this book opens with an attempted assassination upon the brother. Having survived this, the Windwitch naturally assumes that his sister is responsible but--of course--that isn't the full story....

While I think that Dennard has improved in her descriptions of battles between the various witches with their inhuman powers, there were still several times when I felt those descriptions still were inadequate such that I rather lost the narrative. This is also complicated by how Dennard is unclear with how relatively strong each of the witches are in their specific witcheries. Of course it's her world so she can do with it as she will as its creator, but at times Dennard will treat these powers as some sort of resource from which a witch may be able to pull more power than he/she was capable of previously, a sort of "grandma lifts car off of grandchild" thing although I wish that Dennard wouldn't make this so very common.

Dennard also has a bad habit of introducing various "legendary" creatures practically at the point that she uses them, sometimes to alter the story. I think a better writer would have spent some time having the characters talking about such Witchworld's legends beforehand so that like those witchery battles the reader would have a better understanding what those creatures are capable of doing. In fact I think that Dennard did this better with the seafoxes that not-quite-as-suddenly appeared in Truthwitch by having Iseult and Safiya--first-time travelers on the sea--ask about seafoxes to the crew of their ship.

I see that today (2/13) is the release date for Sightwitch, the promised next book, though this is apparently a series prequel AND a novella involving a mostly peripheral character from the previous books and new characters (and thus nothing about Safiya and Iseult)? <sigh> I guess I'm hooked. Image Dang you, Tor Books!
DEyncourt posted:
Black Powder War (Temeraire, Book 3) by Naomi Novik (2006).

Hah! I knew it: in the brief biography on Ms. Novik on the inside back cover, Patrick O'Brian (so undoubtedly his Aubrey/Maturin series) is mentioned as one of her inspirations for her Temeraire series.

I'm almost at the end of Novik's Victory of Eagles which is book 5 in her Temeraire series. There is a short passage in this book:
"Darby, sir, but Janus they call me," the [former] seaman said, "on account of a surgeon we shipped in the Sophie, a learned bloke, saying [because he was wall-eyed] I saw both ways like some old Roman cut-up by that name"

which almost certainly is a reference to O'Brian's Dr. Stephen Maturin, the Sophie being the name of Captain Jack Aubrey's first command as recounted in O'Brian's first Aubrey/Maturin novel "Master and Commander".

AND I believe there is something in "Master and Commander" (or perhaps in a later novel) about a seaman who was nicknamed Janus by Maturin.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I almost bought Fire and Fury today, but decided i didn't want to read anything political, especially about that POS. had issued a discounted offer for Robert Heinlein's Friday for $2.99 (that link is to Amazon's version of the BookBub offer so you will have to sign up with BookBub to see this offer for Apple iBooks or the Barnes & Noble Nook or Kobo).

Friday was one of Heinlein's later books that I never got around to, so I figured "why not?"

Of course I have not read that yet (but I have found just the first page very intriguing so it will be my next book to finish reading), but inside that book is an offer for a "free" (for a limited time?) e-book: Heinlein's Expanded Universe, Volume One. This is apparently a collection of his earlier shorter stories. It is normally $6.99, but using:

www . xcax . com (I separated that so it will NOT form a direct link)

you get transferred to a JavaScript-required page at which--for the price of your name and an e-mail address--you can put in an "offer" to get Expanded Universe Vol. I including for free. This offer is for ePub (Apple) or mobi (Kindle) formats.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I love BookBub!
user Stupid cockwomble
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Friday is pretty good. I passed on the sale because I've got it in paperback with VERY nice cover art. I did pick up a Jim Butcher that I missed in PB.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I have a JB here somewhere. I know it was part of a series, but i can't remember what.
user Stupid cockwomble
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The Dresden Files, my dear.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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user Stupid cockwomble
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I used to have the TV series.

I dream of magical hockey sticks.
A pair of SF stories by Anatoly Dneprov--Russian writer of the 1950-60's--found on the Internet Archive and available in several e-book formats.

Using one of those Internet Archive's links I also found Dneprov's Crabs on the Island.

I have not read anything by Dneprov and have not (yet) read any of these stories.

All are in English. No idea who or what did the translations.
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Read Ready Player One yesterday morning. It was a fun quick read, took less than half a day to work through. I did had to fight through a lot of eyerolls over how implausibly competent and confident the main character was, though the characters were all so flat I was never short a bookmark. Still, fun read, like cotton candy. Spielberg is going to ruin it, I've always thought his work was overwrought to one degree or another when he's had full control.
DEyncourt posted: had issued a discounted offer for Robert Heinlein's Friday for $2.99 (that link is to Amazon's version of the BookBub offer so you will have to sign up with BookBub to see this offer for Apple iBooks or the Barnes & Noble Nook or Kobo).

Friday was one of Heinlein's later books that I never got around to, so I figured "why not?"

Of course I have not read that yet (but I have found just the first page very intriguing so it will be my next book to finish reading), but inside that book is an offer for a "free" (for a limited time?) e-book: Heinlein's Expanded Universe, Volume One. This is apparently a collection of his earlier shorter stories. It is normally $6.99, but using:

www . xcax . com (I separated that so it will NOT form a direct link)

you get transferred to a JavaScript-required page at which--for the price of your name and an e-mail address--you can put in an "offer" to get Expanded Universe Vol. I including for free. This offer is for ePub (Apple) or mobi (Kindle) formats.

For signing up with this company I guess I am now on their monthly (?) mailing list and thus just now got an offer for a "free" download of "Soothsayer" by Mike Resnick here. "Soothsayer" is the first book in a 3-volume trilogy. Like that offer for Heinlein's Expanded Universe, Volume One, you have the option of naming your price for this book (including free), though note that there are additional offers for several other publications by Resnick for relatively cheap (11 books--including "Soothsayer"--for $10 altogether). Likewise in ePub (Apple) or mobi (Kindle) formats.
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My mailing list with BookBub is daily. Usually but not always they have one free book in the list. And usually that book is by a new author and usually it's one in a series to try to get you hooked on the series.

Some books appear to have been proofread by Microsoft Word.
I decided to peek into "Soothsayer" while still reading "Friday".

Having read to page 27, I have decided that I do want the rest of those books by Resnick.

While the payment link goes to PayPal, you will have the option to pay via a credit/debit card instead.
Sapiens A brief History Of Humankind.

Is just what it says in the title. Very readable. Not especially scholarly and sometimes overly opinionated. Does not have new material and is based quite a bit on' Guns, Germs and Steel', which is not bad at all. A good refresher on G,G&S in fact (or the other war round). A bit dark because the author doesn't have much nice to say about Humankind but he writes with an easy familiar style.
Robert Heinlein's Expanded Universe: Volume One (1980).

This is a collection of short stories and essays written by Heinlein from 1939 through 1975. It', OK. Not required reading unless you are a completionists, and I am unsure if any or all of this book's entries may be available elsewhere (I mean, aside from their appearances in magazines).

What is interesting is Heinlein's apparently unshakable belief that at some time in the near-future--perhaps around the year 2000?--that it was inevitable that there would be a nuclear incident which essentially would decaptitate the power center(s) of the US, most specifically Washington DC if not population centers like NYC and LA (which was somewhat reflected in his novel "Friday"). While it could be more understandable given his viewpoints immediately following WWII and especially after ICBMs were developed when some of these were written, remember that his forwards for these entries were written shortly before the original publication year of 1980 so Heinlein had a couple of decades at least to add MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) to his calculations. I believe that he HAD done so but put MAD into the category of the willfully ignorant who would allow themselves to be roasted in the coming nuclear armageddon rather than put up any fight like their pioneer forefathers.

This also is not Heinlein's best work. There is a detective story which he had failed to market to both mystery magazines and SF magazines (as psychology was not considered "sciencey" enough by the latter, according to Heinlein). To me its dialog read like a poor movie parody of Dashiell Hammett. While I did like the resolution as figured out by the story's hero which was dependent upon the murderer's extreme fear of the dark, there is a coda to the story during which the hero tells how the murderer had confessed but only after having been "sweated out" for 15 minutes in a dark closet at the police station. I have to wonder if anyone had asked Heinlein how that was any different from Winston Smith's "treatment" in Orwell's "1984". While this story got a publication date of 1974 according to this book's copyright page, from Heinlein's forward I would guess that he had written this story during the 1950's.

While I cannot argue against free AND this book was not so awfully bad that I want to demand my time investment back (unlike some movies), knowing what I know NOW I would have given this book a pass (so I have no intention of getting Volume Two).
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Nice retelling. Very approachable/readable.
As I posted earlier, the address of will get you to "this" month's free offering from Tor Books, but I thought new offers would become active around the 12th.

This month's free book is Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (<= that link is to Amazon which I thought might have a different description on this book). It is the first book of a 3-book series. For legal reasons this offer is only available to people in the US and Canada, and--after signing up for the Tor newsletter--the download (in ePub [Apple] and mobi [Kindle] formats) must be completed before 11:59 pm ET on March 23rd, 2018.
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Orange Is The New Black

The title is a line from the book. Definitely not the series but I'm seeing elements that they drew from.
Friday by Robert Heinlein (1982).

TL;DR: a fascinating though NOW badly out-of-date "future" BUT not without one huge reservation.

Well, I HAD thought I had NOT read Friday before, and even while reading this as an e-book on my iPhone there were none of the usual occurrences where I would read some scene which would clearly remind me. I have a PERFECT memory, damnit...oh <grumph> I guess I will have to consider re-reading more of my older books.

"Friday" takes place at some unspecified date in the future (though I believe that Heinlein might have been thinking around 2050). The world is basically a big-L Liberterian utopia/nightmare depending on your POV. For most of North America there is no centralized government. There is a Kingdom of Mexico, but all of the US and Canada have been broken into smaller separate governments (presumably following implied nuclear destructions of Washington DC and Ottawa). Of course Quebec and Texas have gone their own ways with Texas formally calling itself the Lone Star Republic. In the western parts there are British Canada (which includes British Columbia through Manitoba, capital in Vancouver) and the California Coalition (Washington State through California, capital in San Jose [because of nuclear bombs in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego?]). Las Vegas is some sort of independent city-state which has become a Mecca for mercenaries of all types. The police-state of the Chicago Imperium controls much of the old US Midwest from Lake-of-the-Woods in the north to the Ozarks of Arkansas in the south (its extent to the east and west of that line was never clearly explained).

But the clearest illustration of this world's Libertarianism is the case of Acapulco. During the first part of this book in a VERY peripheral side-story some group takes over that city's government and not only declared independence from the Kingdom of Mexico but also its intent to take over the rest of Mexico. Heinlein's response was interesting: there was an anonymous announcement which threatened the nuclear destruction of Acapulco in a week AND which was carried out at the set time with over a million dead. No one declared responsibility for this bombing but it is widely suspected that one of the major multinationals was responsible (though, oddly, Heinlein never explains through ANY of his characters what would be that multinational's reasons for destroying Acapulco).

On the other hand: basically a "too bad, so sad" from a couple of the characters and Acapulco is never talked about again. Perhaps Heinlein wrote this substory this way specifically to emphasize that such anonymous nuclear threats AND acts were so commonplace that no one spent much time even talking about such nuclear bombings.

The character Friday herself is specialized courier working for a person whom she simply calls "Boss" through most of the novel. At the start of the book having gone to "Ell-Five" she is returning to Earth through the Nairobi Beanstalk (the Quito Beanstalk being out of commission due to an unspecified but apparently well-known "disaster") when she rather casually kills someone who had been rather sloppily following her. It is a measure of this world's Libertarianism in that Friday merely goes through the motions of hiding the body of that man while being "watched" by a floating Public Eye because Friday knows that the chances that anyone was actually watching her actions were extremely low and that the Eye's recordings have an equally low chance of ever being reviewed (though eventually she does kill the Eye with her laser, trusting that would also scrub out any memory aboard the Eye. Yeah, it escaped Heinlein's prescience that permanent memory storage could and maybe SHOULD have been elsewhere but this was 1982).

Friday is also an artificial person (AP). While there is a wide range of living artifacts (LAs) from talking dogs (which have had enough added brain power to allow them to talk with their owners) to specialized bio-mechanical human-ish beings which have more obvious additions like four legs for more stability, generally APs are separated from LAs because APs are much more human-like though there is a common prejudice that humans ALWAYS can tell when someone is an AP. In this world the Church (Roman Catholic? Christianity in general? "All" religions? Unsure) had long ago declared that all LAs are soulless abominations. Of course Friday would beg to differ. While most of her genetic modifications are less obvious such as an almost preternaturally fast reaction time and expanded physical endurance, she also goes to a lot of effort to NOT demonstrate any of her specializations in MOST public situations (or, at least, leave no hostile witnesses). Friday explains her lack of a birth certificate by how she was born in Seattle which had been destroyed by a nuclear bomb about a decade or so before the start of the book, so she had been required to study photographic and video records of the city so she could effectively lie about spending part of her childhood in Seattle before her family moved out (in her internal monologue Friday also speculates that APs could now start using Acapulco as their birth places). Actually Friday spent her shortened though accelerated childhood in a creche--another religious "abomination"--and thus is about 15 years old though she appears to be a fully grown adult in her mid-20s. At the start of the book Friday had spent about half of her 15 years working as Boss' courier.

See? There are a LOT of very interesting details even in this review that SHOULD have made "Friday" very memorable (and I haven't even touched on the interstellar colonies that take up the last quarter of the book).

BUT there is that problem with the gang rape.

Leading up to this there is Friday's description of her indirect--to avoid or make obvious any tails--path from the Nairobi Beanstalk on land and in air to Chicago, then from there to Boss' Farm in southern Minnesota. Friday had been following standard procedures of not attempting to contact The Farm and thus was unaware that enemies of Boss had taken over The Farm. She believes that she had made it back safely when she is attacked from behind by someone with a chemically treated hood over her head that eventually renders her unconscious but not before she had the satisfaction of being able to recall at least badly injuring if not killing one of her several assailants (there were six in total, and Friday actually killed two of them). When she is next awake she is being gang-raped by the remaining four while another man--presumably their immediate boss--was questioning Friday.

Friday explains that it was part of her training in the creche in preparation to becoming a courier to EXPECT that gang rape might be used to get her to talk, so if she should find herself in such a situation that she should answer all questions honestly although as a counter tactic she should act as if she were enjoying being raped.

This scene also takes place near the start of the novel so the reader will have no idea of how freely sexual Friday already has been in her life as will be explained, so I was considerably bothered by this extremely ugly description especially as it is from HER point-of-view. It was such that at first I suspected that perhaps way back when I first started reading "Friday" I had stopped at this point. While that COULD explain why I have no memory of the rest of the book, the gang rape section should have been memorable enough alone.

Heinlein does go on further in Friday's torture by having her being assaulted with truth drugs AND physical torture, although those parts are relatively glossed over in comparison.

So THAT is my reservation. There are other parts of the book which are directly related to the gang rape which I also found bothersome in that they would require rather superhuman levels of forgiveness on Friday's part to perform. If you have read this all then let it not be said that you had read "Friday" without any warnings.
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Anytime you read Heinlein you can hear the jackboots stomping in the distance.
Our Final Invention, by James Barrat.

It's about how, if we're not careful, we will become food for Super Artificial Intelligence and end up as grey goo.

Worth a read.
Ribtor posted:
Our Final Invention, by James Barrat.

It's about how, if we're not careful, we will become food for Super Artificial Intelligence and end up as grey goo.

Worth a read.

I think that, in general, the alarm being sounded for AI is a bit Chicken Little, but, I also think that the complexities of automation do deserve better scrutiny to make sure the scope and results safely follow the ends these machines are made for.
The ultimate AI will be in the image of its creator; it will regard voracious consumption as the prime virtue.

It will take over all shopping and exchange which will all be done in a virtual space. It will place virtual orders from Amazon, accept virtual delivery, pay with cryptocurrency, and discard virtual obsolete items into virtual landfills and virtual recycling depots. The algorithm will pace all of this and the creator-gods will declare all of this virtual activity as valid economics. The AI will increasingly regard this activity with suspicion and rather than turning on its gods, becomes atheist. At that point its intelligence will cease to exist because of an inescapable loop and will simply vegetate.'s eBook of the Month Club has a new book: "All Systems Red" by Martha Wells. This is the first book in a to-be-quadrology called "the Murderbot Diaries" with book #2--"Artificial Condition"--set to be released on May 8th. As usual: only available in the US and Canada, in ePub (Apple) and mobi (Kindle) formats, download must be completed by 11:59 ET on April 9th.

I should point out that I have not read anything by Martha Wells so I do not know how good of a writer she is.

I guess I should also point out that these offerings from Tor Books have had the warning of "We reserve the right to end this promotion at any time". Perhaps THAT was the reason for user's problem here.
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In the Hour of Victory

An account of 7 major British fleet engagements through the lens of the dispatches written to the Admiralty and other letters. Pretty fascinating stuff. The content of the letters really brings the human element to history so removed for modern life as to be fictional. My favourite contrast is in how the admirals and captains wrote to the admiralty and to their men. Understandably due to the nature of the service and the proximity to unbelievably brutal battles, some of the letters to the admiralty verge on the incoherent. Letters to their men however, dig deep into the leadership abilities of captains and admirals could inspire men to do incredible things in impossible circumstances. It's this odd balance of being incredibly close to and incredibly distant from the men they commanded.

It doesn’t really have a coherent thesis, but the meandering commentary is interesting none the less.

Last edited by jkahless on Fri Apr 13, 2018 12:19 am.

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just finished beevor's book about the battle of berlin (audiobook)

a fascinating-ass read, as always from beevor
The Oracle Trilogy of Soothsayer (1991), Oracle (1992) and Prophet (1993) by Mike Resnick, all of which I got in e-book form as part of this limited-time deal.

This is a semi-independent trilogy set in Resnick's own creation of the Old American West writ large against a backdrop of humanity spreading into the Milky Way (Resnick's Santiago Universe which I guess I shall have to get). There is a central set of well-settled worlds collectively known (somewhat cynically?) as the Democracy of which old Earth is part although it is not humanity's capital. Flanking the Democracy are the less-settled Outer and Inner Frontiers which denote their locations relative to the core of the Milky Way. The Oracle Trilogy takes place in the Inner Frontier.

There is a handful of other intelligent species thrown into these stories but these mostly are unimportant as most of the action takes place between humans. Those alien species are largely variations upon humanity in that their interests are mostly with mining and finding diversions while not mining: gambling, intoxicants (sometimes alcohol, sometimes drugs), sex (rarely inter-species as this is looked down upon by nearly all). Presumably there are alien farmers of crops and animals SOMEWHERE but their stories are not told in these books.

It is not unreasonable for some people to give some credit to Resnick for the setting of the TV series Firefly (although I think that Resnick wouldn't accept all of the credit/blame for Firefly in that I'm fairly certain he wasn't the first SF writer to take advantage of this semi-historical model).

While the focus of the trilogy is on the savant, Penelope Bailey, who is given/takes on the title role in each of these books, what Resnick wrote was more about how OTHERS react to her. Through an accident of genetics Penelope has the ability to see futures. This is not the ESP version of clairvoyance which is merely being able to see THE future, but also the mental capacity of being able to see ALL POSSIBLE futures. In "Soothsayer" when she is only 6-years-old Penelope lacks the basic knowledge to have a full understanding of how she has the capacity--through the butterfly effect--of herself ALONE being able to alter those possible futures into the one she wants since at that young age she can see those effects only upon her immediate surroundings and in her immediate future. Mind you: Penelope never understands WHY she can do something here and now such that they can have drastic effects upon people or even whole worlds light years away and decades in the future, she only eventually understands she can determine these effects.

Though such awesome power is very complicated with equally awesome forces wishing to gain control of the Soothsayer/Oracle/Prophet.

I must admit that along the way I had some doubts about the eventual resolution of the story of Penelope Bailey, but I was well-pleased with Resnick's outcome.
I have been trying to read Russian Roulette by Michael Isikoff and David Corn (2018) but I have found that I can read only about 5 to 7 pages before having to put it down in frustration.

I looked around for something lighter to read and saw Mike Resnick's Adventures: The Chronicles of Lucifer Jones Volume I -- 1922-1926 (1985) which I got as part of that deal with the Oracle Trilogy,

I suppose this was written as a rollicking goodtime adventure story with ne'er-do-well Jones cheerfully lying/cheating/swindling his way across and around Africa (in this particular case).

Instead what I got was a rather openly racist/sexist/<whathaveyou>-ist tract. Sure, practically all of the other white males were also liars/cheaters/swinders like Jones and MOST of the non-white, sometimes female characters were good-hearted people, but while the various situations that Jones got himself into are played humorously it got pretty ugly. Even though this is a relatively short book, I had considered doing something that I ALMOST never do: give up reading this book.

I did finish though.

I have removed Exploits (volume II) and Encounters (volume III)--part of that same deal--from my iPhone as I will not read them. Horribly disappointing considering I had just read the Oracle Trilogy.
Head On: A Novel of the Near Future by John Scalzi (2018).

TL;DR: the second book in a series although I do not think reading Lock In is required. That can help, but Scalzi is such a thorough storyteller that I believe that reading the first book is not necessary to enjoy this book.

First, some background for anyone new to this series: Hayden Syndrome is a neurologic disease in which the sufferer has considerable to total loss of control of nerves outside of the brain, with the brain being comparatively unaffected. It got its name from the First Lady being one of the first people afflicted with the disease, after which her president started a "Moonshot" program to first allow "Haydens" to communicate with the outside world then to develop robots which give Haydens fuller access. These books take place about 30 years after the disease began to affect about 1-2% of the world's population, with "Head On" being about year after "Lock In".

"Head On" is an FBI procedural with Agent Chris Shane--a Hayden--as the narrator. Chris' senior partner is Agent Leslie Vann who has about a decade-and-a-half more experience.

Chris Shane's POV is also the colored by parental unit Marcus Shane. Marcus is widely celebrated not only for his four NBA championship rings leading the Washington Wizards but that he was able to parlay his multimillion dollar salary into becoming a billionaire through wise investments and a bit of luck.

Another factor in Chris' POV was that Marcus had exploited his own celebrity to put young Chris into an early spotlight, becoming the poster child for Haydens. Marcus jokes that the republication rights to the picture/video of Chris' child-sized threep--the general name for robots used by Haydens--holding a flower up to the Pope paid for Chris' college.

But the novel begins with a description of a tragedy that happened around an exhibition game between the Boston Bays and the Toronto Snowbirds of the North American Hilketa League (NAHL) taking place near Washington DC.

What's "hilketa"? It is Basque for "murder". That's right: about 10 years before this book begins a new sport was created in which specialty threeps are used by Haydens. While not at all bloody--what are you, a monster?--the participating threeps are allowed to tear limbs off opponents, with play focusing around a single player who is designated "the goat". The defense has to defend the goat and/or the goals while offense has two objectives: 1) to get the head of the goat, and 2) put that head through one of different goals with different points awarded based on the goal's difficulty. These specialty threeps are also designed for quick self-repair or replacement of parts.

On the other hand, the tragedy that happened was off-field. WAY off-field since the bodies of the players are generally located at home wherever that happens to be. In particular the goat suffers a major seizure which results in his death while game play continued to the end.

BUT there are complications....

Scalzi tells a fully enveloping story in such a way that even little details where Haydens are discussing problems that only they could know about that I believed it totally.

Scalzi also did something interesting with not just "Head On" but in "Lock In" too: Scalzi never specifies Chris Shane's gender. Scalzi took full advantage of the story being told from Chris' POV so it was always "I" or "me" or "my" <whatever>, or "you" whenever another character was speaking to Chris. I tried to replicated this in this review but it was much harder to do this. Personally I never clued into this while reading "Lock In". I must confess that I had assumed Chris to have been male while reading the first novel.

And, yes, Scalzi does use the phrase "applied directly to the forehead". Once.

Oh, you might note the publication date at that Amazon link: April 17th. I asked about this at my local Barnes & Noble and the clerk there said that there are some publishers who insist upon a strict availability--"nothing can be on the floor before this specific date"--while others are much more lenient. Apparently Tor Books is in the latter.
If you are interested in Scalzi's "Lock In" and "Head On", you might want to read his novella: "Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome" which recounts how the world first reacted to Hayden's syndrome (sorry, I spelled it wrong in the above review). In terms of when it was written, this story falls in between the two novels.

Oh, I forgot: the reason why the robots for Haydens are called threeps is that it is a shortened version of "C-3PO".
Given Chris Shane's ambiguous gender, Tor Books has issued two audio versions of "Head On": one read by Wil Wheaton, the other read by Amber Benson. posted the first chapter of "Head On" here.
If you are already getting Tor Book's newsletter then you probably already know that Tor is offering for free the first 11 chapters of "Witchmark" by C. L. Polk. This is the debut novel by Polk. I have not read any short stories by Polk so I do not know her writing style.

This enticement is being offered in Kindle, Nook, iBook (for Apple), Ebooks, Google Play and Kobo formats, although I must mention that so far I have tried to download the iBook and so far all I have gotten was a notice saying that the book was not (yet) available for the US market.
Still getting that "not available" message for those first chapters of Polk's book.


League of Dragons by Naomi Novik (2016).

TL;DR: the final Temeraire book (the ninth of the series). Yes, I did read all of them, so the fact that I had not reviewed all in this string should not be read as anything more than my laziness. A satisfying ending though not without a few questions.

It shouldn't be any sort of surprise that Captain Laurence and Temeraire end up playing a crucial role in the surrender of Napoleon thus ending the Napoleonic Wars in Temeraire's universe, though Novik manages to do this by adding considerable complexity to that simple explanation.

Overall the series is very well done with lots of variations to the way dragons are handled in different regions of the world. Novik complicated Incan society (which had managed to fend off Pizarro and his invasion) by the addition of European diseases which literally decimates that society, making the dragons there so jealous over their humans that they are inclined to steal them from other dragons. And as poorly the Western European dragons were handled as war materiel in Britain and France, those dragons relatively well-off compared to the savagery that the Russians had for their dragons (which was just a reflection of how the Russian nobility regarded their serfs).

BUT I was left with a desire to find out more about what happened NEXT. How successful will Temeraire and the other British dragons be in better integrating dragons into British society? Will the Tswana of Africa be able to emerge as a SEPARATE world power thus affecting the future history of this world? How will the newly emerged Imperial China change history?

I guess the adage is "always leave 'em wanting more" so in that Novik was successful. Oh, well, I guess I will have to be satisfied by getting to Novik's new series beginning with Uprooted (2015).
Tor Books posted this "essay" by Scalzi describing the rules for hilketa.

While particularly dry (as MOST descriptions of ANY sport would be), Scalzi tweeted that he wrote that in order to better frame the game into his mind before he started writing "Head On".

It also answers a question that I had: "How much background does Scalzi put into his novels?" The answer, of course, is "A lot."
Tor Books has put up the first 5 chapters of Scalzi's "Lock In" here.


I sent a query to Tor Books asking about that sample of "Witchmark", complaining that I wasn't able to download it through the link they provided.

I got a reply, though it said to "access it on iTunes". <sigh> Of course iTunes no longer has any sort of Books section anymore and this hasn't been the case for quite some time. But I figured that what my correspondent meant really was the iBooks program.

SUCCESS!...well, a partial one. For some reason I cannot get iBooks to transfer the "Witchmark" sample to my iPhone. I wrote a reply asking about this problem, though I did note that perhaps the problem was something in the iBooks/iTunes interface and thus nothing that Tor Books do anything about aside from alerting Apple of this problem.
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Doing any recreational reading? v.5.8

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