Tuesday, May 3, 2016

6 Books with Fantasy Author Todd Lockwood

Todd Lockwood is best known as an artist. You will likely recognize his work from the covers of Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, Tobias Buckell's Crystal Rain, Marie Brennan's A Natural History of Dragons, and any number of other pieces of science fiction and fantasy art. What you may not have known is that Lockwood has published several short stories and his first novel, The Summer Dragon, comes out today.

Todd shares his "6 Books" with us... 

1. What book are you currently reading?

It would be safer to ask what books I’d love to be reading. There is a stack of unread books next to my desk. Most of what I get to read is manuscripts I will be painting covers for—many of them I might read anyway, but I’m not going to count those. In my current to-be-read pile:

Iranian Rappers and Persian Porn: A Hithchiker’s Adventures in the New Iran, by Jamie Maslin
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
The Ultra Thin Man, by Patrick Swenson

2. What upcoming book are you really excited about?

Unfettered II, from Grim Oak Press, edited by Shawn Speakman. The first volume of tales, Unfettered, was an anthology assembling some of the top writers in the industry, the proceeds from which went to pay off Shawn's staggering medical bills from a bout with cancer. Unfettered II will do the same thing for other authors who find themselves in dire monetary straits. It’s a truly noble and grateful thing Shawn is doing with this series. Plus, the stories are varied and fascinating, as the writers are unfettered from any theme.

3. Is there a book you're currently itching to re-read?

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig. It stunned me when I read it as a young man, and I’ve never really stopped thinking about it. I’d love to revisit that with a couple more decades of experience behind me.

4. How about a book you've changed your mind about - either positively or negatively?

Dune, by Frank Herbert. I read it three times, each time because friends insisted that I’d appreciate it this time. I liked it less each time I read it. I found it pretentious and populated with unlikable characters. I’ve since come to appreciate it for its visionary achievement, its insight as metaphor into our world, and the influence it’s had even on my own work, unbeknownst to me.

5. What's one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

My favorite book of all time would have to be To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Perfection. But probably the author who had the most impact on my writing (no one book) would be Stephen King, because he writes people so well—subject matter entirely aside.

6. And speaking of that, what's *your* latest book, and why is it awesome?

My latest novel, The Summer Dragon: First Book of The Evertide, is also my first. It’s my debut. It tells the tale of Maia, a young woman whose proud family raises dragons for the political war machine of the prevailing empire. It begins a trilogy that’s equal parts heroic fantasy, science fiction, philosophy, and politics, exploring themes of honesty and humanity, in an action-filled adventure. With dragons. Lots of dragons. It’s getting lots of advance praise, and I can’t wait for it to release on May 3rd.

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Writer / Editor at Adventures in Reading since 2004, Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2015. Minnesotan.      

Monday, May 2, 2016

NERD MUSIC Album Spotlight: Police Heartbreaker by Absolute Valentine

Those of you who follow my weekend playlists know that Absolute Valentine is one of my favorite new synthwave artists. And guess what--the new album on Lazerdiscs is super dope! Plus it's got a great retro sci-fi theme to it, tailor-made for those of us who get that nostalgic feeling for the science fiction of our childhoods. Listen and enjoy!

Nanoreviews [TV]: 2015-2016 Speculative TV Shows

I have been busy fulfilling my 2016 resolution to watch more TV. This task has been made incredibly easy by the plethora of great speculative shows that have hit the airwaves, not to mention all the different methods of viewing them. Having recently broken up with my cable service, I am finally experiencing the joy that is Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon video streaming in this golden age of television.

In the spirit of my resolution, I have vowed to be less prejudiced when it comes to selecting which shows to watch, but I still have some criteria.  Mainly, no romances or supernatural beings (which are usually romances anyway), no superheroes (I'm burnt out), and the show must stay consistently below incredibly on the cheese-o-meter (tiny surges are tolerable in small doses).

So, without further ado, here are some minute reviews of what I've been watching and what’s next on my list:

The Expanse (SyFy): Space Opera.

Though a slow starter, The Expanse quickly became one of my all time favorite TV shows. The politics, while complex, was surprisingly easy to follow, the set was magnificent, and the acting superb. The only character I didn’t really care for was Miller. Thomas Jane’s stereotypically suave but mildly corrupt cop routine seems out of place in this world. But pretty much every other character blew my socks off, most notably Dawes, Holden, Nagata, and my favorite, Amos Burton. I am so excited for Season 2. Can. Not. Wait. Score: 9/10

The Shannara Chronicles (MTV): Heroic Fantasy.

The cheese is, at times, strong with this one. For the record, I know nothing about these books, except that they are Lord of the Rings-ish and the show definitely reflects that sentiment. But MTV pulled out all the stops here. It is filmed in New Zealand so the scenery is beautiful, and the CG is pretty spot on. At it’s heart Shannara is a show about teenagers in a love triangle,
but it hits some high notes along the way. The show opens with one of the main female characters training for and secretly competing in an all-male warrior competition, which, of course, she becomes the first female to win. The show has some powerful female characters all around and the relationships between characters are surprisingly complex. For the record, I am absolutely obsessed with Eretria. She is no nonsense and can hold her own, often having to bail the others out. But through her tough exterior she is also selfless and caring. Score: 7/10

The Magicians (SyFy): Urban Fantasy.

Watching truly great book to TV adaptions like this (and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell) makes me doubly realized how some have really dropped the ball (coughGameOfThrones). What truly amazed me about The Magicians was how it deviated so far from the books at times, but never truly lost the narrative. My TV buddy is a non-reader and in explaining the book to TV differences, I was always able to justify why the show did what it did which surprised me because I’m usually pretty bratty about that kind of stuff. Each character except Alice is nearly perfectly cast, but Hale Appleman as Eliot wins for most perfectly cast adaptation character ever.  I do have to put a disclaimer here though, as this nanoreview does not contain the final episode, which I am refusing to watch. I thought we might get away without the god awful rape scene but I read the finale recap and discovered that not only do they air the rape scene, but they chose to make the woman dote on the event (not in the book) and have it drive her further arc (also not in the book). They also seem to have disregarded Alice’s great sacrifice all together, removed Eliot's sexuality, and seemingly negated everything good I have said about them. So, I’m not watching it. Head, meet sand. All but the finale score: 8/10

X-Files (Fox): Science Fiction.

I loved every second of this reboot. It was funny and at times moving, but always incredibly self aware. It goes without saying that Anderson and Duchovny have more on-screen chemistry than should be possible, and it is as strong now as ever. The only thing I didn’t like was the William story line. I guess they had to at least bring it up but it was gut wrenching at times and never got resolved. And speaking of not resolving things, how about that finale?! I loved it actually, and while it may seem like a major cliff hanger, I found it oddly satisfying because everyone finally saw what Mulder has been saying all along. Score: 8/10

Not necessarily speculative, but still relevant:

Mr. Robot (USA): Drama.

Mic drop.

No really, I don’t know what else to say about this show. First, I am shocked and impressed that it aired on USA. Mr. Robot is testament to the true nature of this golden age of television, which is a cascade of high quality material without regard to network or viewing medium. When I try to tell people about Mr. Robot, the words that come out of my mouth sound hollow and dull in comparison. “It’s a show about hackers, and it makes hacktivism seem tangible, and its kind of like Anonymous” only scratches the surface. Saying too much will give it all away. So if you haven’t watched it, do so now, even if you have to pay for it (like I did), it's worth every penny. Score: 10/10

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS): Satire.

I’ve only started watching Full Frontal. It’s a short, satirical topic show starring Daily Show alum Samantha Bee. Bee’s stage presence is slightly awkward at times, but the show is funny and the content is extremely relevant. Feminist and liberal in nature, Full Frontal is informative and entertaining. You can get a pretty good taste of what appears on the show from its Facebook pageScore: 7/10

What’s next:

Colony (USA): Science Fiction.

I am currently giving this one a try, but I’m not sure about it. The premise is intriguing, taking place in a dystopian near-future Los Angeles which is under military rule and encased within a giant wall. The presumption is that the invaders are aliens. The main characters are husband and wife and during the colonization they were separated from one of their children. But one partner is secretly a member of the rebellion and the other has openly been forced to work for the occupiers. I actually really hate the convention/trope where partners who are both main characters that we are supposed to like are hiding things from one another. Usually there is no believable justification for it, as is the case here, and it never works out well so I feel an uncomfortable anxiety whenever I encounter it. Overall, Colony has a heavy feel to it and I’m not sure the juice is worth the squeeze. Score: too soon to tell

12 Monkeys (SyFy): Science Fiction.

I’ve only watched the first four episodes so far, but am surprisingly impressed. I’m normally not a fan of time travel stories but this one had me captivated from the start. It is intense and exciting and mysterious and I want more. Amanda Schull completely captivates me as Cassandra. I can’t wait to catch up and I hope it doesn’t get stale. Score: looking good so far

What I’m looking forward to:

Preacher (AMC): Comic Adaption.

All I know of Preacher is what I saw in the trailer and it looks amazing, but possibly too gory for my taste. I must admit that it makes me think of Nicholas D. Wolfwood which pulls at my nostalgia strings hard. 

American Gods (Starz): Urban Fantasy.

 We have some time to wait for this but I have a feeling it is going to be fantastic. The casting is impressive and even though I love the book, I haven’t ready any of the other supporting material so I think the show will be even more intriguing.

Librarians (TNT): Urban Fantasy.

Others are starting to pick up on the greatness that is The Librarians, something I have pronounced before. The show doesn't take itself too seriously but tackles some serious issues and has some seriously kickass female characters. Season 3 is on its way.

See something I've missed? Let me know what to watch next!

POSTED BY: Tia   up and coming TV junkie and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2014.

Friday, April 29, 2016

International TableTop Day

This Saturday is the 4th Annual International TableTop Day.  A day of celebrating all things tabletop, including board games, card games, miniatures games, RPGs, and more!  If you want to try to score some of the exclusive promos (I know I do!), check for local events near you here.   In thinking about how I wanted to write a post about ITTD, I thought I would share a list of games for new gamers, experienced gamers, and those making plans for the 5th Annual ITTD.   If you can't attend a local event, no worries, as long as you "play more games" as Wil Wheaton is always encouraging us to do, then you are a winner!

3 Games for New Gamers aka Gateway Games:

1. Mysterium- Besides being an absolutely beautiful game, Mysterium conjures nostalgic feelings of playing Clue as a child.  You are trying to identify a killer, location, and murder instrument, but your clues come in the form of cryptic images from the player who is the ghost.  One player is the ghost and gives the clues in the forms of art cards, and the remaining players are psychics trying to decipher the ghost's messages.  Definitely a game you will want to play multiple times and one that plays much different if you are the ghost or one of the psychics.

2. Greedy Greedy Goblins - This new title from AEG and designer Richard Garfield, Greedy Greedy Goblins is a press your luck game in which you try to mine as much treasure as you can without blowing up.  The catch is that some dynamite is good and multiplies your earnings, but too much will cause your mine to explode and cost you some hard earned money.  My favorite phase is the mining phase in which players simultaneously place tiles onto the mines face down.  You are able to see the tiles you place, but not the tiles other players place.  If you feel a mine is worthwhile to claim then you have to be fast!  A unique gaming experience that is easy to teach and learn.
3. The Game - I've have talked about The Game before and it continues to hit the table on a regular basis in my house.  It is one of the most frustrating and engaging games that appeals to every single person I have introduced to it.  This cooperative game has you working with others to try and play every card in the game.  The tension is real and the only hard part, besides winning, is not saying "just one more try."

3 Games for the More Experienced Gamer:

1. Stone Age - While not particularly heavy, this game was my introduction to the worker placement genre and I still love it.  Players manage a tribe of cavemen and cavewomen and who are trying to earn victory points in a variety of ways.  Do you place two of your people on the tent and make a baby?  Do  you mine for gold?  Your decisions are impacted by what spaces are available on your turn and how many workers you are willing to place.  In addition, you must feed your tribe and ensure they are fed after each round.  This game features multiple strategies, but plenty of dice rolling to keep a healthy random element as well.

2. Five Tribes -I will admit that this sadly does not hit the table as much as I would like, but when it does I find it to be an absolute joy.  You move meeples around the board, dropping one on each tile while you move like Mancala, and then execute a special action based on your destination and the type of meeple you collected.  To add another wrinkle, players accumulate Djinns, genies who grant you additional abilities and help refine your strategy.  It can get a bit cut throat and players often suffer from analysis paralysis, but it remains one of my favorite games.

3. Tammany Hall - This is my favorite area control game that has you managing the corrupt system of New York City politics in the 1850's.  Players take turn placing immigrants and ward bosses in various districts in the city.  Every four years there is an election and the winning player of that election will be the mayor for the next four years.  The mayor then assigns roles to everyone else that will give them an advantage in becoming the mayor in the next election.  There is a lot of backstabbing and alliances that will keep players heavily involved on every turn.  One of the most beautiful games in my collection.

3 Games for Next Year aka Kickstarter Spotlight Games:

1. Exposed - (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1026360181/exposed-1) This title from Overworld Games is a deduction based game in which you try to identify fellow pickpockets.  Each player secretly controls a pickpocket at a party and are trying to pick as many pockets you can and out the other pickpockets.  Featuring really cute art and some fun mechanics, this seems to be a sure fire hit for next year.

2. Illios: The Battle of Troy - (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/70336739/ilios-the-battles-of-troy) This abstract title from Playford Games pits players against one another as they attempt to surround and capture tiles.  It supports 2-4 players, and is described as a strategy game that has you raiding, plundering, and ultimately surrounding your opponents.  The game has a sleek look and features an element of suspense that has me very intrigued.  Illios is in the final push and needs your help to fund!

3. Twist of Fate - (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/maydaygames/twist-of-fate-the-oliver-twist-microgame-for-2-4-p) I am a sucker for a good microgame, and the good folks of Mayday are raising funds for this Oliver Twist title.  For only $9, you and your fellow players will race to see who can be the first person to help Oliver escape.  Featuring some stellar components for such a low price, players can use the twist of fate mechanic to get the opposite side of played cards.  Looks like a nice quick game that is great for events like ITTD.

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.

Microreview [book]: Knight's Shadow, by Sebastien de Castell

De Castell levels up with a ‘laughdark’ surpassquel!

De Castell, Sebastien. Knight's Shadow. Jo Fletcher Books, 2015.

Buy it here.

Who’d have believed it—that’s two surpassquels in a row for this humble reviewer! I quite liked the mixture of witty banter and deathly serious plotting (and fighting) in Traitor’s Blade, and was trying to dial down my expectations for Knight’s Shadow, the second book in the Greatcoats series, figuring it was unlikely de Castell would quite manage to strike the right balance between humor and blood. Knight’s Shadow turned out to be a delightful surprise (until one too-visceral scene near the end, but then, that too was a surprise, albeit a less welcome one).

We’re back in the saddle with everyone’s favorite intrepid idealist, Falcio, and his stubborn devotion to principle in a world torn apart by Machiavellian/Game of Thrones-esque political intrigue is even more enticing a spectacle than it was in book one. A mystery disguised as a genre fantasy, it surpasses the first book—which was no slouch either!—in nearly every way, and certainly holds the reader’s attention, spurring one to wonder, with Falcio et al, what on earth could be happening, and what will result from all of it.

The only ‘falsio’ note (+5 for bad pun!) in all this is the grimmest of grim torture scenes near the end. (And in fact, it’s not a false note at all so much as a distressing if, I must reluctantly admit, logical turn.) Until this point, despite the worsening prognosis, I, like most readers presumably, remained confident there would be some sort of nick-of-time escape or clever stratagem to spare one of the protagonists such agony; but de Castell takes us right over that waterfall into pain-land. To his credit, he handles the scene with finesse, but as a reader not totally sold on the whole grimdark thing, I still felt this single scene threatened to leech the laughs out and leave us slumped over sniveling in the dark, rocking back and forth. That’s why I’ve dubbed this book a “laughdark”, as it starts out fairly light-hearted/optimistic in tone despite the enormous challenges facing our merry band of heroes, then dips down into pitch-black pessimism. I understand the reasons for this swan dive into the pit of torture-porn despair, but still suffered almost viscerally as I read it.

So the question before us is two-fold: a) does this bleak turn near the end of the book detract from the good times to be had in the rest? And b) can laughs be productively combined with grimdark? My answer to both questions, paradoxically, is yes. At least for this reader, the queasiness from reading said scene took a long time to abate, but upon reflection, I think the combination of humor and the willingness to go (grim)dark does indeed work well, overall.

This is all by way of saying that if you liked book one, you’ll surely like this book even more, the torture stuff notwithstanding; and if you haven’t read either one yet, why not? They’re great, and laughdark might just be a new mini-genre in its infancy!

 The Math:

Objective assessment: 7/10

Bonuses: +1 for creating a new mini-genre, ‘laughdark’; +1 for really working the mystery angle

Penalties: -1 for dip into dark as dark can be grimdark torture scene

Nerd coefficient: 8/10 “Totally worth your time and attention.”

[Just in case you think an 8 is too low given how much I obviously liked the book, check out our anti-grade inflation policy here.]

Zhaoyun, more of a laugher than a grimdarker, has been enjoying (yet getting a little queasy at) all manner of sci fi and fantasy books, light and dark, and reviewing them at Nerds of a Feather since 2013.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

New Books Spotlight

Welcome to another edition of the New Books Spotlight, where each month or so we curate a selection of 6 forthcoming books we find notable, interesting, and intriguing. It gives us the opportunity to shine a brief spotlight on some stuff we're itching to get our hands on.

What are you looking forward to? Anything you want to argue with us about? Is there something we should consider spotlighting in the future? Let us know in the comments!

Cover Design by Jaya Miceli

DeLillo, Don. Zero K [Scribner, 2016]

Publisher's Blurb

The wisest, richest, funniest, and most moving novel in years from Don DeLillo, one of the great American novelists of our time—an ode to language, at the heart of our humanity, a meditation on death, and an embrace of life.

Jeffrey Lockhart’s father, Ross, is a billionaire in his sixties, with a younger wife, Artis Martineau, whose health is failing. Ross is the primary investor in a remote and secret compound where death is exquisitely controlled and bodies are preserved until a future time when biomedical advances and new technologies can return them to a life of transcendent promise. Jeff joins Ross and Artis at the compound to say “an uncertain farewell” to her as she surrenders her body.

“We are born without choosing to be. Should we have to die in the same manner? Isn’t it a human glory to refuse to accept a certain fate?”

These are the questions that haunt the novel and its memorable characters, and it is Ross Lockhart, most particularly, who feels a deep need to enter another dimension and awake to a new world. For his son, this is indefensible. Jeff, the book’s narrator, is committed to living, to experiencing “the mingled astonishments of our time, here, on earth.”

Don DeLillo’s seductive, spectacularly observed and brilliant new novel weighs the darkness of the world—terrorism, floods, fires, famine, plague—against the beauty and humanity of everyday life; love, awe, “the intimate touch of earth and sun.”

Zero K is glorious. 
Why We Want It: New DeLillo. If, somehow, that isn't enough to explain why we're excited that there is a new novel from the author or White Noise, Underworld, End Zone, and Falling Man, I'm not sure what to do.

Cover Artist: Unknown

Hill, Joe. The Fireman [William Morrow, 2016]
Publisher's Blurb
From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman.

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke. 
Why We Want It: Joe Hill is a master at telling a gripping story that refuses to let go (hence, the gripping) and as good as everything he has published so far has been, The Fireman sounds like it could be his best novel yet. Joe Hill is not to be missed.

Cover Design In House at Saga

Howard, Kat. Roses and Rot [Saga, 2016]
Publisher's Blurb
Imogen and her sister Marin escape their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, whether it be art or love in this haunting debut novel from “a remarkable young writer” (Neil Gaiman).

What would you sacrifice for everything you ever dreamed of?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire
Why We Want It: Howard has dazzled with her short fiction in recent years. Roses and Rot is her first novel and I want to know more about how this post-grad school works and how it impacts Imogen's dreams and the sacrifice of family.

Cover Design by Will Staehle

Older, Malka. Infomacracy [Tor.com Publishing, 2016]
Publisher's Blurb
It's been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global micro-democracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything's on the line.

With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain?

Infomocracy is Malka Older's debut novel.
Why We Want It: After reading Malka Older's story "Tear Tracks", we knew she was a writer to watch. Older's debut novel comes across as eerily prescient for a future where information is the true political power.

Cover Art by Victor Mosquera

Palmer, Ada. Too Like the Lightning [Tor, 2016]
Publisher's Blurb
Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer--a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.

The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labeling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world's population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competition is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.

And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destabilize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life...
Why We Want It: A far future novel of bringing down a utopian society? Sign us up!

Cover Art by Dominic Harmon

Reynolds, Alastair. Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds [Subterranean Press, 2016]
Publisher's Blurb
The Guardian called Alastair Reynolds’ work “a turbulent, wildly entertaining ride” and The Times acclaimed him as “the mastersinger of space opera”. With a career stretching back more than 25 years and across fourteen novels, including the classic ‘Revelation Space’ series, the bestselling ‘Poseidon’s Children’ series, Century Rain, Pushing Ice, and most recently The Medusa Chronicles (with Stephen Baxter), Reynolds has established himself as one of the best and most beloved writers of hard science fiction and space opera working today.

A brilliant novelist, he has also been recognized as one of our best writers of short fiction. His short stories have been nominated for the Hugo, British Fantasy, British Science Fiction, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial, Locus, Italia, Seiun, and Sidewise Awards, and have won the Seiun and Sidewise Awards.

The very best of his more than sixty published short stories are gathered in Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds, a sweeping 250,000 word career retrospective which features the very best stories from the ‘Revelation Space’ universe like “Galactic North”, “Great Wall of Mars”, “Weather”, “Diamond Dogs”, and “The Last Log of the Lachrymosa” alongside thrilling hard science fiction stories like Hugo Award nominee “Troika”, “Thousandth Night”, and “The Star Surgeon’s Apprentice”. Spanning more than fifteen years, the book also collects more recent stories like environmental SF tale “The Water Thief”, powerful and moving YA “The Old Man and the Martian Sea” and the brilliant “In Babelsberg”.

Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds has something for every reader of science fiction, and easily meets the challenge of delivering stories that are the hardest of hard science fiction and great entertainment.
Why We Want It: Alastair Reynolds is one of the modern masters of science fiction and space opera, and Beyond the Aquila Rift is a massive collection of his excellent and sometimes underrated short fiction. This is a must read, especially if you only know Reynolds from his novel length fiction.

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Writer / Editor at Adventures in Reading since 2004, Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2015. Minnesotan.

Thursday Morning Superhero

Today marked the end of a truly epic era.  Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo finished their epic run with Batman and will go down as one of the best duos to ever pen and draw the caped crusader.  Snyder and Capullo have defined what Batman is to a generation of fans.  The two have had a masterful run with the series since 2011 and they will be missed.  Their work is some of the best that Batman has ever seen and they deserve a spot on the Mt. Rushmore of Batman.  Thanks fellas.

Pick of the Week:
Batman #51 - We have reached the end of an era.  Snyder and Capullo said farewell to the Dark Knight in a beautiful tribute to Batman and the impact he has on Gotham.  He is often blamed for creating many of the villains in Gotham, but we need to remember the positive impact he has on its citizens.  In a somewhat subdued issue, it was a fitting way to mourn the passing of the torch and the end of an era.  While I am sad to see Snyder and Capullo give up the reigns on this series, with the reboot that isn't a reboot entitle Rebirth on the horizon, it makes sense to let someone else start anew.  I would like to take this time to thank both Snyder and Capullo on the definitive run of Batman during my time with comic books.

The Rest:
Saga #36 - Marko and Alana are reunited with Hazel!!!!!!!!!!  They are all together again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Oh happy days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Marko Alana and Hazel are a family again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This issue brought a tear to my eye and I am not embarrassed to admit that I cried when Hazel was hugging her daddy.

Old Man Logan #5 - I continue to enjoy Jeff Lemire's take on Old Man Logan.  Wolverine is once again reunited with the X-Men, but still is struggling to return back to his own timeline and hopefully save his family.  In what has been a violent series, we see are treated to an issue that shines a spotlight on why Logan is such a powerful character.  He returns to the Weapon X facility for unknown purposes, only to find a young girl named Maureen and has an instant connection.  He vows to protect her, not sure of why he is drawn to her, but he knows it what he has to do.  Something tells me that these moments of peace are going to be fleeting.

Daredevil #6 - The first issue in the new arc, Elektric Connection, is off to a smashing start and is a great jumping on point if you are thinking about reading some Daredevil.  Most of the issue is a fight between Elektra, Blindspot, and Daredevil and I am just fine with that.   I have really enjoyed the darker tone that Charles Soule has brought back to the Man with No Fear and artist Matteo Buffagni and color artist Matt Milla deliver some stunning panels.  This is a high-octane, no frills start to the new arc and one that has me very excited to see such an elite assassin brought into the mix.

Star Wars #18 - The alliance between Aphra, Leia, and Sana appears to be working well as the three attempt to break out of Sunspot Prison.  The mysterious figure who is killing the prisoners held captive at Sunspot remains a mystery, but we gain a small amount of insight on who he might be.  It seems that he once learned under Princess Leia.  A very action packed issue that was an absolute delight to read.  This series and Darth Vader are the two must read Star Wars comics currently.

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.