Peace Talks didn’t suck

Given the direction that Butcher is taking things, I can see why he had to give up trying to fit it into one book. As is, it’s still bursting at the seams. As expected, however, if you’re not 100% up-to-date on the short stories, there are some things you’ll miss. Like why Carlos is bitter and badly injured.

Dear ‘CAEZIK SF & Fantasy’…

Now that you’ve come to your senses, I will buy your book.

Finally, Alita

One of the side effects of having the power go out Saturday night was checking the Amazon app on my iPad to see what I had downloaded, and suddenly remembering that I hadn’t watched Alita yet.

I have only a very vague acquaintance with the source material, and while I could see a few seams and obvious cuts, I found the result quite entertaining. In particular, the Big Eyes that seemed off-putting in early publicity shots quickly faded into the background as Just Part Of The Character, helped by the fact that no one ever called attention to it. Honestly, the only thing I disliked is that Jennifer Connelly is in desperate need of some calories. The severe look worked for the character, but oh, what has been lost.

The usual discrepancy between media reviewers (61%) and movie-watchers (91%) once again demonstrates how irrelevant they’ve become to the whole process. (not that every movie I like gets high audience ratings; I may be the only person in the world who thinks the Sam Rockwell/Anna Kendrick flick Mr. Right is a fun romp with high rewatch value)

R.I.P. The Campbell Award

Spitting On The Shoulders Of Giants.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Found A New Publisher…

When Curiosity Quills imploded, Richard Roberts’ books ended up in limbo. After reclaiming the rights, he went searching for a new publisher instead of putting them up on Amazon himself, and the first Pennyverse book is back online. He thinks the second one should be up any time now. Decent Kindle price, painful paperback price.

Forgotten SF Novels: Mayflies

Kevin O’Donnell, Jr was a prolific SF writer in the Seventies and Eighties, mostly in short-story form, but he also left behind 10 full-length novels, perhaps the best-remembered being the four-volume Journeys of McGill Feighan, which were successful enough that Berkley reprinted his earlier novel Mayflies with an “interesting” new cover:

Our Hero was a scientist working on a last-ditch life-support system to keep even the most critically injured alive until they could be treated. In a fit of irony, he ends up being the first test subject when he’s decapitated by a rogue light fixture during a severe earthquake.

Unfortunately for Our Hero, he doesn’t recover, and his living-but-idle brain eventually gets donated to a group working on biological computers, as in “reprogramming a human brain into a supercomputer”. They do such a good job of it that the brain-puter is put in charge of a slower-than-light starship sent to found a colony out among the stars, just in case humanity blows itself up at home.

Unfortunately for the passengers, his mind wasn’t completely wiped, and when he wakes up, the conflict between programming and ego results in a tug-of-war that disables the ramscoop before they get up to full speed. The ship will eventually reach its destination, but it’s going to take a long, long time. As their societies rise and fall, Our Hero struggles against his programmed self for control over the ship, while living vicariously through generations of short-lived passenger “mayflies”.

As I mentioned over on Good Show Sir, the cover art that looks like a stoner party being crashed by a mind-melding alien is actually a sex scene in the book, in which the girl is expertly fingered to orgasm by one of the aliens. Actually, everyone aboard is being probed in some fashion, in an attempt to elicit violent or self-destructive reactions, but our PoV character at that moment apparently drew the short straw.

Note: none of his books are in print or available electronically, which is a shame, since they were all entertaining; I presume there are rights issues which his estate is either unwilling or unable to untangle.

Forgotten SF Novels: Heroes of Zara Keep

The isekai genre that’s more-or-less taken over the Japanese anime and light-novel markets has a long history. You could argue about the precise definition, such as whether the protagonist is required to have been a loser in real life before being transported to another world, and whether or not it’s a one-way trip, possibly involving reincarnation. And whether the other world is specifically based on RPG tropes, including concepts like “levels” and “hit points”.

You could say that Edgar Rice Burroughs invented it in 1917 with A Princess of Mars, but it was certainly a familiar genre trope before Piper’s Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen in 1965, and it was only a minor novelty when Brian Daley brought modern military weapons into the mix in 1977’s The Doomfarers of Coramonde. By the time Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame series kicked off in 1983, it was old hat.

But a year before Rosenberg made the idea of living in a D&D world a bit less cool, Guy Gregory’s one-and-done novel Heroes of Zara Keep hit the shelves.

Left to right, that’s Flos, Jason, Lyca, Sax, and Culter. Perfectly ordinary young adults with perfectly ordinary names. Okay, Jason has a perfectly ordinary name, but he compensates for that by being the only one who’s not obviously ordinary, having Very Unusual Hands. By the way, the tiny speck under the author’s name is the massive, threatening dragon that the Big Bad rides, or maybe a pigeon.

It’s… okay, I guess. A generic wizard summons a group of Chosen Ones at the moment of their (mostly foolish) deaths, sets them up with mentors who have exactly the right skillsets, and then when the Great Danger arrives ahead of schedule, cuts short their training and arranges a meet-up in just the right way to cause Our Heroes to fight before becoming besties. Their pretty darn quick journey to Zara Keep to defeat the Big Bad provides precisely the challenges each was trained to overcome, while also providing precisely the situations needed to trigger each one’s PTSD over the manner of their deaths. But not so much that there’s any doubt they’ll make it there in time. Honestly, it took me about a week to re-read it, because I kept nodding off.

The module book wraps everything up neatly, with no loose ends, and happy endings all around for Our Heroes. The complete lack of a sequel hook is perhaps the most novel thing about it.

Guier S. Wright III and G. Scott Wright, Jr. share the copyright on this one, and about nine years ago a Guy Wright turned up on an SFFworld forum thread to mention that his dad wrote it, he had a bunch of copies in the garage, and to feel free to email him any questions. That pretty much sums up the Internet’s collective knowledge of both book and author.


I just noticed that all five of Our Heroes are looking in different directions, and none of them are looking at the titular keep or the massive, threatening dragon.

Forgotten SF Novels: Fane

Fane, by David M. Alexander, 1981:

Beyond the stars, a fool’s paradise lies waiting to be saved!

The planet Fane, inhabited by earthlings and native four-armed Fanists, is threatened when the wizard Greyhorn contrives a fiendish plot to conquer the world and enslave its inhabitants.

Greyhorn’s scheme lacks one essential ingredient, so the great wizard sends his bumbling newphew, Grantin, to find it. But when Grantin unwittingly foils his uncle’s plans, he is plummeted headlong into a strange adventure.

Evading bandits on lizards, pleading mercy from talking trees, battling poison-toothed demons, the unwilling Grantin journey through the Weird Lands into the domain of evil where the gorgeous Lady Mara is waiting to be saved…

But to save the Lady, the planet, and himself for the simplest pleasures of Fanist life, Grantin must rise to the occasion— and learn how to fight!

The cover picture is 100% accurate, except for the tights. The back-cover blurb, on the other hand, is batting about 0.300. Among its other problems, there’s a third race with a significant role in the plot (lower right), uncle Greyhorn isn’t the one trying to conquer the world (but he’s willing to help for a piece of the action), Grantin is just sent into town to pick up the essential ingredient from a courier, Mara doesn’t know that she needs saving until quite late in the book, and Grantin isn’t so much interested in saving her as in getting her to undo the mistake he made that sent him fleeing from his uncle’s wrath.

To my surprise, this one’s still in print and available for Kindle, as The Accidental Magician, under the pen name David Grace. The cover art is a bit less accurate (depicting uncle Greyhorn contacting the actual villain through a crystal ball), while the blurb is a bit more, so it balances out.

Is it any good? Mostly for the world itself and Grantin’s two alien allies, Chom and Castor. Grantin, Greyhorn, Mara, and the rest of the humans don’t have much to offer.