Book Review – Planetfall

planetfallThis book is amazing. I’m having trouble finding the words, so bear with me. I’m not even sure I’ve fully digested the book as I’m writing this. Let me begin with a very brief summary.

At some point in the future, humans have left Earth and established a colony on a new planet in a different galaxy. Something traumatic has happened in the colony’s past, but few people actually know the truth of it all, and the story becomes clouded by a newly established religion. There are secrets and betrayals and a deep look into mental illness that I’ve never seen in any other science fiction novel. And when a stranger arrives in the colony, the delicate balance struck by the colonists is shattered.

….

I hate spoilers. And there isn’t much I can say that isn’t going to spoil the book (at least, in my opinion), and I believe everyone should come to this book a blank slate. It should fill you up with wonder, and you should travel the path it takes you down completely uninfluenced. But I also realize that I can’t really write a review without touching on some of the events that transpire. So, go read the book and then come back so we can talk about it.

Ren, the protagonist, is infinitely human and easy to identify with. Her voice feels authentic, and her reactions to the relative isolation of being the only intelligent beings on an empty planet too far from Earth to ever go back resonate. The world building is as precise as I imagine the technology the colonies rely on to be. And so believable. The economy is heavily reliant on implanted chips, 3D printing, colony-wide networks, and recycling, and it feels completely drawn from current trends in technology we’re seeing right now. Everyone selected to be a part of this colony has a very specific skill he or she contributes to the society.

As cool as the tech is, for me, the most important part of this novel is the psychological insight we have on Ren. As we’re drawn deeper into the story, we’re also drawn further into the emotions of Ren and damaging effects certain events have had on her. We learn about her mind just as she’s learning about her mind. And in parallel of this is her exploration of the God city – a seemingly alive structure outside of the colony held in reverence by the colonists. And the end – wow. It will just leave you with so much to think about.

My only criticism is how rushed the end felt, but I read an early copy that I received from the editor back in July, so I’m hoping that gets smoothed out a bit before publication. But even so, this is a beautiful novel, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t collect some award nominations.

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Thoughts: Why Science Fiction and Fantasy Matter

MagicspawnI was saving this blog post for December, but I think in light of the events in Ferguson, MO last night, now is a good time to post this. This is probably going to be the most emotionally difficult piece that I’ve ever written for the public, so bear with me!

I was born in Florida and raised in a small town in South Carolina. I went to a primarily white private school. My parents are hard-working blue collar individuals who felt that making sure their child had a good education was the key to their child’s future success. I received a scholarship to Winthrop University, a small public college that was vibrant with diversity and a strong liberal arts program, and I majored in English. But this is getting off track from the point I hope to make here. The point is, as a young child, I was a poor white kid going to school with rich white kids. I didn’t know many people of color, and I didn’t know anyone who was gay, or otherwise different from the homogeneous group of people I went to school with. Those who were different, like me, were bullied because they made good grades, or read “weird” books, or doodled dragons on all of her class notes.

715kRSlUABLWhen I was 14, I was extremely excited to get the book club catalog and order books through my school. That particular year, I saw a book cover that caught my eye. I had no idea what I was in for when I ordered the whole trilogy at once. What I saw was a nice looking guy and a pretty white horse. What I bought was Magic’s Pawn, Magic’s Promise, and Magic’s Price, The Last Herald-Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey. What I read in those pages forever changed my life. Those books were the first fantasy novels that really stuck with me. It was the first time I could read about someone who was so different from me but had problems I could relate to on some level. Vanyel, the protagonist of the series, is very young and has realized that he’s different from other men. He is bullied for loving music and not wanting to practice fighting. His father never really bonds with him because they don’t understand each other, so Vanyel is sent away to school where he discovers he’s shay’a’chern, or a homosexual.

I did not know any gay people at that point in my life. I think I barely knew what “gay” meant other than mean kids calling each other “gay” if they were different in any way. I think we had briefly discussed it in a health class, but there was no real way for me to know what it meant to be gay. This book opened my eyes to a whole new world, and not just in a fantasy sense. Using other terminology I think helps the reader get past emotionally charged words like “gay” and “lesbian” and “homosexual” and get straight to the heart of the matter, which is that this person is different from most people in his world and his emotional struggles are incredibly real and valid. I was bullied for being different. I was called a “lesbian” by my classmates even though I’m not one. Very few people reached out to me to find out who I really was as a person. Vanyel struggles with life or death situations with people he loves as well as that internal struggle we all go through when we’re trying to figure ourselves out. I could put myself in his shoes and see what it was like to be gay. And I could see that love and compassion for other human beings regardless of who they love is how we survive in this world. I could also see that being bullied is a survivable situation, and that I can be strong and loved and successful regardless of what people said about me.

downloadWhen I moved to New York, I met an avid reader of Tor’s books at New York Comic Con. We became fast friends, and shortly after, he came out to me and another friend. We were among the first few people he had come out to in the city, and he had only just prior to that come out to his family. He was in his early 30s at the time and had never told anyone he was gay before that. He spent his entire life hiding his true self because he was afraid of judgement, afraid of what his church would say, and afraid of how his family would react. He spent too many years praying that God would change him and make him not gay. I gave him the Last Herald-Mage trilogy partly because I knew he could identify so strongly with Vanyel and partly because I wanted him to understand that I could be empathetic to his situation too. That I wasn’t going to judge him, and that I fully accepted him for who he is no matter what. That he deserved happiness the same as all of the other human beings on this planet do. He is one of the brightest lights in my life, and one of the happiest people I know today. I have never met someone who has struggled so much and ended up being one of the most optimistic people I know. You cannot know him and not love him.

I may be getting a little long-winded here, but I also wanted to talk about my recent experience of seeing Interstellar in the theater. As you can probably tell, I grew up strongly on the fantasy side of things. I wasn’t terribly interested in science fiction despite the fact that I loved actual science (only museums, not classes!). Ender’s Game was as important to me in high school as Magic’s Pawn was, and for largely the same reasons. Compassion for others, especially when they are different, is a key lesson in that book, and I’ll never forget it, but I wasn’t really into much else about science fiction. Over the weekend, I saw Interstellar, and I, personally, was blown away. This piece of science fiction includes the human story of survival condensed down into a father’s struggle to make sure his children survive on a dying Earth. The message at the end of this movie is full of hope.

Science fiction allows us to imagine possible futures for the human race and give us hope that we might have a future despite the fact that sometimes our species can be so full of darkness. Fantasy can allow us to understand the world through the eyes of people who are very different, including race, sex, orientation, and even species. And all of this, to me at least, is why fantasy and science fiction matter. So, for Thanksgiving, I want everyone to think about the science fiction or fantasy novel that helped open your mind you when you were growing up, and I want you to donate it to a library in a struggling community. I think we can all make a difference in the world one book at a time. And I think it’s time we stopped being outraged and started doing something to make the world we live in a better place.

October Titles from Tor and Forge

Wow, the year is going by so quickly! I can’t believe it’s already time to put up the October titles! Also, coming up in some future posts – my NYCC schedule and some tour info for some of my authors. Stay tuned for that! In the meantime, let me know what October books you’re looking forward to!

Tor

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October 7 – Hawk by Steven Brust

October 7 – The Shotgun Arcana by R. S. Belcher

October 7 – Silverblind by Tina Connolly

October 14 – The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich

October 21 – Heart of Stone by Debra Mullins

Forge

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October 7 – Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan

October 14 – The Last Shootist by Miles Swarthout

October 21 – An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War by Patrick Taylor

October 28 – The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron

September 2014 Releases from Tor and Forge

Hi friends! Sorry this post is a bit belated! September has been a busy month so far for Team Tor/Forge now that we have some authors touring, and we’re gearing up for New York Comic Con. Check out the titles below and let me know what you’re excited about! Got requests? You know what to do.

Tor

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September 9 – Exo by Steven Gould

September 9 – The Bloodline Feud: A Merchant Princes Omnibus by Charles Stross

September 16 – Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon by David Barnett

September 16 – Last Plane to Heaven by Jay Lake

September 23 – The Seventh Sigil by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes (check out the awesome book trailer!)

 

Forge

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September 9 – Sabotage by Matt Cook

September 30 – Strong Darkness by Jon Land

August 2014 Releases from Tor and Forge

It’s August 1st, and the summer season here at Tor is coming to a close. What are you looking forward to reading this month? Let me know on Twitter!

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August 5 – Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind

August 5 – Assail by Ian C. Esslemont

August 5 – Alien Hunter: Underworld by Whitley Strieber

August 5 – The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

August 12 – Hellhole Inferno by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

August 12 – The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson

August 26 – Echopraxia by Peter Watts

August 26 – Lock In by John Scalzi

 

Interested in mysteries and thrillers? We have those under the Forge Imprint! Here’s what’s coming out in August:

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August 5 – Deadout by Jon McGoran

August 5 – 24: Deadline by James Swallow

August 19 – Ark Storm by Linda Davies

August 26 – Assassin’s Game by Ward Larsen

July 2014 Releases from Tor Books

Hi Everyone! It’s that time of the month again! No, not THAT time of the month. It’s time to tell you all about what’s coming out in hardcover from Tor books in July!

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July 1 – Hurricane Fever by Tobias Buckell

July 1 – Unwept by Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman

July 1 – Wolfsbane by Gillian Philip

July 1 – All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park

July 8 – The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson

July 8 – The Little Green Book of Chairman Rahma by Brian Herbert

July 8 – A Plunder of Souls by D. B. Jackson

July 15 – The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi

July 15 – Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

July 22 – New Frontiers by Ben Bova

Have a request? Contact me!

June 2014 Releases from Tor Books

It’s almost June already! Here’s the list of new releases in hardcover from Tor Books. See anything that piques your interest? Let me know!

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Tor Adult

June 3 – A Barricade in Hell by Jaime Lee Moyer

June 3 – The Merchant Emperor by Elizabeth Haydon

June 3 – Robert A. Heinlein, Volume 2 by William H. Patterson, Jr.

June 3 – The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson

June 10 – California Bones by Greg van Eekhout

June 10 – Earth Awakens by Orson Scott Card

June 17 – Chasers of the Wind by Alexey Pehov

June 17 – Flight of the Golden Harpy by Susan Klaus

June 24 – Child of a Hidden Sea by A. M. Dellamonica  – Free short stories on Tor.com also set in the Stormwrack Archipelago: “Among the Silvering Herd” and “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti

 

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Tor Teen

June 17 – Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake – Excerpt

June 24 – Summoned by Anne M. Pillsworth – Excerpt

 

Got a request? Contact me!