Recommended Reading #5: Armageddon, With Social Justice & Rock Wizards

Welcome back to Recommended Reading! I hope your Sunday is going well. I woke up to a short story rejection, so I lopped off 350 words and sent it in to another place. Excelsior!

To some, today’s trilogy needs little introduction. Each book won the Hugo Award, three years running, the first time an author had accomplished this feat. And the author, N.K. Jemisin, has been central in the fight to get the vocal alt-right trolls in the speculative fiction* community to shut the fuck up**.

In an acceptance speech that’s being hailed as one of the best ever made at the Hugos, Jemisin defiantly raised a “rocket-shaped finger” (a reference to the rocket-ship design of the massive Hugo statue) to the racist rhetoric that positions the recognition of her work as being about identity politics rather than her own talent.

“It’s been a hard year, hasn’t it,” she began. “A hard few years, a hard century. For some of us, things have always been hard. I wrote the Broken Earth trilogy to speak to that struggle, and what it takes to live, let alone thrive, in a world that seems determined to break you — a world of people who constantly question your competence, your relevance, your very existence.”

The Broken Earth trilogy takes place in a world called the Stillness, where geological cataclysms periodically decimate the population, through both the initial events and the ensuing nuclear winters. Some people, called orogenes, are born with the power to harness and redirect the earth’s energy. They are hated and feared, and the dominant imperial power collects them as children, to break them and train them to serve the empire.

One day, after deciding such a civilization is unfit to continue, an orogene of immense power rips the continent in half. Read more

Recommended Reading #4: 2018 in Review

Good afternoon and welcome back to Recommended Reading! I’ve been putting this post off all month. Now, my current short story is resting between drafts; I’m going to be hiding at home from a cold front for twenty-four hours; and I’m making myself do some writing before I start playing Octopath Traveler. It’s the perfect moment to talk about the best books we read last year.

According to Goodreads, I read around thirty-two novels last year. Here are the titles that stood out to me, in no particular order. (Many of them were recommendations by y’all, so thanks!)

  • The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks

This was my first foray into the Culture books. Interesting universe, great starship names, fun story.

  • The Quantum Thief, Hannu Rajaniemi

Many authors fail to find the line between telling you just enough and being too obscure; Rajaniemi is not one of them. The Quantum Thief is a richly imaginative and wonderfully-wrought heist story.

  • A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge

This was one of the best attempts I’ve read at writing from the perspective of an alien.

  • The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester

A science-fiction classic for a reason; incidentally one of William Gibson’s favorite novels.

  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

Absolutely brilliant characters. Looking forward to my next foray into this universe.

What did you read last year that you loved?

Recommended Reading #3: Revenge, Served Satanic

Hello and welcome to Recommended Reading, the feature where we talk about books! In honor of October, and the impending election, I would like to recommend a book about clawing your way out of Hell to exact revenge on the people who sent you there: Sandman Slim (Sandman Slim #1), by San Fransiscan Richard Kadrey.

It tells the story of Stark, a sorcerer brut and member of Southern California’s hidden, magically-attuned society. His erstwhile friends banish him to Hell, and after ten years of gladiatorial combat, he murders his way out seeking vengeance.

But he wonders: are Los Angeles, and this mission, really all that different from his last decade?

It’s a bloody good read, with some of the best hard-boiled imagery that I’ve ever come across.

When I was Downtown, I learned a lot about making threats. Make them big. Make them outrageous. You’re never going to kick someone’s ass. You’re going to pull out their tongue and pour liquid nitrogen down their throat, chip out their guts with an ice pick, slide in a pane of glass, and turn them into an aquarium.

Oh, and there’s loads of old movie references, if that’s your thing. (More quotes, the kind that might make even certain commenters blush, can be found at Goodreads.)

I’m usually loath to recommend the first book in a series, but it works as a standalone. Four out of five stars, seasonally appropriate. Content warning, extreme violence and Satanism.

What are some of your favorite pieces of revenge porn? What else have you been reading? I’m on book 1.5 of Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy.

As always, if you’re going to buy anything, go through the Balloon-Juice Amazon Affiliate link (or support your local bookstore)!

Recommended Reading #2: Her Majesty’s Extremely Secret Service(s)

It’s not a huge surprise when multiple works deal with the same basic idea. Some ideas are quite obvious: a robot renegade cop; a murder in a small town struggling with encroaching modernity; World War II time travel. What’s much more interesting is when the works share a very narrow scope.

Sometimes a newer work’s creator is (apparently) unaware of their predecessor. For instance, Suzanne Collins said she didn’t hear about Battle Royale until after she turned in the MS for The Hunger Games. Yet each work is about teenagers, selected by lottery, being forced into an undisclosed location, where they are armed, surveilled, and encouraged to kill each other; all in order to help prop up a deranged society.

Then again… Christopher Nolan claims he was mostly unaware of Paprika while making Inception… so maybe we shouldn’t be so credulous when Westerners say they aren’t ripping off the Japanese.


But we’re getting away from what I wanted to talk about: books addressing bureaucratic dysfunction in the secret branch of the British government that protects the homeland from supernatural threats. The two primary series here, that I’m aware of, are Charles Stross’s The Laundry Files and Daniel O’Malley’s Checquy series. Both are very fun combinations of workplace humor and sci-fi/horror action. Stross, who began first, leans more into horror. O’Malley leans more into humor, but they’re definitely walking the same territory. Remarkably, O’Malley says he hadn’t heard of the Laundry series before his first book came out and people started calling it a rip-off. (Source: my friend asked him at a book signing).

Honorary members of this category are:

What’d I leave out? What are some extremely specific genres you like? Or you can say anything at all about reading recommendations, really.

(Remember to buy any books via the Balloon-Juice Amazon affiliate link!)

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

More from previous submissions. I’ll have two mega-posts this week; as the form is down, I don’t think BillinGlendale will be tomorrow, but I’m not sure. I’ll see what I’ve got stored up!

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!


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