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Excerpt Reveal: Icehenge by Kim Stanley Robinson

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icehenge by kim stanley robinson

SF titan Kim Stanley Robinson’s breakout novel, now in a Tor Essentials edition with a new introduction by Henry Farrell

Tor Essentials presents new editions of science fiction and fantasy titles of proven merit and lasting value, each volume introduced by an appropriate literary figure.

Decades before his massively successful The Ministry for the Future (2020), Kim Stanley Robinson wrote one of SF’s greatest meditations on extended human lifespan, the limitations of human memory, and the haunted confabulations that go with forgetting.

On the North Pole of Pluto there stands an enigma: a huge circle of standing blocks of ice, built on the pattern of Earth’s Stonehenge—but ten times the size, standing alone at the edge of the Solar System. What is it? Who could have built it?

The secret lies in the chaotic decades of the Martian Revolution, in the lost memories of those who have lived for centuries.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Icehenge by Kim Stanley Robinson, on sale 6/11/24


EMMA WEIL

2248 AD

The first indication I had of the mutiny came as we approached the inner limit of the first asteroid belt. Of course I didn’t know what it meant at the time; it was no more than a locked door.

The first belt we call the dud belt, because the asteroids in it are basaltic achondrite, and no use to miners. But we would be among the carbonaceous chondrites soon enough, and one day I went down to the farm to get ready. I fed a bit more light to the algae, for in the following weeks when the boats went out to break up rocks there would be a significant oxygen depletion, and we would need more chlorella around to help balance the gas exchange. I activated a few more bulbs in the lamps and started fooling around with the suspension medium. Biologic life-support systems are my work and play (I am one of the best at it), and since I was making room for more chlorella, I once again became interested in the excess biomass problem. Thinking to cut down on surplus algae by suspending it less densely, I walked between long rows of spinach and cabbage to the door of one of the storage rooms at the back of the farm, to get a few more tanks. I turned the handle of the door. It was locked.

“Emma!” called a voice. I looked up. It was Al Nordhoff, one of my assistants.

“Do you know why this door is locked?” I asked.

He shook his head. “I was wondering myself yesterday. I guess there’s classified cargo in there. I was told to leave it alone.”

“It’s our storage room,” I said, irritated.

Al shrugged. “Ask Captain Swann about it.”

“I will.”

Now Eric Swann and I were old friends, and I was upset that something was going on in my area that he had failed to tell me about. So when I found him on the bridge, I came straight to the point.

“Eric, how come I’m locked out of one of my own storage rooms? What have you got in there?”

Immediately he blushed as red as his hair, and hung his head. The two rocketry and guidance officers on the bridge looked down at their consoles.

“I can’t tell you what’s in there, Emma. It’s classified. I can’t tell anyone until later.”

I stared at him. I know I can intimidate people if I look at them hard enough. His blush got deeper, his freckles disappeared in the general redness, his blue eyes gave me a watery stare. But he wasn’t going to tell me. I curled my lip at him and left the bridge.

That was the first sign: a locked door, a secret reason for it. I thought to myself, We’re taking something for the Committee out to Ceres, perhaps. Weapons, no doubt. It was typical of the Mars Development Committee to keep secrets. But I didn’t jump to any conclusions; merely stayed alert.

The second sign was one I probably would have missed, had I not been alerted by the first. I was walking down the corridor to the dining commons, past the tapestry lounges between the commons and the bedrooms, when I heard voices from a lounge and stopped. Just the voices sounded funny, all whispery and rapid. I recognized John Dancer’s voice:

“We can’t do anything of the sort until after the rendezvous, and you know it.”

“No one will notice,” said a woman, perhaps Ilene Breton.

“You hope no one would notice,” Dancer replied. “But you can’t be sure that Duggins or Nordhoff wouldn’t stumble across it. We have to wait on everything until after the rendezvous, you know that.”

Then I heard steps across the velcro carpet behind me, and with a start I began to walk again, past the door of the lounge. I looked in; John and Ilene, sure enough, among several others. They all looked up as I appeared in the doorway, and their conversation abruptly died. I stared at them and they stared back, at a loss for speech. I walked on to the dining commons.

A rendezvous in the belt. A group of people, not the superior officers of the ship, in on this event and keeping it a secret from the others. A locked storage hold   Things were not falling together for me.

After that I began to see things everywhere. People stopped talking when I walked by. There were meetings late at night, in bedrooms. I walked by the radio room once, and someone was sending out a long message through the coding machine. Quite a few of the storage room doors were locked, back behind the farm; and some of the ore holds were locked as well.

After a few days of this I shook my head and wondered if I were making it all up. There were explanations for everything I had noticed. Shipboard life tends to become cliquish on the best of runs; even though there were only forty of us, divisions would spring up over the year of an expedition. And these were troubled times, back on Mars. The consolidation of the various sectors under the central coordination of the Committee was causing a lot of dissatisfaction. Sectionalism was rife, subversive groups were everywhere, supposedly. These facts were enough to explain all the little factions I now noticed on the Rust Eagle. And paranoia is one of the most common shipboard disorders   seeing patterns is easy in such a heavily patterned environment.

So I began to discount it all. Perhaps we were carrying something to Ceres for the Committee, but that was nothing.

Still, there was something about the atmosphere of the ship in those days. More people than usual were jumpy and strained. There were mysterious glances exchanged   in an atmosphere of mystery.

But here hindsight may be influencing me. The facts are what I want here. This record will help me to remember these events many years, perhaps centuries, from now, and so I must set down the facts, the sharpest spur to the memory.

In any case, the third sign was unmistakable. By this time the sun was nearly between us and Mars, and I went to the radio room to get a last letter off to my fool of a father, in jail temporarily for his loud mouth. Afterwards, I went to the jump tube, and was about to fall down to the living quarters when I heard voices floating down the tube from the bridge. Had that been my name? I pulled myself up the rail to the steps that led to the bridge, and stayed there, eavesdropping again. A habit of mine. Once more, John Dancer was speaking.

“Emma Weil is pro-Committee all the way,” he said as if arguing the point.

“Even so,” said another man, and a couple of voices cut over so that I didn’t hear what he said.

“No,” Dancer said, interrupting the other voices quickly. “Weil is probably the most important person aboard this ship. We can’t talk to her about any of this until Swann says so, and that won’t be until after the rendezvous. So you can forget it.”

That did it. When it was clear the conversation was over I hopped back to the jump tube and fell down it, aiding the faint acceleration-gravity with some pulls on the rail. I ticked off in my mind the places Swann would most likely be at that hour, intent on finding him and having a long talk. It is not healthy to believe yourself the focus of a ship-wide conspiracy.

━━ ˖°˖ ☾☆☽ ˖°˖ ━━━━━━━

I had known Eric Swann for a long time.

Before the turn of the century, every sector ran its own mining expeditions. Royal Dutch looked for carbonaceous chondrite; Mobil was after the basaltic chondrites in the dud belt; Texas mined the silicate types. Chevron had the project of pulling one of the Amors into a Martian orbit, to make another moon. (This became the moon Amor, which was turned into a detention center. My father lived there.) So each sector had its own asteroid crew, and I got to know the Royal Dutch miners pretty well. Swann was one of the rocketry and guidance officers, and a good friend of my husband Charlie, who was also in R and G. Over the course of many runs in the belt I talked with Swann often, and even after Charlie and I divorced we remained close. But when the Committee took over the mining operations in 2213, all the teams, even the Soviets, were thrown into a common pool, and I saw all of my friends from Royal Dutch a lot less often. My infrequent assignments with Swann had been cause for celebration, and this present assignment, with him as captain, I had thought would be a real pleasure.

Now, pulling around the ship I was the most important person on, I was not so sure. But I thought, Swann will tell me what’s going on. And if he doesn’t know anything about all this, then he’d better be told that something funny is happening.

I found him in one of the little window rooms, seated before the thick plasteel separating him from the vacuum. His long legs were crossed in the yoga position, and he hummed softly: meditating, his mind a floating mirror of the changing square of stars.

“Hey Eric,” I said, none too softly.

“Emma,” he said dreamily, and stretched his arms like a cat. “Sit down.” He showed me a chunk of rock he had had in his lap. “Look at this Chantonnay.” That’s a chondrite that has been shocked into harder rock. “Pretty, isn’t it?”

I sat. “Yes,” I said. “So what’s happening on this trip?”

He blushed. Swann was faster at that than anyone I ever saw. “Not much. Beyond that I can’t say.”

“I know that’s the official position. But you can tell me here.”

He shook his head. “I’m going to tell you, but it has to wait a while longer.” He looked at me directly. “Don’t get angry, Emma.”

“But other people know what’s going on! A lot of them. And they’re talking about me.” I told him about the things I had noticed and overheard. “Now why should I be the most important person on this ship? That’s absurd! And why should they know about whatever it is we’re doing, and not me?”

Swann looked worried, annoyed. “They don’t all know  You see, your help will be important, essential perhaps—” He stopped, as if he had already said too much. His freckled face twisted as his mouth moved about. Finally he shook his head violently. “You’ll just have to wait a few more days, Emma. Trust me, all right? Just trust me and wait.”

That was hardly satisfactory, but what could I do? He knew something, but he wasn’t going to tell it to me. Tight-lipped, I nodded my good-bye and left.

━━ ˖°˖ ☾☆☽ ˖°˖ ━━━━━━━

The mutiny occurred, ironically enough, on my eightieth birthday, a few days after my talk with Swann. August 5, 2248.

I woke up thinking, now you are an octogenarian. I got out of bed (deceleration-gee entirely gone, weightless now as we coasted), sponged my face, looked in the mirror. It is a strange experience to look inside your own retinas; down there inside is the one thinking, in that other face . . . it seems as if, if you could get the light right, you could see yourself.

I grasped the handholds of my exerciser and worked out for a while, thinking about birthdays. All the birthdays in this new age. One of my earliest memories, now, was my tenth birthday. My mother took me to the medical station, where I had to drink foul-tasting stuff and submit to tests and some shots—just quick blasts of air on the skin, but they scared me. “You’ll appreciate this later,” my mom said, with a funny expression. “You won’t get sick and weak when you’re old. Your immune system will stay strong. You’ll live for ever so long, Emma, don’t cry.”

Yes, yes. Apparently she was right, I thought, looking into the mirror again, where my image seemed to pulse with color under the artificial lights. Very long lives, young at eighty: the triumph of gerontology. As always, I wondered what I would do with all the extra years—the extra lives. Would I live to stand free on Martian soil, and breathe Martian air?

Thinking these thoughts I left my room, intent on breakfast. The lounges down the hall from the bedrooms were empty, an unusual thing. I walked into the last lounge before the corridor turned, to look out the small window in it, with its view over the bridge.

And there they were: two silver rectangles, like asteroids crushed into ingots of the metals they contained. Spaceships!

They were asteroid miners of the PR class, sister ships of our own. I stared at them motionlessly, my heart thudding like a drum, thinking rendezvous. The ships grew to the size of decks of cards, very slowly. They were the shape of a card deck as well, with the mining cranes and drills folded together at their fronts, bridge ceilings just barely bulging from their sides (tiny crescents of light), rocket exhausts large at their rear, like beads on their sides and front. Brilliant points of light shone from the windows, like the fluorescent spots on the deep-sea fish of Earth. They looked small beside an irregular blue-gray asteroid, against the dead black of space.

I left the lounge slowly. Turned and walked down the corridor—

In the dining commons it was bedlam.

I stopped and stared. Of the entire crew of forty-three, at least twenty-five must have been in the commons, shouting and laughing, six or seven singing the Ode to Joy, others setting up the drinks table (Ilene maneuvering the mass of the big coffee pot), John and Steven and Lanya in a mass hugging and laughing-sobbing, tears in their eyes. And on the video screen was a straight-on camera shot of the two ships, silver dots against a blue-gray asteroid, so that it looked like a die thrown through the vacuum.

They all had known. Every single one of them in the room. I found myself blinking rapidly, embarrassed and angry. Why hadn’t I been told? I wiped my eyes and got out of the doorway before I was noticed by someone inside.

Andrew Duggins flew by, pulling himself along the hall rails. His big face was scowling. “Emma!” he said, “come on,” and pulled away. I only looked at him, and he stopped. “This is a mutiny!” he said, jerking his head in the direction of the commons. “They’re taking over the ship, and those others out there too. We’ve got to try and get a message off to Ceres—to defend ourselves!” With a hard yank he pulled himself away, in the direction of the radio room.

Mutiny. All of the mysterious events I had noticed fell together, into a pattern. A plan to take over the ship. Had Swann been too afraid of the possibility to discuss it?

But there was no time for a detailed analysis. I leaped off the floor, and with a strong pull on the rail was after Duggins.

Outside the radio room there was a full-fledged fight going on. I saw Al Nordhoff striking one of the ship police in the face, Amy Van Danke twisting furiously in the hold of two men, trying to bite one in the throat. Others struggled in the doorway. Shouts and Amy’s shrieks filled the air. The fight had that awkward, dangerous quality that all brawls in weightlessness exhibit. A blow that connected (one of Al’s vicious kicks to the head of a policeman, for instance) sent both parties spinning across the room. . .

“Mutiny!” Duggins bellowed, and diving forward crashed into the group in the doorway. His momentum bowled several people into the radio room, and an opening was cleared. I shoved off from the wall and grazed my head on the doorjamb going in.

After that things were blurry, but I was angry—angry that I had been deceived, that Swann and the general order of things were being challenged, that friends of mine were being hit—and I swung blindly. I caught one of the policemen on the nose with my fist, and his head smacked the wall with a loud thump. The room was crowded, arms and legs were swinging. The radio console itself was crawling with bodies. Duggins was bellowing still, and hauling figures away from the mass on the radio controls. Someone got me in a choke hold from behind. I put heel to groin and discovered it was a woman—put elbow in diaphragm and twisted under her arm, nearly strangled. Duggins had cleared the radio and was desperately manipulating the dials. I put a haymaker on the ear of a man trying to pull him away. Screams and spherical droplets of blood filled the air—

Reinforcements arrived. Eric Swann slipped through the doorway, his red hair flying wild, a tranquilizer gun in his hand. Others followed him. Darts whizzed through the air, sounding like arrows. “Mutiny!” I shrieked. “Eric! Mutiny! Mutiny!”

He saw me, pointed his gun at me and shot. I looked at the dart hanging from my forearm.

. . . The next thing I knew, I was being guided down the jump tube. Leaving it at my floor. I saw Swann’s face swimming above me. “Mutiny,” I said.

“That’s true,” Eric replied. “We’re going to have to put you under arrest for a few hours.” His freckle-face was stretched into a fool’s grin.

“Asshole,” I muttered. I wanted to run. I could outrun all of them. “I thought you were m’friend.”

“I am your friend, Emma. It was just too dangerous to explain. Davydov will tell you all about it when you see him.”

Davydov. Davydov? “But he was lost,” I muttered, fighting sleep and very confused. “He’s dead.”

Then I was in my bed, strapped securely. “Get some sleep,” Swann said. “I’ll be back in a few hours.” I gave him a look planned to turn him to stone, but he just grinned and I fell asleep in the middle of it, thinking, Mutiny. . . .

━━ ˖°˖ ☾☆☽ ˖°˖ ━━━━━━━

When I woke up again, Swann was by my bed, tilted in the no-gee so that his head hung over me. “How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Bad.” I waved him away and he pushed off into the air above the bed. I rubbed my eyes. “What happened, Swann?”

“A mutiny, you’ve been calling it.” He smiled.

“And it’s true?”

He nodded.

“But why? Who are you?”

“Did you ever hear of the Mars Starship Association?”

I thought. “A long time ago? One of those secret anti-Committee groups.”

“We weren’t anti-Committee,” he said. “We were just a club. An advocacy group. We wanted the Committee to support research for an interstellar expedition.”

“So?”

“So the Committee didn’t want to do it. And they took us to be part of the anti-Committee movement, so they outlawed us. Jailed the leaders, transferred the members to different sectors. They made us anti-Committee.”

“Didn’t all that happen a long time ago?” I asked, still disoriented. “What has that got to do with this?”

“We regrouped,” he said. “Secretly. We’ve existed underground for all these years. This is our coming out, you might say.”

“But why? What good does it do you to take over a few asteroid miners? You aren’t planning to use them as starships, are you?” I laughed shortly at the idea.

He stared at me without answering, and suddenly I knew that I had guessed it.

I sat up carefully, feeling cold and a touch dizzy. “You must be joking.”

“Not at all. We’re going to join the Lermontov and the Hidalgo, and complete their life-support systems’ closure.”

“Impossible,” I breathed, still stunned at the very idea.

“Not impossible,” he said patiently. “That’s what the MSA has been working on these last forty years—”

“One of those ships is Hidalgo?” I interrupted. My processing was still impaired by the drugs he had shot me with.

“That’s right.”

“So Davydov is alive….. ”

“He certainly is. You knew him, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” Davydov had been the captain of Hidalgo when it disappeared in the Achilles group three years before. I had thought him dead. . . .

“There’s no way I’ll go,” I said after a pause. “You can’t kidnap me and drag me along on some insane interstellar attempt—”

“No! No. We’re sending Rust Eagle back with all the non-MSA people from the three ships.”

I let out a long sigh of relief. Yet sudden anguish filled me at the thought of the mess I was suddenly in, of the fanatics who now had control of my life, and I cried out, “Eric, you knew this was going to happen out here. Why didn’t you arrange to keep me off this flight?”

He looked away from me, pushed himself down to the floor. Red-faced, he said, “I did the opposite, Emma.”

“You what?

“There are MSA people in the expedition scheduling office, and”— still staring at the floor—“I told them to arrange for you to be aboard Rust Eagle this time.”

“But, Swann!” I said, struggling for words. “Why? Why did you do that to me?”

“Well—because, Emma, you’re one of the best life-support systems designers there is on Mars, or anywhere. Everyone knows that, you know that. And even though our systems designers have got a lot of improvements for the starship, they still have to be installed in those two ships, and made to work. And we have to do it before the Committee police find us. Your help could make the difference, Emma.”

“Oh, Swann.”

“It could! Look, I knew it was imposing on you, but I thought, if we got you out here ignorant of our plans, then you couldn’t be held responsible. When you return to Mars you can tell them you didn’t know anything about the MSA, that we made you help us. That was why I didn’t tell you anything on the way out here, don’t you see? And I know you aren’t that strong a supporter of the Committee, are you? They’re just a bunch of thugs. So that if your old friends asked you for help that only you can give, and you couldn’t be held culpable, you might help? Even if it was illegal?” He looked up at me, his blue eyes grave.

“You’re asking for the impossible,” I told him. “Your MSA has lost touch with reality. You’re talking about travel across light-years, for God’s sake, and you’ve got five-year systems to do it with!”

“They can be modified,” Swann insisted. “Davydov will explain the whole project when you see him. He wants to talk with you as soon as you’d like to.”

“Davydov,” I said darkly. “He’s the one behind this madness.”

“We’re all behind it, Emma. And it isn’t mad.”

I waved an arm and held my head in my hands, as it was pulsing with all the bad news. “Just leave me alone for a while.”

“Sure,” he said. “I know it’s a lot to take in. Just tell me when you want to see Davydov. He’s over on Hidalgo.”

“I’ll tell you,” I said, and looked at the wall until he left the room.

━━ ˖°˖ ☾☆☽ ˖°˖ ━━━━━━━

I had better tell about Oleg Davydov here, for we were lovers once, and for me the memory of him was marked with pain and anger, and a sense of loss—loss that no matter how long I lived could not be recouped or forgotten.

I was just out of the University of Mars, working at the Hellas Basin, in the new settlement near the western edge of the Basin where underground reservoirs and aquifers had been discovered. It was a good supply of water, but the situation was delicate, and the use of the water caused ecologic problems. I was set to work with others to solve these problems, and I quickly proved that I was the best among the systems people there. I had a grasp of the whole Hellas set-up that seemed perfectly natural to me, but was (I could see) impressive to others. And I was a good middle-distance runner—so that all in all, I was a confident youth, perhaps even a bit arrogant.

During my second year there I met Oleg Davydov. He was staying in Burroughs, the big government center to the north, doing some work for the Soviet mining cartel. We met in a restaurant, introduced by a mutual acquaintance.

He was tall and bulky, a handsome man. One of the Soviet blacks, they call them. I guess some of their ancestors came from one of the USSR’s client countries in Africa. The color had been pretty well watered down over the generations, and Davydov had coffee-and-cream-colored skin. His hair was black and wooly; he had thick lips under a thin, aquiline nose; a heavy beard, shaved so that his lower face was rough; and his eyes were ice blue. They seemed to jump out of his face. So he was a pretty good racial mix. But on Mars, where ninety-nine percent of the population is fish-belly white, as they say, any touch of skin color is highly valued. It made one look so . . . healthy, and vital. This Davydov was really extremely good-looking, a color delight to the eye. I watched him then, as we sat on adjacent stools in that Burroughs restaurant, talking, drinking, flirting a little . . . watched so closely that I can recall the potted palm and white wall that were behind him, although I don’t remember a word we said. It was one of those charmed nights, when both parties are aware of the mutual attraction.

We spent that night together, and the next several nights as well. We visited the first colony in the area, The Can, and marvelled at the exhibits in the museum there. We scrambled around the base of the Fluted Cliffs in Hellespontus Montes, and spent a night out in a survival tent. I beat him easily in a footrace, and then won a 1500-meter race for him at a Burroughs track. Every hour available to us we spent together, and I fell in love. Oleg was young, witty, proud of his many abilities; he was exotically bilingual (a Russian!), affectionate, sensual. We spent a lot of time in bed. I remember that in the dark I could see little more than his teeth when he grinned, and his eyes, which seemed light grey. I loved making love with him . . . I remember late dinners together, in Burroughs or out at the station. And innumerable train rides, together or alone, across the sere rust deserts between Burroughs and Hellas—sitting by the window looking out at the curved red horizon, feeling happy and excited. Well, those are the kind of times that you only live through once. I remember them well.

The arguments began quite soon after those first weeks. We were an arrogant pair and didn’t know any better. For a long time I didn’t even realize that our disagreements were particularly serious, for I couldn’t imagine anyone arguing with me for very long. (Yes, I was that self-important.) But Oleg Davydov did. I can’t remember much of what we argued about—that period of time, unlike the beginning, is a convenient blur in my memory. One time I do remember (of course the rest could be called up as well): I had come into Burroughs on the late train, and we were out eating in a Greek restaurant behind the train station. I was tired, and nervous about our relationship, and sick of Hellas. Hoping to compliment him, I made some comment about how much more fun it would be to be an asteroid miner like he was.

“We aren’t doing anything out there,” he said in response. “Just making money for the corporations—making a few people on Earth rich, while everything else down there falls apart.”

“Well, at least you’re out there exploring,” I said.

He looked annoyed, an expression I was becoming familiar with. “But we aren’t, that’s what I’m saying. With our capabilities we could be exploring the whole solar system. We could have stations on the Jovian moons, around Saturn, all the way out to Pluto. We need a solar watch station on Pluto.”

“I wasn’t aware of that fact,” I said sarcastically.

His pale blue eyes pierced me. “Of course you weren’t. You think it’s perfectly all right to continue making money from those stupid asteroids, and nothing more, here at the end of the twenty-second century.”

Copyright © 1998 from Kim Stanley Robinson

Pre-order Icehenge Here:

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Six Bookish Betrayals to Beware on the Ides of March!

Caesar: “What sayst thou to me now? Speak once again.” 

Soothsayer: “Beware the Ides of March.”

Caesar: “He is a dreamer. Let us leave him. Pass.”

This snippet from Act 1, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is quite famous. Often the clues that nod to a fate we don’t want to see are so clear, in retrospect. Even with this prophecy, Shakespeare’s subject perished in terrible surprise when he was betrayed by his besties. 

Here are six reading suggestions full of betrayals that you’ll never see coming!


the silverblood promise by james loganThe Silverblood Promise by James Logan

Ah, Saphrona! Fabled city of merchant princes! You can find anything you might like here, for a price, and loyalty? Well. That can be very cheap. Saphrona is the destination of Lukan Gardova, a disgraced noble scion on a quest to unravel the mysterious murder of his father. It’s a good thing Lukan is an excellent cheat in his own right (cardsharp) because in this investigation, a single lie could spell death. 

one for my enemy by olivie blakeOne for My Enemy by Olivie Blake

Sometimes love is betrayal. In this modern speculative reimagining of Romeo & Juliet, the two sparring factions are rival corners of the Manhattan magic underworld. The Antonova sisters are the daughters of the elusive chemical supplier Baba Yaga. The Federov brothers are the sons of the shadow kingpin Koschei the Deathless. 

To fall in love would constitute a betrayal of their families. To act for your family would be a betrayal of your lover. 

Uh oh. 

she who became the sun by shelley parker-chanShe Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

This book is actually the most amount of betrayal one can fit in a book, probably. There’s so much. Literally so much. Our protagonist Zhu’s engagement with both betrayal and murder is well above average, but General Ouyang is the real revenge warrior. His entire life is revenged and the only person he loves is his target. Ouch. 

Daughter of RedwinterDaughter of Redwinter by ed mcdonald by Ed McDonald

After so many shocking betrayals, here’s a new angle: Our main character Raine is the one doing the betraying. Kind of. Her primary goal is to accumulate power so she can stay alive, and she’s staying true to that, even if it means lying to everyone else. Here’s the thing: Raine can see the dead. Everyone around her would just hate that if they found out. Probably to a lethal degree. 

So they never will. 

the echo wife by sarah gaileyThe Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

In marriage, you’re supposed to have your partner’s back. Evelyn’s husband goes behind her back when he steals her cloning research to create a gentler replicant of his wife. He’s the worst. Luckily, he’s soon dead. Evelyn and her clone, Martine, have a mess to clean. 

the three body problem by cixin liuThe Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

Sha stared at Wang for a long time and then nodded. “I understand. Strange things have been happening to scientists lately…” 

“Yes.” Wang ducked into the car. He didn’t want to discuss the subject any further. 

“Is it our turn?” 

“It’s my turn, at least.” Wang started the engine. 

The Trisolarans are coming. They have inside help. 

The Three-Body Problem will release soon as a Netflix series!

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Queer Robots & Real Love: TJ Klune Talks In the Lives of Puppets

in the lives of puppets by tj kluneLast year, TJ Klune’s In the Lives of Puppets released to tremendous acclaim. This year, it’s releasing in paperback, making this story of queer robots and real love available to new readers! TJ’s here to talk his book and explain how he’s going to make you fall in love with a vacuum cleaner named Rambo.

Check it out!


Dear Reader,

Once upon a time, I took you to an island to find a home where one should not exist. After, I invited you to a mysterious tea shop where the living helped the dead find meaning and purpose, joy and acceptance.

For my next trick, I’m going to make you fall in love with a vacuum cleaner named Rambo.

Okay, wait. Let me back up a minute.

I am so thrilled to present In the Lives of Puppets, a queer retelling of Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio. In the following pages, you’ll be going on an adventure unlike anything you’ve seen from me before. Though this story deals with robotics, androids and machines of all shapes and sizes, it is firmly rooted in fantasy, a fable that explores the ideas of kindness, humanity, and forgiveness, including who has the right to forgive.

This book is not The House in the Cerulean Sea. This book is not Under the Whispering Door. There is no stuffy, bland middlemanager bureaucrat in need of a wake-up call or an attorney who finds life after death. There is no island to discover, no tea shop to make a home. This is the story of an already happy family who built each other up and carved out their place in the world. And this time I’m taking their home away from them. I’m sending them on a journey across a strange and dangerous country to save one of their own and fight to reclaim the happiness they worked so hard to build together.

But in this journey, you will find hints of the familiar: love, life, and the hope for a better future, all wrapped up in a story of loyalty in the face of betrayal and how even the smallest of us can make a difference when called upon to do so. It is also about the heart and soul of Victor Lawson—the main character, and the only human of the bunch. Though he was raised by machines, I set out to show that Victor’s humanity could not be denied, that it wasn’t something that needed to be justified or earned. It just is, and in this unforgiving place, it counts for something. Perhaps everything.

But Vic won’t be going it alone. He will have his friends with him: Rambo, the vacuum who wants only to be loved (so you better get on that, no pressure). Nurse Ratched, a nursing machine who has a few of her wires crossed, sadistically so. And a machine with a dark past. A robot with secrets locked away in his head. An android with blood on his hands and a heart in his chest: Hap, also known as the Hysterically Angry Puppet.

Together, they must do the impossible: travel to the soulless heart of this world and bring the last member of their family home. And in doing so, they will learn the truth about the past, the present, and the future of all things.

Are you ready for an adventure?

TJ Klune


Order In the Lives of Puppets in Paperback Here!

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Excerpt Reveal: Rogue Sequence by Zac Topping

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rogue sequence by zac topping

It’s 2091 and independent contract companies around the world are producing genetically modified soldiers…to be sold to the highest bidders.

Ander Rade is a super-soldier, a genetically engineered living weapon, and has been dutifully following orders since he gave himself to Xyphos Industries’ Gene-Mod Program several years ago. But when a mission goes sideways, he’s captured, imprisoned, and forced into brutally violent fighting pits for the better part of the next decade…until agents from the Genetic Compliance Department of the United American Provinces appear in the visiting room.

Things have changed since Rade was captured. Shortly after his incarceration, the World Unity Council banned human genetic engineering and deemed all modified individuals a threat to society. Overnight, an entire subculture of people became outlaws simply for existing. But instead of leaving Rade locked behind bars, the GCD agents have come with an offer: Freedom in exchange for his help tracking down one of his former teammates from that ill-fated mission all those years ago.

It’s an offer Rade can’t refuse, but he soon realizes that the situation is far more volatile than anyone had anticipated, and is forced to take matters into his own hands as he tries to figure out whose side he’s really on, and why.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Rogue Sequence by Zac Topping, on sale 6/11/24


PROLOGUE

Yunnan conflict zone
Myanmar/China border
August 14, 2091

Dusk had settled by the time the assault was over, the horizon turned a red smear choked with streaks of oily black smoke that drifted out over the surrounding jungle. The gunfire had stopped, the silence sinking down over the village like a weight, blanketing the stillness and filling the void left by the abrupt absence of chaos. No more belching rounds or snapping arc charges, no more screaming confusion. Just the gentle breeze scratching across the dirt, and the crackling of fire as the village’s fuel tanks burned.

The battle had been swift, and violent. More a slaughter, really.

The thought made Ander Rade uneasy, but he buried the feeling and continued moving through the ruined village. He remained cautious, keeping his SA-68 burst rifle tucked to his shoulder, letting his senses reach out to search for any sign of remaining opposition. The mission had been straightforward: locate a small rebel outpost, eliminate all resistance, and secure a weapons cache reported to be hidden somewhere in the area. But now that the chaos was over it was clear this had been nothing more than an ordinary village occupied by ordinary villagers. They’d been no match for the brutality of Xyphos Industries’ custom-built assault team, each member having been fine-tuned at the genetic level to be a perfect killing machine. Strong, fast, accurate, near impervious to damage. Utterly fearless and addicted to aggression. Few companies in the world produced such spectacular products as Xyphos Industries’ gene-modified combat operatives, and the company, based out of the United American Provinces, had no shortage of clients willing to pay top dollar for their services. This particular client—the Myanmarese government—had purchased Xyphos’s aid in quashing a rebellion that was trying to take control of the country.

The details didn’t interest Rade, though. Too many conflicts in too many war-torn parts of the world to bother keeping track of. None of it mattered. Xyphos pointed, and the team went.

Rade stopped in the street and kicked over a corpse with the toe of his boot. It flopped in the dirt, vacant eyes staring up at nothing. A battered and rust-spotted arc rifle two decades out of fashion lay just beyond the body’s curling fingers. One of the local government’s older models, and one often found in the possession of government sympathizers, not rebels. The weapon was so old it was a wonder it hadn’t exploded on the first pull of the trigger. The weapon’s operator, however, was just the opposite. Young. Too young. Not a man yet, and certainly not a rebel. Something wasn’t adding up.

Rade sensed movement to his left. The enhanced neocortex of his brain recognized the familiar pattern of footsteps as that of his team leader, and relaxed. A second later, Sevrina Fox pushed through the doors of a shack on the opposite side of the road, her own burst rifle held at the low ready. “Southeast clear,” she said as she approached.

Rade tore his gaze from the corpse at his feet and squinted at the smoke-filled sky. “These people had government-issue weapons,” he said.

“Your sector. Is it clear?” Sevrina asked.

Rade looked at the carnage around them. “These weren’t rebels.”

“Ander,” Sevrina said with an edge.

“Sector’s clear.”

The sound of a gunshot brought them both around, rifles up. Combat endorphins spiked, temporarily dampening Rade’s sour mood and making him hope for something to fight. The sound of a scuffle, followed by the familiar four-round burst from an SA-68. The door to a hut a few rows down flew open and a young woman stumbled into the street. She was unarmed, shoeless, clad in threadbare clothes. Blood spattered across her face and neck, her eyes wild with fear. She lost her footing and fell to the dirt, crawling desperately as she tried to keep moving. She caught sight of the armed mods in the street watching her and froze.

Sevrina lowered her weapon. “Handle this, Ander.”

The woman was locked in Rade’s sights, and her eyes were locked on him.

He didn’t move. Couldn’t move. The sheer terror on this woman’s face pinned him like an accusation, like she was seeing him for the monster he was. And for the first time in his life, he wondered if she was right. The thought grated against everything he’d ever believed, ever wanted to believe. Pulled back the layers of psychological conditioning he’d successfully endured to become the warrior he was.

He’d never hesitated before. Never felt doubt about the morality of his orders, but here, now, in this burnt-out and bullet-riddled village in the jungles of some distant country he barely understood, he’d been laid bare by nothing more than a look from a complete stranger.

He was a monster.

“Ander.”

He could feel Sevrina’s eyes on him. The team leader had given an order, an order handed down by the indisputable authority of Xyphos Industries. Yet his finger stayed braced on the upper receiver, and off the trigger. This was a noncombatant, no threat to himself or the team. The assault was over. There was no need to end this person’s life.

Out of the same hut the woman had stumbled from came the third member of the team, Darius Turin, marching out into the street with his burst rifle slung across his chest and a furious snarl plastered across his face. He saw the woman, saw Rade standing frozen before her, then, without losing stride, ripped the sidearm from his thigh holster and shot her through the back of the head.

Rade stared at her lifeless body and felt something inside him break.

“Sons of bitches were playing dead until I was right on top of them,” Turin said as he holstered his sidearm and rolled up his sleeve to expose a bullet hole in his forearm. He pulled a snap knife from his belt and used it to dig the bullet out, and, once freed of the foreign object, the wound immediately began to heal. “They’re not playing now, anyway.”

Maybe it was the stress, or the combat endorphins, or the unsettling feeling coursing through every fiber of his being, but Rade’s focus locked on Turin. “You son of a bitch.”

Turin squared up. “The hell’s your problem?”

“Both of you lock it up,” Sevrina said. “We still have a mission to complete, so focus and follow orders. Did anybody locate the cache yet?”

“Negative,” Turin said, making a production of putting the knife away.

“Nothing on the sweep,” answered Hab, the fourth and final member of the Xyphos hit team, as he appeared from around the corner of the village’s only satellite station house. He was clutching a handheld frequency scanner, his short-barreled submachine gun hanging from his chest. His left eye was entirely milk-white, indicating he was still receiving video from the surveillance drone buzzing overhead, the images feeding directly into his optic nerve. The neural linkage grafted to his skull blinked rhythmically as it maintained connection to Xyphos’s private satellite network, relaying their comms and location. “The waves are dead,” he said. “There’s nothing here.”

“Not anymore,” Rade added, feeling the combat endorphins recede, and the deep unsettling feeling creep back in.

Sevrina turned narrowed eyes on him. “What’s with you, Ander?”

He was no stranger to killing. No stranger to following orders. It had never been his place to question the mission. Xyphos gave the commands and they executed. That was it. But something here had opened him up. Revealed the awful truth of what he was. Like there’d been only so much he could ignore, only so much he could bury and suppress before the dam broke, and now he could finally see.

All around him lay the lifeless husks of what had been people only moments ago. People with hopes and dreams and loved ones who had no idea what had been coming for them. Innocent people. Noncombatants, armed only with rudimentary government-issued weapons barely capable of protecting their meager village.

Rade felt Sevrina staring at him, waiting for an answer. “I . . . don’t know,” he said. “Nothing.” He wanted to tell her that this was wrong. That what they were doing was wrong and that they maybe didn’t have to do it at all. But he knew it would fall on deaf ears, and only further complicate an already unraveling situation.

Her hand gripped his shoulder. Firm, but not threatening. Her eyes grew softer, and Rade wondered if she knew how easily she pierced his armor. A smaller part of him wondered how much of that was just another of Xyphos’s psychological conditioning parameters, reinforced through pheromone-induced obedience protocols.

“We have to lock it down,” she said, the edge gone from her tone. “We’re not done here until we locate the cache and mark the location for the Myanmarese troops. Understood?”

“Understood,” he replied, wanting nothing more than for her hand to stay where it was.

But she pulled it away and turned toward Turin. “You were point man on this one. You sure your intel is good?”

Turin finally looked up, something dangerous hiding behind his eyes. “I spent weeks grooming contacts and building a network in this goddamned country. This is what I do. The intel’s good.” He was doing a poor job of holding back the venom in his voice. He stared at Sevrina long enough for Rade to wonder if he should step in, but then Turin’s glare shifted back to him. Like he knew what Rade was thinking. Which maybe he did, considering he was the team’s advance recon specialist and reading the terrain was his field of expertise.

“Fine,” Sevrina said, cutting in before things started to escalate again. “We split up, make another sweep of the village. Keep peripherals up, there may be more stragglers waiting to get the jump on us.”

“I hope there are,” Turin said before breaking contact and heading back toward the northwest sector.

Rade let it go. He had enough to contend with already, he could deal with Turin later. Right now he had to get a grip because whether he liked it or not, Sevrina was right. In order to get out of there they’d have to complete the mission.

But everything about this op was wrong. From the locals armed with government weapons to the possibly stale intel, it was all congealing into one big rotten mess. And something was prickling Rade’s senses, something dangerous, like feeling the eyes of a predator watching from the shadows.

His thoughts were cut off by a sudden piercing screech through his earpiece. The shock sent a wave of combat endorphins spiking through his blood as he ripped the earpiece out and threw it away.

Hab shouted and clutched at his head, his left eye clearing from white back to normal as the drone fell from the sky. The neural linkage blinked out.

“The fuck was that?”

“Interference?” Sevrina asked, her pupils dilated, tendons in her neck and hands flexed tight as her own combat endorphins surged through her body.

Hab was punching furiously at the controls of a manual sat-linkage device as he tried to work through the problem. He stopped suddenly, and his head snapped up. “Negative. We’ve been cut off. And we’ve got incoming.”

“Where?”

“Everywhere.”

Rade swept the barrel of his burst rifle toward the perimeter of the village. Dusk had turned the tree line into a black wall just visible between the small block buildings that made up the village. He should’ve trusted his instincts and voiced his concerns earlier. Might’ve been just enough of a warning to give them the jump. “How?” he growled.

“Not important,” Sevrina said. “Right now we need to—” She was cut off by the high-pitched whine of turbine engines as a heavy gunship cleared the canopy and swooped down over them, floodlights snapping on. The ship’s rotary turrets spun up and swiveled around, tracking them where they stood.

Roughly armored vehicles burst from the forest and came roaring into the village, rebels jumping out and pointing weapons at the three genetically modified mercenaries standing among the dead bodies scattered through the streets. Several of the rebels were clad in heavy black-market exosuits and carried sparking stun suppressors.

Rade lifted his rifle, but Sevrina placed her hand on the barrel and pushed it toward the ground. “We can’t win this,” she said, and he knew she was right. The rebels had come prepared.

A setup, no two ways about it. The thought made Rade want to erupt, and it took every ounce of will to deny the storm of combat-tuned chemicals pulsing through him, begging for violence, but he did as Sevrina ordered.

The rebels closed in, shouting in Burmese. Rade didn’t speak the language but he guessed their meaning all the same. He set his weapon on the ground and lifted his hands. The only option they had now was to survive, and trust Xyphos to come get them out.

A crackling bolt ripped through the night. Sevrina grunted and fell, twitching.

Hab went to draw his sidearm. Another stun bolt flashed. He hit the dirt, electricity arcing across his fried biohardware. Rade’s heightened reflexes went into overdrive as he dove to his right and dodged a third stun bolt that passed close enough to make the hairs on his body stand up. He rolled and came up with Sevrina’s rifle, emptying the magazine at the rebels around him, trying to drive them back. Three fell to the dirt and another screamed as he spun around backwards under a barrage of bullets. There was no plan. Rade was only reacting. Someone grabbed him from his left, mechanical hands clamping down around his arm and wrenching the rifle away as another jumped on him from the right. Rade growled, twisted, and threw one of the attackers into the side of an armored vehicle. Fueled by rage and the combat-tuned endorphins, Rade gripped the frame of the exosuit still clinging to him and fought against the mechanically powered strength of the rebel who was trying to wrestle him to the ground. A brief flash of wide, terror-stricken eyes beneath the soldier’s helmet, and Rade tore the offending hand away, snapping the limb backwards to the sound of screams and grinding servos.

Someone opened fire. Rade felt the air ripple as rounds came flying in. The slap and clang as lead met steel and flesh, and the rebel in the exosuit went down. An impact in Rade’s thigh, searing heat as the bullet burned its way into the muscle. Rade fell to one knee, doing everything he could to not topple over completely.

An older rebel wearing a tattered jacket covered in mismatched ribbons started shouting and waving his arms. The gunfire stopped. Rade bared his teeth, glancing about for a weapon he might be able to reach . . .

There was a click and whine as a stun suppressor primed its charge. A bright flash, a cold, numbing punch to the chest, and Rade crumpled to the ground. He couldn’t move. Could barely breathe. All he could do was look at Sevrina lying facedown in the dirt next to him, gasping like a fish as they clamped a suppression collar around her neck.

The old rebel in the decorative jacket crouched down beside Rade and patted him on the face. Rade could do nothing to fight back. In broken English, the old rebel said, “No death. You come alive.” He leaned in, smiling. “Buyers already waiting.”

The suppression collar closed around Rade’s neck before he could even scream.

Copyright © 2024 from Zac Topping

Pre-order Rogue Sequence Here:

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The Atlas Quiz: Redux

In the spirit of the magical research conducted by the main cast of Olivie Blake’s Atlas Series, we’ve conducted a little research of our own! Over the years, we’ve assembled a number of quizzes to deduce where YOU stand in the Atlas universe. With only a few clicks, we can identify who your ally is, who your enemy is, and who you are of titular six we first met in The Atlas Six.

Now the trilogy is complete, so complete these quizzes! Tell us who you are!


The Atlas Six Alliance Quiz: Ally


Buy The Atlas Six in Paperback Here:

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The Atlas Paradox Quiz: Enemy


Buy The Atlas Paradox in Paperback Here:

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The Atlas Complex Quiz: You

Buy The Atlas Complex Here:

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Tor’s March eBook Deals of 2024

The close of winter is a wild time. Hot eBook deals are springing up left and right!

Check ’em out!


The Wardenthe warden by daniel m. ford by Daniel M. Ford — $2.99

There was a plan. She had the money, the connections, even the brains. It was simple: become one of the only female necromancers, earn as many degrees as possible, get a post in one of the grand cities, then prove she’s capable of greatness. The funny thing about plans is that they are seldom under your control. Now Aelis de Lenti, a daughter of a noble house and recent graduate of the esteemed Magisters’ Lyceum, finds herself in the far-removed village of Lone Pine. Mending fences, matching wits with goats, and serving people who want nothing to do with her. But, not all is well in Lone Pine, and as the villagers Aelis is reluctantly getting to know start to behave strangely, Aelis begins to suspect that there is far greater need for a Warden of her talents than she previously thought. Old magics are restless, and an insignificant village on the farthest border of the kingdom might hold secrets far beyond what anyone expected. Aelis might be the only person standing between one of the greatest evils ever known and the rest of the world.

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To Hold Up the Skyto hold up the sky by cixin liu by Cixin Liu — $2.99

In To Hold Up the Sky, Cixin Liu takes us across time and space, from a rural mountain community where elementary students must use physicas to prevent an alien invasion; to coal mines in northern China where new technology will either save lives of unleash a fire that will burn for centuries; to a time very much like our own, when superstring computers predict our every move; to 10,000 years in the future, when humanity is finally able to begin anew; to the very collapse of the universe itself. Written between 1999 and 2017 and never before published in English, these stories came into being during decades of major change in China and will take you across time and space through the eyes of one of science fiction’s most visionary writers.

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Princess of Duneprincess of dune by brian herbert & kevin j. anderson by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson — $2.99

Raised in the Imperial court and born to be a political bargaining chip, Irulan was sent at an early age to be trained as a Bene Gesserit Sister. As Princess Royal, she also learned important lessons from her father—the Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV. Now of marriageable age, Princess Irulan sees the machinations of the many factions vying for power—the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, the Spacing Guild, the Imperial throne, and a ruthless rebellion in the Imperial military. The young woman has a wise and independent streak and is determined to become much more than a pawn to be moved about on anyone’s gameboard. Meanwhile, on Arrakis, Chani—the daughter of Liet-Kynes, the Imperial Planetologist who serves under the harsh rule of House Harkonnen—is trained in the Fremen mystical ways by an ancient Reverend Mother. Brought up to believe in her father’s ecological dream of a green Arrakis, she follows Liet around to Imperial testing stations, surviving the many hazards of desert life. Chani soon learns the harsh cost of Fremen dreams and obligations under the oppressive boot heel of the long Harkonnen occupation.

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Tsalmothtsalmoth by steven brust by Steven Brust — $2.99

First comes love. Then comes marriage… Vlad Taltos is in love. With a former assassin who may just be better than he is at the Game. Women like this don’t come along every day and no way is he passing up a sure bet. So a wedding is being planned. Along with a shady deal gone wrong and a dead man who owes Vlad money. Setting up the first and trying to deal with the second is bad enough. And then bigger powers decide that Vlad is the perfect patsy to shake the power structure of the kingdom. More’s the pity that his soul is sent walkabout to do it. How might Vlad get his soul back and have any shot at a happy ending? Well, there’s the tale…

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Dancer’s Lamentdancer's lament by ian c. esslemont by Ian C. Esslemont — $2.99

The first book of the Path to Ascendancy trilogy, Dancer’s Lament, focuses on the genesis of the empire and features Dancer, the skilled assassin, who, alongside the mage Kellanved, would found the Malazan empire.

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Impactimpact by douglas preston by Douglas Preston — $2.99

A brilliant meteor lights up the Maine coast… and two young women borrow a boat and set out for a distant island to find the impact crater. A scientist at the National Propulsion Facility discovers an inexplicable source of gamma rays in the outer Solar System. He is found decapitated, the data missing. High resolution NASA images reveal an unnatural feature hidden in the depths of a crater on Mars… and it appears to have been activated. Sixty hours and counting.

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Download a Free Digital Preview of The Silverblood Promise

the silverblood promise by james logan digital preview coverSet in a city of traders and thieves, monsters and murderers, this fast-paced epic fantasy debut is a must-read for fans of Joe Abercrombie, Nicholas Eames, and Scott Lynch. Download a FREE sneek peek today!

Lukan Gardova is a cardsharp, academy dropout, and—thanks to a duel that ended badly—the disgraced heir to an ancient noble house. His days consist of cheap wine, rigged card games, and wondering how he might win back the life he threw away.

When Lukan discovers that his estranged father has been murdered in strange circumstances, he finds fresh purpose. Deprived of his chance to make amends for his mistakes, he vows to unravel the mystery behind his father’s death.

His search for answers leads him to Saphrona, fabled city of merchant princes, where anything can be bought if one has the coin. Lukan only seeks the truth, but instead he finds danger and secrets in every shadow.

For in Saphrona, everything has a price—and the price of truth is the deadliest of all.

Download a FREE sneak peek today!

Download Your Free Digital Preview:

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Every Tor Paperback Coming this Winter

Love books? Us too! So much that we’re rounding up every paperback coming from Tor Books this winter, right here. Check it out!


The Atlas Paradoxthe atlas paradox by olivie blake by Olivie Blake

Six magicians were presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. Five are now members of the Society. Two paths lay before them. All must pick a side. Alliances will be tested, hearts will be broken, and The Society of Alexandrians will be revealed for what it is: a secret society with raw, world-changing power, headed by a man whose plans to change life as we know it are already under way.

Stations of the Tidestations of the tide by michael swanwick by Michael Swanwick

From author Michael Swanwick—one of the most brilliantly assured and darkly inventive writers of contemporary fiction—comes the Nebula award-winning masterwork of radically altered realities and world-shattering seductions. The “Jubilee Tides” will drown the continents of the planet Miranda beneath the weight of her own oceans. But as the once-in-two-centuries cataclysm approaches, an even greater catastrophe threatens this dark and dangerous planet of tale-spinners, conjurers, and shapechangers. A man from the Bureau of Proscribed Technologies has been sent to investigate. For Gregorian has come, a genius renegade scientist and charismatic bush wizard. With magic and forbidden technology, he plans to remake the rotting dying world in his own evil image-and to force whom or whatever remains on its diminishing surface toward a terrifying, astonishing confrontation with death and transcendence.

The Cage of Dark Hoursthe cage of dark hours by marina lostetter by Marina Lostetter

Krona and her Regulators survived their encounter with Charbon, the long-dead serial killer who returned to their city, but the illusions of their world were shattered forever. Allied with an old friend they will battle the elite who have ruled their world with deception, cold steel, and tight control of the magic that could threaten their power, while also confronting beasts from beyond the foggy barrier that binds their world. Now they must follow every thread to uncover the truth behind the Thalo, once thought of as only a children’s tale, who are the quiet, creeping puppet masters of their world.

Red Team Bluesred team blues by cory doctorow by Cory Doctorow

Martin Hench is sixty-seven years old, single, and successful in a career stretching back to the beginnings of Silicon Valley. He’s a—contain your excitement—self-employed forensic accountant, a veteran of the long war between people who want to hide their money and people who want to find it. He’s made some pretty powerful people happy in his time, and he’s been paid pretty well. It’s been a good life. He’s always been on the red team, the attacking side, hunting down grifters, fraudsters, and crooks. In this kind of combat, the defenders, the blue team, have to win 100% of the time, while the red team needs to win only once. But now, Martin’s been roped into a job that’s more dangerous than anything he’s ever done before, and worse, he’s playing on the blue team. It’ll take every ounce of his skill to get out alive.

In the Lives of Puppetsin the lives of puppets by tj klune by TJ Klune

In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots—fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe. The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio–a past spent hunting humans. When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming. Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?

The Mystery at Dunvegan Castlethe mystery at dunvegan castle by t l huchu by T. L. Huchu

Ropa Moyo is no stranger to magic or mysteries. But she’s still stuck in an irksomely unpaid internship. So she’s thrilled to attend a magical convention at Dunvegan Castle, on the Isle of Skye, where she’ll rub elbows with eminent magicians. For Ropa, it’s the perfect opportunity to finally prove her worth. Then a librarian is murdered and a precious scroll stolen. Suddenly, every magician is a suspect, and Ropa and her allies investigate. Trapped in a castle, with suspicions mounting, Ropa must contend with corruption, skulduggery and power plays. Time to ask for a raise?

Tsalmothtsalmoth by steven brust by Steven Brust

First comes love. Then comes marriage… Vlad Taltos is in love. With a former assassin who may just be better than he is at the Game. Women like this don’t come along every day and no way is he passing up a sure bet. So a wedding is being planned. Along with a shady deal gone wrong and a dead man who owes Vlad money. Setting up the first and trying to deal with the second is bad enough. And then bigger powers decide that Vlad is the perfect patsy to shake the power structure of the kingdom. More’s the pity that his soul is sent walkabout to do it. How might Vlad get his soul back and have any shot at a happy ending? Well, there’s the tale…

Cascade Failurecascade failure by l m sagas by L. M. Sagas

There are only three real powers in the Spiral: the corporate power of the Trust versus the Union’s labor’s leverage. Between them the Guild tries to keep everyone’s hands above the table. It ain’t easy. Branded a Guild deserter, Jal “accidentally” lands a ride on a Guild ship. Helmed by an AI, with a ship’s engineer/medic who doesn’t see much of a difference between the two jobs, and a “don’t make me shoot you” XO, the Guild crew of the Ambit is a little . . . different. They’re also in over their heads. Responding to a distress call from an abandoned planet, they find a mass grave, and a live programmer who knows how it happened. The Trust has plans. This isn’t the first dead planet, and it’s not going to be the last. Unless the crew of the Ambit can stop it.

The Wardenthe warden by daniel m. ford by Daniel M. Ford

Only the extraordinary are chosen. Only the cunning survive. An explosive return to the library leaves the six Alexandrians vulnerable to the lethal terms of their recruitment. Old alliances quickly fracture as the initiates take opposing strategies as to how to deal with the deadly bargain they have so far failed to uphold. Those who remain with the archives wrestle with the ethics of their astronomical abilities, while elsewhere, an unlikely pair from the Society cohort partner to influence politics on a global stage. And still the outside world mobilizes to destroy them, while the Caretaker himself, Atlas Blakely, may yet succeed with a plan foreseen to have world-ending stakes. It’s a race to survive as the six Society recruits are faced with the question of what they’re willing to betray for limitless power—and who will be destroyed along the way.

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2006: The Lit Listicle

This is a listicle about a bygone age that some who read it may not remember, prompting us to marvel at the impressive and intimidating march of time. This is a listicle about the year 2006, and it exists because of Cory Doctorow. Well, not the year—that was going to happen anyway, but the listicle, yes. That’s thanks to Cory, and his new novel The Bezzle, which is set in 2006. 

You can read about it, and other titles that feature, include, or span the year 2006 below!


the bezzle by cory doctorowThe Bezzle by Cory Doctorow

The year is 2006. Martin Hench is at the top of his game as a self-employed forensic accountant, a veteran of the long guerrilla war between people who want to hide money, and people who want to find it. In The Bezzle, Martin squares off against a cadre of the ultra-wealthy, and the arena where they clash is California’s Department of Corrections. This novel is a rebuke of the privatized prison system and the arcane financial chicanery that lead to the 2008 financial crisis. 

wolfsong by tj kluneWolfsong by TJ Klune

The Green Creek Series chronicles the lives of a pack of smalltown werewolves, and the year 2006 is pivotal to the first novel in the series, Wolfsong. This is a story of familial trauma and queer love—the story of Joe and Ox, two young werewolves who one day will fall in love. Perhaps it is a coincidence that in all the chapters of this book, which encompass a broad swath of time, specifies 2006 as the year Joe and Ox first meet. 

Perhaps. 

But imagine how excited we were to discover this significance to the year so crucial to this listicle. 

. . .

In case imagination fails, we were quite thrilled. 

the atlas six by olivie blakeThe Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

The Atlas Series devotes much time to the relationships between big concepts like space, life, energy, death, and time. But we’re not talking about time broadly. We want time specific. Specifically, 2006. What was happening in the Atlas universe of magic grad students and dangerous research in 2006? 

Well, the world was falling apart, for one. For two, Atlas was going through a deep and soul-shaking emotional journey that we can’t fully disclose in this list for fear of spoiling an incredible book series, but trust us. It was happening. 

In 2006, Atlas Blakely was going through it. 

last exit by max gladstoneLast Exit by Max Gladstone

Speaking of ‘Going through it’ as a colloquialism for having a tough time, let’s talk about Last Exit. Zelda, our primary point-of-view in Last Exit, is most certainly going through it. A relatively sheltered child, Zelda’s world expanded when she went to college and met her girlfriend Sal, and then expanded rapidly when she and Sal discovered a magic sort of power that allowed them to explore adjacent dimensions. It is likely that 2006 was somewhere in the soon-to-meet-Sal / going steady with Sal / optimistically exploring alternate realities phase of Zelda’s life. 

Years later, in the present, that phase is over. 

An interdimensional rot spreads between worlds, and the optimism is gone. So is Sal. Can the old gang muster together for an attempt at doing things right this time? It’s probably their last chance. 

exordia by seth dickinsonExordia by Seth Dickinson

When performing research for this list, we received ironclad confirmation that the events of the novel Exordia do, in fact, predate and postdate the year 2006, therefore giving us reason enough to include this book about the team-up of a disaffected office worker / refugee and an eight-headed snake alien as they combat an extra-extraterrestrial threat. 

Read Exordia. It is Very Good. 

 

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Fantasizing About Revenge

Revenge is a dish best served cold, but these revenge-centric fantasy novels are hot! 

Check ‘em out!


projections by sarah porterProjections by S. E. Porter

Catherine Bildstein is dead. She is not gone. She was murdered. Now, she’s out for revenge. 

In a gothic historical fantasy about poisonous attraction and strange magic, a sorcerer obsesses over a woman, and when he understands he cannot possess her, kills her. Unsatisfied with this peak level of despicability, he sends projections of himself out into the world to ruin the lives of more women who won’t deliver to him the affection to which he believes himself entitled. 

Dead Catherine may be, but her slighted ghost feels strongly the magnetism of revenge. The world is full of strange magic. Garbage wizards better watch out. 

one for my enemy by olivie blakeOne for My Enemy by Olivie Blake

This story of star-crossed love and Manhattan’s occult underworld is Romeo & Juliet done Olivie Blake-style. Those who have read The Atlas Series know that Blake doesn’t play when it comes to writing emotionally devastating arcs, and One for My Enemy is no exception. It’s the scions of shadow underlord Koschei the Deathless versus the daughters of potion maven Baba Yaga as heirs to two respective magical crime families. Doesn’t matter how supernatural you are though—love will turn the lives of you and everyone you know upside down, and strong feeling is a prerequisite for revenge. 

the traitor baru cormorant by seth dickinsonThe Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Baru wants revenge. She needs it, and her target: a colonial empire called the Masquerade. Educated in their schools and knowledgeable in their ways, Baru begins accumulating power but plays by their rules—for now. She becomes an accountant. Her goal is to hold the Masquerade accountable. 

Sometimes revenge is a numbers game. 

vicious by v. e. schwabVicious by V. E. Schwab

Victor and Eli start out as college roommates and that’s also where things go wrong. In their senior year, their shared passion leads them to research superpowers and the conditions under which a person might develop them. Of course, like many roommates in college, everything goes wrong and they despise each other. Victor’s been in prison for ten years now but is cooking an escape. Eli is at large in the world on a mission to exterminate everyone with superpowers. They both want vengeance. 

the archive undying by emma mieko candonThe Archive Undying by Emma Mieko Candon

This epic science fantasy about giant robots that eat people, tyrannical AI deities, and totalitarian police states follows a man named Sunai who cannot die. He was inferfacing with his AI god when it corrupted and now he’s immortal and upset about it. He’s been killed plenty of times though. It just hasn’t stuck. Sunai is fundamentally sad however, and unlikely to seek revenge against his many killers. Himself though? Yeah, he’ll take revenge on himself for every mistake he’s ever made. 

Pretty heavy, and the rest of this book is too. It’s also heart-achingly beautiful and there’s a robot composed of a chittering shifting coral carapace. 

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