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Our Favorite Non-Humanoid Aliens

Our Favorite Non-Humanoid Aliens

the three body problem by cixin liuA while back, we put together a kickin’ list of aliens who might not be able to ‘kick’ in the traditional ‘human’ sense of the word, because they are not humanoids. Now, with the new Netflix series of Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem captivating audiences across the galaxy, we thought it’d be a great time to bring this important piece of literary listicle writing back to the forefront. Because it’s an important piece of science fiction but also because of the Trisolarans, a notably unhuman species of extraterrestrial entities.

Check that list out below!


by Emily Hughes

The idea that any aliens the human race might encounter will look even vaguely humanoid is so tired. While the proliferation of humanoid aliens in science fiction is understandable – it can be hard to conceive of creatures so foreign we might not even recognize them as sentient. But it does happen! Here are five more of our favorite non-humanoid aliens in sci-fi.

The Ghorf (Knight by Timothy Zahn)

Image Place holder  of - 57When Nicole first wakes up on board the ship Fyrantha, she’s understandably a little unsettled by the appearance of Kahkitah, a bipedal shark-like alien who seems to be made of melted down glass marbles. But these chondrichthian creatures aren’t nearly as fierce as they look – mostly they serve as counsel and muscle on the densely-populated, living spacecraft.

Rainbow Bamboo (Semiosis by Sue Burke)

Poster Placeholder of - 37Semiosis is a first-contact novel about plants, and at its heart is the relationship between the human settlers on the planet Pax, and a species of plant known as rainbow bamboo, which has a collective consciousness that takes the name Stevland (long story). Stevland’s voice, once it and the settlers have figured out how to communicate, is fascinating – it has awareness of all parts of its root network at once, and can manipulate its chemical reactions to grow faster, slower, in new places, or to communicate danger or opportunity to its human friends and other plants alike.

Sandworms (The Dune series by Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson)

Image Placeholder of - 89How could we not include Sandworms, honestly? They’re iconic in the science fiction world, and for good reason. These leviathans, indigenous to the planet Arrakis, are instrumental to the production of the highly valued spice melange, though they’re intermittently dangerous to the people who harvest said spice. And though the sandworms can be managed and (occasionally) ridden, they can never truly be tamed.

The Gelet (The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders)

Placeholder of  -62On the planet January, human settlers are limited to two habitable cities – but outside those cities, in the planet’s dark, cold hemisphere, live a species reviled and feared by humans: the furry, tentacled Gelet.

The Gelet are a species of individuals who share a telepathic group mind and a collective memory. They’re sentient, empathetic, and ambitious, aiming for a goal as lofty as saving their dying planet. And when Sophie, the protagonist, befriends them, they introduce her to a future filled with one thing she never anticipated: hope.

Aunt Beast (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle)

Place holder  of - 35As Meg Murry recovers from her confrontation with IT, she’s nursed back to health by the four-armed, eyeless, furry creature she comes to think of as Aunt Beast. Aunt Beast is a gift, a being who writer Jaime Green calls “the embodiment of grace.” She loves Meg while creating space for Meg’s pain and anger – and we all need that sometimes.

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6 Stories You Can Enjoy on Page and Screen

Don’t you just love it when books leap off the page? And onto the screen? Here’s a list of exciting titles with series and movie accompaniments! 


The Three-Body Problemthe three body problem by cixin liu by Cixin Liu

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. 

Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

And meanwhile, on Netflix, you’ll soon be able to watch their adaption of Liu’s work! 

I Am Legendi am legend by richard matheson, cover to be revealed by Richard Matheson

This New York Times bestselling classic tale of Earth’s last survivor of a vampire plague inspired the hit film I Am Legend (2007), and if you haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet, now is seriously the time, because I Am Legend 2 is set to release in 2025. 

The Caladan Trilogydune: the heir of caladan by brian herbert & kevin j. anderson by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

Dune and Dune: Part Two have been all the rage in the box offices of recent years, and decades before that, David Lynch’s Dune (1984) captivated fans of epic science fiction. And all these movies beg a new question: What if there were more Dune books? Answer: There are. The Caladan Trilogy adds more detail to the lives of Duke Leto, Lady Jessica, and Paul. And if you want even more Dune, we’re thrilled to share even more with Princess of Dune and Sands of Dune

The Wheel of Time Seriesthe great hunt by robert jordan by Robert Jordan

How epic do you like your fantasy? If you said “Very!” then The Wheel of Time is for you. All 14 books in the series (plus a prequel!). And if once you’re done with those stacks and stacks of epic writing, or honestly at whatever point you prefer, check out The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime, starring Rosamund Pike. The first two seasons cover Jordan’s first two books, The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt

Dark HarvestDark Harvest by Norman Partridge by Norman Partridge

Halloween, 1963. They call him the October Boy, or Ol’ Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. How he rises from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in his hand, and makes his way toward town, where gangs of teenage boys eagerly await their chance to confront the legendary nightmare. Both the hunter and the hunted, the October Boy is the prize in an annual rite of life and death.

Pete McCormick knows that killing the October Boy is his one chance to escape a dead-end future in this one-horse town. He’s willing to risk everything, including his life, to be a winner for once. But before the night is over, Pete will look into the saw-toothed face of horror—and discover the terrifying true secret of the October Boy.

You too can discover this secret, in the pages and now on screen with David Slade’s Dark Harvest (2023)

PinocchioPinocchio with Introduction by Guillermo del Toro; Illustrated by Gris Grimly; written by Carlo Collodi with Introduction by Guillermo del Toro; Illustrated by Gris Grimly; written by Carlo Collodi

This edition of the timeless classic Pinocchio has the full text with a mixture of full-page and spot illustrations in black and white integrated in the text, in pen-and-ink style. The ink is sepia brown, and the introduction is from Guillermo del Toro, the director of Netflix’s adaptation of Pinocchio

You’ll love it, no lie! 

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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.

kindle one nook one ebooks one google play one ibooks2 70 kobo one

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.

kindle two nook two ebooks two google play two ibooks2 50 kobo two

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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Witchy Books for the Solstice

by Merlin Hoye

The days are dark, the wind is cold, and the solstice is upon us! We don’t blame you if you’re feeling a tad spooky—the weather practically demands it. We suggest that you embrace your witchy side and get into the spirit of things with some wintery rituals. If you’re running low on rosemary, incense, and tarot cards, never fear! Tor is here to help you with one of the oldest rituals we have—snuggling up with a good book.

Here are our recommendations to get you through the shortest day of the year in true witchy style. 


after the forest by kell woodsAfter the Forest by Kell Woods

Twenty years after Hansel and Gretal escaped from the witch, the land has been decimated by war, weird things are happening in the woods, and the siblings are struggling to get by. But Gretal has a secret—the witch’s stolen grimoire—and a recipe for gingerbread that seems strangely addictive. Could it be the key to keeping her family afloat or embroil Gretal in dark magic she isn’t prepared to face? The baking magic in After the Forest is truly a delight. I mean, food and magic are two of our favorite things so how can you go wrong? Just don’t read this book if you’re hungry. You might find yourself addicted as well. 


the witch in the well by camilla bruceThe Witch in the Well by Camilla Bruce

This dark, fantastical thriller is the story of two childhood friends torn apart by a witch who died nearly 160 years before the story begins. When Elena returns to her childhood home she feels inspired to write the story of beautiful young Ilsbeth Clark who was drowned in a well by the townspeople who thought she was a child-killing witch. When Elena’s childhood friend Cathy finds out, she is furious. She has been researching Ilsbeth’s life for years and has very different views on her life than Elena. As the competition between the two women grows fiercer, they each become more and more obsessed with their subject and things get spooky fast.


red rabbit by alex grecianRed Rabbit by Alex Grecian

It wouldn’t be a truly witchy list without some horror representation so here’s a spine tingling folk horror that feels like The VVitch had a baby with Lonesome Dove. Red Rabbit is the story of a ragtag crew of misfits who travel north to claim a bounty after killing the local witch. The trials they encounter on this quest are worse than any witch could ever and this bloody romp of a western, full of demons, ghosts, and ghouls galore, will have you gripped throughout. 


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

Most of the books on this list have one witch, singular, which is perfectly fine but what if you’re the kind of person who wants WITCHES WITCHES ALL THE TIME? If so, may I suggest One for My Enemy which features warring witches, witty witches, and witches falling irrevocably in love. This retelling of Romeo & Juliet is set in a Manhattan where two magical families have been fighting for years to stay in control of their criminal empires. Lev and Sasha defy their families and fall for each other and their story will keep you reading past your bedtime. 


princess of dune by brian herbert & kevin j. andersonPrincess of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

Set two years before the events of the first Dune book, Princess of Dune follows Irulan and Chani before they were connected with Paul Atreides. While Irulan is trained in the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, Chani is initiated into the Fremen mystical ways by an ancient Reverend Mother. This addition to the series is full of female magic and it’s fascinating to see these two women come into their power.


Image Placeholder of - 43Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

This is the story of Princess Marra of the Harbor Kingdom who sets out on a quest to save her sister from her despicable prince husband. To do this, Marra seeks the help of a Dust Wife, a creepy, witch-like character with a demon-possessed hen sidekick. Yes, you heard that right. Adventure ensues, friendships are made, families are found. Nettle & Bone is steeped in dark fairytale vibes, sister bonding, and if that isn’t enough for you, there’s a Bonedog who’s exactly what he sounds like. We would die for Bonedog. 


witch queen of redwinter by ed mcdonaldWitch Queen of Redwinter by Ed McDonald

For fear of spoilers (this is the third book in the The Redwinter Chronicles after all) I won’t say much about this fast-paced fantasy other than GO READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS (Daughter of Redwinter and Traitor of Redwinter) if you haven’t already! Witch Queen of Redwinter arrives November 12th of next year and you’ll want to be ready for this latest installment of riveting, witchy goodness full of suspense and complex characters. The story follows Raine, a cynical girl who has been forced to hide her ability to see and speak with the dead so she won’t be stoned to death by the warrior magicians in power. 

 

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Every Tor Book Coming in Fall 2023

Hey. Hey, you. Let’s talk about autumn. Let’s talk about all the awesome books releasing this autumn!

They’re all here in this rundown, and you are too, so get scrolling! 


September 5

Exadelic by Jon EvansExadelic by Jon Evans

When an unconventional offshoot of the US military trains an artificial intelligence in the dark arts that humanity calls “black magic,” it learns how to hack the fabric of reality itself. It can teleport matter. It can confer immunity to bullets. And it decides that obscure Silicon Valley middle manager Adrian Ross is the primary threat to its existence. Soon Adrian is on the run, wanted by every authority, with no idea how or why he could be a threat. His predicament seems hopeless; his future, nonexistent. But when he investigates the AI and its creators, he discovers his problems are even stranger than they seem…and unearths revelations that will propel him on a journey—and a love story—across worlds, eras, and everything, everywhere, all at once.


September 19

sandymancer by david edisonSandymancer by David Edison 

All Caralee Vinnet has ever known is dust. Her whole world is made up of the stuff; water is the most precious thing in the cosmos. A privileged few control what elements remain. But the world was not always a dust bowl and the green is not all lost. Caralee has a secret—she has magic in her bones and can draw up power from the sand beneath her feet to do her bidding. But when she does she winds up summoning a monster: the former god-king who broke the world 800 years ago and has stolen the body of her best friend. Caralee will risk the whole world to take back what she’s lost. If her new companion doesn’t kill her first.

starter villain by john scalziStarter Villain by John Scalzi

Charlie’s life is going nowhere fast. A divorced substitute teacher living with his cat in a house his siblings want to sell, all he wants is to open a pub downtown, if only the bank will approve his loan. Then his long-lost uncle Jake dies and leaves his supervillain business (complete with island volcano lair) to Charlie. But becoming a supervillain isn’t all giant laser death rays and lava pits. Jake had enemies, and now they’re coming after Charlie. His uncle might have been a stand-up, old-fashioned kind of villain, but these are the real thing: rich, soulless predators backed by multinational corporations and venture capital. It’s up to Charlie to win the war his uncle started against a league of supervillains. But with unionized dolphins, hyper-intelligent talking spy cats, and a terrifying henchperson at his side, going bad is starting to look pretty good.


September 26

The Fragile Threads of Power by V.E. SchwabThe Fragile Threads of Power by V.E. Schwab

Once, there were four worlds, nestled like pages in a book, each pulsing with fantastical power and connected by a single city: London. Until the magic grew too fast and forced the worlds to seal the doors between them in a desperate gamble to protect their own. The few magicians who could still open the doors grew more rare as time passed and now, only three Antari are known in recent memory—Kell Maresh of Red London, Delilah Bard of Grey London, and Holland Vosijk, of White London. But barely a glimpse of them have been seen in the last seven years—and a new Antari named Kosika has appeared in White London, taking the throne in Holland’s absence. The young queen is willing to feed her city with blood, including her own—but her growing religious fervor has the potential to drown it instead.


October 3

starling house by alix e. harrowStarling House by Alix E. Harrow

Opal is a lot of things–orphan, high school dropout, full-time cynic and part-time cashier–but above all, she’s determined to find a better life for her younger brother Jasper. One that gets them out of Eden, Kentucky, a town remarkable for only two things: bad luck and E. Starling, the reclusive nineteenth century author of The Underland, who disappeared over a hundred years ago. All she left behind were dark rumors–and her home. Everyone agrees that it’s best to ignore the uncanny mansion and its misanthropic heir, Arthur. Almost everyone, anyway. Welcome to Starling House: enter, if you dare.

Image Placeholder of - 86After the Forest by Kell Woods

Twenty years after the witch in the gingerbread house, Greta and Hans are struggling to get by. Their mother and stepmother are long dead, Hans is deeply in debt from gambling, and the countryside lies in ruin, its people starving in the aftermath of a brutal war. Greta has a secret, though: the witch’s grimoire, hidden away and whispering in Greta’s ear for the past two decades, and the recipe inside that makes the best gingerbread you’ve ever tasted. As long as she can bake, Greta can keep her small family afloat. But in a village full of superstition, Greta and her mysteriously addictive gingerbread, not to mention the rumors about her childhood misadventures, is a source of gossip and suspicion. And now, dark magic is returning to the woods and Greta’s magic—magic she is still trying to understand—may be the only thing that can save her. If it doesn’t kill her first.

princess of dune by brian herbert & kevin j. andersonPrincess of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

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.

Yumi and the Nightmare Painter by Brandon SandersonYumi and the Nightmare Painter by Brandon Sanderson

Yumi has spent her entire life in strict obedience, granting her the power to summon the spirits that bestow vital aid upon her society—but she longs for even a single day as a normal person. Painter patrols the dark streets dreaming of being a hero—a goal that has led to nothing but heartache and isolation, leaving him always on the outside looking in. In their own ways, both of them face the world alone. Suddenly flung together, Yumi and Painter must strive to right the wrongs in both their lives, reconciling their past and present while maintaining the precarious balance of each of their worlds. If they cannot unravel the mystery of what brought them together before it’s too late, they risk forever losing not only the bond growing between them, but the very worlds they’ve always struggled to protect.

A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor VingeA Deepness In the Sky by Vernor Vinge

This new Tor Essentials edition of Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness In the Sky includes an introduction by the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-winning Jo Walton, author of Among Others.

After thousands of years of searching, humans stand on the verge of first contact with an alien race. Two human groups: the Qeng Ho, a culture of free, innovative traders, and the Emergents, a ruthless society based on the technological enslavement of minds. The group that opens trade with the aliens will reap unimaginable riches. But first, both groups must wait at the aliens’ very doorstep, for their strange star to relight and for the alien planet to reawaken, as it does every two hundred and fifteen years…


October 24

traitor of redwinter by ed mcdonaldTraitor of Redwinter by Ed McDonald

The power of the Sixth Gate grows stronger within Raine each day—to control it, she needs lessons no living Draoihn can teach her. Her fledgling friendships are tested to a breaking point as she tries to face what she has become, and her master Ulovar is struck by a mysterious sickness that slowly saps the vitality from his body, leaving Raine to face her growing darkness alone. There’s only one chance to turn the tide of power surging within her—to learn the secrets the Draoihn themselves purged from the world.

malarkoi by alex phebyMalarkoi by Alex Pheby

Nathan Treeves is dead, murdered by the Master of Mordew, his remains used to create the powerful occult weapon known as the Tinderbox. His companions are scattered, making for Malarkoi, the city of the Mistress, the Master’s enemy. They are hoping to find welcome there, or at least safety. They find neither—and instead become embroiled in a life and death struggle against assassins, demi-gods, and the cunning plans of the Mistress. Only Sirius, Nathan’s faithful magical dog, has not forgotten the boy. Bent on revenge, he returns to the shattered remains of Mordew—only to find the city morphed into an impossible mountain, swarming with monsters. The stage is set for battle, sacrifice, magic and treachery in the stunning sequel to Mordew. Welcome to Malarkoi.


October 31

the wolfe at the door by gene wolfeThe Wolfe at the Door by Gene Wolfe

The circus comes to town… and a man gets to go to the stars. A young girl on a vacation at the sea meets the man of her dreams. Who just happens to be dead. And an immortal pirate. A swordfighter pens his memoirs… and finds his pen is in fact mightier than the sword. Welcome to Gene Wolfe’s playground, a place where genres blend and a genius’s imagination straps you in for the ride of your life. The Wolfe at the Door is a brand new collection from one of America’s premiere literary giants, showcasing some material that’s never been seen before. Short stories, yes, but also poems, essays, and ephemera that gives us a window into the mind of a literary powerhouse whose world view changed generations of readers in their perception of the universe.


November 7

Poster Placeholder of - 54Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree

Viv’s career with the notorious mercenary company Rackam’s Ravens isn’t going as planned. Wounded during the hunt for a powerful necromancer, she’s packed off against her will to recuperate in the sleepy beach town of Murk—so far from the action that she worries she’ll never be able to return to it. What’s a thwarted soldier of fortune to do? Spending her hours at a beleaguered bookshop in the company of its foul-mouthed proprietor is the last thing Viv would have predicted, but it may be both exactly what she needs and the seed of changes she couldn’t possibly imagine. Still, adventure isn’t all that far away. A suspicious traveler in gray, a gnome with a chip on her shoulder, a summer fling, and an improbable number of skeletons prove Murk to be more eventful than Viv could have ever expected.


November 14

the lost cause by cory doctorowThe Lost Cause by Cory Doctorow

It’s thirty years from now. We’re making progress, mitigating climate change, slowly but surely. But what about all the angry old people who can’t let go? For young Americans a generation from now, climate change isn’t controversial. It’s just an overwhelming fact of life. And so are the great efforts to contain and mitigate it. Even when national politics oscillates back to right-wing leaders, the momentum is too great; these vast programs cannot be stopped in their tracks. But there are still those Americans, mostly elderly, who cling to their red baseball caps, their grievances, their huge vehicles, their anger. To their “alternative” news sources that reassure them that their resentment is right and pure and that “climate change” is just a giant scam. And they’re your grandfather, your uncle, your great-aunt. And they’re not going anywhere. And they’re armed to the teeth.


December 5

All the Hidden Paths by Foz MeadowsAll the Hidden Paths by Foz Meadows

With the plot against them foiled and the city of Qi-Katai in safe hands, newlywed and tentative lovers Velasin and Caethari have just begun to test the waters of their relationship. But the wider political ramifications of their marriage are still playing out across two nations, and all too soon, they’re summoned north to Tithena’s capital city, Qi-Xihan, to present themselves to its monarch. With Caethari newly invested as his grandmother’s heir and Velasin’s old ghosts gnawing at his heels, what little peace they’ve managed to find is swiftly put to the test. Cae’s recent losses have left him racked with grief and guilt, while Vel struggles with the disconnect between instincts that have kept him safe in secrecy and what an open life requires of him now. Pursued by unknown assailants and with Qi-Xihan’s court factions jockeying for power, Vel and Cae must use all the skills at their disposal to not only survive, but thrive. 

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Summer of Sci-fi: 6 Tales to Beat the Heat

by Merlin Hoye

We’re coming up on the fall season, but even though we’re breaking out our sweaters and planning our spooky reading lists, it feels like the weather missed the memo. While we stare longingly at our pumpkin carving kits and feel a trickle of sweat drip down our backs, we’re yearning for the cold, dead emptiness of space. Sure, that yawning chasm could (and does, nay MUST) contain horrors beyond our comprehension, but hey, at least it’s nice and cool up there, right?

Spot this rundown of great titles to chill with as we blaze toward the end of summer!


The Terraformers by Annalee NewitzThe Terraformers by Annalee Newitz

Talking animals, a lost city, and a pissed off cyborg cow. Intrigued? The Terraformers is a smart, interplanetary adventure about a scientist, her moose, and an ecosystem collapse in the face of corporate greed. Despite the heavy subject matter, it’s so much fun and somehow… cozy? Don’t ask us how, but it is.


Fractal Noise by Christopher PaoliniFractal Noise by Christopher Paolini

The perfect page turner to take to the beach as long as you like your beach reads existentially terrifying, which we do. Fractal Noise is about a space crew that travels to a harsh planet to investigate a mysterious dark hole, known only as the Anomaly.  Set in the same universe as Paolini’s bestselling sci-fi epic To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, this fever-dream of a novel is a perfectly bone-chilling entry point to the series.


The Genesis of Misery by Neon YangThe Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang

Joan of Arc but make it space opera. Need I say more? No, no—I will. This is an epic space fantasy adventure with a gender-queer protagonist who starts a civil war after an angel appears to them with an important message. Locked Tomb fans need to hop aboard the Misery Nomaki train ASAP. They’ll be just your cup of tea. Iced tea of course.


Exadelic by Jon EvansExadelic by Jon Evans

Exadelic is essential reading to prepare you for the day artificial intelligence hacks our reality and decides we are the biggest threat to its existence. This is a gloriously insane story of black magic, mayhem, AI, and adventure and it is SO. MUCH. FUN. Also, uncannily relevant. But we won’t think about that now. It’s summer time, baby!

On Sale 9/9/23


Dune: The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. AndersonDune: The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

If you’re looking for an escape from the hot summer sun, Dune: The Heir of Caladan isn’t going to give you that longed for reprieve. The third installment in the Dune prequel series, The Caladan Trilogy, follows Paul and his parents before they arrive on Arakis and in typical Dune fashion, this is a story full of heat, sand, and adventure. Soak up that vitamin D while you still can!

On Sale in Paperback 9/19/23


sandymancer by david edisonSandymancer by David Edison

If you finish Dune and crave some more hot, desert-y sci-fi vibes, we offer you Sandymancer. This is a genre-defying tale about a girl, her sand magic, and the god-king she summons with said magic. When the god-king steals her best friend’s body, things go south fast. This adventure has the feeling of a classic sci-fi novel and is the perfect end of summer treat. 

On Sale 9/19/23

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5 Sandy Reads to Peruse at the Beach

by Julia Bergen

Sometimes you want something a little different for a beach read. If that’s you, may we recommend focusing less on the body of water nearby and more on what’s under your toes? Yes, we’re talking sand. Sometimes at the beach you don’t necessarily want a book about people swimming or going on vacation or eating lobster. Sometimes you just want a good SFF with quality SAND.

We just like sand. It’s summer and we write about what we want.

Let’s dive in the deep end of the literary sandbox.


sandymancer by david edisonSandymancer by David Edison

What’s the best kind of magic? Sand magic.

Caralee lives in a world full of sand (lucky), but she’s keeping a secret: she can control sand (lucky), making it do whatever she wants (so lucky). Which sounds awesome, until she accidentally summons a former god king (oh) who broke the world 800 years ago and now takes over her best friend’s body. Not the way you want a beach day to go, UNLESS YOU’RE READING ABOUT IT!


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

Dune is classic sandy SF&F, and Princess of Dune takes that sandy legacy to the sandiest level. This brand-new Dune adventure follows the two princesses, Chani and Irulan, and explores what pushes the trajectory of their lives leading up to the beloved original trilogy. The story of a sand planet full of sand worms, this is perfect sandy reading material.


The Starless Crown by James RollinsThe Starless Crown by James Rollins

Set on a planet that’s half desert, half ice, this book is appropriate on both a sandy list and icy list, so pay attention for “5 Icy Reads to Enjoy in the Belly of an Iceberg” from us this winter (approval pending).

So who’s in this writ-large, deconstructed beach crew? A gifted student on the run from a death sentence. A broken soldier who picks up weapons he’s forbidden to wield. A drunken prince looking for purpose. A thief who finds an artifact that will ignite a power struggle across the planet. Hope they packed sunscreen with high SPF.


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

Taking place in the Central Plains of alternate-universe Ming Dynasty, China, sand is an important and threatening element at the onset of this epic duology. A girl raised in a parched village full of sand and hardly any food slowly outlives her family, watching them agonizingly perish one by one from drought, famine, raiders, and broken spirit. This  leads her, in time, to assume her deceased brother’s identity, and destiny, which she claims by seeking sanctuary in a monastery, as the departed was once promised such a fate. All the adventure, betrayal, murder, love, machinations, realizations, cunning ploys, and startling developments that follow would never have happened without this drought-ravaged sandy foundation. We think that’s worth considering, especially and perhaps specifically in the context of this listicle.


The Origin of Storms by Elizabeth BearThe Lotus Kingdoms Trilogy by Elizabeth Bear

Set in a sprawling fantastical world, a significant portion of the trilogy takes place in a fantastic desert. This book has so many cool things, dragons, magic robots, wizards, giant birds, fantasy politics, fantasy gender subversion, a character called “The Dead Man.” Bring all three books to the beach and just live there for a bit. Read about sand while surrounded by sand.

Sand.

Sand.

Sand.

 

Sand.

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Series That Ended This Year You Can Binge Read Now!

Here’s one for the marathon readers. The book-jockeys who devour quadruple digit pages in single digit days. Here’s a list of fantasy series that ended this year to satiate even the most voracious word-eater. Enjoy your book binge 😈


Wake the Dragon seriesgods and dragons by Kevin J. Anderson

Co-author of the Dune sequels, Kevin J. Anderson’s Gods and Dragons marks his triumphant return to epic fantasy and magnanimous finish to his epic fantasy Wake the Dragons series.  Two continents at war: the Three Kingdoms and Ishara have been in conflict for a thousand years. But when an outside threat arises—the reawakening of a powerful ancient race that wants to remake the world—the two warring nations must somehow set aside generations of hatred to form an alliance against a far more deadly enemy. 

The Sorceror’s Song trilogyThe Sword's Elegy by Brian D. Anderson by Brian D. Anderson

The Sword’s Elegy is the third book in a new epic fantasy trilogy from successful self-published author Brian D. Anderson, perfect for fans of The Wheel of Time and The Sword of Truth. The doom of humankind has at last been realized. Belkar’s prison is broken and his army is on the move. The nations of Lamoria, unaware of the greater danger, look to repel the aggression of Ralmarstad. In the end, it is not great power, terrible armies, or mighty warriors who will influence the course of fate. But two lovers and the unbreakable bond they share. All questions are answered. All mysteries revealed.

Place holder  of - 26A Chorus of Dragons series by Jenn Lyons

The Discord of Gods marks the epic conclusion to Jenn Lyons’s A Chorus of Dragons series, closing out the saga that began with The Ruin of Kings, for fans of Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss. Do you like it when demons run rampant? When political intrigue and ancient rituals intersect? How about becoming the living avatar of a star? This epic fantasy series about a long-lost royal whose fate is tied to the future of an empire will take you on a thrilling ride you won’t forget and might not survive. 

Image Placeholder of - 17The Serpent Gates duology by A. K. Larkwood

The gods remember. And if you live long enough, all debts come due. This epic fantasy series about an orcish death priest who starts a new career as an assassin for a wizard to avoid becoming the god of death’s new bride is an amazing, swashbuckling, screaming-in-frustration, heart-racing cascade of emotion and action. Snake goddesses, ancient ruins, sibling rivalry for the favor of a garbage wizard. What more can you ask for? 

Placeholder of  -18The Lotus Kingdoms trilogy by Elizabeth Bear

Hugo Award-winning author Elizabeth Bear returns with The Origin of Storms, the stunning conclusion to her acclaimed epic fantasy trilogy, The Lotus Kingdoms. The Lotus Kingdoms are at war, with four claimants to the sorcerous throne of the Alchemical Emperor, fielding three armies between them. Alliances are made, and broken, many times over—but in the end, only one can sit on the throne. And that one must have not only the power, but the rightful claim.

The Fall of the Gods seriesPoster Placeholder of - 55 by Ryan Van Loan

Ryan Van Loan concludes his pulse-pounding fantasy series with sea battles, hidden libraries, warring deities, old enemies, and one woman’s desire for liberation and revenge all wrapped up in one epic novel—The Memory in the Blood. When her quest to destroy the Gods began, Buc was a child of the streets. Now she is a woman of steel, shaped by gaining and losing power, tempered by love and betrayal, and honed to a fine edge by grief and her desire for vengeance. If Buc has to destroy all Gods, eat the rich, and break the world’s economy to save the people, she will do it. Even if it costs her everything.

Mercenary Librarians seriesDance with the Devil by Kit Rocha by Kit Rocha

The Mercenary Librarians and the Silver Devils are back in the explosive conclusion to USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Kit Rocha’s post-apocalyptic action/romance in Dance with the Devil. How to describe the Mercenary Librarians series? Post-apocalyptic corporate autocracy with a rebellious streak of sweet and sexy romance. Rogue information brokers on a mission to save a crumbling America collide with a team of disillusioned AWOL supersoliders. It’s intense. It’s dangerous. It’s hot. 

mysticThe Mystic Trilogy by Jason Denzel

In Mystic Skies, the epic conclusion to Jason Denzel’s The Mystic Trilogy, which spans decades and timeless realms and dreams, Pomella must confront her greatest and most personal challenge yet. For the Deep mysteries of the world will reveal themselves only to the most powerful and dedicated of Mystics. This series from the founder of Dragonmount is perfect for all fans of swords and sorcery. Do you love Robert Jordan? Brandon Sanderson? Dungeons & Dragons? You HAVE to check out The Mystic Trilogy. 

The Caladan Trilogysnek by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

In Dune: The Heir of Caladan, the final book in the Caladan trilogy by New York Times bestselling authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, we step into the shoes of Paul Atreides. A boy not yet a man and about to enter a world he could never have imagined. The story that began with Duke Leto Atreides’s rise to power, then continued with the consequences of Lady Jessica’s betrayal, will now conclude with Paul becoming the person that he needs to be to become the Muad’Dib.

Mistborn: Wax and Wayne serieslost-metal by Brandon Sanderson

Return to #1 New York Times bestseller Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn world of Scadrial as its second era, which began with The Alloy of Law, comes to its earth-shattering conclusion in The Lost Metal

The Mistborn series is a bold saga of epic fantasy that asks the question: What happens if the hero of prophecy fails? And also: What if ingesting various metals gave you special powers? 

You simply cannot tell us you’re not curious…

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Are You an Atreides or Harkonnen?

By Julia Bergen

In Dune: The Heir of Caladan, the climactic novel in the Caladan trilogy by New York Times bestselling authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, we step into the shoes of Paul Atreides. A not yet a man in years, he is about to enter a world he could never have imagined.

Take the quiz and find out: Do you stand for House Atreides or fly your flag for House Harkonnen?


 

Buy Dune: The Heir of Caladan Here:

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Excerpt: Dune: The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

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Dune The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. AndersonIn Dune: The Heir of Caladan, the climactic novel in the Caladan trilogy by New York Times bestselling authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, we step into the shoes of Paul Atreides. A not yet a man in years, he is about to enter a world he could never have imagined.

The story that began with Duke Leto Atreides’s rise to power, then continued with the consequences of Lady Jessica’s betrayal, will now conclude with Paul becoming the leader that he needs to be on the way to his pivotal role as Muad’Dib.

Any Dune fan will devour this tale of a legend coming into his own.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Dune: The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson, on sale 11/22/22.


1

In his dim bedchamber, Paul lay awake on an unusually warm evening, his covers thrown aside. He felt very alone in Castle Caladan and adrift, uneasy that Duke Leto and Lady Jessica were far away and separated from each other. Gurney Halleck was gone, too.

But he was the heir to noble House Atreides, and he had to think like a Duke. He was about to turn fifteen, and Caladan was his responsibility, at least temporarily while his father was gone.

He knew that the Duke’s mission was of utmost importance, and he recalled the recorded message his father had left for him. “Watch this only if I don’t come back,” Leto had said, placing the shigawire spool in the young man’s palm. “I hope you never need to view it. You know why I’m doing this, why I’m taking such a risk.” And in the Duke’s expression, Paul saw a genuine realization of the danger to which he was exposing himself—willingly, for the sake of the Imperium.

Now, Paul tried to sleep in the uncomfortable heat, feeling sticky sweat on his skin. The day had been unseasonably hot without the sea breezes that customarily skimmed over the water and moderated temperatures along the coast. As bad luck would have it, the castle’s mechanical air-cooling system had failed at just such a time. Caladan engineers had inspected the mechanism, consulted manuals provided by the Ixian manufacturer, and apologized to the young man that repairs could not be completed without securing parts from off-planet.

Paul was not a delicate noble child, so he could deal with such discomfort, preferring to adapt to the weather and ignore it as much as possible, a human surviving the elements. Open windows and sea breezes were welcome to him. With the wilderness excursions he’d made with his father, the young man felt relaxed without being enclosed within a structure.

For security reasons, as well as the expected decorum of a ducal heir, he couldn’t be footloose and aloof. He had to play the part of a young nobleman residing in the ancient castle, ready on a moment’s notice to rule in Leto’s place. It was what his father expected of him, the same as old Duke Paulus Atreides had demanded of his own son a generation before.

To make his father proud, Paul would meet those expectations, but he rather liked the idea of doing things people did not anticipate.

The boy tossed and turned in the darkness, wiped perspiration from his brow. Finally, he swung out of bed and carried a sheet and pillow out onto the small balcony of his bedroom, where he lay down in his thin nightclothes. The tile balcony was hard and warm, still radiating heat from the day. With a sigh, he gazed up at the gently twinkling stars in the crystal-clear night.

Across his field of vision danced stars whose names he knew, the ones his father and Dr. Yueh had taught him—Seille, Ikam, Jylar, and many others, all part of the vast galactic Imperium. But none of the brightest stars overhead at this time of year belonged to powerful noble families. Caladan did not have a particularly favorable location—not physically close to the capital, Kaitain, and not on any major Heighliner shipping or passenger routes. Other Landsraad Houses had equally unfavorable locations, but some managed to excel even so. Paul wondered about the future of House Atreides, and what his part might be in that unfolding story.

As he lay there, he heard a fluttering of wings. One of his father’s trained hawks landed on the stone railing of the balcony. In the low light, the magnificent creature looked sidelong at him, then took up a sentry position, turning its head first one way and then the other.

Paul realized that the bird had not come here by coincidence. The head of Atreides security, Thufir Hawat, somehow knew that the young man had gone out onto the balcony, and he’d sent the hawk. The old warrior Mentat and his staff had been working with these birds in recent weeks, part of the falconry group maintained by the Duke. These specialized birds had surveillance equipment secured to their bodies.

Thufir worried constantly about young Paul’s welfare, complaining about the “unnecessary risks” the fourteen-year-old had been taking, such as climbing steep cliffs and flying aircraft into dangerous storms over the sea. Duncan Idaho had accompanied him on such risky endeavors, calling them maneuvers to stretch the young man’s abilities. He had sworn never to let Paul come to harm, but even Duncan had been concerned. “Perhaps we’re going a bit too far,” the Swordmaster admitted to the boy. “Thufir wants you to train, but within limits.”

The Mentat watched the Atreides heir like a hawk, figuratively and now literally.

Paul extended his hand to the bird on the rail. It watched him, then looked away, continuing its sentry duty. Paul could see the small lenses on its feathers, a transponder at its throat. No doubt, the old Mentat was reviewing images right now.

“Thufir, I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself on my own castle balcony.”

The transponder emitted a small, but discernible voice. “It is not possible to concern myself ‘too much’ with your welfare, young Master. If harm were to befall you under my watch, my abilities would be worth nothing. Now, I want you to have a restful sleep.”

Paul lay back on his pillow. “Thufir thank you for your concern.”

He used a Bene Gesserit mental exercise his mother had taught him to remove troubling thoughts, so he could open the doorway to sleep. His body was exhausted after another long day of training with Duncan.

With warm sea breezes around him and the hawk standing sentinel above him, Paul drifted into a slumber of darkness and solitude which shifted

gradually into a desert landscape, bright sun on hot dunes. He stood on an expanse of sand, squinting at a rock escarpment baked in the sun. In the dream, it was morning in that distant place, but already warm, portending another hot day.

A figure made its way down a trail on the great rock, moving athletically in a desert costume. At the bottom of the rock, opened a burnoose to reveal the elfin features of a young woman with skin darker than his own and hair matted with dust.

He’d seen her before in dream after dream, and the voice was familiar as well, drifting over him like a breeze from the desert. “Tell me about the waters of your homeworld, Usul.”

Having experienced this in many haunting variations, he felt it was more than a dream, and he always awakened in the middle of it. This time, he managed to remain in the other reality a little longer, but as his dream-self struggled to speak a response, to ask questions, the landscape and the intriguing young woman faded from view.

Much later at night, when the breezes turned damp and chill, he lay awake on the open balcony, again resorting to thought exercises. He counted the nobles in the Atreides line who had preceded him. The castle had stood for twenty-six generations on this commanding spot overlooking the sea, originally constructed by Earl Kanius Atreides. Not the first Atreides to rule Caladan, he had envisioned a great fortress on this rocky promontory, commissioning the grand blueprints when he was only nineteen years old, not much older than Paul was now.

Earl Kanius had seen the mighty castle completed in little more than a decade, along with the gardens and a thriving coastal village. Paul recalled a filmbook image of his ancestor’s face, and then thought of the successors of Kanius, counting each one all the way up to Paulus Atreides, his own grandfather, whose painting hung in the castle’s dining hall.

But when Paul tried to summon the next image in the line, his father, he could only summon a fuzzy, undefined outline. He missed the man so much and hoped he would come home soon.

He felt the weight of all the work done by Kanius and the other Atreides, all the planning they’d had to do and the decisions they’d made to empower their Great House. He finally drifted into a deep, troubled sleep.

 


2

The planet Elegy had lovely forests, rivers, and lakes, but it was not Jessica’s true home, and its beauty was not the same as the ocean world of Caladan. She tried to console herself with the thought—the hope—that she was merely a visitor here, and that she would return soon to Duke Leto and their son, Paul. But each day away from them made her more settled here, increasingly immersed in the life of Viscount Giandro Tull as his bound con-

cubine, on orders of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood.

Troubled, she sat now in the compact but nicely appointed office that the handsome Viscount had provided for her. His small administration building was concealed from the manor house by a grove of lichen trees. Giandro’s own office was down the hall, and she watched a steady flow of functionaries hurry past her own, including a surprisingly large number of uniformed military officers. Despite all the appearances and the trappings of daily business, Jessica had now learned the nobleman’s true plans.

Only a few days ago, prowling secretly through the forests to watch Viscount Tull as he rode off on a fine thoroughbred, Jessica had spied him receiving a mysterious weapons shipment into a hidden underground bunker. That was how she’d learned that Giandro Tull was a silent supporter of the violent Noble Commonwealth rebellion.

That revelation changed everything about their relationship, but since he had arranged for her to go on her own mission to save Paul, Jessica owed the man a great deal. After she confronted Giandro, he had taken her into his confidence, but still did not reveal the deeply personal reason he had decided to support the overthrow of the Corrino throne. The two were still understanding their new roles, and alliances.

Jessica busied herself completing paper order forms for lichenweave fabrics, filling in a ledger book by hand—an outdated system, but she found it

refreshing. Duke Leto had done much of his administrative work by hand as well.

Trusting her, considering their shared deep secrets, Giandro had expanded Jessica’s role in his household, asking her to help with the ordering of supplies. She considered the assignment an excellent camouflage role, and he gave her the freedom to procure whatever she wanted. Out of nostalgia, Jessica tried to order a shipment of moonfish from Caladan, only to learn that the product was no longer available. She wondered what might be going on back at the place she still considered home.

Giandro Tull had thriving business dealings, some surreptitiously connected to the rebellion. And now that Sardaukar had searched and cleared his operations, he had grown bolder. Apparently, his overt support of Jaxson Aru had begun soon afterward. Jessica still didn’t understand why.

In the short time she’d known the nobleman, she had come to respect him, had even grown fond of him—within the limits that she herself had set up. Though he had publicly announced her as his concubine—which satisfied the Bene Gesserit and other observers—he displayed no romantic or sexual interest in her, or in anyone.

It was not the relationship many people thought it was, but it worked efficiently for both of them. Let others assume what they wished. Meanwhile, she would do anything necessary to change her assignment and go back to Leto and Paul.

She sighed. Under other circumstances, she might have accepted remaining with House Tull. But not after knowing Leto. In him, in the Duke of Caladan, Jessica had found as close to an ideal partner as she could imagine . . . even after the terrible quarrel that had broken them apart. Though she knew that Leto doubted her, her love for him remained strong. She had already stained herself in the eyes of the Sisterhood by choosing to give birth to the son Leto wanted, instead of the daughter she’d been commanded to bear. . . .

In the corridor outside her office, she heard something fall to the floor as a uniformed military officer rushed by. Glancing up, she saw him kneeling to gather papers he had spilled, stuffing them into a leather case. He was one of the soldier bodyguards who had joined Giandro out in the hills to receive the illicit weapons shipment. After snatching the papers from the floor, the man hurried to the Viscount’s office.

Jessica noticed that one of the loose papers had slid under her door, a technical drawing of some kind. She retrieved it, but the officer had already ducked into the Viscount’s office. She felt a chill as she glanced at the drawing—it appeared to be related to the hidden weapon shipments and a new military design.

Remembering the flustered urgency on the man’s face, she walked briskly down the hall to give him the missing document. She pushed past the clerk who guarded the Viscount’s office, who called after her, startled, as if he didn’t recognize the new concubine.

Hearing the commotion, Giandro opened the inner door, caught her eye. “Jessica! What is it?”

Inside, standing before the broad wooden desk, the flustered officer was arranging his documents.

Jessica held up the technical drawing. “I assume this is something important.” The officer looked up from the desk, horrified. “I’m, I’m s-sorry, my Lord!

An inexcusable lapse on my part.”

“But fortuitous.” Giandro ushered Jessica inside as he gave a reassuring nod to the confused clerk in the outer office, then closed the door for privacy. “We are lucky Jessica is the one who found the document, rather than someone who would do us harm.”

She looked down, playing demure. “I am not here to serve a political role.” She noticed the blue-spiral Tull crest in the middle of the old desk, partially obscured by papers.

“Spoken with the wisdom of a Bene Gesserit,” he said. “But of course I value your wisdom and opinions. This is Lef-Major Zaldir, one of our experts on a new project.” He gave the officer a meaningful glance. “Jessica is fully aware of our plans, and I trust her implicitly.”

Zaldir was both alarmed and surprised. “Even even about this, sir?”

“Even about this.”

Jessica had glanced at the drawing. “I am not familiar with this design. I saw the previous weapons delivery, though I wasn’t supposed to. Were these devices among them?”

Giandro gave her a warm smile. “It’s distressing that you spied on me, and more distressing that you succeeded, but in the end, it was serendipity. Having you aware of our efforts makes many things smoother for us.”

Zaldir took the paper back, inserted it into proper order. He looked anxious. “The first prototypes of the shield nullifiers are packaged and ready to be shipped off.” When he looked up at Jessica again, sweat beaded on his brow. “Does she . . . does she know about?”

“Yes, she knows the new shipment is bound for Jaxson Aru.”

Jessica covered her reaction. She hadn’t, in fact, known that. She lowered her voice. “That man’s penchant for grand and bloody statements is not to my liking.” On Otorio, Leto had been one of those innocent bystanders who barely escaped from the massacre. So many others had been killed, and the incident had greatly shaken him.

Troubled by her obvious reticence, Giandro gestured Jessica to a seat beside the Lef-Major. The antique chairs also bore the crest of House Tull. He frowned and said, “Though I support the Noble Commonwealth—for reasons that I consider sufficient—I don’t always agree with Jaxson’s tactics. I would prefer a less violent, yet more effective, approach. Hence, this new weapon design is for defensive purposes, rather than aggression.” He glanced around his private office, as if to double-check his own security. “This room is blocked and shielded. We may discuss freely. Lef-Major, tell her about the nullifiers.”

Though the officer still seemed uncertain to have Jessica brought into the circle of extreme confidence, Zaldir pulled the technical documents toward him. “These devices level the playing field and give our allies equal standing against a far superior Imperial foe.” Clearly more interested in the technical details than in military protocol, he grew more animated as he talked. “Our ingenious new nullifier can short out personal shields within a certain radius. Once such a device is activated, our opponents will be vulnerable to simple projectile weapons, needle guns, antique pistols—a vulnerability they will never expect. Imagine the invincible Sardaukar suddenly mowed down by mere bullets!”

Grasping the implications, Jessica nodded. The invention and use of personal shields had rendered all projectile weapons obsolete in major combat for thousands of years. No one would think to defend against such a thing. The introduction of Tull’s shield nullifiers would impose a fundamental change in warfare—again.

The Viscount scanned the report. “Of course, much more significant pentashields and house shields would not be affected. But, oh, what a surprise in personal combat!”

She nodded. “The Sardaukar won’t realize the rebels possess such defenses. If they ever do track down Jaxson Aru or his Noble Commonwealth base, they’ll charge forward in force.” She allowed herself the smallest smile. “Thus exposing themselves to destruction.”

During her recent secret trip to Caladan to save Paul, she had spoken with her son, but Leto was gone on a mysterious mission of his own. Bound by a promise, Paul had not revealed to her what his father was doing, but Jessica had gleaned hints from Giandro Tull that Leto might have made overtures to the rebels as well. It did not seem possible . . . unless Leto had some other reason for doing so.

Looking up, she saw the nobleman’s eyes dance, and he said, “We will send a shipment of the prototype shield nullifiers to a rendezvous point, where Jaxson can retrieve them for distribution to the rebels. I will include a message for him, so that he knows the true importance of these devices.”

Lef-Major Zaldir gathered his papers. “The unmarked crates are ready outside your stables, my Lord. Security will clear the area, so that you may record your message. We can encrypt and encode within a bonded ridulian crystal so that no one but Jaxson Aru may activate the recording.”

Giandro rose from his seat behind the antique desk. “Jessica will stand with me as I record. I want my new concubine at my side.”

Jessica felt a sudden flare of alarm. What if Leto did see the message, in his dealings with the rebel leader? “I would prefer not to be placed on public display, my Lord.”

He chuckled, not understanding her concern. “Not to worry, this will be the most private of communiqués.” He donned a brown military jacket with silver-and-gold epaulets and ribbing, then prepared the words for his message.

Copyright © 2022 from Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson 2022

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