Joker Moon - Tor/Forge Blog



Every Book Coming From Tor in Summer 2021

Summer is almost here and we’re so excited for warm weather, sunshine, and NEW BOOKS!!! Check out everything coming from Tor Books in summer 2021 here:

June 1

Image Place holder  of - 86The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and they sure do love to talk. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to those they left behind. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and strength. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. Ropa will dice with death as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. And although underground Edinburgh hides a wealth of dark secrets, she also discovers an occult library, a magical mentor and some unexpected allies. Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

Place holder  of - 54Alien Day by Rick Wilber

Will Peter Holman rescue his sister Kait, or will she be the one to rescue him? Will Chloe Cary revive her acting career with the help of the princeling Treble, or will the insurgents take both their lives? Will Whistle or Twoclicks wind up in charge of Earth, and how will the Mother, who runs all of S’hudon, choose between them? And the most important question of all: who are the Old Ones that left all that technology behind for the S’hudonni . . . and what if they come back?

June 8

Poster Placeholder of - 37Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe

The Book of the New Sun is unanimously acclaimed as Gene Wolfe’s most remarkable work, hailed as “a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis” by Publishers Weekly.

June 22

Placeholder of  -98Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. He lost his place as a retainer of his cousin the former Empress, and made far too many enemies among the many factions vying for power in the new Court. The favor of the Emperor is a dangerous coin. Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice. No matter his own background with the imperial house, Celehar will stand with the commoners, and possibly find a light in the darkness.

June 29

Image Placeholder of - 60When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson

Here, in the last sanctuary for the dying embers of the human race in a world run by artificial intelligence, if you stray from the path – your life is forfeit. But when a Party propagandist is killed – and is discovered as a “machine” – he’s given a new mission: chaperone the widow, Lily, who has arrived to claim her husband’s remains. But when South sees that she, the first “machine” ever allowed into the country, bears an uncanny resemblance to his late wife, he’s thrown into a maelstrom of betrayal, murder, and conspiracy that may bring down the Republic for good.

July 6

The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley

The Annurian Empire is disintegrating. The advantages it used for millennia have fallen to ruin. The ranks of the Kettral have been decimated from within, and the kenta gates, granting instantaneous travel across the vast lands of the empire, can no longer be used. In order to save the empire, one of the surviving Kettral must voyage beyond the edge of the known world through a land that warps and poisons all living things to find the nesting ground of the giant war hawks. Meanwhile, a monk turned con-artist may hold the secret to the kenta gates. But time is running out.

Joker Moon from George R. R. Martin

Theodorus was a dreamer. When the wild card virus touched him and transformed him into a monstrous snail centaur weighing several tons, his boyhood dreams seemed out of reach, but a Witherspoon is not so easily defeated. But now when he looked upward into the night sky, he saw more than just the moon . . . he saw a joker homeland, a refuge where the outcast children of the wild card could make a place of their own, safe from hate and harm. An impossible dream, some said. Others, alarmed by the prospect, brought all their power to bear to oppose him. Theodorus persisted . . .never dreaming that the Moon was already inhabited. And the Moon Maid did not want company.

July 13

The Freedom Race by Lucinda Roy

In the aftermath of a cataclysmic civil war known as the Sequel, ideological divisions among the states have hardened. In the Homestead Territories, an alliance of plantation-inspired holdings, Black labor is imported from the Cradle, and Biracial “Muleseeds” are bred. Raised in captivity on Planting 437, kitchen-seed Jellybean “Ji-ji” Lottermule knows there is only one way to escape. She must enter the annual Freedom Race as a runner. Ji-ji and her friends must exhume a survival story rooted in the collective memory of a kidnapped people and conjure the voices of the dead to light their way home.

The Justice in Revenge by Ryan Van Loan

The island nation of Servenza is a land of flint and steel, sail and gearwork, of gods both Dead and sleeping. It is a society where the wealthy few rule the impoverished many. Determined to change that, former street-rat Buc, along with Eld, the ex-soldier who has been her partner in crime-solving, have claimed seats on the board of the powerful Kanados Trading Company. Buc plans to destroy the nobility from within—which is much harder than she expected.

July 20

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected. When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes to stay hidden from her fate.

August 10

The Rookery by Deborah Hewitt

After discovering her magical ability to see people’s souls, Alice Wyndham only wants three things: to return to the Rookery, join the House Mielikki and master her magic, and find out who she really is. But when the secrets of Alice’s past threaten her plans, and the Rookery begins to crumble around her, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to save the city and people she loves.

Sword & Citadel by Gene Wolfe

Sword & Citadel brings together the final two books of the tetralogy in one volume: The Sword of the Lictor is the third volume in Wolfe’s remarkable epic, chronicling the odyssey of the wandering pilgrim called Severian, driven by a powerful and unfathomable destiny, as he carries out a dark mission far from his home. The Citadel of the Autarch brings The Book of the New Sun to its harrowing conclusion, as Severian clashes in a final reckoning with the dread Autarch, fulfilling an ancient prophecy that will forever alter the realm known as Urth

August 17

Neptune by Ben Bova

In the future, humanity has spread throughout the solar system, on planets and moons once visited only by robots or explored at a distance by far-voyaging spacecraft. Three years ago, Ilona Magyr’s father, Miklos, disappeared while exploring the seas of Neptune. Everyone believes he is dead—crushed, frozen, or boiled alive in Neptune’s turbulent seas. With legendary space explorer Derek Humbolt piloting her ship and planetary scientist Jan Meitner guiding the search, Ilona Magyr knows she will find her father—alive—on Neptune. Her plans are irrevocably altered when she and her team discover the wreckage of an alien ship deep in Neptune’s ocean, a discovery which changes humanity’s understanding of its future…and its past.

The Exiled Fleet by J. S. Dewes

The Sentinels narrowly escaped the collapsing edge of the Divide. They have mustered a few other surviving Sentinels, but with no engines they have no way to leave the edge of the universe before they starve. Adequin Rake has gathered a team to find the materials they’ll need to get everyone out. To do that they’re going to need new allies and evade a ruthless enemy. Some of them will not survive.

August 31

The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha

Maya has had a price on her head from the day she escaped the TechCorps. Genetically engineered for genius and trained for revolution, there’s only one thing she can’t do—forget. Gray has finally broken free of the Protectorate, but he can’t escape the time bomb in his head. His body is rejecting his modifications, and his months are numbered. When Maya’s team uncovers an operation trading in genetically enhanced children, she’ll do anything to stop them. Even risk falling back into the hands of the TechCorps. And Gray has found a purpose for his final days: keeping Maya safe.

Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund

The war against Osyrus Ward goes poorly for Bershad and Ashlyn. They are pinned in the Dainwood by monstrous alchemical creations and a relentless army of mercenaries, they are running out of options and allies. The Witch Queen struggles with her new powers, knowing that the secret of unlocking her dragon cord is key to stopping Ward’s army, she pushes forward with her experiments. Meanwhile, with every wound Bershad suffers, he gets closer to losing his humanity forever, and as the war rages, the exile turned assassin turned hero isn’t even sure if being human is something he wants.

September 7

You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

TwiceFar station is at the edge of the known universe, and that’s just how Niko Larson, former Admiral in the Grand Military of the Hive Mind, likes it. Retired and finally free of the continual war of conquest, Niko and the remnants of her former unit are content to spend the rest of their days working at the restaurant they built together, The Last Chance. But, some wars can’t ever be escaped, and unlike the Hive Mind, some enemies aren’t content to let old soldiers go. Niko and her crew are forced onto a sentient ship convinced that it is being stolen and must survive the machinations of a sadistic pirate king if they even hope to keep the dream of The Last Chance alive.



Excerpt: Joker Moon edited by George R. R. Martin

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Place holder  of - 40In Joker Moon, the next Wild Cards adventure from series editor George R. R. Martin, we follow Aarti, the Moon Maid, who can astrally project herself onto the surface of the moon and paint projections across the lunarscape.

Theodorus was a dreamer.

As a child, he dreamt of airplanes, rockets, and outer space. When the wild card virus touched him and transformed him into a monstrous snail centaur weighing several tons, his boyhood dreams seemed out of reach, but a Witherspoon is not so easily defeated. Years and decades passed, and Theodorus grew to maturity and came into his fortune . . . but still his dream endured.

But now when he looked upward into the night sky, he saw more than just the moon . . . he saw a joker homeland, a refuge where the outcast children of the wild card could make a place of their own, safe from hate and harm. An impossible dream, some said. Others, alarmed by the prospect, brought all their power to bear to oppose him. Theodorus persisted . . .

. . . never dreaming that the Moon was already inhabited. And the Moon Maid did not want company.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Joker Moon edited by George R. R. Martin, on sale 07/06/2021.

The Moon Maid

By Mary Anne Mohanraj

Part 1


AARTI DUCKED INTO THE Bird and Babe, hoping that she wasn’t too late to snag her favorite corner for lunch. Thankfully, it was free—the Inklings hadn’t descended on it yet with their smeared manuscripts and typical high spirits. They’d probably be in soon—it was Tuesday, after all—but if she were firmly ensconced, then perhaps they would let her keep it and find somewhere else for their literary endeavors.

She slid onto the bench beside the fireplace, thankful for the heat. After three years in Oxford, she still hadn’t adapted to the dampness of English winters. A nasty February drizzle fell on the cobbled streets outside, and she shrugged off her soggy coat with relief. The dark, panelled walls added to the coziness of the room, and for a moment, she could forget England, forget Oxford, maybe even forget that her heart was breaking.

The server came over to wipe down the table. “It’s good to see you, Miss Aarti. How’s the painting going?” He’d seen her in here with paint-smeared fingers often enough.

“Fine, John, fine. Just had a show, actually.” Her first gallery show, which should have been a triumph. Aarti was studying astronomy because that’s what her father expected of her, what her scholarship was for, the scholarship that had brought an Indian woman all the way to England, where she could be a prodigy, a curiosity. A woman at Oxford was rare enough, though more common since the War had taken so many brave young men. A brown woman at Oxford was unheard of. She loved astronomy—the first time one of her teachers had let her look through a telescope at the Moon, she had gasped in wonder. But Aarti had a second passion: She loved to paint. Her family hadn’t taken it seriously, but in this town, at least a few people thought she had real talent. Did she have to pick between the glory of the stars and the glory of paint on canvas? Couldn’t she have both?

“Where’s your young man?” John didn’t mean to be cruel—he was just used to seeing her come in with Raj. Aarti had never actually been in a pub by herself, and Appa would be furious if he saw—but she was twenty years old now, and her father was in Bombay. She didn’t really care what he would think.

“He’s gone, John. Gone for good this time.” Raj had never found it easy, putting up with Aarti’s sharp tongue, but their families had been pushing the match hard, and there weren’t that many reasonable prospects for a boy like him in Oxford. Even fewer for her, of course. And they’d had art in common, at least—attended lectures together, painted dozens of dour English landscapes side by side. But eventually, she abandoned the English landscapes, and started painting her work instead. Galaxies and constellations bloomed across the canvas. The rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter.

And the Moon—oh, Aarti loved to paint the Moon in all Her phases, the craters and mountains. Mare Imbrium, Mare Serenitatis, Mare Tranquilitatis. Mare Crisium, also called the Sea of Crises. Mons Pico, Mons Argaeus. And the craters: Aristarchus, Boussingault, Copernicus—she memorized a host of them, from a to zed. Zagut.

Copernicus, Tycho, and Kepler’s bright rays were a pleasure to paint, and she couldn’t resist the Alpine Valley, Bay of Rainbows, and the Straight Wall. But Aarti had her personal favorites, too—Mons Argaeus sat between Serenitatis and Tranquilitatis, on their eastern border. She painted it over and over again, drawn to it for reasons she could not name, and with each repetition the work improved. Another layer of paint, or perhaps a scraping away, highlighting the curve of a dark sea, the play of light and shadow on mountain rise.

At first Aarti painted the images as if from a ship, circling the Moon, gazing upon Her. But over time the perspective shifted, until at last it was as if you walked the surface yourself, and the mountain rose before you in edged chiaroscuro.

As it turned out, other people loved her Moon paintings, too. As time went on, Aarti’s work started getting more recognition, and Raj’s didn’t. He couldn’t stand it. Their last fight had been an ugly one, on the steps of the gallery, in full earshot of dozens of people.

Everything is about you, isn’t it? Aarti Aarti Aarti.

Not everything. Just this! Why can’t you just be happy for me?

Why can’t you be like other women, and support your man? Is this what it’s going to be like when we’re married?

I can’t help it if I’m better than you!

Raj turned and walked away, leaving Aarti standing there in the rain, knowing it was over. She shouldn’t have said that last. Her mother always said her tongue would get her into trouble. But was she expected to bridle it for the entire length of her marriage? Amma would undoubtedly say yes.

Aarti met John’s eyes and said quietly, “Raj and I are over.”

John clucked his tongue in sympathy. “Sorry to hear that, lass. Chin up—you’re pretty enough to find yourself another man soon. Plenty of fish in the sea.”

Did people really say that? Apparently, but she wouldn’t complain as long as John fetched her drink. He brought it quickly enough, but his hand brushed against hers on the table as he set it down. She pulled back, setting her spine against the corner of the fireplace; John wandered away without saying anything else.

Maybe she shouldn’t be in here on her own. John was handsome, but the last thing she needed was to start something with a white man. If her father got word of it, he’d never let her stay at Oxford, and if Aarti couldn’t have Raj, she could at least have her degree. With it, she could go home and get a teaching job, finally get some independence from her family. It’d probably be basic mathematics taught to schoolgirls instead of serious astronomy, which would break her heart. But it was better than being forced into a loveless marriage. Just one more year . . . Aarti’s fingers curved around the stemmed glass, tightening. She would survive this.

Loud voices from the hall—the Inklings had arrived, inevitably. Aarti braced to repulse their invasion.

“Lewis, do you regret agreeing to the debate with that woman? She demolished your arguments regarding naturalism and the possibility of human reason rather handily, I’m afraid.”

“Let’s not discuss it, please. I have some new chapters of my Aslan story that I’d like you to look at—Miss? Miss, are you not feeling well?”

“I’m fine,” Aarti wanted to snap, wanted to demand that they simply leave her alone with the sherry she hoped to drown her sorrows in. She would have said that, but the room was spinning strangely. Aarti tried to stand up, but that was a mistake. The room tilted and fell away, and she fell with it, into the arms of one of them—Lewis, Tolkien? The pale face blurred and darkness descended.

The ceiling fan spun lazily overhead, above the tent of white mosquito netting enclosing the large four-poster bed. A lizard skittered across the ceiling, and for a moment, Aarti wanted nothing more than to lie there, watching it go.

She had been lying in this bed for too long. The day had slipped away, like so many other days, and the Moon would be rising outside the window. Aarti pushed herself up, wincing at the pain in her arms, the pain that throbbed across her body. Every inch of skin ached. Her arms, her legs, her entire body was swathed in bandages, everything but her face; she was sure her family would insist on covering that, too, if they could get away with it. Aarti wore a length of fabric wrapped over her head, like a hood, although it did little to disguise her condition. Her parents had been appalled when the English boat brought their daughter home, whimpering and twisting in the grip of the alien virus. It had almost killed her, but not quite. Aarti couldn’t help thinking that it would have been easier for them if she had died—after all, her father had bluntly said so.

A dead daughter was easier to explain to the neighbors than one whose skin turned a sickly gray, erupting in strange protuberances, sunken craters. Her hair fell out entirely, and her head swelled to almost twice its size, grown round and bulbous, like no human on this Earth. A few of the craters painfully oozed fluids that would surely contaminate anyone who came into contact with her. That was what her father believed, her mother, the temple priests brought in to consult, the astrologer who cast her horoscope again, with every prediction gone dark. Her brother cast a last look at Aarti as they quickly shuffled him out of the room—all the gods forbid that the little prince should be put at any risk!

You cannot be near Kish, her mother said. No parting kiss on Aarti’s forehead from the woman who had borne her, raised her. Aarti’s sharp tongue had won her no fondness, no kindness that might soften the goodbyes. Pray—pray that the gods will forgive you for what you have done, for the bitterness in your heart that has laid you open to this. Her mother’s prayers, her father’s curses—the last words Aarti heard as they fled, leaving her alone with two servants to see to her needs in this big, lonely house.

Manju would be in soon to change Aarti’s bandages and slather a homemade turmeric poultice over the open sores, as if it would help. But for now, Aarti hobbled over to the window, each step a misery. She pushed the shutters open, letting moonlight and the scent of jasmine flood into the room. She had never been much of one for praying, but in the weeks since her parents’ departure, she had tried praying to every god she knew of. Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Ganesha—a long litany of them. She’d tried praying to the Christian god, too, just in case, but no luck there, either.

She had also tried to work, but the pain made it hard to think, to run through even the simplest calculations. No chance now of finishing her degree—but at least no one would be trying to force her into a marriage. The virus had saved her that, at least! But it had also driven away any chance of friendship, of love, of family. Only servants were left to her, paid handsomely to endure her gross and repugnant form.

The only consolation Aarti found now was in moments like this, when she could gaze at the Moon, so bright, so far away, could dream herself gone, away from here. From this place where she must wear mask and hood to dare walk to market, flanked by a phalanx of watchful servants to guard her from abuse. Or to guard the residents of Bombay from her contagion. Who could say? Even her servants—Manju, Yajnadar—watched her with pitying eyes. They patiently tolerated her bitter outbursts, and she Could. Not. Stand. It.

Aarti closed her eyes against the brightness, flung her arms wide, heedless of the pain that cracked through her. She wished desperately to be gone, to be anywhere but here, to be there, on the Moon, finally alone. . . .

She opened her eyes. Rocks and nothing else, as far as the eye could see. Her room was gone, her bed, the garden with its bougainvillea and hibiscus. Colors bleached away, all whites and grays—except there, overhead, a gibbous blue glory hanging in the sky. The Earth, four times bigger in appearance than the Moon appeared from Earth, and so much brighter and sharper than Aarti would have expected, with swirls of white clouds, distinct to her eye. But the greater miracle than all of that—there was no pain. For the first time in months, her body felt no pain. Nothing else mattered.

Aarti danced, joyfully and spectacularly, bounding higher than she ever could have under the rules of her home world’s gravity. She danced under the earthlight, the Moon’s landscape bathed in a dim bluish-white twilight. Brighter than the light of a full moon, but still night-like. Aarti didn’t understand how she could be here, on what was clearly the Moon, in the shadow of her beloved Mons Argaeus, how she could breathe—though did she actually breathe? Aarti felt no breath leaving her body or entering it again.

Yet that didn’t seem to matter. Her body was her own again. Aarti’s skin was still gray and cratered, her head still swollen. But the pain was gone, and in its place, a strange new awareness. It was almost as if her body, her skin, carried a map of the Moon on it. She could feel the impact of tiny meteorites on the Moon’s surface, like monsoon rains hitting parched land. If Aarti closed her eyes and stretched out her arms, she could feel the dust of the Moon collected on the tiny hairs of her skin, warning her of the tiniest disturbance.

Much of what she experienced was what she might have expected if she had ever dared to dream of actually visiting the Moon. But there were surprises, too—from her telescope, the Moon had looked rough and jagged, but here on the surface, the Moon revealed Herself to be soft and round and welcoming. Another surprise was a buffeting of wind from the sun that varied in its force, but was quite palpable. Did this solar wind visit the Earth as well? Did Earth’s atmosphere shield it? Aarti didn’t know, but she gloried a little in knowing something about the Moon that the Earth’s most respected astronomers couldn’t dream of. Her discovery, and hers alone! She could feel the sun’s light, too—sunlight bathed the light side of the Moon, with the added glow of reflected earthshine. It surrounded her now, inviting her to ecstatic communion.

That would have been enough—more than enough! But it got better. When Aarti spun barefoot in the gray dust, her sari skirts flying and her arms flung wide, color streamed from her fingertips. They had gone long and strange, thinned to filaments—brushes, the finest brushes she could imagine. All Aarti had to do was think it, and the color changed—azure, ultramarine, indigo. Verdigris and malachite, orpiment and vermilion. No clogging of the brush, no weary soaking in turpentine, just a pure rush of color, translating the images in her mind directly onto the air. And then fading again—oh, that was a sadness, seeing her creations disappear into the lunar haze. Cats and castles, mountains and monkeys, here one moment and gone the next.

Still, when she’d been granted such gifts, it seemed churlish to complain. Aarti danced and painted for hours on end; she felt no hunger in her belly. It was like a dream, yet it felt more real than any moment of her life thus far. This was her true life; she would stay here forever.

If only she had a chair, comfortable, to sit in, to gaze at the Earth hanging overhead. Painting was a little tiring, as if it drew from her inner self; a chair would be nice to rest in. Aarti painted it, a sturdy English chair, cushioned and wing-backed, upholstered in buttoned-down brown leather—oh, how scandalized she’d been, the first time she’d sat down in a leather chair! Not that she’d ever been a good Hindu, but still. She painted the chair with fierce concentration, every ounce of longing she had rising up and flowing out through her fingertips. When she finished, she took a step back, admiring its smooth and gracious lines, waiting for it to fade.

It didn’t fade. It sat there, a little squat, quite solid. Aarti stared at it, waiting—but it stayed, as solid as her own hand. Until finally, she couldn’t bear it anymore, flung her body into the chair, and oh, oh—it felt so good, the soft leather pressing against her pocked skin, like a lover might.

Not that she and Raj had ever gone that far; even she had not been so daring. But they had kissed, under the gray arches of Oxford, and his hands had moved, urgent, on her waist, her hips. We will be married soon, he’d said. Aarti hadn’t quite trusted his promises, though; she had been right to be suspicious. But the chair—oh, the chair did love her. It had stayed for her, but why? Because she had wanted it so? Perhaps. She would have to explore her powers further—but then the Moon fell away, and Aarti found herself back in her room. The sun was rising outside her window; pain pulsed through her once more. Aarti fell to her knees and wailed her fury to the uncaring world, tears streaming down cratered gray skin. Amma would have told her to behave better, but why shouldn’t Aarti make a spectacle of herself?

There was no one here who would care.

Copyright © George R. R. Martin 2021

Pre-order Joker Moon Here:

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