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$2.99 eBook Sale: Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson

Place holder  of - 56The ebook edition of Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson is on sale now for only $2.99! This offer will only last for a limited time, so order your copy today!

About Variable Star: A never-before-published masterpiece from science fiction’s greatest writer, rediscovered after more than half a century.

When Joel Johnston first met Jinny Hamilton, it seemed like a dream come true. And when she finally agreed to marry him, he felt like the luckiest man in the universe.

There was just one small problem. He was broke. His only goal in life was to become a composer, and he knew it would take years before he was earning enough to support a family.

But Jinny wasn’t willing to wait. And when Joel asked her what they were going to do for money, she gave him a most unexpected answer. She told him that her name wasn’t really Jinny Hamilton—it was Jinny Conrad, and she was the granddaughter of Richard Conrad, the wealthiest man in the solar system.

And now that she was sure that Joel loved her for herself, not for her wealth, she revealed her family’s plans for him—he would be groomed for a place in the vast Conrad empire and sire a dynasty to carry on the family business.

Most men would have jumped at the opportunity. But Joel Johnston wasn’t most men. To Jinny’s surprise, and even his own, he turned down her generous offer and then set off on the mother of all benders. And woke up on a colony ship heading out into space, torn between regret over his rash decision and his determination to forget Jinny and make a life for himself among the stars.

He was on his way to succeeding when his plans–and the plans of billions of others–were shattered by a cosmic cataclysm so devastating it would take all of humanity’s strength and ingenuity just to survive.

Order Your Copy

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This sale ends January 5th.

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8 Military Sci-Fi Must-Reads

Ready, set, action! We’re obsessed with military sci-fi. If you’re ready to go on an adventure filled with aliens, terrifying technology, dangerous weapons, and even pirates, these books are for you. Here are some of our favorites, ranging from classic military sci-fi everyone should read to new and upcoming novels destined to become classics in their own right one day.

Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber

Image Placeholder of - 30 The Gbaba aliens destroyed nearly all of humanity. The few survivors have fled to Earth-like planet Safehold. However, because the Gbaba can detect any industrial emissions, the people on Safehold must regress to an earlier medieval time. Using mind control technology, the government on Safehold imposes a religion that every citizen believes in — a religion that keeps them safe. 800 years pass, and an android awakens to spur a technological revolution… and likely war. Off Armageddon Reef is just one of David Weber’s many impressive science fiction works.

Valiant Dust by Richard Baker

Image Place holder  of - 29 When David Weber praises a sci-fi novel, it moves to the top of our reading list, and he calls Valiant Dust “new and extraordinary.” Baker drew on his background as a U.S. Navy officer to create an exciting tale of war and action set in space. The novel takes place aboard a starship led by gunnery officer Sikander Singh North, who, when faced with a planetary uprising, must prove to himself and his crewmates that he is the right man for the job.

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

Place holder  of - 12 In this adventure-packed military sci-fi classic, lead character Juan “Johnnie” Rico leaves his privileged life to join the military in its fight against an alien species known as the “Bugs.” As philosophical as it is fantasy, Starship Troopers was written in response to the politics of the Cold War and 1950s America. If you’re looking for a novel that strongly has plenty of action but also deals in real-world moral issues, then this book is a great option.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Poster Placeholder of - 73 In The Old Man’s War series, interstellar space travel has led to territory wars with alien species. These wars are fought by elderly volunteers of retirement age, whose consciousness, along with their knowledge and skills, are transferred to younger bodies.. John Perry, the protagonist, has chosen to enlist on his 75th birthday, in the hopes that he will receive a homestead stake in one of the colony planets if he survives his two-year tour. This Hugo-award nominee is an enjoyable and thought-provoking series that provides a fresh interpretation of humanity’s future.

Unbreakable by W. C. Bauers

Placeholder of  -46 Promise Paen reluctantly returns to her birth planet of Montana to lead the Republic of Aligned Worlds’ Marines infantry, sent to Montana to stabilize the region from pirate raids. Haunted by her past and none too pleased to be back on her home planet, Promise has her work cut out for her. When the marines appear depleted, RAW’s rival, the Lusitanian Empire, is all too eager to take advantage. This suspense-filled, action-packed novel is W. C. Bauers’ wonderful debut.

Dauntless by Jack Campbell

Captain John “Black Jack” Geary has been in survival hibernation in enemy territory for over a century. While in hibernation, the captain is heroized in the Alliance for facing the Syndics in his “last stand.” Now, Geary wakes up to end the war once and for all. He aids a depleted Alliance fleet that is stranded on the Syndics’ territory, and sets forth on a mission to bring back the stolen hypernet key: the Alliance’s last chance at winning the war. If you enjoy Dauntless, check out the rest of the Lost Fleet series, which are equally as exciting.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

The award winning Ender’s Game series is one of the most well-known science fiction novels for a reason — Orson Scott Card creates a military sci-fi masterpiece using beautifully simple prose. Set in a time when Earth is at war with an alien species, Ender’s Game is about a young genius, nicknamed Ender, who is grouped with other skilled children to go through rigorous military training to prepare for a third alien invasion. Ender and his friends think they are playing video game simulations… but these “games” have much more dire consequences.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

A science fiction classic and winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus awards, The Forever War is about physics student William Mandella who is drafted into the army to fight in a thousand-year war on a faraway planet. When Mandella finally returns home, he finds that what felt like two years in space was nearly 30 years on Earth — and nothing seems to be the same. The Forever War is a captivating story about war, time dilation, death, and survival.

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Throwback Thursdays: Space Cadets and Starship Troopers: The Eagle Has Landed

Welcome to Throwback Thursdays on the Tor/Forge blog! Every other week, we’re delving into our newsletter archives and sharing some of our favorite posts.

In 2010, we published the first of a two volume biography of one of the giants of science fiction: Robert A. Heinlein. At that time, we had an idea: why not ask our authors about their favorite Heinlein novels? Tor editor Stacy Hill was our shepherd for this series, and updates us on our journey. Now that Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Volume 2 has come out, we’re revisiting that series. We hope you enjoy this blast from the past, and be sure to check back in every other week for more!

Robert A. Heinlein, Vol. 1 by William H. Patterson

From Tor editor Stacy Hill: Regular readers of Tor’s newsletter and our blog know that Tor has recently published an all-new biography of Robert A. Heinlein. Written with the blessing of Heinlein’s late widow, Virginia, the work was many years in the making and contains a wealth of interesting information, including never-before-published excerpts from Heinlein’s correspondence. Even if you thought you knew everything there was to know about the man, I can promise you there are surprises to be found within these pages.

So, in celebration of the man and his works, we asked a number of sf writers to tell us which Heinlein novel is their favorite, and why. We were lucky enough to get a host of great authors, including:

David Brin
David Drake
David G. Hartwell
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Rudy Rucker
Joan Slonczewski
Charles Stross
Michael Swanwick
Vernor Vinge

What’s Your Favorite Robert A. Heinlein Novel, Joan Slonczewski?

Have Space Suit—Will Travel was one of the more important books I read as a child. It starts with a bright teenager obsessed with getting to the moon, like I was. To get there, the teen has to win a space suit and get kidnapped by aliens, and escape with the help of two females—a child genius and an advanced alien—both clearly brighter than he is. Back then, bright females were scarce in any fiction.

In Have Space Suit, Heinlein’s ability to hook the reader draws us through a remarkable introduction in which an entire space suit is described at length. We keep turning pages through the teen’s course selection for senior year, as he takes up Spanish, Latin, calculus, and biochemistry—all of which later help him escape the aliens and worse. The book feels deceptively simple; its opening line consists of seven words of one syllable. Yet Heinlein weaves in concepts of mindboggling depth, from gas exchange in a space suit to linguistic development in the Roman Empire. Through it all, the humor is fresh and obvious to any reader. The Roman soldier even cracks a queer joke—imagine getting that past the juvenile censors in 1958.

From the protagonist’s teenage viewpoint, Earth-bound adults appear distant and preoccupied. The only ones who seem to be having fun are scientists. That, too, seemed familiar to me as the child of a physicist who worked on a Hal-like IBM 360. In the sixties, science was the stagecoach, the mule train heading toward the future’s ever-receding frontier. Have Space Suit was the kind of book that did that, a fictional journey driven by science.

Heinlein’s aliens are completely fantastic, yet somehow as real as a neighbor next door. Even the most advanced creatures are fallible, making mistakes that might doom an entire race. Yet the story begins and ends in small-town Ohio, near the home of the Wright brothers, and near where we raised our two sons. Today, this area still feels about the same. Any day now I expect to see those two alien space ships racing in.

This article is originally from the October 2010 Tor/Forge newsletter. Sign up for the Tor/Forge newsletter now, and get similar content in your inbox every month!

Starred Review: Robert A. Heinlein, Vol. 2: In Dialogue with His Century, 1948–1988; the Man Who Learned Better by William H. Patterson

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, 1948–1988; the Man Who Learned Better by William H. Patterson“The research for this biography was clearly both a labor of love and a labor of Hercules, and the result is what must be considered the standard for biographies of a man who in turn must finally be considered a major American writer.”

William H. Patterson’s Robert A. Heinlein, Vol. 2: In Dialogue with His Century, 1948–1988; the Man Who Learned Better got a starred review in Booklist!

Here’s the full review, from the May 15 issue:

Image Placeholder of - 13 This second volume of the authorized biography of arguably the most notable American science-fiction writer covers the second half of his life. In these years, Heinlein was continually exploring new approaches to old sf themes and then pushing the boundaries of the entire field steadily outward with new themes. This phase of his career began with Stranger in a Strange Land (more than 10 years in gestation) and continued to the end of his life. During that period, he battled censorship by stuffy editors, Hollywood directors of questionable ethics, and overly zealous or downright incompetent critics. He also battled a series of health problems that make harrowing reading, and that would probably have had most of us bedridden at an age where Heinlein was taking a cruise through the Arctic’s Northwest Passage. In all his enterprises, he was indispensably partnered with the remarkable Virginia Heinlein, wife, helpmate, organizer, business manager, corresponding secretary, and altogether worthy of a biography in her own right. As is inevitable in an authorized biography, some controversial subjects (such as Heinlein’s politics and his classic Starship Troopers) are presented in the most favorable light, but author Patteron also presents strong, factbased cases for those interpretations. The research for this biography was clearly both a labor of love and a labor of Hercules, and the result is what must be considered the standard for biographies of a man who in turn must finally be considered a major American writer.

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, 1948–1988; the Man Who Learned Better will be published on June 3.

Science Fiction Library Sweepstakes

Sign up for the Tor/Forge Newsletter for a chance to win a set of these hardcover sf books for you and a set for your local library:

The Domino Pattern by Timothy Zahn Empress of Eternity by L.E. Modesitt The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card Makers by Cory Doctorow Metatropolis edited by John Scalzi Mind Over Ship by David Marusek Robert A. Heinlein Biography by William Patterson Seed Seeker by Pamela Sargent Stars and Gods by Larry Niven The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin

Every issue of Tor’s monthly email newsletter features original writing by, and interviews with, Tor authors and editors about upcoming new titles from all Tor and Forge imprints. In addition, we occasionally send out “special edition” newsletters to highlight particularly exciting new projects, programs, or events.

If you’re already a newsletter subscriber, you can enter too. We do not automatically enter subscribers into giveaways. We promise we won’t send you duplicate copies of the newsletter if you sign up more than once.

Sign up for your chance to win today!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. You must be 18 or older and a legal resident of the 50 United States or D.C. to enter. Promotion begins November 13, 2010 at 12 a.m. ET. and ends December 16, 2010, 11:59 p.m. ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. For Official Rules and to enter, go to www.tor-forge.com/tor/promo/sflibraryprizepack. Sponsor: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

Sweepstakes: 25 Science Fiction Books from Tor

Sign up for the Tor/Forge Newsletter for a chance to win this prize pack of 25 science fiction novels from Tor Books!

Crystal Rain Tobias Buckell The Domino Pattern by Timothy Zahn Dream Park by Larry Niven and Edward Lerner Empress of Eternity by L.E. Modesitt Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer Hylozoic by Rudy Rucker Juggler of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward Lerner Makers by Cory Doctorow Mind Over Ship by David Marusek The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber Old Man's War by John Scalzi Orphans of Chaos by John C. Wright Out of the Dark by David Weber The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov The Silver Ship and The Sea by Brenda Cooper Spin by Robert Charles Wilson Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder The Unincorporated Man by Dani and Eytan Kollin Watermind by M.M. Buckner The Winds of Dune by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert

Every issue of Tor’s monthly email newsletter features original writing by, and interviews with, Tor authors and editors about upcoming new titles from all Tor and Forge imprints. In addition, we occasionally send out “special edition” newsletters to highlight particularly exciting new projects, programs, or events.

If you’re already a newsletter subscriber, you can enter too. We do not automatically enter subscribers into giveaways. We promise we won’t send you duplicate copies of the newsletter if you sign up more than once.

Sign up for your chance to win today!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. You must be 18 or older and a legal resident of the 50 United States or D.C. to enter. Promotion begins October 25, 2010 at 12 a.m. ET. and ends November 22, 2010, 11:59 p.m. ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. For Official Rules and to enter, go to www.tor-forge.com/tor/promo/sfprizepack. Sponsor: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

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Space Cadets and Starship Troopers: The Eagle Has Landed

Space Cadets and Starship Troopers: The Eagle Has Landed

Image Place holder  of - 28 By Stacy Hague-Hill, Wishing You Good Journey

Regular readers of Tor’s newsletter and our blog know that Tor has recently published an all-new biography of Robert A. Heinlein. Written with the blessing of Heinlein’s late widow, Virginia, the work was many years in the making and contains a wealth of interesting information, including never-before-published excerpts from Heinlein’s correspondence. Even if you thought you knew everything there was to know about the man, I can promise you there are surprises to be found within these pages.

So, in celebration of the man and his works, we asked a number of sf writers to tell us which Heinlein novel is their favorite, and why. We were lucky enough to get a host of great authors, including:

David Brin
David Drake
David G. Hartwell
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Rudy Rucker
Joan Slonczewski
Charles Stross
Michael Swanwick
and
Vernor Vinge

Adding to the Heinlein festivities was a thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion over at Tor.com in the Tor.com Heinlein Blog Symposium.

Many thanks to the authors for their contributions, and thanks to all of the readers who have jumped into the discussion. We’re glad Heinlein’s works have made such an impression on so many of you, too, and to hear about your favorites. I’m going to get all commercial and point out that a number of the Heinlein novels you’ve all been discussing are currently available from Tor: Glory Road, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Space Cadet, and Time for the Stars can all be picked up directly from our website or from any number of fine retailers with discerning taste and a first-rate collection of sf.

Also available online and in excellent bookstores everywhere is Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve (978-0-7653-1960-9 / $29.99).

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From the Tor/Forge October newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.

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What’s Your Favorite Robert A. Heinlein Novel, Vernor Vinge?

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. HeinleinMy favorite Heinlein novel is The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress; for some days after reading it, 22nd century cislunar-politics seemed more real than current geo-politics!

However, just thinking about the question provokes an avalanche of fondly remembered competitors, including:

  • Between Planets, the first book I ever read (and which seems even sharper now than I remember it from the early 1950s!)
  • The Star Beast
  • Double Star, graceful and short (and even more interesting now that I have some Patterson-insight about Heinlein’s time in politics).

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Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve (978-0-7653-1960-9 / $29.99) will be available from Tor Books on August 17th 2010.

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What’s Your Favorite Heinlein Novel, Michael Swanwick?

Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. HeinleinHave Space Suit – Will Travel divides neatly into two parts. In the first, a space-mad teenager wins a surplus space suit and decides to get it into working order. It’s no easy task. But step by step, he repairs, replaces, and restores. Heinlein designed pressure suits during World War Two – he knew what he was writing about, and it shows. Nobody has ever written better about the glamor of engineering and the sheer fun of hard work. This half is riveting.

The second half of the book is merely exciting. Having finished his self-imposed chore, the protagonist dons his suit for one last time, overhears a distress call on its radio, and the adventure is on. I’m convinced that for this section Heinlein made a list of science fiction tropes that were so trite and outdated that nobody could possibly write a good book using any one of them – and then proceeded to write a good book using them all. So the boy is kidnapped by the inhabitants of a flying saucer, held prisoner by outer-space gangsters, rescues a princess, and defends Earth before a court of starfaring civilizations. Probably only Heinlein could have made this work. But it works magnificently.

I discovered Heinlein’s juveniles as an adult. So it was possible that my preferring the first half of the book was an adult response. But I read Have Space Suit – Will Travel to my son Sean when he was ten years old and he felt exactly the same. The second half was excellent but the first rocked!

New writers are often told to write what they love. Robert Heinlein wrote about the joys of work and engineering. It’s a good message, and it was the making of this book.

Michael Swanwick can be found online at https://www.michaelswanwick.com

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Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve (978-0-7653-1960-9 / $29.99) will be available from Tor Books on August 17th 2010.

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What’s Your Favourite Heinlein Novel, Charles Stross?

Glory Road by Robert A. HeinleinThere are seven deadly words at the end of every fairy tale, words that signal that the train of narrative has reached a terminus beyond which it is impossible to proceed without switching to a different gauge: “And they all lived happily ever after.”

At the end of every fairy tale the girl gets her prince and the wicked witch gets her justly-deserved red-hot dancing shoes; but never should the wisdom of breeding be questioned, nor the justice of kings, the malice of witches and the treachery of the ugly. Inside the sweet pastry of closure there’s a hard and bitter kernel of unbending tradition.

If you want to traverse the rugged and increasingly hostile terrain of broken assumptions and questioned conventions, you need a different kind of vehicle. And that’s what Robert A. Heinlein engineered in Glory Road, perhaps the most mistakenly underrated of his 1960s novels.

Glory Road opens by introducing us to Oscar, naive young sword-wielding hero and GI everyman; fast, deadly, and mistakenly believing himself to be a match for the universe. Discharged from the army and at a loose end, Oscar answers a job ad asking for a hero and finds himself plunged into a perilous quest with a princess and a page at his side. What follows is a high fantasy romp in the pre-Tolkeinian mode: with tongue firmly in cheek and more than a touch of camp to season the stew, the first half of Glory Road reads like Fritz Leiber writing a portal fantasy. Even so, there are intrusions from outside the box. Oscar’s unthinking assumption that his values are universal axioms of civilization is undermined and then dissected with cruel precision: there are signs, even early on, that he is not fully informed as to the true consequences of his actions.

Then, halfway into the novel, the express train of Heinleinian story-telling runs into the buffers of ever-after at full speed and explodes — and we are left to pick over the wreckage with the increasingly baffled and frustrated Oscar, as the lessons of the first half finally sink in. Life is a process, heroism is a vocation not a destination, and the girl comes with unwelcome strings attached.

Oscar has fulfilled the quest, gained the castle, married the princess (except she’s actually an immortal empress witch, powerful and cynical beyond his imagination) … and everything turns to ashes in his mouth.

I first read Glory Road when I was younger and dumber than Oscar; it took me a long time to get what the novel was about, and then I felt even stupider. Life isn’t about growing up and having done things, it’s a process rather than a destination: Oscar works it out eventually, and the novel ends when he decides, rather than passively sitting on his hoard, to follow the admonition on his sword: “Dum vivimus, vivamus!”

Verdict: to a first naive reading Glory Road might be mistaken for a swaybacked nag of a high fantasy experiment that tails off into bathos. But there’s much more to it than that, and once the reader recognizes that Oscar is an unreliable guide to his world the true story comes into focus.

… And they all *lived* happily ever after.

Charles Stross can be found online at https://www.antipope.org/charlie/

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Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve (978-0-7653-1960-9 / $29.99) will be available from Tor Books on August 17th 2010.

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