For anyone still going through Stranger Things withdrawal, you now don’t have to wait till next Halloween (at the earliest) for more ‘80s sci-fi horror, because VFX productions has the cure in a terrifying short The 12th Search.
For anyone who thought “aliens!” the moment you heard that those mysterious streaks on the surface of Mars could be evidence of water flowing on the surface, that idea is about to dry up.
Check out the U.S. trailer for A Wrinkle In Time, Disney’s new adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel about a 13 year old girl, her 5 year old prodigy brother, and her classmate as they are transported through time and space…
In theaters March 9th, 2018
While they may not be as prevalent as they once were, romance stories have always been a staple of the comic book medium, and next year Image Comics and Eisner-nominated writer Alex de Campi will be bringing the love back in a big way with the launch of their new series, Twisted Romance.
What’s better than seeing the Doctor in the annual Christmas special? Seeing TWO of them!
It may be the week of Thanksgiving here in the good U S of A, but I’m not too busy to round up some links for you in between mandatory family time and churning out that holiday content.
What have you been reading and loving this week? Here are some links of varying age I’ve been enjoying:
One of DC Comics' most popular characters is officially getting her own animated series.
DC’s always had a fondness for pitting its heroes against bizarre, alternate reality versions of themselves in epic death matches. But in its upcoming JLA/Young Animal: Milk Wars event, the publisher’s trying something a little different by straight up rewriting the origins and identities of its iconic Trinity to…
This is not even the most bizarre snapshot from a new behind-the-scenes video for Will.i.am’s collaboration with Marvel, the graphic novel Masters of the Sun, which is also being turned into an AR experience. But it is the only one where Stan Lee looks wildly envious of the hat game on display all around him, and…
Profiles in History is an auction house that has offered some one-of-a-kind pieces for the well-heeled fan, including the original R2-D2 from Star Wars and Rick Deckard’s gun from Blade Runner. Its next auction is going to be a favorite for those fans of DC Comics’ super-suited hero Superman: The entire catalog will be dedicated to the man of steel.
When, or if, we’ll see Harley Quinn back on the big screen remains a mystery. On the small screen, though, she’ll be back sooner than expected, and she’ll have a starring role.
Spoilers for Game of Thrones seasons 1-7 will abound in this article. If you are not caught up, valar morghulis.
Everyone still here? Valar Dohaeris.
Every year I replay BioWare’s Mass Effect trilogy, but I have to admit I don’t always take my time playing the first game. Sometimes I’ll rush through or load an old save towards the end so I can quickly move on to the next game. Despite the wonderful nostalgia that hits as soon as I hear the menu music start to play, the shortcomings can sometimes make it difficult to enjoy a return visit to the installment that started it all.
A year back, we spotlighted the excellently spooky work of artist Brian Coldrick, creator of webcomic Behind You. Now, his illustrations have been compiled into a book from IDW, titled Behind You: One-Shot Horror Stories. We’ve got a peek at some of the gorgeously-rendered nightmares within.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It’s the one I’ve reread the most, the one that made Remus Lupin my favorite character, and the one that made me want to know more about the marauders that once ran around Hogwarts.
Find out if the magic is coming back when the students of Brakebills return for Season 3 of The Magicians on January 10th, 2018 at 9/8c on SYFY!
Two weeks ago, the geek world was buzzing with speculation about a Disney purchase of the 20th Century Fox film studio and what that would mean for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The idea of a marching band doing a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed performance is kind of hard to get your head around. That is, until you see how USC’s marching band, the Spirit of Troy, pulled it off.
Last we heard about the Fox's Gambit film, starring Channing Tatum, Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski was attached to helm, with a target release date of Feb. 14, 2019. Now, we can add Emmy-nominated actress Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex, Mean Girls) to the production.
Bubblegum Crisis, despite its cutesy title, is a seminal work of cyberpunk anime. It’s not about Violet Beauregarde ballooning up with blueberry juice after chomping on three-course-meal chewing gum.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald producer promises 'deeper' look at J.K. Rowling's wizarding world @ Syfy Wire
J.K. Rowling’s screenwriting debut, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, had all the ingredients to brew a potent prequel franchise, but its double duty of existing in the wizarding world while differentiating itself from Harry Potter put some unique challenges on the project.
Ever since Mon-El crash landed on Earth in Supergirl, the show's audience has been eagerly anticipating one thing: the arrival of the Legion of Super-Heroes. According to comic-book lore, the Legion consisted of super-powered teens battling evil in the 31st century. Their first appearance in April 1958's Adventure Comics #247 featured founding members Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad traveling back in time to recruit Superboy.
November 20 in Twilight Zone History: Wishing Happy Birthday to actress Phyllis Thaxter ('Young Man's Fancy') @ Syfy Wire
Today, November 20th, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of actress Phyllis Thaxter (1919-2012), who starred as Virginia Walker in "Young Man's Fancy."
Once Upon a Time is, for the most part, a pretty harmless show. It’s about a group of fairytale characters who are taken away from the Enchanted Forest and forced to live in our modern world, regaining the memory of who they were and struggling to balance their old lives with their new ones. Also, Anna from Frozen…
Craig Engler, Co-Creator of “Z Nation” on Syfy, has just revealed his latest project [Press Release]] @ SciFi Pulse
Considering how long it’s been in limbo—and how many times its seemingly been brought back from the brink of collapsing altogether—it’s hard to forget sometimes that the solo Gambit movie is still happening. Today, it took the first teeny steps forwards by... well, attaching someone other than Channing Tatum to the…
One of the more precarious situations I've ever been in was in a place that should've been safe, but wasn't. That was built to bring joy to millions of people, but instead incited a blinding rage in hundreds. It's now known by a different name but it was Giants Stadium. And the event was a Philadelphia Eagles football game.
Yeah, I know. Sports. Bear with me.
When he’s not busy slaughtering the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s crooked, street-level criminals, Frank Castle actually enjoys quiet nights in his secret bunker curled up with a good book.
Will crystal foxes, one of The Last Jedi’s most mysterious new creature additions, end up stealing the cute crown from porgs — the Star Wars universe’s latest and greatest paragon of just plain adorable? Less than a month ahead of Episode VIII’s release, more details are starting to emerge about the shimmery little beings...and it looks like they’re intended to serve as more than mere eye candy.
The first trailer and release date is out for the next season of Syfy’s The Magicians, which takes our heroes out of Brakebills and Fillory and puts them on a big fancy boat so they can bring magic back to the world. But it’s not just a quest for magic, it also looks to be a quest for hope. For a series that spent an…
Valiant Dust Is a Classic Military SF Voyage with a Few New Twists @ Barnes & Noble: Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Even in the cold of space, there’s a time for might, and there’s a time for manners. Such is one of the many lessons of Richard Baker’s Valiant Dust, a new military science fiction novel that finds a young officer out of his comfort zone, and possibly in over his head, with no time to solve for either as a distant foreign planet barrels toward civil war.
Lieutenant Sikander North, fourth son of an aristocratic family of distant Kashmir, a society shaped by tragedy and civil unrest, works to prove himself in the Aquilan Commonwealth Navy and remain far, far away from his home planet, lest he become the target of an assassin. Assigned to the warship Hector, Sikander has his hands full, as everyone on board—from the captain, to the XO, to the ops officer—seems to have found reasons to doubt his pedigree and his record. Is it because they think he’s a rube from a distant planet, outside of the technological sphere of the Aquilan influence? Or because they find his religion baffling and his customs strange? Is it because he presents as an officer when hot-headed past tells another story? Figuring out how to navigate his new post is bad enough, but doing so while cruising into a war zone is even worse.
Even as the plot veers into conflict, Sikander North remains the focus of the tale, and the decision keeps it feeling fresh as it explores classic military SF territory. Baker captures the constant sense of dread and balance in Sikander’s behavior as he works to overcome the trap faced by many minorities in mixed company, as they are forced to work twice as hard for half the reward, while also tempering his urge to stand up for himself and his beliefs. Say nothing, and they’ll walk all over you. Say too much, and they’ll begin to hate you. Sikander walks that line because, out in the middle of hostile space, he has little choice not to. Watching him do so while staying true to himself results in the book’s best moments.
Likewise, Baker knows his way around writing a compelling ship-to-ship battle—a former US Naval officer with a background in game design, he displays has a love of technology, rank, measurements, missiles, propulsion drives, battle tactics, and more. Valiant Dust sails smoothest and sings loudest in those moments when Sikander and the Hector are in the thick of things, rearranging firing algorithms, changing coordinates on the fly, torpedoes exploding all around them. If you enjoy the tech-heavy aspects of The Expanse novels, than you’ll feel right at home here. Likewise, some spycraft intrigue lends the novel a fair bit of tension, as Sikander and his crew work to unravel the truth behind the brewing civil uprising.
The book feels classic in some less admirable ways, too—a romantic subplot fizzles a bit, and the dialogue has a tendency to sound a bit wooden on the page. The shorthand used to develop the various cultures on display is effective as keeping the story moving, but as a result, the worldbuilding comes off feeling thin in spots. And while the mysteries keep the pages turning, we’re let in on the solutions a little too early, diffusing some of the tension as Sikander works to figure puzzles out the answers we already know.
These quibbles do not diminish the pleasure of reading overmuch. Baker has crafted a pragmatic, charming, and roguish protagonist in Sikander North, who, despite his upbringing, his struggles with past trauma, and his fiery temper, never stops trying to be the hero he knows he can be. I’d happily follow him on another mission onboard the CSS Hector. There are still many stars left to explore.
The post Valiant Dust Is a Classic Military SF Voyage with a Few New Twists appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.
The god con seems like a pretty sweet gig for a magician -- until you end up with a hole in your chest and the words "thank you" scrawled in your own blood beside you.
That's what's going down in San Francisco when one of John Constantine's old pals gets fried in Hellblazer #16, available November 22. And he's just the latest victim in a pattern of murders targeting magicians who gather a flock and take on godhead status just to make a buck.
The cinematic universe was at first a brilliant gamble, a novel way of telling stories and building a brand. But in the aftermath of Justice League's weekend underperformance, it's clear that the format — which has gone from creative experiment to corporate imperative — has become a drag, limiting creativity and causing movies to suffer in unnecessary ways.
Composer Danny Elfman loves a good musical theme—and not just because he’s created several iconic ones in such films as Batman, Men in Black, Spider-Man, and others. He thinks they’re important to franchises.
Stranger Things 2 introduced many new things to the show's mythology, including creatures, locations, and characters. But one of those characters, among the most intriguing new additions to the show, almost turned out very different.
Scientists know of 750,000 or so asteroids and comets—and all of them are part of this fine solar system. That is, all of them but one. And as new research shows, it’s weird as hell.
Touched By an Angel star Della Reese, a singing talent who forged long and successful career paths in both music and film, has died at the age of 86. A Detroit native, she passed away at her California home Sunday evening, Variety reports.
In Once and Future Queen, Arthurian Legend Gets a Modern Twist—and You Can Read the First Issue, Here for Free @ io9
The legend of King Arthur is one that’s been told—and reworked—countless times before. But a new comic from Dark Horse re-imagines it as a journey across time, one that has everything from an LGBTQ romance to portals full of trolls, and even Merlin in a spacesuit. And you can read the first issue right now!
Welcome to SYFY WIRE's brand-new podcast, The Fandom Files!
The Fandom Files is an exploration of different fandoms, featuring conversations with hardcore geeks and members of fan communities to discuss their nerd origin stories and the inner workings of their chosen worlds.
Less than 10 years after Zack Snyder's Watchmen hit theaters and Damon Lindelof is already working toward making the award-winning graphic novel of the same name into a TV show for HBO.
Harrison Ford may be the khaki-wearing hero of our archeologist-loving hearts, but he’s also an everyday hero to people all over California.
Now that Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg have teamed up in Justice League, the DC Universe is ready to blast off—assuming its smaller-than-anticipated opening weekend hasn’t thrown a spanner in the works. But if Warner Bros. decides to extend the DC Extended Universe a bit longer, here’s…
Fans who have been waiting for Luke Skywalker’s return to the galaxy from his self-imposed exile after Star Wars: The Force Awakens don’t have much longer to wait. Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be hitting theaters on Dec. 15. But it doesn’t mean we have to wait in a vacuum.
Star Wars is home to strong and powerful women from all walks of life, human and otherwise. From Princess Leia to Mon Mothma, the franchise is rife with heroines we consider to be our Patronus in one form or another.
Black Friday can be the most fun day of the year, or the darkest (hey, it's in the name). It is full of rabid deal hunters, ready to cut you for a $10 Blu-ray player. And because it can go either way, we're going to make things a little easier with our handy-dandy list of Black Friday deals, specifically geared towards you, our dear SYFY WIRE readers.
Jane Langton and Peter Lovesey have been named 2018 Grand Masters by the Mystery Writers of America, along with William Link. For more information, including MWA Raven and Ellery Queen award winners, see their official website. ...Read More
Our latest look at Agents of SHIELD’s fifth season is much like the first, in that it’s a delightful, joke-filled romp through space. But it also gives us some intriguing hints at what’s in store for Coulson and crew. The best part, though, is still the fact that Mack has suddenly become very meta about SHIELD’s…
Justice League director Zack Snyder, needs to learn how to keep his sketches away from prying eyes. After all, one poorly-protected tablet from a year ago revealed the movie's second post-credits scene. You know, the one driving fans crazy, the one showing
Winners for the 2017 Endeavour Award, given to a novel or single-author collection by a Pacific Northwest writer, were announced:
- WINNER (TIE): Dreams of Distant Shores, Patricia McKillip (Tachyon)
- WINNER (TIE): Lovecraft Country, Matt Ruff (Harper)
- Waypoint Kangaroo, Curtis Chen (Thomas Dunne)
- Eocene Station, Dave Duncan (Five Rivers)
- Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)
The 2017 judges were Ginjer Buchanan, John R. Douglas, and Andy Duncan. The winners received ...Read More
Author Kim Stanley Robinson won the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation’s Imagination in Service to Society Award. He will be recognized at a ceremony during the Unleash Imagination – Shape the Future conference on December 9, 2017 at George Washington University in Washington DC.
Prior Arthur C. Clarke award recipients include authors Margaret Atwood, Larry Niven, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Sir Kenneth Robinson, as well as scientists and leaders of ...Read More
Earlier today, we included Yoon Ha Lee’s Raven Stratagem on our list of the best science fiction books of 2017. Considering it’s the middle installment of the trilogy that began with Ninefox Gambit—not only one of our favorite books of 2016 but also a Hugo and Nebula nominee—you know we’re excited for what comes next. And today, we can give you a sneak peak, as we reveal the cover for Revenant Gun, the final book of the Machineries Of Empire trilogy, coming in June 2018 from Solaris.
The cover is of a piece with the other two in the series, which means it’s blisteringly colorful, featuring a stunning piece of art by Chris Moore; we wish there were going to be yet more of them, enough to make a whole rainbow. You can see the full image following the official summary. Then, keep reading for a quick five-question Q&A with Yoon, who answers a few of our burning questions about the cover.
When Shuos Jedao wakes up for the first time, several things go wrong. His few memories tell him that he’s a seventeen-year-old cadet—but his body belongs to a man decades older. Hexarch Nirai Kujen orders Jedao to reconquer the fractured hexarchate on his behalf even though Jedao has no memory of ever being a soldier, let alone a general. Surely a knack for video games doesn’t qualify you to take charge of an army?
Soon Jedao learns the situation is even worse. The Kel soldiers under his command may be compelled to obey him, but they hate him thanks to a massacre he can’t remember committing. Kujen’s friendliness can’t hide the fact that he’s a tyrant. And what’s worse, Jedao and Kujen are being hunted by an enemy who knows more about Jedao and his crimes than he does himself…
Yoon Ha Lee Answers 5 Questions About Revenant Gun
What are we looking at on the cover of Revenant Gun?
The cover shows my protagonist Jedao’s flagship (“command moth,” in the parlance of the books), called the Revenant, and the Fortress of Pearled Hopes.
How do the covers match up with the universe of your imagination?
I’m not a visual writer, so I didn’t really come into this with any but the vaguest sense of what things look like! That being said, the artist, Chris Moore, has done a fantastic job taking the names of things and interpreting them visually.
Without spoilers, can you explain what the title means?
In this book we see Jedao return, after a fashion, so he’s the “revenant gun” of the title. (He also named the ship “Revenant” because he has a weird sense of humor. Or maybe I’m projecting.)
As a trilogy ender, how does this book raise the stakes from Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem?
Revenant Gun takes place nine years after the end of the second book. Immortal Nirai Kujen, the big bad of the series, is attempting to reconquer the shattered hexarchate and crush the fledgling democracy with Jedao as his general. In the meantime, Cheris is on a one-person mission to assassinate them both before they can destroy everything she’s worked for.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently wrapping up revisions on a middle grade novel, Dragon Pearl, that’s Korean mythology space opera with a fox girl heroine. After that, I’ll be working on a collection of hexarchate short stories.
The post Yoon Ha Lee Answers 5 Questions About the Cover of Revenant Gun appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.
On November 20, 2007, Mass Effect hit shelves. It was the beginning of something new for the video game developer BioWare, a Canadian company that had already released a number of memorable role-playing games such as Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights.
Fullmetal Alchemist is an anime I often say has everything. There’s civil war and political intrigue. There’s a well-wrought alchemy system. There’s brotherly competition and young love. There’s killer fight scenes. There’s even all seven of the deadly sins, except they’re incarnate.
Winners for the 2017 Ignotus Awards (the Spanish equivalent of the Hugo Awards), honoring the best works published in Spain last year, were announced at the 2017 Hispacon, held November 17-19, 2017 in Madrid, Spain:
Novela extranjera (Foreign Novel)
- WINNER: El problema de los tres cuerpos [The Three-body Problem], Cixin Liu (Ediciones B)
- La gracia de los reyes [The Grace of Kings], Ken Liu (Alianza)
- La casa de arenas movedizas
Science Fiction World magazine and Storycom held the 28th 银河奖 Yinhe (Galaxy) Awards November 11, 2017 in Chengdu, China. This year’s winners include:
- The Heart of Galaxy III: Chasing Shadow and Light, Jiang Bo
- Shining, Chen Zijun
- Electricity Soul, Quanru Xiaojie
Best Short Story
- “Life”, He Xi
- “Iron Moon”, Xia Jia
- “Möbius Continuum”, Gu Shi
Best New Writer
- Cover of Science Fiction Translation
Director Peyton Reed took to Twitter to announce the news. Ant-Man and the Wasp has officially wrapped production, so filming is complete and actors Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeiffer are saying goodbye for a while.
Former Han Solo directors break silence about getting booted from Star Wars movie: There was ‘a really big gap to bridge’ @ Syfy Wire
In June, Chris Miller and Phil Lord were infamously fired from the stand-alone Han Solo movie in what essentially amounted to a Death Star-size nuclear blow-up within the Star Wars cinematic universe.
Now the onetime Star Wars directors are opening up about the ouster, with Lord saying the duo remain “proud” of their work but that the project ultimately had “a really big gap to bridge.”
Early in Justice League, Bruce Wayne/Batman tells his manservant Alfred that "I don't have to recognize this world. I just have to save it." Batman knows that there's a massive threat headed towards the world's innocent civilians, and he's determined to get a team together to fend it off.
Fantastic Beasts Producer Says Jude Law Was Cast as Dumbledore Because of That 'Twinkle In His Eye' @ io9
When it was announced that Jude Law would be playing young Albus Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts sequel (now called Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Johnny Depp’s Hair), the response was largely: “That sounds fine.” It wasn’t rage-inducing, but it wasn’t cause for an ecstatic fan freakout either. It was, well,…
Martha Lillard spends half of every day with her body encapsulated in a half-century old machine that forces her to breathe. Only her head sticks out of the end of the antique iron lung. On the other end, a motorized lever pulls the leather bellows, creating negative pressure that induces her lungs to suck in air.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year—that is, if you’re a fan of TV stars from across the DC/CW joining together to celebrate both holy matrimony and punching Nazis in the face. Because Crisis on Earth-X, the next big crossover for Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow is here, and we finally have our…
With over 500 PS4 and PS3 games (playable on both the PS4 and Windows PCs) in its library, PlayStation Now is basically the Netflix of video games, and you can get (or gift) a full year of the service for just $60 for a limited time. Considering Sony usually only sells the service for $20 per month or $45 for three…
Under normal circumstances, the week of Thanksgiving would be relatively slow — but this is no ordinary holiday week. There's a whole lot to watch, including one of Marvel's best shows yet.
Chosen One of the Day: Sid, the sentient ventriloquist dummy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer @ Syfy Wire
Buffy the Vampire Slayer had no shortage of demons, villains, and all manner of supernatural beings. They range from the interesting to the hilarious to the genuinely frightening. Glory, Spike, Angelus, The Master, The First, and all things in between created a memorable landscape of the strange and hellmouthy.
But then there was the just plain creepy. Like that one time Buffy fought -- and then fought alongside (?) -- a sentient ventriloquist dummy named Sid.
Disney and the combined directorial duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller are never ever ever getting back together—at least for the Han Solo movie. Now called Solo: A Star Wars Story and helmed by Ron Howard, the project has left the filmmaking pair, who have largely refrained from commenting on being unceremoniously…
2017: the year that became an adjective. A year during which the only status quo became the lack of one, and the only thing stranger than the day’s trending Twitter topics was the next day’s trending Twitter topics. Wherever you come down on the merits of the past 12 months, there’s no denying the fact it’s been a very 2017 year.
Which brings us to the books below—25 titles that stood out in a particularly strong year for SFF, a year during which many of us looked to the speculative to help us grapple with the strangeness around us—or to offer us an escape from it. Taken collectively, they are: provoking, thoughtful, compelling, challenging, unique. And, most certainly, they are all so very 2017. These are the best science fiction and fantasy books of the year. (Never fear, short fiction fans: we’re covering anthologies and collections in a separate list—horror too.)
The Power, by Naomi Alderman
In the near future, women all over the world discover they have the ability to unleash “skeins” of electricity powerful enough to hurt, injure—even kill. The world order slowly erodes under the new math of this power imbalance. Revolts begin in oppressive, male-dominated societies like Saudi Arabia, but on scales both large and intimate, society resets as new paradigms form: an abused orphan girl establishes a new religion focused on the female figures from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A woman founds a new nation and strips all men of their rights. An American woman rises through the traditional power structures of democracy, but the taste of power corrupts her. The world seems destined to spin into complete chaos, as Alderman’s arresting novel investigates what might happen if we torn down the systems that have supported the world for centuries. Read our review.
The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden
Arden’s debut novel is an incredible achievement, fusing Russian folklore and history into a thoroughly modern fantasy exploring themes of belief, feminism, and magic. Vasilisa “Vasya” Petrovna is the beautiful daughter of a 13th century Russian noble. Her father, conflicted because he blames Vasya for the death of her mother in childbirth, nonetheless seeks to protect her in the only way he believes he can: by marrying her into royalty. Vasya, however, prefers to commune with the spirits of wood, home, and water that lurk in the forests on her father’s estate—spirits who have protected the land for centuries. With the arrival of a new priest and Vasya’s new mother-in-law, who both see the spirits as demons to be destroyed, the locals begin to reject the ancient beings just when the village needs them the most. It falls to Vasya to harness the power she holds within to save her family and her home. Arden’s lyrical prose serves a story that combines the beauty of nature and the power of magic into a tale that feels like a fairy tale of old—ideal for a cold winter night’s reading. Read our review.
The Stone in the Skull, by Elizabeth Bear
In grand style, Bear begins a new epic set in her Eternal Sky universe. The Stone in the Skull introduces us to two new characters, Dead Man and the Gage, who are immediately enigmatic, yet also compelling and achingly human (doubly impressive for the Gage, a towering automaton powered by a human soul). The pair are escorting a convoy into the Lotus Kingdoms. Once a single powerful empire, the Kingdoms have shattered into many squabbling fiefdoms. The Gage and the Dead Man are secretly carrying a message from The Eyeless One, a powerful mage, to Mrithuri, who rules Sarathai-tia. Mrithuri is locked in a power struggle with her male cousins, and the words carry will cause Gage and The Dead Man to become enmeshed in the struggle as well. The first book of the Lotus Kingdoms saga has all the elements necessary to not only to match the Eternal Sky trilogy, but succeed it entirely, and reminds us that Elizabeth Bear is one of the premier fantasists of her generation. Read our review.
The House of Binding Thorns, by Aliette de Bodard
In the companion novel to The House of Shattered Wings, Aliette de Bodard returns to a Paris devastated by a war between fallen angels, as the political struggles underlying the fragile peace between the various Houses that control the city is complicated by the frailties and desires of mortals. The House of Binding Thorns returns to these characters—their heartbreaks, their desires, and their plays for power—as yet more conflict rises on the wind. This series offers a perfect concept welded to perfect worldbuilding; De Bodard has built a world that feels real, and filled it with wonder and mystery. The prose is as lush and precise as ever, and the world—filled with angels and dragons (oh, the dragons!) and a melting pot of humanity—just as darkly alluring. Perhaps, at times, the first book felt like too rich a feast, overstuffed with a grand mixture of worldbuilding, deep history, and breathtaking espionage plotting. This time around, de Bodard’s attention is firmly on the characters—finding out what they’ll do to survive another day in the dark and strange world Paris has become. Read our review.
Clade, by James Bradley
The Hollywood version of climate change is sudden, dramatic, and instantly cataclysmic; Bradley’s thoughtful near-future sci-fi offers the opposite. With a time-hopping narrative focusing on a single family across years, Bradley explores a world struggling with the effects of rising temperatures that cause fierce, constant storms, battered infrastructure, and widespread extinctions. Adam is a climate scientist working on the arctic ice shelf, worried that the child his partner is pregnant with will enter a world already ruined. That child, Summer, grows up estranged from her parents as England faces collapse in the face of the relentless power of a boiling Earth. By avoiding the easy narrative, Bradley’s novel is absorbing and depressing, thoughtful and fascinating, tracing the possible paths of a future being seeded right now in the present day. Read our review.
Sea of Rust, by C. Robert Cargill
In this warped, Black Mirror reflection of Wall-E, a former caregiver robot that once served as a nurse to human beings wanders a blasted wasteland in search of spare parts. Fifteen years earlier, the last human was killed by the triumphant robot uprising. But instead of freedom, the robots were subsumed into One World Intelligences (OWIs), rival hive minds inexorably spreading across the globe, demanding subservience as they claim new territory. The caregiver robot, Brittle, is haunted by her own role in the human extermination. As a lone machine, she has no access to factory-made parts and must scavenge the “Sea of Rust” in order to survive—but her model is rare, making her parts valuable to a second caregiver robot called Mercer, whose attacks leave both robots vulnerable, locked in a tense race against time and the approach of warring OWIs. Read our review.
City of Brass, by S.A. Chakraborty
In 18th century Cairo, Nahri, a young Egyptian con artist, unwittingly captures the attention of a djinn warrior with her powerful supernatural healing capabilities. Swept off to the legendary City of Brass, she becomes embroiled in the complex and violent politics of its magical residents, who are edging ever-closer toward a religious war. Nahri doesn’t know who to trust, or how to navigate a world where loyalty is a magical bond and grudges are measured in millennia. There are more ideas in this thumbnail plot summary than in most complete novels, and we’re only scratching the surface of this richly textured debut. With a briskly moving plot and inventive worldbuilding that pulls from Middle Eastern traditions, it’s one of the year’s standout debuts, and should attract loyal fans among fans of both adult and YA fantasy. Read our review.
Amberlough, by Lara Elena Donnelly
Combining Casablanca, Cabaret, and John le Carré, Donnelly’s intoxicating debut whisks us away to Amberlough, a seductive, permissive enclave in a setting not exactly unlike 1920s Europe. The city is targeted by a conservative, nationalist One-State Party, which seeks to unite all nations into an orderly empire. Cyril DePaul is a shattered intelligence agent forced reluctantly back into the field—where his spectacular failure puts him at the mercy of blackmail by the OSP. But everyone in this story is a double-agent of sorts; no one is precisely who they seem, and their complex relationships and cover stories weave together into an complex web of intrigue. As the OSP tightens its grip, every character is forced to make hard choices, even as their freedoms wither around them. It’s dark, powerful, affecting stuff. Populated by fascinating, flawed, tragic characters and atmosphere that glitters like a spotlight on sequins, it’s a book destined to be remembered—a book out of time and a book for our times. Read our review.
Kings of the Wyld, by Nicholas Eames
Eames slams The Wild Bunch into a fantasy universe that’s equal parts grit, broadswords, fast-paced action, and humor. In his afterword the author reveals the original concept behind his story: “What if mercenaries were the rock stars in a fantasy world?” It’s an excellent idea, as far as it goes. But narrowing your focus to that catchy copy does a disservice to the book as a whole. Kings of the Wyld is that idea, yes. But it also manages to be a comedy, an adventure tale, a consideration on growing older, and a sendup of fantasy conventions, all at the same time. It also has heart. In short: it rocks. If we could, we’d see the tour, and buy the t-shirt. Instead, we’ll have to content ourselves with waiting for the sequel, and reading it again. Read our review.
A Plague of Giants, by Kevin Hearne
The first in a new fantasy series from Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles) takes a deep dive into a complex fictional world. It’s a story told by a bard with the ability to take on the appearance of the subjects of his tale. A year ago, a volcano erupted, destroying an island inhabited by giants, who then invade the lands of Teldwen seeking refuge. A second race of towering beings, mysterious and destructive, also arrive to do their own killing and rampaging. A soldier, Tallynd, must put aside her grief at the death of her husband to fight the giants. A young boy from a family of hunters sets off on a quest of self-discovery and finds a powerful magic that might be the key to defeating the giants before they destroy everything. And a scholar (the audience for the bard’s tale) begins to suspect there’s more in the telling than the bard is letting on. Read our review.
The Stars Are Legion, by Kameron Hurley
A woman named Zan wakes up in a sick bay minus most of her memories. She is greeted by a woman named Jayd, daughter to the lord of the Katazyrna, who says they are sisters, and that Zan is the only one who can help her people. From this intriguing beginning, Hurley throws us furiously into a universe where women fight and die for and aboard living worldships crewed and maintained by their solely female populations, who give birth to everything needed to keep the ships healthy: children, monsters, even fleshy mechanical parts. But the Katazyrna is a dying world, and the coveted worldship Mokshi may hold the secret that will save it. Before Zan can get her bearings, Katazyrna is ambushed, and Zan and Jayd are thrust into dangerous new roles and a fight for their lives in a landscape that’s constantly shifting underneath them—and the reader. This is space opera like you’ve never seen it—angry, feminist, ferociously inventive, and not a little frightening. Read our review.
The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin
The first book in Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, Hugo-winner The Fifth Season, is an explosion of ideas, twisting plot points, and clever point-of-view puzzles. The second, The Obelisk Gate, is a masterwork of world-building, developing the history and culture of the Stillness while setting up the clash between mother and daughter that will define a new age. Neither one disappointed in the least. Which is why it’s such a delight to say that the final book, The Stone Sky, is one of the most satisfying concluding novels of the year, or any year. This is not because everything is wrapped up neatly and tidily, handing out rewards to the deserving and punishing the wicked. The Stillness is a place of hard choices, and hard choices are what we are given, in the end. This book, and this trilogy, pull off a feat that works something like magic, a trick that ends with its beginnings and begins where it ends. Read our review.
The Moon and the Other, by John Kessel
John Kessel, a writer with an impressive raft of genre awards to his name, returns with his first novel in two decades, imagining a future in which underground city-states are scattered across the moon, each operating by various and very specific political models. The Society of Cousins is a pure matriarchy where men are free to pursue their careers but have no political voice—but it is one of many. Kessel sketches out a complicated matrix of relationships between people from several colonies, including revolutionaries seeking change and an “uplifted” canine reporter named Sirius. When the Organization of Lunar States investigates allegations of male mistreatment in the Society of Cousins, these relationships set off a chain reaction that threatens to completely destabilize Moon society. This is a book so in tune with contemporary issues, it feels prescient, tackling topics from gender politics, to the validity of social constructs, to the true price of freedom—ideas shared in prose that forces you to slow down and savor the beauty of each sentence. The first novel in 20 years from the multi-award-winning author, it is a masterclass in language and worldbuilding. Read our review.
An Excess Male, by Maggie Shen King
King’s scarily good debut does what SFF does best, extrapolating from a real-world scenario. In a future China where the one-child policy has led to a population with 40 million more men than women, middle aged Wei-guo struggles through a life in which he is considered unnecessary. He maintains his optimism and conviction that as long as he continues to improve he will be rewarded with love, and finally saves a dowry that enables him to join an “advanced family” as a third husband—the lowest rank—to the lovely May-ling. The family is imperfect, harboring an “illegal spouse,” but Wei-guo finds kinship and friendship in this unusual arrangement. But the rulers of the nation know they are sitting on a powder keg, and have become more intrusive and authoritarian than ever. Someone is always listening, and Wei-guo knows no matter how happy he is, he will always be an “excess male,” and thus disposable. Read our review.
Red Sister, by Mark Lawrence
The first novel in Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor trilogy builds a complex universe of politics, violence, and religion on a scale sure to please any fantasy fan, right from a wowzer of an opening line: “It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.” Nine-year old Nona Grey is about to be executed for murder when she’s purchased by the abbess of Sweet Mercy. At the convent, Nona will be trained in the art of assassination, a regimen that often awakes the slumbering blood of the ancestors, resulting in the emergence of magical skills that enhance the young postulants’ fighting abilities. Long before her decade of training is over, however, Nona’s past, rival factions within the church, and the emperor himself will influence her fate, putting pressure on the falsely accused young girl with unpredictable results. As the power structures of the empire fray in a world slowly dying, Nona finds a darkness within herself that makes her truly dangerous. Mark Lawrence is a master of no-holds-barred fantasy, and he just may have outdone himself with this one. Read our review.
Jade City, by Fonda Lee
The island nation of Kekon relies on the magical properties of jade—and the families of Green Bone warriors able to manipulate it to gain magical fighting abilities—for protection. These warriors have safeguarded the island for centuries, but when a long period of unrest gives way to peace, the new generation forgets about tradition, and powerful families jockey for control of the country. As the family drama spills out into brutal street fighting and cunning political intrigue, a new drug emerges that allows anyone, even foreigners, to use jade. Back-room scheming erupts into full-on warfare, and a conflict that ties together complex threads of family and history will determine the fate of Kekon’s future. Magic meets The Godfather in this immensely readable epic. Read our review.
Noumenon, by Marina J. Lostetter
In the near future, a brilliant astrophysicist named Reginald Straifer discovers a distant star that behaves unusually. Suspecting it is either a key discovery in our understanding of the universe or an artificial, alien creation, he convinces Planet United Missions to send one of 12 light-speed convoys to investigate. Even at the speed of light, it will take hundreds of years to arrive, so the convoys are crewed by clones of Straifer, engineer Akane Nakamura, and artificial intelligence programmer Jamal Kaeden. A young and old version of each clone exists simultaneously in order to pass down experience and knowledge, but each generation of clones is also different from the previous—and overseen by the persistent AI of Convoy Seven. Soaked in the spirit of classic SF sensawunda, this ambitious debut explores the complexities of such an immense voyage, which pile up in surprising ways as the clones get further from the familiar. Read our review.
Weave a Circle Round, by Kari Maaren
Freddy Duchamp is just trying to survive high school, as one does. This task is made more difficult by her siblings: her geeky, deaf stepbrother Roland and super smart little sister Mel. Things take a turn for the strange when new neighbors move into the house next door, and the house suddenly refuses to obey the laws of physics. Cuerva and Josiah prove to be as strange as the house they inhabit—and before she knows it, Freddy finds herself pulled along in their wake (quite literally, though to reveal exactly how would be a big spoiler). As Freddy begins to learn that Cuerva and Josiah are something much more than human, she must confront the fact that either she or one of her siblings is a major player in a conflict as old as time itself, and that one of them may have the power to tip the balance between order and chaos. With all the charm and imagination of Madeline L’Engle and Diana Wynne Jones, Maaren’s debut feels like an instant classic, perfect for precocious young readers or older ones looking for the kind of book that made them fall for sci-fi and fantasy in the first place.
Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz
Newitz, the co-founder of io9, delivers seriously plausible—if chilling—future medicine in her debut, imagining a world where pharma pirates reverse-engineer drugs the way people jailbreak software today. Judith “Jack” Chen, who fancies herself a Robin Hood figure, offering affordable life-saving drugs to those who can’t afford them, hacks a far less benevolent drug called Zacuity, which supposedly makes people feel good about working long hours for their jobs—but when people start dying, she discovers the truth: Zacuity makes people addicted to work, to the point of insanity and even death. A thrilling pursuit and race against time ensues as Jack flees two determined agents—one of them an artificially intelligent robot beginning to awaken to the soul within its own programming—while trying to get the truth out into the open. In this terrifyingly plausible post-climate change future, pharma hackers—both blackhat and white—are a vital part of the healthcare system in which “better living through chemistry” is taken to terrifying extremes. Read our review.
Under the Pendulum Sun, by Jeannette Ng
Under the Pendulum Sun starts like many good fairy stories do: with a journey. In the mid-19th century, Catherine Helstone spends six weeks on a ship off the north English coast trying to get well and truly lost, for this is the only way to find the Faelands of Acadia. She’s trying to reach her brother Laon, a missionary for the Anglican church, who went to Acadia to replace Reverend Roche, the first missionary to the fae, who died under mysterious circumstances. Catherine is whisked off through a land of mist to the Gethsemane mission, an architectural magpie building of Norman forts and Gothic flying buttresses, which feels both large and small, looming and choking. Her brother is not in residence, so Cathy is left for weeks and months with the strange company of a changeling woman and a gnome, heretofore the only Christian convert of Laon’s ill-fated effort. How does one act as missionary in a world that twists the metaphors of the Christian parables into something unrecognizable and strange? This debut contains wonders and terrors, sweet love and brittle disgust. Catherine and her brother might be able to strike off into the darkness, to collect the souls of their mission, but they must accept the darkness in themselves before they do. Conversion goes both ways in Acadia. Read our review.
New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson
While many “cli-fi” novels have told us of the horrors of rising sea levels and unpredictable weather patterns brought on by climate change, painting dim futures of a post-apocalyptic society, Robinson offers up an alternative future in which life (and capitalism) have continued to march on, even after the oceans have swollen to drown the coasts of every landmass in the world. Sure, lower Manhattan is submerged, but it’s still New York real estate—and those who know how to play the real estate market know there’s always money to be made in NYC. Power centers shift, economies recalibrate, and political movements may rise, but the world continues to function, and half the fun is seeing how Robinson extrapolates a believable future in which the physical world is very different, but human nature remains the same, for good and ill. Weaving together the varied stories of the residents of one partially submerged New York skyscraper—a broker, an Internet star, a building manager, a pair of homeless children, and two coders with a taste for social revolution—this near-future fable gives us much to fear about our wet future, but also reminds us that humanity is, if nothing else, good at figuring out how to survive the worst. Read our review.
A Conjuring of Light, by V.E. Schwab
A trilogy ender more than worth the wait, A Conjuring of Light is pure magic, and an entirely satisfying conclusion to the story of four parallel alternate Londons, each with its own relationship to magic, and Kell, the wounded, gifted magician who can step between them. Schwab handles language and storytelling the way her lethal street rat-turned-pirate protagonist Lila Bard wields a knife—with cunning and absolute precision. As a conclusion to the series, it is a singular work; as a whole, the Shades of Magic series is a turning point for epic fantasy, reinvigorating the genre with originality (it bears the influences of everything from classic fairytales, to comics, to anime) and a mastery of language. Read our review.
Skullsworn, by Brian Staveley
A standalone set in the same universe as Staveley’s exceedingly rewarding Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, this is the remarkable story of a woman named Pyrre, an acolyte of Ananshael, the goddess of death. In order to rise to the rank of priestess, Pyrre must kill seven people in two weeks—including someone she loves, who loves her back. Pyrre has never experienced love in her life, and so returns home to locate an old companion in the hopes that she can find love—and complete her mission. From that irresistible setup, Staveley explores what it means to love, both in service to something greater than yourself and for its own messy possibilities, while taking us on a detailed tour through unexplored corners of his universe. Read our review.
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
Stephenson and Galland aren’t shy about mixing sci-fi and fantasy tropes; this story includes time travel, sorcery, advanced technology, and shadowy government divisions seeking to bring magic back to the world through the ironic use of advanced technology. At the center of it all is Melisande Stokes, a brilliant expert in ancient languages living an “agreeably uninteresting existence” before she’s recruited by the Department of Diachronic Operations (D.O.D.O.) to translate old documents and report any patterns she notices. Impossibly, the job eventually leads to her being stranded in the 19th century, and Stokes is alarmed to discover that magic worked up until the year 1851, when the industrial revolution tipped the balance and the buzzing frequencies of modern technology blocked it—something D.O.D.O. is determined to change via the liberal altering of history. Read our review.
Borne, by Jeff VanderMeer
Nebula Award-winner Jeff VanderMeer returns with his first new novel since he released all three books of the Southern Reach trilogy throughout 2014, and it’s another heady dose of unsettling weirdness: Rachel, a refugee from a drowned island, lives off of the bones of a ruined city of the future. On one of her scavenging trips, she encounters a giant, genetically engineered bear, a remnant of cruel experimentation by the corrupt Company—and nestled in its fur, a small, strange living lump she takes home and names “Borne.” He is a creature who will change her entire world. The author’s imagination is as wild as ever—Rachel is involved with a drug dealer named Wick, who processes creatures like Borne into living drugs users can put into their bodies to recall others’ lost memories of a pre-collapse world—and the slow-burning plot is propelled along by uneasy mysteries (what is Wick’s history with the company, and what secrets is he hiding from Rachel?). It’s another triumph from one of the weirdest authors in the genre, operating at the height of his powers. Read our review.
12 “Alternate Universe” Picks
Putting together this list only seems to get more challenging every year, as more and more books are published, representing a wider range of ideas and ever more diverse perspectives. With that in mind, we’d like to offer the following list of 12 books that, in another year, or even on a different day in this one, could just have easily been included on the list above. Calling them runners-up doesn’t quite cut it; think of them as our alternate universe picks.
City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett
Because it ends the Divine Cities trilogy with style, grace, and beauty; this story of vengeance, strange miracles, and reborn gods provides a narratively dense, philosophically challenging, emotionally moving finale to one of the most striking fantasy sagas of the last five years. Read our review.
Malice of Crows, by Lila Bowen
Because with each book, we’ve only grown more invested in Rhett Walker’s journey across a weird, monster-strewn western landscape; this penultimate volume may be the most powerful yet. Read our review.
The Prey of Gods, by Nicky Drayden
Because every once in a while, you don’t want to read a book that’s just sci-fi or fantasy, but both—and also an endearingly messy mix of touching queer romance, political thriller, pop culture satire, and blood-soaked horrorshow; apparently no one told Nicky Drayden the “right” way to write a debut novel, because hers breaks all the rules in the best way. Read our review.
Winter Tide, by Ruthanna Emrys
Because a book that reimagines the horrors of America’s history of internment through the potent metaphor of Lovecraft’s monsters felt more timely this year than we’d like to admit. Read our review.
Assassin’s Fate, by Robin Hobb
Because Robin Hobb brought the long, genre-redefining tale of Fitz and the Fool to an ending that felt both surprising and inevitable; if you haven’t started this journey, do so now—you’ve got nine fabulous books ahead of you.
Provenance, by Ann Leckie
Because Leckie proved she was no one-trilogy pony with a book that offered all the pleasures of Ancillary Justice—relatably flawed, human (and not) characters; convincingly alien cultures—while creating something that feels new (call it the cozy space opera). Read our review.
Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee
Because we didn’t think another book could break our brains like Ninefox Gambit, until we read Yoon Ha Lee’s sequel, and were reduced to gibbering fools once again, in awe of the cunning and imagination on display. Read our review.
Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson
Because Brandon Sanderson isn’t just writing some of the longest epic fantasy books running, he’s also writing some of the very best; in truth, the latest installment of his 10-book magnum opus would fit right in on the list above, but it doesn’t need our help to sell tens of thousands of copies. Read our review.
An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon
Because the the unjust society of the generation ship Matilda—divided by race, class, and religion—is deeply detailed, and uncomfortably close to home.
All Systems Red, by Martha Wells
Because Martha Wells made us fall in love with a killer cyborg who has named himself Murderbot—even if he likely only grudgingly tolerate us in return. Read our review.
Artemis, by Andy Weir
Because we didn’t think Andy Weir could possibly write a second novel that lived up to his first, but then he did—this one is just a breezy, brainy, and addictive a read as The Martian, and it’s probably going to make for another great movie. Read our review.
The Witchwood Crown, by Tad Williams
Because we’ve been waiting for nearly a quarter century to return to Osten Ard, and now that we’re finally back, it feels like we never left; it’s a seamless continuation of one of the foundational epics of 21st century epic fantasy. Read our review.
What’s the best book you read in 2017?
This guest post by Craig Hanks originally appeared at TheLegendariumPodcast.com and is reprinted here with permission. The Legendarium Podcast is a must for any Sanderson fan — these guys are the experts — and they cover many other epic fantasy staples including Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, and Shannara. You can subscribe to The Legendarium on iTunes.
A note on spoilers. In this review, I’m not going to spoil any major reveals. But a few general plot points are fair game here. So if you’re hoping to go into your reading of Oathbringer 100% fresh (not a bad call, since impeccable story structure and Roshar-shattering reveals are Sanderson hallmarks), turn back now. If you’re just looking for a little pre-game commentary, though, then read on.
“Your words are not that special, Brandon Sanderson.”
So said my wife after I congratulated myself on finishing one-third — 400 pages — of Oathbringer, the third of Sanderson’s mammoth Stormlight Archive series. Even for someone of my fantasy-oriented literary proclivities, this book is a monster. Ten-point type scrunched between barely-there margins, filling 1,250 pages? To the uninitiated, this appears as an act of extreme hubris. I assure you it is not.
It’s not hubris but deserved confidence that has driven Sanderson to write over a million words across three volumes of The Stormlight Archive so far. It’s the confidence of someone who is in full command of his prose and, more importantly, his worldbuilding. His words are great, but it’s his worlds that command attention. More on that in a bit; let’s talk Oathbringer specifically for a moment.
Listen to the spoiler-free review episode here:
The story still focuses on our three main characters: Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar. Where The Way of Kings revealed Kaladin’s back story and Words of Radiance did the same for Shallan, Oathbringer belongs to Dalinar. The title in this case refers not only to a book-within-the-book, as previously, but also to Dalinar’s mystical sword, or shardblade. Flashbacks show us Dalinar in his prime, wielding Oathbringer to devastating effect across the kingdom he is working to unite by force.
But the most impactful portions of the flashbacks are reserved for Dalinar’s relationship with his wife, memories of whom were apparently so painful that Dalinar had them magically excised from his mind. Learning what drove Dalinar to such drastic action makes for some of the most gut-wrenching scenes in Sanderson’s entire œuvre.
While the book focuses its flashbacks on Dalinar, fans of our other heroes need not worry; we spend plenty of time with both Kaladin and Shallan. Kaladin spends a good portion of Oathbringer learning that fulfilling his Windrunner oaths (“I will protect those who cannot protect themselves” / “I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right”) requires actions that are not always easily justified.
Meanwhile, Shallan is faced with the same dilemma as Vin, the heroine of the Mistborn trilogy: she must decide which of her personae is the true one. The more literal nature of Shallan’s journey toward self-understanding is a result of the magic systems peculiar to Roshar and Shallan in particular.
Oh, and praise the Stormfather, the love triangle between Shallan, Kaladin, and Dalinar’s son Adolin that started in book two is resolved here in a way that is at once unexpected, sensible, and satisfying. Which is for the best, since the series at large could easily have been bogged down by a bunch of unnecessary — and surely angsty — YA-style emotional handwringing.
Time must be taken here — because damned if plenty of time wasn’t taken in the first half of the book — to mention secondary and tertiary characters, of which there are legion. Fan favorites are either completely absent (Eshonai) or cruelly underused (Rock, Lopen), while others are unexpectedly given substantial page counts (Teft, Moash). Depending on your appetites, this will either be a boon or a curse. I’m still undecided.
Ultimately though, Oathbringer, while clocking in at an eye-popping 391,840 words, manages to be the tightest of the three Stormlight books in terms of character scope, especially in the last half. As with The Way of Kings, there comes a tipping point somewhere around halfway through the book where the setups beget payoffs, which come faster and faster until the final pages. If you’d asked me at page 500 whether Oathbringer is a page-turner, I’d have said no. By page 800, though, it was a firm yes.
It’s not all roses, of course. As I’ve alluded to a few times already, this book is just plain long. While many high fantasy aficionados are ready and willing to dive into 1,000+ pages, such hefty word counts make The Stormlight Archives difficult to recommend to newcomers. If it’s true — as many Sanderson fans say — that this is his best series to date, then it’s a shame that it’s so difficult to recommend to anyone who isn’t yet on the Brandon train. Entry-level material this is not.
Another barrier to entry is Oathbringer’s dependency on Sanderson’s other work. To fully appreciate the characters and events of this book, it’s necessary not only to have read, but to remember fairly well several of his other “cosmere” books, especially Warbreaker, the Mistborn series, and Elantris.
Thankfully, these crossover moments are written in such a way that you won’t be slowed too much in your reading if you’re not familiar with these other books. But if you’re not up to speed with those stories, then you’ll likely be scratching your head at the end of Oathbringer, trying to figure out why certain characters and objects were so prominent. To a newcomer to Sanderson’s cosmere, this stuff will feel like so much bloat in an already massive book.
Back to those possibly-not-that-special words. There’s a tendency among Sanderson’s detractors, and even those who simply prefer other authors, to point to his prose style as lacking in some respect. The most common complaint I hear is something along the lines of, “It’s just so … utilitarian.”
But this is precisely what I, and millions of others, enjoy. And Sanderson’s prosaic prowess is on full display in Oathbringer. “In the best prose,” as Arthur Clutton-Brock put it in his essay The Cardinal Virtue of Prose, “we are so led on as we read, that we do not stop to applaud the writer, nor do we stop to question him.” Indeed, rarely does Sanderson puncture the fourth wall of the narrative with a poetic flourish, drawing attention to himself rather than the story at hand. His discipline helps to make this a story in which you can — and should, and will — become blissfully lost.
But why bother to get lost at all if the place you’re losing yourself isn’t worthwhile? Here we come to Sanderson’s true genius: creating compelling, instructive worlds and peopling them with compelling, instructive characters. And when it comes to his worlds, the rule is simple: worse is better. Sanderson’s M.O. seems to be to create the most vivid, dark, smelly, miserable, unstable locations he can think of, then set loose a cast of characters and see how they react. The now-classic example is that of Vin and Elend, Mistborn’s protagonists, wading hip-deep through never-ending volcanic ash toward the literal end of the world. “Bleak” doesn’t begin to cover it.
The world of The Stormlight Archive, like that of Mistborn, seems like a miserable place to be. A good portion of Sanderson’s magic comes in making you want to be there anyway, for as long as you can. Such is the case with Oathbringer. If my chief complaint with the book is its length, then next in line is that I can’t spend another thousand pages on Roshar.
“Your words are not that special, Brandon Sanderson.” That’s up for debate, I suppose, though I know where I’d come down. What’s not up for debate is that Sanderson’s worlds are indeed that special.
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