05 Aug

The Century-Old, Weird Puzzle-Book-Thing That Still Works

Banner Mouse ClickIn 1934 a man named Powys Mathers published a novel. A crime novel.

Nothing strange with that. Except that it’s not a novel as such. It’s a novel-puzzle. The pages, all 100-some of them, are printed out of order. It’s up to the reader to figure out the order, and solve the puzzle.

Fiendishly clever. And you need to be fiendishly clever to solve it – only a handful of people have…

Link: Cain’s Jawbone: how crime novel’s puzzling plot still keeps us guessing

30 Mar

Book Rec: Border Crosser by Tom Doyle (SF-spy thriller)

Border Crosser by Tom Doyle coverTLDR: a psychopathic, psychotic spy/killer/extreme artist/harbinger of Armageddon wants to save/kill/fuck/all of the above humanity. Strange, cold, bloody, and strangely sympathetic.

Warning: Triggers galore!

I have no idea how to classify Border Crosser. By rights, it should be horrible, a 2020’s psychological equivalent of the 1970’s blaxploitation movies. A psycsploitation. Or weirdsploitation.

Even so, it works because… I have no idea why, but it does. Read More

23 Mar

Book Rec: With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Iwo Jima (WW2 Memoir)

With the Old Breed book coverTLDR: The ultimate war memoir, very real, very historical, very visceral. If you’re disturbed by the image of throwing yourself down into maggot-infested corpses to save yourself from enemy artillery, this is not for you.

Eugene B Sledge, fresh recruit with the 5th Marines. That’s the 1st Marine Divisions, 5th Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion. He’s the Sledgehammer, not because his big, or strong, or dangerous, but because his name is Sledge and they are gung-ho marines. Ergo, Sledgehammer.

Sledghammer’s first-person memoir is one of the best depictions of infantry warfare in WWII. That’s not my opinion, that’s the consensus of the war-journalist, WWII historian crowd. In my opinion, With the Old Breed is the best war memoir ever, period. It’s one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read (the other one being Educated by Tara Westover). It’s one of the most engrossing. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t stop reading. Read More

16 Mar

Book Rec: The Starward Series by Brandon Sanderson (YA military SF)

Skyward Book CoverTLDR: Magic outcast girl goes to military Flight School to save humanity and also the universe. It’s great!

On a desert planet that is totally not Arrakis, lives Spensa Nighshade, feisty orphan with super-human skills.

And a temper.

Spensa’s temper often gets her into trouble, in big part due to the fact that in her hyper-militarized society (think Starship Troopers on steroids, under constant threat of alien attack), starship pilots and their families are worshiped. As the daughter of a pilot, Spensa should have it all, especially access to the flight academy.

Only problem: everyone thinks her father was a coward, abandoning his flight mates at the worst possible moment.

Everyone except Spensa, that is… Read More

02 Mar

Brandon Sanderson’s 4-novel Kickstarter clears $15 000 000 in first 24 hours!

I’m guessing that most of you have already seen this, but if not, Brandon Sanderson has a new, 4-book Kickstarter out.

It’s broken all manner of records, in fact, it might become the most funded Kickstarter ever, and is already the most funded one in publishing (all publishing, not just books,) only being beaten out by the Pebble Watch for most funded KS ever.

What does this mean? Well, for us as readers, it means that we’ll be seeing more established writers Kickstarting their books.

Brandon’s last KS, for the limited edition of Way of Kings, brought in $6 700 000. The Four Secret Novels has already tripled that – and proven that WoK wasn’t a fluke.

It’s likely scaring traditional publishers like crazy.

Why?

Because it proves that a single writer, with a small, dedicated staff, can bring in a lot of money. No need for massive publishing houses. No need for the one advantage which the big publishers have held, the trade channels (i.e. the ability to get books into bookstores.)

Yes, Brandon is a superstar. Yes, he’s got a huge, dedicated fanbase.

But he’s not unique. And more, his lowest tier is ebook only, and it’s gotten over 12 000 buyers, which is on par with the audiobook, and the premium hardcover.

That’s a punch in the gut for traditional publishing and their attempts to bury ebooks. It’s also a punch in the gut for their ebook pricing models – a superstar writer charging $10 per book.

Now, this is only the first 24 hours, and we haven’t seen the reactions of the publishing world and the reading world, but I imagine that for writers, this is a huge boost, and even more so for indie writers.

Luck and Persistence!

02 Mar

Book Rec: Murderbot Series by Martha Wells (Character-driven SF)

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells CoverI know I just recommended All Systems Red two weeks ago, but I’ve read all the Murderbot books that I’ve got (1-5), for the fourth time, and you absolutely need to read them.

That’s a strong recommendation.

Let me explain it. Murderbot is a cyborg/human construct, living peacefully in a corporate dystopia future, hiding that they (an asexual they) are a free agent and trying not to get killed. Or let any of their friends get killed. Or let any strangers, or stray pet bots, get killed.

It’s a violent, violent world, full of profiteering corporations, dangerous alien remains, spaceships, combat drones, prejudice, slavery, and human stupidity. Read More

23 Feb

Book Rec: The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (historical adventure)

When I was a kid, I loved Sherlock Holmes. I had no idea that Conan Doyle wrote anything else.

Well, he did. A lot of anything else, some of which is as good, or better than Sherlock Holmes.

The Brigadier Gerard stores are one of those things. Set in the Napoleonic era, that is already historical by the time Conan Doyle wrote them, they focus on the eponymous French soldier’s exploits, starting with him being a junior captain, and ending with… well you’ll have to read for yourself. Read More

16 Feb

Book Rec: All Systems Red by Martha Wells (Character-driven SF)

All Systems Red CoverIt’s rare that I find a book that I want to re-read immediately after finishing it. I’m too old, too jaded, I’ve read too many great books to be swept away. Yet, All Systems Red swept me away, and I re-read it immediately after finishing.

I’ve now read it four times over two years, and it’s still great.

All Systems Red is the first installment of the Murderbot Diaries, featuring a surprisingly human killing machine on the run. I’ve seen people describe it as being inside the head of a neurodiverse protagonist, but, personally, I figure Murderbot is just your regular Joe take to the extreme. Read More

09 Feb

Book Rec: Killer Content by Andrea Pearson (Marketing Guide)

Book Cover: Killer Content by Andrea PearsonI’ve read a number of marketing books in my day, but very few that pack as much punch in as little space as Andrea Pearson’s Killer Content.

Killer Content is laser focused on tactics and results. You won’t find many anecdotes here (although, since this is Andrea Pearson, there will be a lot of smileys.) You won’t find heavy theory either – you’ll get a one or two sentence summary of the main points, then a link to the survey/study/rapport/other where it comes from. Read More