June 2016 – My Bookish Month in SFF.

In an effort to keep track of exactly what I’ve read and done (Anything geeky), I’m doing a monthly post summarising what I’ve read each month, as well as any events I’ve been to etc. This is my post for June! (Put together bit by bit over the course of the month, so I don’t spend hours on it at the end of the month!

Warning: may contain spoilers!

Here goes.

1. A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent – by Marie Brennan.

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (Memoirs of Lady Trent)

“You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.”

~ Goodreads Description.

I read a lot of books that have Dragons in them. But I’m by no means an expert on the sub-genre of Dragon/Fantasy – which is my way of making excuses for how I overlooked this series of books for so long by Marie Brennan.

Told in the delightful fashion of the memoirs of a Lady Trent of Scirland, renowned traveler and scholar of Dragons. This fantasy is told from the point of view of a Victorian-esque Lady, relating an account of her early life and her first foray into and with a scientific expedition to study Dragons.

The tale abounds with wonderful turns of phrase, adventure and excitement – but also sorrow. If you are a reader of some delicate disposition, you should be aware this novel contains an account of the killing and dissection of a Dragon for scientific understanding.

I loved this novel. I’m upset I missed out on it when it was first released. I’m looking forward to enjoying further accounts from the adventures of Lady Trent!

2. Temporally Out of Order by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray.

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This is an anthology of short stories (of various lengths) all sharing the common theme of an ordinary object behaving temporally out of order and how it might change everyday lives. This anthology was funded through a Kickstarter, which is how I got my copy.

Stand-out stories for me were;

Reading Lists by Seanan McGuire.
This short story is EVERYTHING. Every visit I made to a library and the feelings of betrayal that I hadn’t discovered “this” or “that” book years before… or the wishing that lost opportunities had in fact been taken. It’s all expressed through this one, short, sweet story. I am sort of jealous of the character Meg! 😀

Salamander Bites by Elektra Hammond.
A French restaurant kitchen and temporal causality combine to ruin the life of multiple people.

Black And White by David B. Coe.
Wow this is a powerful story. Expressing powerful feelings in me as the story progressed and One family’s dark racist past is revealed thanks to a temporally misbehaving camera.

Dinosaur Stew by Chuck Rothman.
Kids, they’re always working to push the boundaries we set for them. Bedtimes, Dinner Table Rules, Pet Dinosaurs… wait, what! This is a fun story featuring a slow-cooker and an egg!

Temporally Full by Stephen Leigh.
A tale of non-reconciliation and grief after the loss of a father. Also a car park that may ease the grief and suffering – or make it much more painful!

Notes And Queries by Juliet E. McKenna.
The joy in this story isn’t so much the plot (which is simple), but the sheer emotive expression of the characters the author conveys in such a short span of words. You can’t but help relate with the hopes and dreams of the two main characters. A joy to read.

“It’s frustrating when a gadget stops working. But what if the gadget is working fine, it’s just “temporally” out of order? What would you do if you discovered your cell phone linked you to a different time? Or that your camera took pictures of the past?

In this collection, seventeen leading science fiction authors share their take on what happens when gadgets run temporally amok. From past to future, humor to horror, there’s something for everyone.

Join Seanan McGuire, Elektra Hammond, David B. Coe, Chuck Rothman, Faith Hunter, Edmund R. Schubert, Steve Ruskin, Sofie Bird, Laura Resnick, Amy Griswold, Laura Anne Gilman, Susan Jett, Gini Koch, Christopher Barili, Stephen Leigh, Juliet E. McKenna, and Jeremy Sim as they investigate how ordinary objects behaving temporally out of order can change our everyday lives.”

~ Goodreads Description.

3. Any Other Name by Emma Newman.

Any Other Name (The Split Worlds, #2)

“Thought-provoking, wonderfully inventive, and filled with treachery and mystery, the soaring second book in the Split Worlds Series pulls Cathy, Will, Max, and Sam deeper into the twisted world of Fae-touched society.

Cathy has been reluctantly married into the Iris family and moves to Londinium, the magical Nether reflection of London, setting her on a collision course with the restrictive, high-pressure social circles that demand propriety and obedience, things the vocal and free-spirited Cathy cannot abide. Will, meanwhile, is trying to find a compromise for his new bride, but whispers in his ear are urging him towards dark deeds…

Sam, determined to dive back into the world of Exilium to rescue innocents, crosses paths with Cathy and Max once again as Max and the gargoyle uncover more information about the mysterious Agency and the chain of events that wiped out the Bath Chapter. Sacrifices, terrible deals, and dreadful revelations mark this second installment of Emma Newman’s wondrous Split Worlds series.”

~Goodreads Description.

Any Other Name is the second book of The Split Worlds by Emma Newman. I read this in June as part of another SF/F Read Along over on Goodreads.

Week One.

Week Two.

Week Three.

Week Four.

4. Stage Of Fools by Seanan McGuire.

[No cover image available at time of writing.]

This is another Tybalt origin story, set a couple of decades after the events of Rat Catcher, Stage of Fools catches up with a Tybalt all alone in London grown into his Kingship of Cats. But his past is about to come knocking, reminding him of his responsibilities as a King.

This is a great little story that further sketches out our fan favourite Tybalt – Helping explain some of his (and the Cat Sidhe) quirks and distrust with regards to the other Fae Courts… A must for fans of the October Daye series.

(Initially released as a Patreon Reward for Seanan McGuire’s Toaster Project (June 2016) – It will eventually be released to the general public at a later date.)

5. Harvest Season: An Anthology by the SF Squeecast.

Harvest Season: An Anthology by the SF Squeecast

“The cold is coming.

An orange harvest moon rises above the horizon and the chill air carries the promise of the first frost that will soon be crunching beneath our feet. There is the tang of smoke in the air, of leaves piled together and burning brightly as we push back against the darkness. It is time now, time to reap so that later it will be time to sow, time to gather in the harvest of summer past to sustain us during the long, cold nights that will arrive far too soon.

It is a time for endings, and change, and new beginnings to come.

Join the members of the Hugo Award-winning SF Squeecast as they take us on a journey around this world and other worlds not so far from our own, to places where it is time at last for the Harvest Season.”

~ Goodreads Description.

This anthology is great! Mostly stories (mainly novelette – novella in length) with a poem and some detailed bibliographies of the contributors (great If you want to hunt down any other short stories by a particular author).

Every story here is fantastic.
One story made me cry actual tears when it was over! (It was my favourite!)

I came to this anthology after the Podcast that inspired it was wound down. But I hope that, like the return of the seasons – the Squeecast will return. As another anthology like this one (which would be awesome!) or another podcast of some kind.

I’m not going to say which story was my favourite – they were all so good, that if you decide to give them a try, you should come to each of them untainted by presumptions.

Buy this anthology. Read these stories!

6. What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe.

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

“From the creator of the wildly popular xkcd.com, hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask.

Millions visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. Fans ask him a lot of strange questions: How fast can you hit a speed bump, driving, and live? When (if ever) did the sun go down on the British Empire? When will Facebook contain more profiles of dead people than living? How many humans would a T Rex rampaging through New York need to eat a day?

In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations and consults nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, complemented by comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.”

~ Goodreads Description.

This book is a fantastic collection of detailed and well thought out answers to many of those “What If…” questions you often hear. You know, the kind that certain people will scoff at as a stupid question or “It could NEVER happen…”. Instead, Randall Munroe takes various questions and actually works out what WOULD happen (assuming this or that), often with fatal consequences for someone!

This book will make you interested in science! (If you weren’t already.)
Give you nightmares! (If you’re easily scared!)
Give you ideas for your next evil device or plot. (If you’re an evil villain in a hollowed-out dormant volcano.)

This is a fun book!

7. An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire.

An Artificial Night (October Daye, #3)

“Experience the thrill of the hunt in the third October Daye urban fantasy novel.

October “Toby” Daye is a changeling-half human and half fae-and the only one who has earned knighthood. Now she must take on a nightmarish new challenge. Someone is stealing the children of the fae as well as mortal children, and all signs point to Blind Michael. Toby has no choice but to track the villain down-even when there are only three magical roads by which to reach Blind Michael’s realm, home of the Wild Hunt-and no road may be taken more than once. If Toby cannot escape with the children, she will fall prey to the Wild Hunt and Blind Michael’s inescapable power.”

~ Goodreads Description.

An Artificial Night is book 3 of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. One of THE best Urban Fantasy series around at the moment!

It doesn’t really work well as a stand alone – there’s far too much going on that the reader is expected to know from the previous two books in the series. but If you like reading Urban Fantasy, this series is excellent, and book three is where things really start to get interesting – setting up the chain of events and plot points that are going to cascade onwards throughout the rest of the series!

An Artificial Night is really, really good! (I would say it’s actually better than book 1 – Rosemary and Rue!) It’s fantastic!

Re-read as part of me playing catch-up so I can take part in the SF/F Read Along for book 4 in July!

8. The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross.

The Atrocity Archives (Laundry Files, #1)

This book is incredible, and awesome for a first published novel, the series started here continues for many more books, short stories and novellas – so if you enjoy this book as much as I did, there’s a lot more to look forward to.
“Bob Howard is a low-level techie working for a super-secret government agency. While his colleagues are out saving the world, Bob’s under a desk restoring lost data. None of them receive any thanks for the jobs they do, but at least a techie doesn’t risk getting shot or eaten in the line of duty. Bob’s world is dull but safe, and that’s the way it should have stayed; but then he went and got Noticed. Only one thing is certain: it will take more than control-alt-delete to sort this mess out. . .”
~ Goodreads Description.

9. The Concrete Jungle by Charles Stross.

A Laundry Files novella (set after the events of The Atrocity Archives), that drags Bob out of bed in the early hours of the morning on a mission. To investigate a worrying issue with the concrete cows in Milton Keynes.

This novella nicely rounds out, and follows on from the Atrocity Archives. We see Bob in the field again, and meet a new character – who is about to find out that her curiosity may have made her bite of more than she can chew.

If you enjoyed The Atrocity Archives, you’ll love this novella. (Which was included in some editions of The Atrocity Archives as a bonus story.)

 

10. The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross.

The Jennifer Morgue (Laundry Files, #2)
The Jennifer Morgue is book two of the Laundry Files series by Charles Stross. In this second outing, Bob Howard finds himself dragged into the machinations and conspiracies of a Megalomaniac multi-billionaire, The Black Chamber and The Laundry…

Bob Howard is a computer übergeek employed by the Laundry, a secret British agency assigned to clean up incursions from other realities caused by the inadvertent manipulation of complex mathematical equations: in other words, magic. In 1975, the CIA used Howard Hughes’s Glomar Explorer in a bungled attempt to raise a sunken Soviet submarine in order to access the Jennifer Morgue, an occult device that allows communication with the dead. Now a ruthless billionaire intends to try again, even if by doing so he awakens the Great Old Ones, who thwarted the earlier expedition. It’s up to Bob and a collection of British eccentrics even Monty Python would consider odd to stop the bad guy and save the world, while getting receipts for all expenditures or else face the most dreaded menace of all: the Laundry’s own auditors.
~ Goodreads Description.

11. Down On The Farm by Charles Stross.

Down on the Farm (Laundry Files, #2.5)
Down on the Farm is a Laundry Files short story. Full of the usual wit and subversive humour that is the norm for a Laundry story – Bob has been dispatched to a Laundry sanctioned recuperation facility (Funny Farm) where something is odd… well, odder than usual!

A lively short story that can be enjoyed by those who have read a Laundry Files story before as well as those new to the world.

This short story can be found within Wireless (A Charles Stross Collection of shorter works) or can be read for free online at Tor.com

12. Equoid by Charles Stross.

Equoid (Laundry Files, #2.9)

In this novella, Charles Stross will horrify you – never again will you be able to look at any of the following without at least some kind of heightened level of panic or fear;

Police Horses.
Snail shells.
My Little Pony.

Yes. Charles Stross has taken aim at Unicorns, and your dreams will never be the sane! (not a typo – tremble dear reader at the horrors of a H. P. Lovecraft themed Unicorn story.)

It’a awesome!

The “Laundry” is Britain’s super-secret agency devoted to protecting the realm from the supernatural horrors that menace it. Now Bob Howard, Laundry agent, must travel to the quiet English countryside to deal with an outbreak of one of the worst horrors imaginable. For, as it turns out, unicorns are real. They’re also ravenous killers from beyond spacetime…

~Goodreads Description.

13. The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross.

The Fuller Memorandum (Laundry Files, #3)

Cold War intrigue Intersects with a weird venn diagram of Zombie rising/Death Cults and Paperclip management.

Another fantastic Laundry Files novel.
Fantastically good fun!

“Overworked and underpaid, Bob is used to his two jobs overflowing from a strict nine to five and, since his wife Mo has a very similar job description, he understands that work will sometimes follow her home, too. But when ‘work’ involves zombie assassins and minions of a mad god’s cult, he realises things are spinning out of control.

When a top-secret dossier goes missing and his boss Angleton is implicated, Bob must contend with suspiciously helpful Russian intelligence operatives and an unscrupulous apocalyptic cult before confronting the decades-old secret that lies at the heart of the Laundry: what is so important about the missing Fuller Memorandum? And why are all the people who know dying…?   ”

~ Goodreads Description.


 

Events:

I wanted to attend the Marie Brennan signing at Forbidden Planet, but the Railway Gods saw fit to deny me this hope. Because of major problems on the East Coast Mainline that day – I was unable to get to London for the event. I was VERY sad! 😦

I did manage to get down later in the month for the Nightmare Stacks Launch/Signing with Charles Stross. Read about the signing here. After the signing there was time for a few sneaky pints at a Craft Beer place just up the road from Forbidden Planet. It was a fun evening (only marred by the news the next morning.), I got to meet a few people from the Twitter both at the signing and afterwards in the bar. I love SFF events, SFF people are so cool!


 

Other:

In June I started my customary re-read of The Laundry Files. (I always seem to do this before a new book comes out!) I started the re-read later than I had originally intended – so at the time of posting this, I have only re-read up to Book 3 The Fuller Memorandum.

Netflix released the reboot of Voltron. Guys, Its GOOD!!!!!! It’s like a 90’s cartoon – but made in 2016! The only thing it lacks is a decent theme tune! You need to watch it!

I’m also about to take part in TWO read alongs as part of the SF/F Read Along group on Goodreads current read alongs – Late Eclipses (Toby Daye #4) and All Is Fair (Split Worlds #3), both of which I will be taking the lead on for one week each! (Scary stuff.)

Currently I’m also (Beta) reading Rachel Aaron’s new Heartstriker novel, which comes out 5th of  August. I KNOW, RIGHT! I’m only partway through it at the moment – BUT IT IS SO GOOD! OH WOW! No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished is looking to be bloody good fun! (Look out for a spoiler free review in the next week or so!)

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished (Heartstrikers, #3)

Looking ahead:

There’s Edge-Lit in Derby coming up in July which will be fun! I might also… very possibly… be able to sneak off to the Jen Williams/Pete Newman/Den Patrick event in Birmingham later this month too… But It’s going to be 50/50 If I can… We’ll see.


 

Well, that was June… Yay!

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