The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Desert, The Aliens, and Unanswered Questions

Posted on | September 18, 2015 | 12 Comments

— by Wombat-socho

Most of you are probably unfamiliar with the National Fantasy Fan Federation, which has been around literally since the dawn of SF fandom. I myself thought it had died off, but evidently it is very much alive, and hard up enough for members and volunteer staff that they made me head of their Membership and Recruitment Bureau, which is why I drafted this blog post on why you ought to join the N3F. On a related topic, apparently Sasquan is still refusing to release to the public the Hugo nomination ballots – not the Hugo ballots themselves, just the nomination ballots. What could they be trying to hide?
Also, for those of you who missed the announcement a week or so ago, the Kindly Ones are collecting nominations for the 2016 Hugo Awards here.

But enough of fannish politics. I’ve been spending most of last week reading S.M. Stirling’s The Desert and the Blade, wherein Crown Princess Orlaith and Empress Reiko head into the Mojave in pursuit of the legendary Grass-Cutting Sword, one of the Three Sacred Treasures of the Imperial throne. Meanwhile, Orlaith’s mother, Lady Protector and High Queen Matilda, fears her daughter’s impetuous questing has endangered Montival, since there are factions within the High Kingdom whose loyalty died with her husband, Rudi. If you don’t like the Change series, that’s fine (but spare me the reminders in the comments) but if you do, be reassured that this is worth the $14 Penguin is extorting for the Kindle edition.

I hadn’t planned to pick up Robert Frezza’s Cain’s Land for a while, since in a lot of ways I think it’s the weakest of his Suid-Afrika trilogy, but there it was…anyhow, aliens have been discovered, and canny Imperial Commissioner Mutaro decides that the best man to contact them – and, if necessary, defeat them – is renegade Colonel Anton Vereshchagin. From there, the action matches the description one of Vereshchagin’s men gives of wars: “A little humor, a little horror, and a lot of sweeping up.” Well worth picking up, if not quite as good as the first two books. Not available in Kindle, sadly.

Some years ago, I met James Daniel Ross at Balticon, where he was flogging his new book, The Chimerium Gambit to various fans of combat SF, and indeed, he had some interesting changes to ring on the hoary old trope of futuristic mercenary troops. I haven’t read its sequel, The Key to Damocles, but I have read two of the shorter “Mission Files” stories, Restavek and Not One Word; they are every bit as good as The Chimerium Gambit albeit shorter and cheaper. Recommended.

I’ve been waiting a while for Brian McClellan’s The Autumn Republic to come out on Kindle, and so far it’s been worth the wait. This is the cap to the Powder Mage trilogy that began with Promise of Blood, and a damn fine trilogy it’s been. There may be other authors out there who can combine magic and Napoleonic warfare, but McClellan does it while juggling half a dozen POV characters and half again as many subplots. Cannot recommend highly enough.
So what are y’all reading?


12 Responses to “The Desert, The Aliens, and Unanswered Questions”

  1. Francis W. Porretto
    September 18th, 2015 @ 5:06 am

    The Chimerium Gambit isn’t a new book. It was originally published as Radiation Angels: The Chimerium Gambit, about five years ago. And yes, it’s pretty good.

  2. Eric Ashley
    September 18th, 2015 @ 1:56 pm

    I’m re-reading ‘Afterworld’ by D. Rus. Its Russian LitRPG.

    I like the casual way that a couple characters agree….some bueraucrat destroys your sister, of course you have to hunt them down and kill them. (and this is a minor sub-plot).

    Rereading to the boys, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

    Reading ‘Nightlord Shadows’ by Garon Whited. He does a good job with a character that is insanely overpowered, and still makes it fun and interesting.

    Read part of ‘Lost Lands: The Game Atlantis’, but while many of his fight descriptions are very good, I’m not finishing it. Its also litRPG.

  3. Wombat_socho
    September 18th, 2015 @ 2:21 pm

    It was new when I met him at Balticon in 2010. Apologies for being unclear.

  4. January
    September 18th, 2015 @ 4:05 pm

    Just joined N3F. Thanks for the post, Wombat.

  5. Wombat_socho
    September 18th, 2015 @ 5:30 pm

    Welcome aboard!

  6. gahrie
    September 19th, 2015 @ 2:31 am

    I want to know why they haven’t made Stirling’s series into a movie, or perhaps a cable series like Game of Thrones. Seems like a natural to me, and probably pretty easy to do.

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    September 19th, 2015 @ 8:31 am

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  8. FMJRA 2.0: Round and Round : The Other McCain
    September 19th, 2015 @ 4:13 pm

    […] The Desert, The Aliens, and Unanswered Questions Batshit Crazy News […]

  9. Wombat_socho
    September 19th, 2015 @ 5:53 pm

    Good question. I suspect it’s because he’s not a “big name” like GRRM, and there’s also some aspects of the Change novels that I suspect would go over badly in Hollywood.

  10. jic1
    September 20th, 2015 @ 2:37 pm

    GRRM wasn’t an especially big name before Game of Thrones (the HBO series).

  11. Wombat_socho
    September 20th, 2015 @ 4:43 pm

    He was very well known within the SF field and IIRC had several NYT best-sellers and Hugo Awards under his belt long before Game of Thrones came to TV.

  12. jic1
    September 21st, 2015 @ 10:49 am

    Yes, but that still doesn’t make you a big name in popular culture. When people say “big name”, I think Stephen King, Michael Crichton, J.K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, etc. GRRM might be close to that level *now*, but he wasn’t *then*. I would say that S.M. Stirling is not significantly less well-known then the pre-HBO GRRM was.