Yesterday, I posted about the growth of e-books and the possible need for e-agents. Thinking about e-books set me a-wander, and here are the results. Not all of the stories presented here are novel length; some are short stories–there’s even a short graphic novel. All are worth a proper sit down read through, and, to me, YA appropriate (remembering that I’m very liberal). A note on Fairyland: it’s all there save for the final chapter. Although it can be frustrating to wait for an ending, I recommend you read it anyway, slowly, and over a cup of steaming hot tea.
*Titles link to online text or download pages.
1. FOR THE WIN, Cory Doctorow
Doctorow is indispensable. It’s hard to imagine any other author taking on youth and technology with such passion, intelligence, and understanding. Although perhaps less urgent than Little Brother (2008), this effort is superior in every other aspect: scope, plot, character, and style. Set in the near future and in locations across the globe (though primarily China and India), the story involves a sweeping cast of characters making a living—if you want to call brutal conditions and pitiful wages a “living”—in such virtual-game worlds as Svartalfheim Warriors and Zombie Mecha. Many of them, like 15-year-old Mala (known by her troops as “General Robotwalla”), endure physical threats from their bosses to farm virtual gold, which is then sold to rich First World gamers. Then these brilliant teens are brought together by the mysterious Big Sister Nor, who has a plan to unionize and bring these virtual worlds—and real-world sweatshops, too—to a screeching halt. Once again Doctorow has taken denigrated youth behavior (this time, gaming) and recast it into something heroic. He can’t resist the occasional lecture—sometimes breaking away from the plot to do so—but thankfully his lessons are riveting. With it’s eye-opening humanity and revolutionary zeal, this ambitious epic is well worth the considerable challenge.–Daniel Kraus for Booklist
2. TIME TRADERS, Andre Norton
Head over to the Baen Free Library, then follow the prompts to authors, then Andre Norton.
Intelligence agents have uncovered something which seems beyond belief, but the evidence is incontrovertible: the USAs greatest adversary on the world stage is sending its agents back through time! And someone or something unknown to our history is presenting them with technologies — and weapons — far beyond our most advanced science. We have only one option: create time-transfer technology ourselves, find the opposition’s ancient source…and take it dawn.
When small-time criminal Ross Murdock and Apache rancher Travis Fox stumble separately onto America’s secret time travel project, Operation Retrograde, they are faced with a challenge greater than either could have imagined possible. Their mere presence means that they know too much to go free. But Murdock and Fox have a thirst for adventure, and Operation Retrograde offers that in spades.
Both men will become time agents, finding reserves of inner heroism they had never expected. Their journeys will take the battle to the enemy, from ancient Britain to prehistoric America, and finally to the farthest reaches of interstellar space…
3. THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING, Catherynne M. Valente
A young adult novel, following September on her journey. From the first chapter:
Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her father’s house, where she washed the same pink and yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog. Because she had been born in May, and because she had a mole on her left cheek, and because her feet were very large and ungainly, the Green Wind took pity on her, and flew to her window one evening just after her eleventh birthday. He was dressed in a green smoking jacket, and a green carriage-driver’s cloak, and green jodhpurs, and green snowshoes. It is very cold above the clouds, in the shanty-towns where the Six Winds live.
“You seem an ill-tempered and irascible enough child,” said the Green Wind. “How would you like to come away with me and ride upon the Leopard of Little Breezes, and be delivered to the great sea which borders Fairyland? I am afraid I cannot go in, as Harsh Airs are not allowed, but I should be happy to deposit you upon the Perverse and Perilous Sea.”
4. BETTER ZOMBIES THROUGH PHYSICS, Jim Ottaviani and Sean Bieri
A short, online only graphic novel. Join us for chills, thrills, and pulse-pounding scientific breakthroughs as we embark on a tour of the Quantum Zombie, Inc. facility, courtesy of a guy who bears a striking resemblance to famed scientist and cat-lover Erwin Schrödinger. Hijinks, hilarity, and an abundance of felines await you in “Better Zombies Through Physics.”
*Tor.com & the authors encourage fan fic based on this story.
5. TOAST, Charles Stross
The title of Stross’s provocative new SF collection—a revised, expanded version of a 2002 title of the same name—is a mordant reference to catastrophes at the climaxes of these 11 stories. In “A Colder War,” a stand-alone sequel to Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” monsters from outside space and time are liberated as weapons of mass destruction by Russia and the Middle East. In “Antibodies,” a mathematical theorem undermines the foundations of all computer encryption systems, forcing fugitive behavior from the narrator who has depended on the anonymity they hitherto ensured. “Ship of Fools,” written in 1995, evokes the epic scale of Arthur C. Clarke’s fiction in its projection of dire technological fiascos that rock the world at the turn of Y2K. In Stross’s worlds, virtual reality is the new frontier, AI is a fact of life and everyone is fluent in the sometimes impenetrable technogeek-speak that goes with the territory. For all that, his characters are familiar and sympathetic hackers, slackers and opportunists, whose lives have not been improved by their technological expertise, and whose adventures he interweaves seamlessly with the circuitry.–PW
6. HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES, Neil Gaiman
A story about a couple of British 1970s teen-aged boys, Enn and Vic, who go to a party to meet girls, only to find that the girls are much different than they imagined.
The story follows Enn, a shy boy whom the more confident Vic encourages to just talk to girls. While at the party, Enn talks to three very nice but strange girls. As he focuses on “making a move” on the girls, it is revealed to the reader the exchange students there are more interplanetary than foreign.
7. TANGLEFOOT: (A Story of the Clockwork Century), Cherie Priest
A novelette, Tanglefoot is steampunk/alternate history fic. From the prologue:
Stonewall Jackson survived Chancellorsville. England broke the Union’s naval blockade, and formally recognized the Confederate States of America. Atlanta never burned.
It is 1880. The American Civil War has raged for nearly two decades, driving technology in strange and terrible directions. Combat dirigibles skulk across the sky and armored vehicles crawl along the land. Military scientists twist the laws of man and nature, and barter their souls for weapons powered by light, fire, and steam.
But life struggles forward for soldiers and ordinary citizens. The fractured nation is dotted with stricken towns and epic scenes of devastation–some manmade, and some more mysterious. In the western territories cities are swallowed by gas and walled away to rot while the frontiers are strip-mined for resources. On the borders between North and South, spies scour and scheme, and smugglers build economies more stable than their governments.
This is the Clockwork Century.
It is dark here, and different.
8. AGENT TO THE STARS, John Scalzi
The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity’s first interstellar friendship. There’s just one problem: They’re hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish.
So getting humanity’s trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal.
Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He’s one of Hollywood’s hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it’s quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he’s going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.–Publisher description
Guest Post @ The Flash Fiction Chronicles
I have a new post up at The Flash Fiction Chronicles, the blog for flash fiction ezine Everyday Fiction. It’s all about writing classes–why they’re important, and what to do when you get there. Check it out here.
For most of us, writing is a somewhat solitary pursuit – after all, it’s hard to actually work on a story if you’re chatting to your Mom, IM’ing your best friend, or grabbing lunch with hubby. But there comes a time in every’s life when a certain kind of company becomes necessary.
A certain kind of company? I know, it sounds very Eliot Spitzer-ish. But choosing who to talk to about your baby novel is a fraught process. Will they like it? Will they hate it? Will they think it’s-actually-very-funny-or-realize-I-stole-all-my-jokes-from-ten-year-old-Leno-shows?
Read the rest at FFC, here. And when you’re done, read the rest of the blog, too! It’s filled with excellent advice on every aspect of the writing life.