Category Archives: Science Fiction

Pratchett, Terry: Witches of Discworld

witches-cover-lge

Witches (usually women) are a force to be reckoned with on the Discworld. Nowhere near as flashy as the wizards (usually men), these women often rule their villages with an iron fist and a whole lot of headology. Pratchett describes headology as:

a witch’s way of magically setting fire to a log of wood consists of staring at the log until it burns up from pure embarrassment. As a result it is less energy intensive, which means that a witch can do more than a technically equally powerful wizard. (Discworld Wiki)

Now, imagine headology turned on people. That might frighten a few into behaving who might not otherwise behave.

Granny Weatherwax by paul kidby
Granny Weatherwax
by Paul Kidby

The strongest headologist of the “good” witches is Granny (Esmeralda) Weatherwax. Her sister, Lilith (below), happens to be one of the “bad” ones. In a world supposedly without a hierarchy, Granny is the unspoken ruler of the witches. In the village of Lancre there is absolutely no doubt she is the boss. That is until an attempted rebellion be some wannabe witches (below). Granny is a dream of a witch. In the trio of Lancre her role is the role of the Crone (although noone would actually call her a “Crone” to her face – no one with their senses intact). Granny’s special ability is to see reality clearer than the rest. Pratchett explains that this is a manner of seeing the world that does not lie to itself including an ability to question not only the world but oneself again and again and again. Young Tiffany Aching seems to be following in Granny’s “footsteps” in this regard (below). What one needs to realize about Granny Weatherwax is that she is always there for you when you need her. Her one weak spot is her cat: “gerrofoutofityoubugger!” (generally called “You”). Considering who the owner of “You” is, I find it easy to believe that she is the only creature who has gotten the better of Greebo. While younger and much smaller than Greebo “You” terrifies him – inasmuch as he is able to be terrified of anything/anyone.

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Nanny Ogg and Greebo
by Visente

Greebo belongs to Nanny Ogg. Nanny is probably the only person alive who thinks of Greebo as a big softy.

To Nanny Ogg he was merely a larger version of the fluffy kitten he had once been. To everyone else he was a scarred ball of inventive malignancy.

Nanny is the Mother of the threesome in Lancre. Now there is a lady I wouldn’t mind meeting. Her sense of humour is broadminded, raunchy and hilarious. At the same time she rules her brood and their spouses with something akin to terror with a dash of love mixed in. They adore her yet fear her – at least her daughters in law. Nanny Ogg saves Granny from herself when that is needed and functions as Granny’s grounding rod. Not only that but Nanny lightens the mood when Granny feels overwhelmed or as if the people around her are too stupid for their own good. While Granny is the one who scares people Nanny is the one who woos them – until it is time to stop wooing. Nanny’s final job in the trio of witches is to prod Magrat in the direction Nanny feels Magrat ought to go without being as truthful about it as Granny tends to be.

Meek_Mild_Magrat_by_mjOboe
Meek, Mild Magrat
by MJ Oboe

Magrat Garlick is an interesting character. She happens to be the “Maiden” of the Lancre coven. At first glance Magrat is a young ditz with a heart of gold and a great belief in crystals and folk wisdom.

Witches aren’t like that. We live in harmony with the great cycles of Nature, and do no harm to anyone, and it’s wicked of them to say we don’t. We ought to fill their bones with hot lead.

But as you see, Magrat has another side as well – like we all do. In Lords and Ladies that side shows up in all its glory.

Unlike Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, Magrat is not very good at headology. Her forte lies in research and development of herbs and cures (and her crystals of course). She struggles with her self-confidence, but Granny and Nanny make up for that by having an abundance of confidence in themselves. It can’t be easy being the youngest witch when the two older ones in your coven have such strong personalities.

tiffany_aching_by_alda_rana-d64wi2t
Tiffany Aching and the MacNeegles
by Alda Rana

Young Tiffany Aching down down on the Chalk (mountain) is a whole different type of character. She has to take over the responsibility for her mountains when her grandmother (the local witch) dies. The only possible candidate is Tiffany Aching. At 9 her ability to ask uncomfortable questions and her quest for knowledge points to her potential as a great witch down the line. But Tiffany isn’t really worried about the whole witch thing nor is she caught up in the need to be one. Instead she happens to have the gift of making cheese. I know, strange gift for a witch one might say. But witches are practical people who prize such abilities over other more wizard-like gifts. In fact, Tiffany excels so much that one of her cheeses has come alive and become and excellent mouser. Its name is Horace. She is friends with the Nac Mac Feegles, a feat not managed by many.

These four witches are my favorite ones. There are many more that make appearances in Pratchett’s Witches’ series, but Granny, Nanny, Magrat and Tiffany get into so many incredibly weird and funny situations that its impossible not to have them as favorites. The Witches’ series consists of Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade, Carpe Jugulum, The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight.  As usual Wikipedia gives detailed information about these women, Pratchett’s page is a given source and L-Space has fun details.


SciFi and Fantasy Art Eskarina by Hannah Crosby
Eskarina
by Hannah Crosby

EQUAL RITES (1987)

As I stated at the beginning of this post most witches are women and most wizards are men. There are exceptions. Some of those exceptions start with mistaken identity.

Up in the Ramtops a wizard comes awalking using his staff as a guide to where he is going. Bad Ass, the village, is his lucky destination. A child is being born, the eight son of an eight son.

Drum Billet, our wizard, knows he is about to die. Wizards and witches get to have that knowledge. He gives his staff to the son of the smith and dies. One problem. The eight son of the eight son just happens to be a girl, Eskarina Smith. A wizard girl. Oops.

Good thing for young Eskarina Smith (Esk to her friends) that Granny Weatherwax was the midwife that saw her into the world. When Eskarina is 7 her mother decides to send her along with her brothers to Granny. Strange things seem to be happening around the girl whenever she is upset.

When they get to Granny’s, Granny Weatherwax is lying on her bed looking quite dead. Being a witch she wasn’t, she was only out borrowing. Eskarina feels Granny’s undeadness and goes downstairs waiting for Granny to return (while her brothers run off terrified). When she hears loud noises upstairs, even she becomes terrified, runs off, falls down and is met by the staff (yes! the staff came to her).

Granny knows something has to be done, and right away. She decides to take her to the wizards school in Ankh-Morpork, the Unseen University, and enroll the young Eskarina. But getting the girl into this all-male school is going to prove more difficult than Granny had thought.


Adaptations

BBC4 dramatisation of Equal Rites as serial on Woman’s Hour


The future king with the witches

WYRD SISTERS (1988)

The night was as black as the inside of a cat. It was the kind of night, you could believe, on which gods moved men as though they were pawns on the chessboard of fate. In the middle of this elemental storm a fire gleamed among the dripping furze bushes like the madness in a weazel’s eye. It illuminated three hunched figures. As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: “When shall we three meet again.”

Here we have the Discworld’s version of MacBeth‘s witches. The mother, the crone and the other one. Or as other people know them, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Maigrat.

King Verence of Lancre is making a discovery. He is about to become a ghost, unable to stop the kidnapping of his child. By a freak accident the child ends up in the arms of Granny Weatherwax and she decides to take a hand in playing with the future and sends the baby off with a troupe of actors.

Fifteen years later.

Words have power. In the “good old days” the jester was the only person at a king’s court who could speak his mind without fear of the consequences (supposedly). These days we have the media. But words have power. We might remember an event or something about the people involved, but as the story gets told and re-told our perception of the event changes. Pratchett’s way of pointing a light at our perceptions and prejudices is a wonder.


Adaptations

1997: Wyrd Sisters was produced as a two-part animated television series, produced by Cosgrove Hall.


House of Gogol
by Brer Anansi

WITCHES ABROAD (1991)

This is a story about stories.

Or what it really means to be a fairy godmother.

But it’s also, particularly, about reflections and mirrors.”

On the Ramtops there was only one witch who was not attending the Sabbat. Desiderata Hollow was making her will. Desiderata is a fairy godmother to princess Emberella. The other one was Lilith (who just happens to be Granny’s sister).

In Genua, the magical kingdom, Lady Lilith de Tempscire loved the idea of travelling through mirrors. After speaking to Desiderata she was glad that there would only be her and the voodoo woman left to fight over Emberellas’s future.

At Lancre the fairy godmother wand is delivered into the hands of Magrat. The note from Desiderata reads:

I niver had time to Trane a replaysment so youll have to Do. You must goe to the City of Genua. I would of done thys myself only cannot by reason of bein dead. Ella Saturday muste NOTTE marry the prins. PS This is important. PSPS The those 2 Olde Biddys they are Notte to come with Youe, they will onlie Ruine everythin. PSPSPS It has tendincy to resett to pumpkins but you wil gett the hange of it in noe time.”

With this bit of headology, Desiderata guarantees that Nanny (with Greebo) and Granny decide to accompany Magrat on her journey to Genua. As the threesome moves through the lands on their way to Genua, they manage to upset quite a few people. In typical tourist style they are loud and obnoxious and wonder why these people cannot speak properly. But there is also magic battle and voodoo fun to be had.


Adaptations

1999: Witches Abroad stage adaptation by Aaron Birkes played at Aberystwyth Arts Centre Theatre


Lords and Ladies
by Marc Simonetti

LORDS AND LADIES (1992)

Magrat, Nanny (with Greebo) and Granny are back in Lancre after being absent for eight months. That worried Magrat. Was the kind-of-agreement between her and Verence still up and running.

Upon her return, Magrat was informed by King Verence that they were to be married at midsummer and that all of the arrangements have been made. No proposal, just a statement. He is the King you see, and Magrat a subject.

A stone circle up in the mountains of Lancre keeps the Dancers in. That is if they are not let out. When people forget about the Dancers, it is an easy matter to lure them into the stone circle, leaving them quite dead.

Esme Weatherwax and Nanny Grogg come to the Dancers and discover that someone has been dancing. Diamanda, Perdita and that girl with the red hair decided that they should teach themselves witching in the absence of the older ladies. About six of them have been going up into the mountains every full moon dancing. When Granny goes borrowing she discovers that there is some kind of mind loose in the kingdom – Elf.

Mustrum Ridicully of the Unseen University worrying about baldness and thinking back to the good old days when he went walking with Esme. When he is invited to the wedding of King Verence and Magrat, Ridicully decides it is time to up into the mountains. With him go the Librarian and the Reader in Invisible Writings, Ponder Stibbons.


1995: Lords and Ladies stage adaptation by Irana Brown

2005: Lords and Ladies German feature length fanfilm. I’ve only been able to find the link to the trailer. So if anyone has a link to the full-length movie, please send.


MASKERADE (1995)

In his dedication Pratchett writes:

“My thanks to the people who showed me that opera was stranger than I could imagine.”

What is Pratchett going to make fun of this time you might ask. Well, the answer is The Phantom of the Opera.

Mr. Goatberger, the publisher, has been sent the manuscript to a book. It wasn’t even on proper paper, and he was filled with apprehension. Then he started reading, kept on reading, and called in his assistant, Mr. Cropper. He began dreaming “the dream of all those who publish books, which was to have so much gold in your pockets that you would have to employ two people just to hold your trousers up.”

Agnes Nitt has come to the Opera House to audition for a part. She might not be the greatest looker, but she has a voice to kill for. When the time comes to select the players, Agnes gets stuck singing for the goodlooking Christine.

Gytha Ogg gets a letter addressed to “The Lancre Witch”, bringing Granny’s temper up a bit. Nanny’s book “The Joye of Snacks” has become a hit, and it turns out the publisher has been a bit complacent about paying Nanny her dues. In fact, he owes her about four or five thousand dollars. They decide to take a trip to Ankh-Morpork and stir up the town a little. That, and convince Agnes to come back to Lancre as the maiden witch. They bring Greebo, Nanny’s cat of terror. His part in this story is amazing.

Reading Maskerade with the Phantom of the Opera playing in my head at the same time was great fun. Terry Pratchett has really nailed it this time.


If you want and incredibly detailed and extensive analysis of Maskerade, I recommend Bewitching Writing by Dorte Andersen at Aalborg University. It seems I’m not the only fan of Terry.

1998: Stephen Briggs stage adaptation of Maskerade.

2006: A stage adaptation of Maskerade by Hana Burešová and Štěpán Otčenášek (partly using adaptation by Stephen Briggs) premiered in Divadlo v Dlouhé, Prague. Pratchett attended the closing performance five years later.


The Carpe Jugulum Cast
by Vic Hill

CARPE JUGULUM (1998)

Into the country of Lancre comes an army. An army made up of very small blue men, no higher than six inches tall. Little blue men nobody messes with. Men whose favorite pasttime is fighting anything and anyone.

Not too far from Lancre, four vampires come accross an invitation to the name ceremony of the child of Queen Magrat and King Verence. It is a dangerous thing to invite vampires into your home, whether that be house or kingdom. Sort of gives them free rein. Count Magpyr, his wife and their two children enter Lancre with their servant Igor.

Granny Weatherwax gets called away to a birthing that is in trouble. When she gets there, she has to decide who to save, mother or child. Very few people could make such a choice without trying to share the responsibitility with someone. Flying back towards the castle she notices mist is on its way from Uberwald.

The dwarf Casuanunda is having to resort to highway robbery. But robbing that black coach is not very tempting when he sees how another highway robber is treated. Instead he goes on to Lancre where he has a few aquaintances.

In this novel Pratchett plays with the idea of split personality, references vampire movies of the day, pyramid schemes and good and evil through the Phoenix vs. vampire myths. Pratchett managed to give this novel a slightly creepy feel.


Adaptation

1999: Stephen Briggs’ adaptation of Carpe Jugulum


The Wee Free Men
by Kathrin

THE WEE FREE MEN (2003) (Skrellingene – 2004) – Locus YA winner 2004

We now leave Lancre behind (for the most part) and enter the world of the Chalk and Tiffany Aching. She is nine years old when we meet her for the first time in The Wee Free Men.

My first meeting with Tiffany (or Petronella in Norwegian) was in Norwegian. I thought I would introduce my youngest to Pratchett and this new book on the market seemed like the thing to read. Was it ever.

When we meet her she is lying by the river tickling the trout on their backs. She liked hearing them laugh. With her on this expedition was her brother Wentworth (Steingrim in Norwegian). Like all little kids he was messy and sticky but easy to be around.

I’m sure you remember the little blue men in Carpe Jugulum. Here they come again, trying to fish. For some reason Tiffany was able to see them. Only witches should be able to see the blue terrors.

Grandma Aching has just died and Tiffany thinks that she might have been a witch. The little blue men turn out to be the Nac Mac Feegle. Since Grandma died they are on the lookout for a new “hag”. Since Tiffany sees them and is able to control them (somewhat) the Nac Mac Feegle tell Tiffany that she is their hag.

They need help for their Kelda (mom). She is ill. Tiffany comes with them to their hole in the ground and checks out things for the boys. Sadly, the Kelda is dying (of old age) and Tiffany needs to be there for the boys until a new Kelda can be found.

When Tiffany’s baby brother disappears, she now has allies in her search for him. The search brings Tiffany and the Nac Mac Feegles into a strange world where Tiffany’s hag-hood is proven.

My youngest son laughed his head off and was really spooked at times. An excellent children’s book in my opinion. They won’t get all the references, but who cares, I probably don’t either. What’s really great about the Tiffany Aching series, is that we get a look at Tiffany’s growth from the beginning. Terry has created a wonderful character in our young Tiffany.


There is a possible film adaptation of The Wee Free Men by Rhianna Pratchett (Terry’s daughter) in the inning.


A Hat Full of Sky
by Fredrik Ämting

A HAT FULL OF SKY (2004) (En hatt full av himmel – 2005) – Locus YA winner 2005

More laughter came for my son in “A Hat Full of Sky“. Those Nac Mac Feegle names are genius. I read them in Norwegian (in one of our dialects of course) and I couldn’t help myself. I giggled along. Pratchett has so many of those giggle moments and then all of a sudden a belly-laugh comes along. All part of his godhood status for me I guess.

Tiffany is now an apprentice to Miss Level. On their way there, Tiffany and Miss Tick are attacked by a hiver (powerful, dangerous creature).  At the cottage of Miss Level, Tiffany discovers that Miss Level is in fact two-bodied and that there is a ghost cleaning her house. During her stay Tiffany has to fight the Hiver, but fortunately she does not have to battle alone all of the time. Help is to be found in many places.

We get a great look at the life of an eleven year old torn out of her old life, having to go to boarding school (so to speak). Everything is new. Not everyone is nice. On top of that she has the Nac Mac Feegle and the Hiver. Growing up must come quickly then. Pratchett does an excellent job at looking at the development of Tiffany’s identity. She emerges as someone who has integrity and the willingness to question herself. She’s actually a pretty good role-model for young people.


Wintersmith
by Bruna Brito

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p>WINTERSMITH (2006)Locus YA winner 2007

By now I think we’ve seen that Tiffany is not the kind of girl who is ruffled by just anything. It takes a bit more than normal to get her uncomfortable. Being wooed by the Wintersmith is one of those things. In “Wintersmith” Tiffany does a foolish thing. At the dark morris dance welcoming winter, Tiffany finds herself drawn into the dance. Ooops. Wrong person.

This means the Wintersmith (who brings winter) meets Tiffany rather than the Summer Lady and is enchanted by her. Double oooops.

All of a sudden green stuff sprouts underneath Tiffany’s feet and the Cornucopia appears. Tiffany seems to have taken on at least one of the Summer Lady’s abilities. Her friends Roland, Nac Mac Feegles and Granny Weatherwax have to help Tiffany get out of her new bind.

While her new teacher, miss Treason, is kind of creepy Tiffany manages to learn a lot from her, not least all which color of cheese she does not like.

I’ve seen from commentaries that some people think Wintersmith too childish. Sometimes I wonder if I’m reading the same books as other people or if I’m expecting different things from the books. I find all of the characters delightful, even crazy old Treason. Terry’s writing is up to its usual standard and as a brainwashed cultmember of the Pratchettian cult I’m sold.


i-shall-wear-midnight-discworld-novel-38

I SHALL WEAR MIDNIGHT (2010)Andre Norton award 2011

OK. Now we come to the last book in the Witches and Tiffany series: I Shall Wear Midnight. For some reason I found it poignant. You know how sometimes you get a feeling of being thankful that you’ve read a book? Well, Midnight and Snuff are both Pratchett books that gave me that quiet feeling. I was moved.

Tiffany is now grown up (15) and is working the Chalk as its only witch in a climate of growing suspicion and hate.

When the Baron of the county dies, she is accused of killing him. Tiffany travels to Ankh-Morpork to inform Roland of his father’s death. As usual the Nac Mac Feegles follow Tiffany into town.

Tiffany’s fight this time is against the Cunning Man. Once again we get a battle between the almost good against the practically evil.

My love for this book could also be due to its darker tone. This darker tone fits the books well.

Pratchett, Terry: Rincewind

Rincewind is one of the funnest and funniest characters of the Discworld. In spite of the

  • Rincewind is a self-acknowledged coward whose running abilities fit with his cowardice.
  • He was not the brightest student at the Unseen University. In fact the other wizards claimed that Rincewind is “the magical equivalent to the number zero”. He does have one magical formula in his head – one of the Eight Great Spells. Unfortunately, the formula  must never be used.
  • Rincewind is both the luckiest and unluckiest of characters. Lady Luck is kind of on his side, and Rincewind’s ability to frustrate all of Death’s plans are next to none. In fact, Rincewind’s hourglass of life is the only one that is not hourglass shaped.
  • Rincewind’s constant companion is the Luggage, a pearwood chest that walks and acts as Rincewind’s bodyguard. During his many unexpected trips to fairly unusual places, Rincewind has great need of this protection.

THE COLOUR OF MAGIC (1983)

French cover by Marc Simonetti Kemar

The first of the Discworld books is The Colour of Magic. In it Terry Pratchett set out to make fun of the many cliches in fantasy and science fiction. When I first started reading The Colour of Magic, I hadn’t gotten that part of it. But when I went back to it with this necessary knowledge, I laughed (well, giggled)  a whole lot.

“In a distant and second-hand set of dimensions, in an astral plane that was never meant to fly, the curling star-mists waver and part …”

Right off the tone is set. I must have been terribly dense not to have seen the humour my first time through, but there you are – once an airhead always an airhead.

And so we get our first look at A’Tuin, upon whom the Discworld rests. Now that Pratchett has shown us the glory of his world, it is time for him to give us the story of Rincewind – one of many.

Rincewind meets Twoflower in the Broken Drum. Twoflower is a tourist from the Counterweight Continent. Noticing the stranger’s language problem, Rincewind helps the man and is hired as Twoflower’s guide. Recognizing potential trouble, Rincewind tries to flee the city, but is caught by the Patrician who orders him to protect Twoflower.

Through a series of mishaps, Rincewind and Twoflower end up having to flee Ankh-Morpork. From there their journey takes them into and out of the embrace of Death time and again. They are hunted by trolls, bears, demons, dragons and believers.


http://925rebellion.com/pratchett-films/
http://925rebellion.com/pratchett-films/

A graphic novel, illustrated by Steven Ross and adapted by Scott Rockwell, was published by Corgi in 1992.

The Mob Film Company and Sky One have produced a two-part adaptation, combining both The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic broadcast over Easter 2008.

In 1986 Piranha Games published The Colour of Magic as a text adventure game developed by Delta 4.

A video game titled Discworld: The Colour of Magic was released on mobile phones in 2006.

THE LIGHT FANTASTIC (1986)

Book cover – graphic novel

The Light Fantastic begins where The Colour of Magic left off. Rincewind and Twoflower are once again trying to survive one of their stunts.

Back at the Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork something really strange is happening. One of the extremely dangerous magic books is beginning to leak and the wizards are terrified of the consequences. When the leakage causes the UU to be flooded they realise something has to be done.

The book with the Eight Great Spells decides to take matters into its own pages, and rescues Rincewind and Twoflower from their predicament. That does not mean that Rincewind, Twoflower and the Luggage are out of trouble. Indeed, druids, mercenaries, Cohen the Barbarian, Death, the Four Horsemen, trolls, crazed villagers, a magical shop, Things all have to be encountered before they can go home.

If you’ve read a bit of English litterature from the pre-1986 era, you’ll probably recognize the references made in The Light Fantastic. But even without that knowledge, it’s easy to see that Pratchett makes fun of religion, philosophy, insurance and myths.

A graphic novel illustrated by Steven Ross and Joe Bennet, was published by Corgi in 1993.

The books are full of references. If you go to L-Space you’ll find annotations, quotations, essays and all sorts of goodies on all of the Discworld books.

SOURCERY (1988)

French book cover by Marc Simonetti Kemar

A sourcerer is the eight son of an eight son of an eight son. A wizard squared. A source of magic.

Isplore (father of the sourceror) refuses to go with Death when it comes. Instead he decides to steer his son’s destiny by imbuing his wizard’s staff with his spirit. Poor little Coin. His future has already been decided for him by his father.

Back at the Unseen University a new Archchancellor is to be “elected”. Rincewind and the Librarian are working with the books in the library. The books and shelves are restless. As he leaves the library, he notices a couple of other disturbing event. Ravens are cawing and all the vermin is leaving the Unseen University. Rincewind tries to warn the bursar, who unsurprisingly does not believe him.

When he is unable to get the administration to believe that something is afoot, Rincewind does his usual desperate disappearing act. He and the librarian withdraw to the Mended Drum (used to be the Broken Drum).

Parents! What can you do about parents? No matter how much you fight them, somehow they find a way to impose their will. In Sourcery, you’ll see quite a bit of Ipsilore trying to do just that to Coin. Holding all that power is quite a challenge for a boy trying to find his way in the world. His choices will make or break the Discworld.

FAUST ERIC (1990)Eric

French cover by Marc Simonetti Kemar

“Death fancied that he heard, very briefly, the sound of running feet and a voice saying, no a voice thinking oshitoshitoshit, I’m gonna die I’m gonna die I’m gonna DIE!” When he focuses his gaze, all he says is: “OH, … IT’S HIM”. Yes, you’ve guessed it. Death’s favorite non-dier – in fact the only one – Rincewind.

In Ankh-Morpork, something invisible is running through the town, yelling at the top of its voice. The wizards try the Rite of AshkEnte (calling on Death) to find an answer. He tells them that Rincewind is caught in the Dungeon Dimensions, trying to get back home. The likelihood of that happening is a million to one. Hello! This is Rincewind we’re talking about.

What happens then. Well, Rincewind wakes up in a regular human sort of room caught in a magic circle. In fact, he is caught by a pimply teen-aged boy with a fake beard. This kid wants to have mastery of the kingdoms of the world, meet the most beautiful woman who has ever lived and wants to live forever.

He is about to get all wishes fulfilled, but not in the way he expected and both Eric and Rincewind may end up regretting that the conjurations was performed. What Eric Thursley will end up knowing all too much about is deception, bureaucracy and stupidity.

INTERESTING TIMES (1994)

By Ryan Dowling Soka

As the gods are playing games, with Fate winning as usual, the Lady turns up. She wants to play Mighty Empires with Fate, letting the dice roll deciding whether fate of luck will rule this time.

Mustrum Ridcully, Archchancellor of UU is called to see the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. A Pointless Albatross has turned up with a message from the mysterious Agatean Empire, requesting the “Great Wizzard”. Vetinari wants Ridicully to send the Great Wizzard to the Counterweight Continent by tea-time, leaving the Archchancellor six hours to figure out who this wizzard is and get him on his way. Oh dear.

We all know who this “Great Wizzard” is, and Rincewind ends up in the Agatean Empire. Unfortunately Rincewind’s wizardly talents seem to have grown in the telling and he seems sadly wanting for the role Agatean people want him to fill. He is supposed to step in as a leader of the revolution. Well, the Agatean people are in for a surprise and so is Rincewind. Of all the people Rincewind should meet on the Counterweight Continent, Cohen the Barbarian and his compatriots turn up.

THE LAST CONTINENT (1998)

Dijabringabeeralong Pub by Rhianna

It’s winter and cold season in Ankh-Morpork. At the Unseen University the Librarian has caught a bug. Each time he sneezes, he changes shape – into anything. The wizards are at a loss, and the only one who has been able to communicate effectively with the Librarian is, you guessed it, Rincewind.

Rincewind, however, is somewhere else. At the moment he is digging a hole – more or less looking for opals. The other opal miners know him as Strewth. When Strewth uncovers something that looks like a giant opal, the other opal-miners cheer. Then the opal cracks open and lots of little feet appear.

Back at the Unseen University the wizards are their usual bumbling selves looking for Rincewind. Searching has uncovered a window to somewhere delightful. A beach with clear blue water and lies behind a window in the room of the Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography. Since they are wizards they climb through. When Mrs. Whitlow arrives with sandwiches, she closes the window and they are all stuck. Now they have to find their way back, somehow, back to the future.

Rincewind/Strewth and the luggage are off on their adventures. One of the funniest ones is a shearing episode with our talented Rincewind. There is also a delightful one that reminds me an incredibly of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

THE LAST HERO (2001)

The Last Hero by Paul Kidby

The last installment in the Rincewind series is The Last Hero. My copy has been illustrated by Paul Kidby and is beautiful in a Discworldian manner. Vetinari receives a message from the Agatean Empire.

Cohen the Barbarian has set out on a quest with the Silver Horde. “Fingers” Mazda stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind, and was chained to a rock to be torn open daily by a giant eagle as punishment. As the last heroes remaining on the Disc, the Silver Horde seek to return fire to the gods with interest, in the form of a large sled packed with explosive Agatean Thunder Clay. They plan to blow up the gods at their mountain home, Cori Celesti.

Vetinari organises an effort to stop the Horde and Leonard of Quirm (Vetinari’s tame inventor) to design the Discworld’s second known spacecraft to slingshot under the Discworld and back around the top, landing on Cori Celesti. Rincewind, Carrot and the Librarian are slung off to save the world.


1995: Discworld video game, Discworld II: Missing Presumed…!?,

2007: Snowgum Film Run Rincewind Run!

2008: Boardgame: Die Siedler von Catan: Rincewind und der Tourist / Die Gilden von Ankh-Morpork

2013: BBC Radio: Eric

Discworld Monthly: Who’s Who: Rincewind

Fanfiction

TP Official Message Board: Rincewind

Wikipedia: Rincewind

Wiki Lspace: Rincewind

Tenn, William: Of Men and Monsters (1968)

Of Men and Monsters

Of Men and Monsters is another novel that belongs in the classic category. It’s not very difficult to see that William Tenn likes to turn things upside down. He is considered one of the foremost satirists of his generation and he is very good at making me think about mankind in a different way. Like all good satires, the ending is bizarre but at the same time believable, given the circumstances described. I’ve seen that others have found the book hilarious, but I can’t say that I did. To me, Of Men and Monsters was more thoughtfully funny.

I couldn’t help thinking of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read) when I read the title. Of Men and Monsters is Tenn’s only full-length novel. I read it one reading, not wanting to put it down. These old-timers were excellent writers.

In Of Men and Monsters the earth has been conquered by gigantic aliens (monsters). Humans have become vermin, living in the walls of the houses of these monsters living like mice, rats and cockroaches off the spoils of the monsters. One of the tribes of men calls itself Mankind. In Mankind lives a boy (soon to be man) called Eric the Only (single child). As part of his initiation as a man, Eric needs to go out into the Monster territory. As his journey progresses he finds betrayal, adventure and love.

People are treated pretty much as we treat our own lab animals. Experiment on them or kill them. Tenn also makes fun of the way people behave when their beliefs self-images are challenged. We pretty much see people behaving as people would, and there really is nothing funnier than that.

Asimov, Isaac: Foundation series

The Foundation series continues on from the Elijah Bailey series. The reason I call it a continuation of the series becomes apparent as one reads the books (too much of a spoiler to tell). If you go to Wikipedia, they will tell all. Having said that, their page carries quite an excellent description of the books along with analysis and links. For another in-depth analysis of Asimov’s work go to Wimmer & Wilkins’ blog. Asimov’s home page contains more general information about his life’s work.

Isaac Asimov brought fresh air into science fiction when he arrived on the scene in the 40’s. He wasn’t afraid of taking a hard look at the possible future of mankind based on what he knew of the day’s theories on sociology and psychology. The Foundation series is considered one of the most important contributions to the field of science fiction, a well-deserved opinion.


PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION (1988) AND FORWARD THE FOUNDATION (1993)

SciFi and Fantasy Art PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION by Slawek Wojtowicz
Cover for Polish Prelude to Foundation
by Slawek Wojtowicz

The Foundation series was started in the 1940’s, but for easier reading you should start with Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation. In Prelude we meet Hari Sheldon, the inventor of psychohistory. Hari’s goal was to be able to predict the general future of humanity, and during a conference he presents his fledgling theory to fellow scientists on the planet Trantor. Unfortunately the Empiror finds Hari’s theories a threat and begin to persecute him. This makes it necessary for Hari to flee, and his flight takes him around Trantor. In Forward the story of how Hari develops his theory continues. Sadly for Hari, the people he loves die off (naturally and unnaturally). Hari refuses to give up and finally develops what ends up being called the Seldon Plan, a way to save the future of humankind.


FOUNDATION (1951) / FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE (1952) / AND SECOND FOUNDATION (1953)

Cover for Polish Prelude to Foundation
by Slawek Wojtowicz

After this introduction to the future Galactic Empire, The Foundation Trilogy with the books Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation, follow. These are Asimov’s first installments in the Foundation history. When you read these books, please keep in mind that the series was written well before Wikipedia or the internet came into existence. As such, they seem a bit dated. Some of the theory can be tedious, but the adventures and people we meet are quite fun. The titles are a dead give-away, so we know well ahead of time that the Foundation is bound to survive. But we know nothing about the road taken.

In Foundation and Empire the leaders of the Foundation has become corrupt. The internal strife that arises from that makes the organisation susceptible to “The Mule”. The Mule advances, conquering planet after planet, making the Empire deviate from Seldon’s plan. The Foundation does not have it in them to win over the Mule, and desperately some of the members begin seeking a rumoured Second Foundation.

The title Second Foundation kind of gives it away. In this novel we are going to discover the rumoured savior of the Empire while enjoying adventure, science and social interaction. The only way to kill the Mule is by allowing members of the Foundation to find members of the Second Foundation. But this also reveals the fact that there is a Second Foundation and that its nature is somewhat different to the First one’s. Herein lies the conflict.


Foundation’s Edge
by Michael Whelan

FOUNDATION’S EDGE (1982) AND FOUNDATION AND EARTH (1986)

And so we come to the two final books in the Foundation series: Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth. We meet Golan Trevize as main protagonist in both books. He is convinced the Second Foundation has survived the attempt to exterminate its members, and goes looking for them. His search brings him to many planets and finally to the ancient planets (no longer on any star-chart) of Solaria, Aurora and Melpomenia. Each journey brings Trevize closer to a conclusion that may or may not satisfy the reader. I felt ambiguous, and that seems to be the intent of the author.


  • 1966 –  Best All-time Novel Series Hugo Award for the Foundation series
  • 1983 –  Hugo Award for Best Novel for Foundation’s Edge
  • 1983 –  Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Foundation’s Edge
  • 1996 –  A 1946 Retro-Hugo for Best Novel of 1945 was given at the 1996 WorldCon to “The Mule“, the 7th Foundation story, published in Astounding Science Fiction

Asimov, Isaac: Elijah Bailey/Robot series

Isaac Asimov was my introduction to science fiction. I imagine he has been for a lot of people. The libraries here in Norway didn’t have a lot of fantasy/science fiction material in my youth. But there were a few robot anthologies with Isaac. I fell in love.

It’s incredible to me that Asimov began the Foundation series in 1942. I would begin my reading with the Robot series (Elijah Bailey series). These four books give the reader an excellent starting point for understanding Foundation: The Caves of SteelThe Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn, and Robots and Empire (these are links to Wikipedia so spoiler warning is necessary).

michael whelan_isaac asimov_the caves of steel.jpg

Michael Whelan – Caves of Steel

The Caves of Steel (1954) is the very beginning of the Foundation series. Far into the future (approx. 3000 years) mankind has discovered hyper-travel and has emigrated to the stars. Fifty planets, known as the Spacer worlds, have been terraformed and enjoy a low density of humans. Robots are used for labor intensive jobs. In the meantime Earth is over-populated and have passed laws against the use of robots. Elijah Bailey lives on Earth in one of the domed cities.

A Spacer ambassador has been found murdered outside his domicile. Elijah is forced to go work with his partner, R. Daneel Olivaw, a human-looking robot. Unfortunately one of things Elijah holds against Daneel is the fact that he looks just like the murder victim. On their journey of discovery they end up visiting the Spacer worlds.

Some of the themes Asimov explores in this combination of sci-fi and mystery are over-population, technology and prejudice.

The-Robots-Series-1

The Naked Sun (1957) brings us to the world of Solaria. Solaria is a planet where the population is kept at 20000 and robots serve the human population. In fact robots outnumber the humans greatly. This time the victim is a genetic specialist in the birthing center of the planet. On a planet where contact between people is kept at a minimum, we get a real locked-room mystery. Once again Elijah and Daneel need to solve the murder mystery.

In the Elijah books robots are for the most part treated as property and expected to do as their masters say. When Elijah calls the robot “Boy” it might be seen as Asimov’s way of breaching the topic of racism/slavery/prejudice. Asimov was agoraphobic and as such Solaria would probably be the exact opposite of his heaven. Elijah certainly has to struggle quite a deal with his own agoraphobia in this novel. We also get a look at the way we tend to make assumptions without enough information. The rest of Solaria just “knows” that Gladia has to be guilty of the crime, but Elijah is not as certain of that.

Daneel, Elijah and Giskard in hovercraft by Seabird

In The Robots of Dawn (1983) we once again meet Gladia from Solaria. She has settled on the planet Aurora. A roboticide has occurred and Elijah and Daneel need to find the killer. R. Jander Panell was another humaniform robot created by Han Fastolfe. The robots of Aurora are incredibly lifelike and their interaction with their humans can be quite intimate.

To aid in their investigation, Daneel and Elijah are assisted by another of Fastolfe’s creations, R. Giskard Reventlov. They discover that Jander was a member of Gladia’s staff. In fact, she considered him her husband. Some of the possibilities for motives are jealousy, power and greed. While Asimov’s Robot books are mysteries, they are also an exploration of sociological possibilities. The impact of technology (in this case robots) is one of Asimov’s recurrent themes. How far do we take technology or let technology take us? The Robots of Dawn is also very much about human relationships. How much do we let our urges, the taboos of society and our individualism steer our lives?

The Zeroth Law by Hera of Stockholm

Robots and Empire (1985) is the final book in the Elijah Bailey/Robot series. By this time Elijah has died and we encounter one of his descendants, Daneel Giskard. In it we get a step closer to Asimov’s Foundation series – a natural continuation of the Elijah/Robot’s series.

For most of the Spacer population Earth people are seen as vermin. They have been forbidden emigration to other planets and are forced to stay on over-populated, capped earth.

However, Earth people are overcoming their agoraphobia and are using faster-than-light transportation to get to planets away from the Spacer Empire. These “Settlers” see the Earth as something to revere. One of these Settlers is Daneel Giskard.

On a trade journey Daneel discovers that Solaria seems empty of humans. The robots are left, still working with their previously assigned jobs. Gladia Delmarre is still alive on Aurora and she is asked by Daneel to help figure out what has happened on Solaria. She brings R. Daneel and R. Giskard to aid in the investigation.

Once again Asimov explores the theme of technology and its effect on humans. The ending of Robots and Empire was quite touching and a fitting end to the Robot series. When you read the Foundation series, you will see just how Robots and Empire merges these two series. These books are a treat. While they are dated in some respects, their themes are incredibly relevant today.

Aldiss, Brian: Non-Stop (1958)

Here comes quite a treat. Brian Aldiss is one of the classics within science fiction. His type of science fiction likes to explore the human psyche through adventure. While written in 1958 this novel is as fresh as if it had been written today. We get a look at what a Freudian/Jungian world could look like all wrapped up in a great yarn.

Roy Complain, a hunter of the tribe of Greene, lives according to the “Teachings,” which valorize egotism and violence. Along with his tribe’s priest and four others, Complain set off on a to “Forwards,” the front of the ship (as the priest assures them it really is), to find the “control room.” On the way they have adventure – battles, discoveries and unexplained phenomena. Eventually they find the “Forwards” section. From then on revelation upon revelation leads us to the inevitable and bitter (and sadly believable) conclusion.

Schroeder, Karl: Permanence (2002)

French cover

“Permanence” is a stand-alone novel. Karl Schroeder brings us to a future where man-kind is spread across the galaxy. As he states on his website, he wanted to bring a new hard science into the world of science fiction. There, space-opera could run its course in whichever manner the book dictated. The added knowledge of our universe in 2001 made it possible to theorize in a new manner.

So in “Permanence” we get to meet brown dwarfs and the human habitats that surround them. Schroeder has used this knowledge about their strong magnetic fields to create a place where humans can exist. In this brown dwarf world interstellar cyclers are used to maintain contact between human habitats.

On one of these Halo worlds we find Rue Cassels. She runs away from home and finds an empty but functional cycler. She lays claim to it and in a race against other factors she works towards the right to ownership and the right to explore and exploit the cycler. We know right away that in such a plot there has to be conflict. There is plenty of that.

Schroeder has written a book that I’ve just read for the third time. There are some books that are like old friends. You don’t have to meet them all the time, but when you finally get together you have a really good time – as did I. Schroeder even managed to convince me to stay up late. Old age really does not teach us any sense. When I get a really fun book between my hands, I’m hopeless. Oh, well.

Meaney, John: Resolution (2008)

Cover art by Jim Burns

While the third and final book in the Nulapeiron Sequence, “Resolution” lacks the brilliance of “Context“, “Resolution” is certainly a well-crafted book. Meaney’s work is moving, engaging and interesting. He manages to braid his thoughts on time and space into the text in a manner that fits in with the rest of the book. This is quite a feat.

Tom Corcorigan leads a complicated life. He’s on top or he’s at the bottom of the social ladder. His life is never the same from moment to moment. Love, friendship and home can change in an instant. I’m glad I’m not he. As in the previous books, we also get a look into the lives of the pilots.

In “Context” the Blight was defeated. But Tom is certain the war has not been won. He is worried that the Anomaly, the mother of the Blights, is on its way to Nulapeiron. There is no-one else that will believe him when he tries to convince them of the seriousness of the situation. Losing his demesne has made life a bit more challenging for him and Elva, but when his friend Corduven dies that all changes. Now they finally have the chance to influence matters. And what do you know, the Anomaly appears. From there on the action is non-stop.

The Nulapeiron is an intense series. The reader is drawn into Meaney’s world and kept there by the force of his words. His science fiction is fun and weird.

Grant, Mira: Newsflesh trilogy

Writing under the pseudonym Mira Grant, Seanan McGuire published the political thriller/zombie trilogy Newsflesh including the books “Feed”, “Deadline” and “Blackout”. I am anything but a zombie fan, but Grant has written a thriller that goes far beyond zombies. We become embroiled in politics and corruption, discussions on freedom of the press and get a look at dysfunctional societies and families. Excellent author that she is, Grant brings her characters alive and gives them depth and color. And the action. My goodness is there ever action in this trilogy. And death. Prepare yourself for a heavy toll on people who made me care about them. Did I say I liked these books??????? Keep on writing under either name and the world will be a better place.

The concept of the Newsflesh trilogy is based on the unforeseen consequences of biological research. By 2014 cancer and the common cold had been defeated. Unfortunately, the side-effect was that when you died you became a zombie and started feeding. Oops. The world was changed forever.  The mainstream media fell, Internet news acquired an undeniable new legitimacy, and the CDC rose to a new level of power.

by dust-bite

FEED (2010)

Set twenty years after the Rising, the Newsflesh trilogy follows a team of bloggers, led by Georgia and Shaun Mason, as they search for the brutal truths behind the infection.  When Senator Peter Ryman of Wisconsin decides to take a team of bloggers along on his run for the White House, Georgia and Shaun Mason are quick to submit their application.  They, along with their friend Georgette “Buffy” M. are selected, and they view this as the chance to launch their careers to a whole new level…that is, if they can survive the campaign trail. Feed follows the Masons and their crew into a world filled with the living dead—and the much more dangerous living.

Shaun Mason by Rowan

DEADLINE (2011)

In Deadline, the members of the After the End Times staff are reeling…none more than Shaun Mason, who can’t figure out what he’s supposed to be doing with his life now that he’s found himself unexpectedly in charge.  The arrival of Dr. Kelly Connolly from the CDC provides a new direction, and a possible new route into the conspiracy that caused so much damage just a year before. However, it turns out that Dr. Connolly’s arrival heralds more death and despair for the crew.

From All Forsaken

BLACKOUT (2012)

The world is getting more and more bizarre by the moment for Shaun and now Georgia. Both of them have had their worlds turned topsy-turvy and struggle to maintain their sanity and belief in humanity. Nothing is as they thought it would be and they are both bruised and battered. But there is hope. Not a great one, but nevertheless. The cost of a free press is clearly portrayed in the courage and sacrifice of the characters of this novel. Sometimes no price is too high to pay to share the truth with the general public.

Meaney, John: Context (2007)

Cover art by Jim Burns

Wow. This book is gold. “Context” is book no. 2 of the “Nulapeiron Sequence”. As such it is the continuation of the story about Tom Corcorigan. This story keeps getting better and better. Meaney blends philosophy with action and obsession beautifully. In Context he manages to keep the text flowing in a manner above and beyond most authors. What a gift.

Tom is healed from devastating injury. His security chief, Elva comes along. Unfortunately, she is killed on that trip. This becomes a defining moment for Tom. He realises his love/passion/obsession with Elva. When it turns out that somehow Elva has survived, but that her mind has been transferred to the body of her twin sister. Tom goes off hunting Elva. In the process he becomes one of the most important tools in the fight against the Blight.

Of course, there are many stages of learning for Tom. One does not blithely meet with something as powerful as the Blight. One of the many tools aiding Tom is the mu-space crystal that he got hold off in “Paradox“. From it we learn more about Ro and her role in the whole mystery.

Hard-core science fiction has seldom been more fun. Please, please read this trilogy if you have the chance.

Norton, Andre: The Forerunner Factor (2012)

Andre Norton’s “style is clean and simple. She doesn’t digress into an examination of minutiae, of either exterior or interior worlds. With graceful economy she hands the reader the very hearts of her characters, and cleanly etches her settings – like an artist who can suggest the whole shape of an object by the thickness of the line with which she draws. The result are lean, rich stories that move.” Linda Taddeo

The Forerunner Factor“The Forerunner Factor” is an omnibus containing “Forerunner” and “Forerunner: The Second Venture”. Andre Norton’s books talk about the Forerunners. They are those who went before and have left artefacts that noone understands. We desire what they were and had.

In “Forerunner” we meet Simsa, the orphan. She lives in the Burrows, the slums in the spaceport-city on the planet Kuxortal. Her looks are exotic with iridescent blue-black skin and white hair. As many of Norton’s other protagonists, Simsa has a telepathic bond with her batlike zorsal but does not truly communicate with them. The adventure begins when she gets involved with a spaceman in search of his brother. Together they end up running for their lives. Eventually they come into contact with a Forerunner artefact and, what do you know, Simsa is revealed as one.

In “Forerunner: The Second Venture” Simsa escapes captivity, crash landing on another world where life does not seem viable. She comes into intelligent life, manages to communicate with it and discovers that the Forerunners have also been there. In this novel Simsa has two goals. First and foremost she seeks to remain herself. The second is to survive without recapture.

Meaney, John: Paradox (2001)

Paradox: Book I of the Nulapeiron Sequence (Bk. 1)

Cover art by Jim Burns

I’ve now read “Paradox” for the third time and am still enjoying it as much as the first. Because I’m a dork, I just realised that there are two more books to this series. Well, well, live and learn.

From the above I’m sure you can tell that I really liked “Paradox“. We get a large dash of philosophy, some biology, sociology, lots of action and a thoroughly likeable protagonist. Tom Corrigan is at the centre of our attention throughout the whole novel. He raises himself through the various layers of society through hard work, luck and other people’s ambition. There is no sugar-coating of our hero. He rises to the greatest heights and falls to the deepest depths of hell. Meaney is a really good writer.

Nulapeiron is a strange world. Semi-alive dwellings and vehicles. Subterranean demesnes layered from the poorest to the richest. At the very top we find the Oracles.

Tom Corrigan is witness to the brutal killing of a woman by the militia. She just happens to the same woman who gave him a small, seemingly insignificant info-crystal. Shocked to his core, Tom realises that she is one of the mythical Pilots.

This info-crystal, along with the Oracle Gerard, are the two things that push Tom onto a path that will take him to his destiny.

Weber, David: Honor Harrington

Field of Dishonor by David Mattingly

The Honor Harrington series by David Weber consists of 12 books:

  • “On Basilisk Station” (1992)
  • “The Honor of the Queen” (1993)
  • “The Short Victorious War” (1994)
  • “Field of Dishonor” (1994)
  • “Flag in Exile” (1995)
  • “Honor Among Enemies” (1996)
  • “In Enemy Hands” (1997)
  • “Echoes of Honor” (1998)
  • “Ashes of Victory” (2000)
  • “War of Honor” (2002)
  • “At All Costs” (2005)
  • “Mission of Honor” (2010)

The Honor series is military science fiction. Technical information is important. The series goes into detail about the various vessels Honor is on. It also explores the relationship between the kingdom of Manticore and the People’s Republic of Haven. Honor is a citizen of the Manticoran kingdom, originally from the planet Sphinx. Along with her is her bonded companion, the tree-cat Nimitz.

Honor and Nimitz end up being in the center of conflicts between the Peeps and the Manties. They survive impossible situations in space and on the ground and Honor really needs her brass ovaries to survive the gruelling conditions she often finds herself in. At the center of each book is the conflict between the Peeps and the Manties. There is always some kind of scheme by the Peeps to get the Manties to reveal their military strength or to get the Manties to join in war. Part of that is due to the instability of the Peep system. Governments come and go and in many ways it reminds me of Russia at the time of the revolution in 1917.

The Manties, on the other hand, have a monarchy with all of its attendant problems. There is a government pretty much like the government of the UK – Overhouse/Underhouse with the peers in the Overhouse and the commoners in the Underhouse. There is plenty of corruption and political scheming. Someone is always seeking more power, quite often at the expense of the Manticoran system.

Wikipedia gives an excellent summary of each book, but be warned of spoilers.

David Weber is a fun writer. There are political discussions, but they are placed in a context that make them interesting not preachy (mucho importante). Adventure, adventure, adventure and then some humor are important ingredients. There is some romance, but thankfully not much. My favorite book in the series is Echoes of Honor. It seemed the most different from the rest, and the action centered around a great deal of people, not just Honor.

Goyer, David S. & Cassutt, Michael: Heaven’s Shadow (2011)

Heaven's Shadow (Heaven's Shadow, #1)So! What do you think the various world-leaders would do if a Near Earth Object (NEO) appeared in the sky? Heaven’s Shadow is about that. Not surprisingly, the appearance sparks a contest between the US and the rest of the world to get to the object first. Two space ships are sent to investigate and they discover more than they had bargained for. The NEO turns out to be alien and not necessarily friendly.

Paranoia, curiosity and courage are all displayed along with pretty natural, yet often unwise reactions. Our perspective is from the NASA spaceship’s crews – their actions and reactions.

This novel is a fun read. The way people act in it seems pretty realistic. The whole alien NEO thing not so much. But that’s what SciFi is, likely and unlikely thoughts about the future. What is likely is that at some point in the future an NEO could come close enough for us to visit. That’s what makes it so fun to read. Knowing part of the story could possibly happen given a certain set of circumstances.

Fenn, Jaine: Principles of Angels (2009)

Principles of Angels is Jaine Fenn’s first novel. It’s supposed to be set 7000 years into the future on the uninhabitable world of Vellern. People live either Topside or Undertow, where Topside is the more attractive part of their world. Here the world is ruled by democracy by murder (you get to vote on whether to kill a representative). The assassins are called Angels.

Taro lives with his Angel aunt who is murdered. This throws him even deeper into the Undertow and we get to see his struggles to survive and his search for his aunt’s killer. I think “Principles” could probably be called a mystery. On Taro’s search, Taro is confronted with his own fears and prejudices.

I liked “Principles”. It is a well-written novel with prose that flows from one line to another. It is violent, but I’m guessing people who live in this world’s Undertows would recognise the fears and difficult choices you have to make. If Fenn continues like she has, then her authorship is going to a fun one to follow.