The Sword and Laser (S&L) is a science fiction and fantasy-themed book club and podcast, started by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt. The main goal of the club is to build a strong online community of sci-fi / fantasy buffs, and to discuss and enjoy books of both genres. — About S&L [www.swordandlaser.com]
The following is the list of books read by The Sword and Laser book club during the first half of 2015. This page is designed as is a quick reference page so that I can quickly jump between the forum pages and Goodreads listings.
Tom and Veronica are both independent creators, and finding regular advertisements for the show is difficult (since we’re so niché). We want to continue be able to devote tons more time into developing and growing the show, since we know there are many readers out there looking for like-minded folks.
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06.) City of Stairs (City of Stairs #1)
City of Stairs is the Sword & Laser read for June 2015.
Robert Jackson Bennett – City of Stairs (City of Stairs #1)
Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city’s proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Divani. Officially, the quiet mousy woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country’s most accomplished spymasters-dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem-and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well.
★ S&L Podcast – #220 – Why The Healer Deserves to be a Hero
★ S&L Podcast – #219 – We Make People Win Nebula Awards– Maybe.
★ S&L Podcast – #218 – Why There’s No Such Thing as Writer’s Block
Leigh Brackett – The Sword of Rhiannon
The Sword of Rhiannon (1953) – first published as Sea-Kings of Mars (1949)
Greed pulls the archaeologist Matt Carse into the forgotten tomb of the Martian god Rhiannon and plunges the unlikely hero into the Red Planet’s fantastic past, when vast oceans covered the land and the legendary Sea-Kings ruled from terraced palaces of decadence and delight.
(Media: audiobook, PDF, eBook)
★ S&L Podcast – #217 – Apply John Scalzi Directly to Forehead
★ S&L Podcast – #216 – Why Genres Don’t Matter on the Internet
★ S&L Podcast – #215 – Is The Magician’s Quentin Too Handsome?
Terry Pratchett – Wyrd Sisters (Discworld #6)
Three witches gathered on a lonely heath. A king cruelly murdered, his throne usurped by his ambitious cousin. A child heir and the crown of the kingdom, both missing. The omens are not auspicious for the new incumbent, for whom ascending this tainted throne is a more complicated affair than you might imagine, particularly when the blood on your hands just won’t wash off and you’re facing a future with knives in it…
Witches are not by nature gregarious, and they certainly don’t have leaders. Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn’t have. But even she found that meddling in royal politics was a lot more difficult than certain playwrights would have you believe…
(Media: audiobook, deadtree)
★ S&L Podcast – #214- Discworld’s Inner Rage
★ S&L Podcast – #213- Our Thoughts on the Hugos
★ S&L Podcast – #212- Do You Have the Right to Delete Swear Words?
03.)The Goblin Emperor
The Goblin Emperor is the Sword & Laser read for March 2015.
Katherine Addison – The Goblin Emperor
A vividly imagined fantasy of court intrigue and dark magics in a steampunk-inflected world, by a brilliant young talent.
The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.
Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.
Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.
This exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.
★ S&L Podcast – #211- Why Peter V. Brett Empathizes with George RR Martin
★ S&L Podcast – #210 – Are You the Goblin Emperor?
★ S&L Podcast – #209 -The Secret to Inventing Your Own Language
★ S&L Podcast – #208 – Who Will Win This Year’s Nebula?
02.)Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)
Annihilation is the Sword & Laser read for February 2015.
Jeff VanderMeer – Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.
This is the twelfth expedition.
Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.
I’m still not too sure about this being SF or being Horror. Weird, creepy, unsettling … was our narrator really there or was this all a thought experiment?
★ S&L Podcast – #207 – Crowdfunding an Abomination with Gary Whitta!
★ S&L Podcast – #206 – How Tyrion Could Die
★ S&L Podcast – #205 – Brian McClellan Grows His Own Spaghetti Sauce
★ S&L Podcast – #204 – Annihilation is Not the End
01.)The Sparrow (The Sparrow, #1)
The Sparrow is the Sword & Laser read for January 2015.
Mary Doria Russell – The Sparrow (The Sparrow, #1)
In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet which will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being “human.” Words like “provocative” and “compelling” will come to mind as you read this shocking novel about first contact with a race that creates music akin to both poetry and prayer.
VERDICT: VERDICT: ★★★★
“Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.” (Matthew 10:29)
“But the sparrow still falls.”
★ S&L Podcast – #203 – Myke Cole’s Secret Unicorn
★ S&L Podcast – #202 – Ready Player Two
★ S&L Podcast – #201 – Don’t Fear the Roomba?
★ S&L Podcast – #200 – Best Books of 2014