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Blog Posts from December 2017 (12)

December 2017 and 2017 in Review

31 Dec, 2017

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December

21 books read. 11 by women (52%), 8 by men (38%), 1 by a non-binary author (5%) and one (NA 5%). 

Works by POC: 6 (29%)

Year to Date

255 works reviewed. 138.5 by women (54%). 109.5 by men (43%). 5 by non-binary authors (2%). 2 by N/A (1%)

Works by POC: 75.5 (30%)

Well, not quite as productive a year as I had hoped but not without its bright points. For example, I review books at a rate about 45 times that of the median reviewer in the Strange Horizons’ count, books by WNB authors at a rate 90 times that of the median reviewer in the Strange Horizons’ count and books by POC at a rate 160 times that of the median reviewer in the Strange Horizons’ count. While I didn’t increase the number of books by NB authors as much as I hoped, I did increase it. Incremental efforts over time can accomplish great goals. 

All I have to do is keep on incrementing.…

I have some interesting goals for 2018.


And now, the meaningless table.

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Books Received, Dec 23 — 29

30 Dec, 2017

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The Citadel of Weeping Pearls was a great wonder; a perfect meld between cutting edge technology and esoteric sciences — its inhabitants capable of teleporting themselves anywhere, its weapons small and undetectable and deadly.Thirty years ago, threatened by an invading fleet from the Dai Viet Empire, the Citadel disappeared and was never seen again.
But now the Dai Viet Empire itself is under siege, on the verge of a war against an enemy that turns their own mindships against them; and the Empress, who once gave the order to raze the Citadel, is in desperate needs of its weapons. Meanwhile, on a small isolated space station, an engineer obsessed with the past works on a machine that will send her thirty years back, to the height of the Citadel’s power.
But the Citadel’s disappearance still extends chains of grief and regrets all the way into the fraught atmosphere of the Imperial Court; and this casual summoning of the past might have world-shattering consequences…A new book set in the award-winning, critically acclaimed Xuya universe.
There is a lake of marvels. A lake of water lilies that glow with the color of dawn. For generations Kai’s people have harvested these lilies, dependent upon them for the precious medicines they provide.
But now a flock of enchanted cranes has come to steal and poison the harvest. The lilies are dying. Kai’s people are in peril. A mysterious young man from the city thinks he might have a solution. Kai must work with him to solve the mystery of the cranes, and it will take all her courage, love, strength, and wisdom to do what she must to save both the lilies and her people.
The Lilies of Dawn is a lushly written, lyrical fairy tale of love, duty, family, and one young woman’s coming of age.
Alone in a Spartan black cockpit, test pilot Mike Melvill rocketed toward space. He had eighty seconds to exceed the speed of sound and begin the climb to a target no civilian pilot had ever reached. He might not make it back alive. If he did, he would make history as the world’s first commercial astronaut. The spectacle defied reason, the result of a competition dreamed up by entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, whose vision for a new race to space required small teams to do what only the world’s largest governments had done before. Peter Diamandis was the son of hardworking immigrants who wanted their science prodigy to make the family proud and become a doctor. But from the age of eight, when he watched Apollo 11 land on the Moon, his singular goal was to get to space. When he realized NASA was winding down manned space flight, Diamandis set out on one of the great entrepreneurial adventure stories of our time. If the government wouldn’t send him to space, he would create a private space flight industry himself. 
In the 1990s, this idea was the stuff of science fiction. Undaunted, Diamandis found inspiration in an unlikely place: the golden age of aviation. He discovered that Charles Lindbergh made his transatlantic flight to win a $25,000 prize. The flight made Lindbergh the most famous man on earth and galvanized the airline industry. Why, Diamandis thought, couldn’t the same be done for space flight? 
The story of the bullet-shaped SpaceShipOne, and the other teams in the hunt, is an extraordinary tale of making the impossible possible. It is driven by outsized characters — Burt Rutan, Richard Branson, John Carmack, Paul Allen — and obsessive pursuits. In the end, as Diamandis dreamed, the result wasn’t just a victory for one team; it was the foundation for a new industry and a new age.
Distant lights illuminating the darkness pique Chito’s and Yuuri’s curiosity, so the two hop aboard their beloved Kettenkrad and head for the horizon. What they find may not be what they were looking for, but the surviving fragments of civilization are enough to keep them going. There’s no telling what other strange surprises lie in store as their journey continues…

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Happy Holidays!

25 Dec, 2017

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Whatever your holiday of choice may be.

Thanks to my editor Karen Lofstrom and my web person Adrienne L. Travis. Thank you all of my readers for sticking around for three and a bit years! Especially everyone who has commissioned a review or been part of my Patreon. And a big thanks to all of you authors, without whom book reviewers would be very challenging.

Review One Thousand in just a few weeks!

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Taking non-binding suggestions for Dec 31’s review

23 Dec, 2017

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That’s a Because My Tears Are Delicious To You review. To recap, Tears is the series


In which I revisit books that I loved when I was a teenager, back in the 1970s. Some of these have aged well. Others .… not so well. Come for my delighted surprise at discovering new depths in old friends, stay for my writhing agony as old favourites betray me.


I need to have read them before March 1981, when I turned 20 and was no longer a teen1. I am torn between reading one I think will have aged well, and one I know has not. Or some other possibility.

1: Note that comparatively few dates after March 18, 1981 are before March 18, 1961. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database is your friend.

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Books Received, Dec 16 — 22

23 Dec, 2017

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A retrospective anthology of tales is highlighted by autobiographical accounts of the experiences that have shaped his fantasy and science fiction work.
The gruff and mysterious warrior known as Vargus has meant many things to many people over the course of his long life. But when he hears of a village suffering strange attacks in the dead of night, he must take up the role of the Gath — the people’s protector — once again, before any more children go missing.Exclusive to ebook and audiobook, Of Gods and Men is an original epic fantasy novella by Stephen Aryan focusing on a fan-favourite character from the Age of Dread trilogy. Story takes place before the events of Battlemage.
In a desperate bid to escape the bounty on his head, assassin Girton Club-Foot has returned to Maniyadoc, but the kingdom he knew no longer exists.
Three kings battle for supremacy in a land ravaged by war-and one of them is his old friend Rufra. With threats inside and outside the war encampment, Girton races to find the traitor behind an assassination plot. But his magic can no longer be contained and Girton may not be able to save even himself.
It’s assassin versus assassin for the life of a king.

Readers met the irrepressible Karen Memory in Elizabeth Bear’s 2015 novel Karen Memory, and fell in love with her steampunk Victorian Pacific Northwest city, and her down-to-earth story-telling voice.
Now Karen is back with Stone Mad, a new story about spiritualists, magicians, con-men, and an angry lost tommy-knocker — a magical creature who generally lives in the deep gold mines of Alaska, but has been kidnapped and brought to Rapid City.
Karen and Priya are out for a night on the town, celebrating the purchase of their own little ranch and Karen’s retirement from the Hotel Ma Cherie, when they meet the Arcadia Sisters, spiritualists who unexpectedly stir up the tommy-knocker in the basement. The ensuing show could bring down the house, if Karen didn’t rush in to rescue everyone she can.


Manhattan has many secrets. Some are older than the city itself.
Summer in New York: a golden hour on the city streets, but a dark time for Selene. She’s lost her home and the man she loves.
A cult hungry for ancient power has kidnapped her father and targeted her friends. To save them, Selene must face the past she’s been running from — a past that stretches back millennia, to when the faithful called her Huntress. Moon Goddess. Artemis.
With the pantheon at her side, Selene must journey back to the seat of her immortal power: from the streets of Rome and the temples of Athens — to the heights of Mount Olympus itself.
Leo Carew’s debut novel The Wolf, the first book in the Under the Northern Sky series, is a masterpiece in epic historical fantasy — a new voice to rival David Gemmell or George RR Martin. Violence and death have come to the land under the Northern Sky. The Anakim dwell in the desolate forests and mountains beyond the black river, the land under the Northern Sky. Their ancient ways are forged in Unthank silver and carved in the grey stone of their heartland, their lives measured out in the turning of centuries, not years. By contrast, the Sutherners live in the moment, their vitality much more immediate and ephemeral than their Anakim neighbours. Fragile is the peace that has existed between these very different races — and that peace is shattered when the Suthern armies flood the lands to the north. These two races revive their age-old hatred and fear of each other. Within the maelstrom of war, two leaders will rise to lead their people to victory. Only one will succeed. The Wolf is a thrilling, savagely visceral, politically nuanced and unexpectedly wry exploration of power and identity — and how far one will go to defend them.

When Ray Lilly was 13 years old, a handgun accident landed his best friend, Jon Burrows, in a wheelchair and turned Ray into a runaway and petty criminal. Fifteen years later, Ray returns home after a stint in prison; he’s determined to go straight, but he knows he can’t do that without making peace with his old friend. What Ray doesn’t expect is to discover that Jon has just received a mysterious cure – not only is he out of his wheelchair, he seems stronger and faster than… well, pretty much anyone. Worse, his cure has drawn the attention of all sorts of powerful people: the media are camped out on his block, the police are investigating him for insurance fraud, and weird shadowy figures have begun to draw closer, figures who clearly do not mean to do Jon any good. Can Ray atone for the biggest mistake of his life by protecting his oldest friend? And what terrible price will the world have to pay if he succeeds?
Tara’s quirky PI business is attracting some even quirkier customers. She’s not sure how Madame Vine’s Escort Agency got her number. And then there’s the eccentric motorcycle racing team owner, Bolo Ignatius. Both these clients want to Tara to investigate suspicious circumstances that turn up dead bodies. That can only mean one thing in this town: John Viaspa. Tara goes in for round two with the local crime boss, while balancing the tight rope of her deliciously complicated love life.Tara Sharp’s life can only be describe as furious fun.

At the heart of the Dark Zone, a duel for the universe rages.
In an ancient Jorian temple, Jaqi faces John Starfire, the new ruler of the Empire. He has set all the worlds aflame in his quest to destroy humankind. Jaqi has sworn to stop him. Problem is, Jaqi isn’t much of a fighter.
Meanwhile, the sun-eating cosmic spiders, the Shir, have moved out of the Dark Zone and are consuming the galaxy. Araskar knows that he must hold them back, but to do that, he has to give himself over to the Resistance, under the command of John Starfire’s wife. And she wants him dead more than she wants the stars to live.
If Jaqi and Araskar can fight their way out, they can use a secret at the heart of the Dark Zone to free the galaxy, and end John Starfire’s new tyranny. They lose, and every star in the sky will go dark.

The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient enemy may not be as crushed as they thought.
In the snowbound north, Drem, a trapper, finds mutilated corpses in the forests — a sign of demonic black magic.
In the south, Riv, a young, tempestuous soldier, discovers a deadly rift within the Ben-Elim themselves.
Two individuals with two world-changing secrets. But where will they lead? And what role will Drem and Riv play in the Banished Land’s fate? Difficult choices need to be made.
In the shadows, dark forces are gathering, waiting for their time to rise…
It is the year 7000 by Noble reckoning, and the vampire rulers of the world have grown complacent. When the shape-shifting Outer Space Beings invade, the Noble warrior Greylancer must pit his skills and magic against the technology of the OSBs, quash an anti-Noble rebellion, outwit the Ultimate Mind, and, when he is critically injured, turn to mere humans for help. The Three Thousand Year War of Vampire Hunter D begins here!
Also includes the bonus short story An Irreplaceable Existence”!
A murderer doing time in Hell. A girl who just wants to win her high school band contest…no matter what it takes. Sumo wrestlers with a supernatural secret. A future Tokyo where vampires are menial laborers nursing long-held grudges against humanity. And even a very conscientious, if unstable, Universal Transverse Mercator projection. These crime and mystery stories from and about Japan explore myth, technology, the sharpness of a sleuth’s mind, and the darkness in the hearts of criminals. Read these stories and learn that hanzai means crime!
Karsman has a dozen different people living in his head, each the master of a different set of skills and hoping to gain mastery of Karsman’s body. He survives on a backwater planet dominated by the Muljaddy, a mostly ambivalent religious autocracy, where devotion and prayer can be traded in for subsistence wages and enough food to survive. Surrounded by artifacts of a long dead civilization, the population survives off its salvage, with Karsman eking out an uneventful life as the unofficial mayor of his small town.
But that life is soon interrupted, when a group of commandos arrive, coming from the wastelands as only off-worlders could. They’ve come to kill a woman, or so they say. At first the commandos merely threaten as they search. Unable to find what they’re looking for, they begin to ratchet up their measures, separating the men from the women, instigating violent encounters, and eventually staging a coup against the Muljaddy and his Temple.
Faced with the task of protecting his quiet town and a woman he might love from the commandos who could want to kill her, Karsman must balance between maintaining his personality and harnessing the personas whose skills he desperately needs.

Ten thousand city-state habitats orbit the planet Yellowstone, forming a near-perfect democratic human paradise.
But even utopia needs a police force. For the citizens of the Glitter Band that organization is Panoply, and the prefects are its operatives.
Prefect Tom Dreyfus has a new emergency on his hands. Across the habitats and their hundred million citizens, people are dying suddenly and randomly, victims of a bizarre and unprecedented malfunction of their neural implants. And these melters” leave no clues behind as to the cause of their deaths…
As panic rises in the populace, a charismatic figure is sowing insurrection, convincing a small but growing number of habitats to break away from the Glitter Band and form their own independent colonies.


In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from worldwide ecological disasters. Minh is part of the generation that first moved back up to the surface of the Earth from the underground hells, to reclaim humanity’s ancestral habitat. She’s spent her entire life restoring river ecosystems, but lately the kind of long-term restoration projects Minh works on have been stalled due to the invention of time travel. When she gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to survey the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover the secrets of the shadowy think tank that controls time travel technology.


Imperial forces have captured the Phezzan Dominion and draw ever closer to the Free Planets Alliance capital of Heinessen. Yang hurriedly abandons Iserlohn Fortress and heads for the capital to protect countless civilians. Taking out Reinhard is the alliance’s only path to victory. Despite the empire’s superior numbers, Yang continues to outwit its most resourceful generals via tactical wizardry. Reinhard, on the other hand, seeing through Yang’s devices, opts for all-out war. And so, the invincible” and undefeated” once again clash swords. Who will emerge victorious?

Even after the world and humanity itself have been rendered nearly unrecognizable by genetic engineering, a day in the office can feel…Sisyphean.
The company stands atop a tiny deck supported by huge iron columns a hundred meters high. The boss there is its president — a large creature of unstable, shifting form once called human.” The world of his dedicated worker contains only the deck and the sea of mud surrounding it, and and the worker’s daily routine is anything but peaceful. A mosaic novel of extreme science and high weirdness, Sisyphean will change the way you see existence itself.
A strange journey into the far future of genetic engineering, and working life. After centuries of tinkering, many human bodies only have a casual similarity to what we now know, but both work and school continue apace. Will the enigmatic sad sack known only as the worker” survive the day? Will the young student Hanishibe get his questions about the biological future of humanity answered, or will he have to transfer to the department of theology? Will Umari and her master ever comprehend the secrets of nanodust?

IMAGINEGAME WITH NO BOUNDARIES — WAITING INPARKING LOT, SITTING AT YOUR COMPUTER, WALKING DOWN THE STREET. YOU COULD BE CALLED AT ANY MOMENT — AND YOU’D BETTER BE READY THIS IS NOT A GAME.
THIS ISNOVEL OF GREED, BETRAYAL, AND SOCIAL NETWORKING.

Veronica Mars meets the World of Warcraft in this mystery romp with a hilarious heroine.Working for a games development company is my dream job. So, when a slightly sketchy lawyer offered me the opportunity, I had to take it! Who cares that the company has some quirks? No job is perfect. Some questionable, but probably totally normal issues:A mysterious whistle-blower is posting the industry’s dirty laundry on Reddit.An unidentified corpse is in the staff room.The game under development is for filthy casuals, and unwisely involves matching talking peppermints.My job, technically speaking, is Industry Spy.“It’s all just a typical day at the office. Right?

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Books Received, Dec 9 — 15

16 Dec, 2017

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Set in a future Great Britain scarred by fracking and ecological collapse, The Race opens in the coastal town of Sapphire, dominated by the illegal sport of smartdog racing: greyhounds genetically modified with human DNA. For Jenna, the latest Cup meet bears a significance far beyond the simple hunger for victory. Christy’s life is dominated by fear of her brother, a man she knows capable of monstrous acts and suspects of hiding even darker ones. Desperate to learn the truth she contacts Alex, a stranger she knows only by name. Together they must face their demons, wherever that may lead. Raised at the Croft, a secret government programme focusing on smartdogs, Maree has to undertake a journey through shipping lanes haunted by the enigmatic and dangerous Atlantic whale. What she discovers en route will change her world forever. 
The story of four damaged people whose lives are inextricably linked, The Race is a novel of tender nuances, brutality, insight and great ambition, a narrative that lays bare the fears and joys of being human, and, ultimately, offers hope to us all.


A collection of stories and essays that imagine the near future of human activity in space, informed by the economic and social history of exploration, plus current technical and scientific research.

Unfortunately, I think the anthology above falls short of the minimum fraction of pieces by woman writers for a review. I require at least 40% and it’s 30%.

I suppose if this is going to be recorded somewhere for posterity, I should set the record straight. The ghostwriter will probably cut it all, but hey, it’s the principle of the thing.
Dr. Cadence Mbella is the world’s most celebrated scholar of the atargati: sentient, intelligent deep-water beings who are most definitely not mermaids. When Cadence decides to release a captive atargati from scientific experimentation and interrogation, she knows her career and her life is forfeit. But she still yearns for the atargati – there is still so much to know about their physiology, their society, their culture. And Cadence would do anything to more fully understand the atargati… no matter what the cost.
A vampiric Snow White whose pious stepmother is her only salvation…. 
A supernatural Cinderella who strikes at midnight, leaving behind a prince mad with desire…. 
A sleeping beauty never meant to be woken… 
In her World Fantasy Award-nominated short story collection, Red as Blood, Tanith Lee deconstructed familiar fairy tales, recapturing their original darkness and horror in haunting new interpretations. Behind gilded words and poised princesses, she exposed a sinister world of violence, madness, and dangerous enchantments. With Redder than Blood, Lee resumes the tradition of twisting tales. Among its nineteen tales, this volume explores unnerving variations of Beauty and the Beast, The Frog Prince, Snow White, and other classics, including three never-before-published stories. A recognized master fantasist, Tanith Lee has won multiple awards for her craft, including the British Fantasy Award, the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Horror.
The sentient warship Trouble Dog was built for violence, yet following a brutal war, she is disgusted by her role in a genocide. Stripped of her weaponry and seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress. When a civilian ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, are sent on a rescue mission. Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing spaceship. What Childe doesn’t know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be. A straightforward rescue turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe find themselves at the centre of a conflict that could engulf the entire galaxy. If she is to save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight…


Emperor’s daughter Mercedes is the first woman ever admitted to the High Ground, the elite training academy of the Solar League’s Star Command, and she must graduate if she is to have any hope of taking the throne. Her classmate Tracy has more modest goals — to rise to the rank of captain, and win fame and honor. But a civil war is coming and the political machinations of those who yearn for power threaten the young cadets. In a time of intrigue and alien invasion, they will be tested as they never thought possible.

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Patreon blinks

13 Dec, 2017

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We’ve heard you loud and clear. We’re not going to rollout the changes to our payments system that we announced last week. We still have to fix the problems that those changes addressed, but we’re going to fix them in a different way, and we’re going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around. Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income. No apology will make up for that, but nevertheless, I’m sorry. It is our core belief that you should own the relationships with your fans. These are your businesses, and they are your fans.

More here.

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Books Received, December 2 — 8

9 Dec, 2017

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Lieutenant Cora Harper joined the Systems Alliance to develop and enhance her powerful biotic talents. She was assigned to the asari commando unit Talein’s Daughters, where she honed her abilities to become a skilled and deadly huntress.
Returning to Earth, Cora finds herself a stranger among other humans, and joins the Andromeda Initiative as Alec Ryder’s second-in-command. The mission will send 100,000 colonists on a one-way, 600-year-long journey into the unknown. When essential — and dangerous — tech is stolen, Cora is assigned to recover it before it can be used against the Initiative, and end the mission before it can begin.
Adda and Iridian are newly-minted engineers, but in a solar system wracked by economic collapse after an interplanetary war, an engineering degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Desperate for gainful employment, they hijack a colony ship, planning to join a pirate crew at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.
But when they arrive at Barbary Station, nothing is as they expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury — they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents. And it shoots down any ship that tries to leave, so there’s no way out.
Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the security system suffered explosive decapitation, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds.
There’s a glorious future in piracy…if they can survive long enough.

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Twenty Core Works of Religious Speculative Fiction Every True SF Fan Should Have on Their Shelves

7 Dec, 2017

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As with the previous core lists, here are twenty religious Speculative Fiction Works chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field1. No implication is intended that these are the only twenty works you should consider2.

(sorry about the lack of links. running behind. will try to come back and add them)

  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

  • HWJN by Ibraheem Abbas & Yasser Bahjatt 

  • A Fine and Private Place by Peter Beagle

  • Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

  • Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

  • This Star Shall Abide by Sylvia Louise Engdahl

  • The Sea Priestess by Dion Fortune

  • The Dazzle of Day by Molly Gloss

  • St Ailbe’s Hall” by Naomi Kritzer

  • High Deryni by Katherine Kurtz

  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

  • The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren

  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller

  • Pennterra by Judith Moffett

  • He, She and It by Marge Piercy 

  • Godmother Night by Rachel Pollack

  • Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

  • The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

  • Still Forms on Foxfield by Joan Slonczewski

  • Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Persons unfamiliar with one or two of the works, congratulations! You’re one of today’s Ten Thousand!

1: There are two filtering rules: 

  • Only one work per author per list

  • Any given work by a particular author can appear on only one list. A given author may, however, have works on various lists but each instance of their work will be unique. 

2: NO IMPLICATION IS INTENDED THAT THESE ARE THE ONLY TWENTY workS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER.

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