THE CALL OF THE WELL
For uncounted eons, the Well World had regulated and given order to the universe, and throughout the eternity, Nathan Brazil had been the guardian of the Well of Souls, where the universe’s master control lay. Forever wandering and alone, returning to the Well in times of Danger, Brazil had destroyed and re-created the cosmos several times over. But even he wearied of his endless watch, and had enlisted the aid of space pilot and high-tech thief Mavra Chang the last time the universal order required resetting.
But now the universe faced a threat more grave than mere destruction. An unnamed and utterly alien entity had somehow been released from its ancient prison and was bent on the corruption of the Well World itself. If successful, it would cause chaos beyond mortal understanding.
The Well World needed Brazil and Chang. But when it found them, would they once again answer the call? And though Brazil was immortal, could he even fight the force threatening the Well? For the force was not of this universe – and it had plans for Nathan Brazil…
At last the generation ship Jacob’s Ladder has arrived at its destination: the planet they have come to call Grail. But this habitable jewel just happens to be populated already: by humans who call their home Fortune. And they are wary of sharing Fortune – especially people who have genetically engineered themselves to such an extent that it is a matter of debate whether they are even human anymore. To make matters worse, a shocking murder aboard the Jacob’s Ladder has alerted Captain Perceval and the Angel Nova that formidable enemies remain hidden somewhere among the new crew.
On Grail – or Fortune, rather – Premier Danilaw views the approach of the Jacob’s Ladder with dread. Behind the diplomatic niceties of first-contact protocol, he knows that the deadly game being played is likely to erupt into full-blown war – even civil war. For as he strives to chard a peaceful and prosperous path forward for his people, internal threats emerge to take control by any means necessary.
Originally published in 2011 as Grail.
The beautiful Dedo Nyneve’s innocent tales of a land called Camelot have spawned a real-life cast determined to choose their own fates, yet each move draws them closer to catastrophe. And as the many happentracks of the universe narrow to a dangerous few, the actions of every sorcerer, man, and living creature will determine whether the great god Starquin lives or dies.
For the first time in remembered history, humans and gnomes find themselves sharing the same Earth happentrack. But King Arthur has larger concerns as he watches the society he rules spiralling toward ultimate destruction. Little does he know that the evil Mogan Le Fay has been working her treacherous magic to split the happentracks wide open – a deadly betrayal that could spell the end of Camelot.
With the ma possible futures swiftly shrinking to one last destiny too awful to contemplate, courageous Fang the gnome joins forces with Arthur and Nyneve to manipulate history in a final confrontation of wills and worlds. The last move is Fang’s, as he unravels the strands of time to keep his clan from the brutal vision of Starquin’s end.
Where once the mighty Kane has passed, no one who lives forgets. Now, down the trail of past battles, Kane travels again. To the ruins of a devastated city peopled only with half-men and the waif they call their queen. To the half-burnt tavern where a woman Kane wronged long ago holds his child in keeping for the Devil. To the cave kingdom of the giants where glory and its aftermath await discovery. To the house of death itself where Kane retrieves a woman in love.
The past, the future, the present – all these are one for Kane as he travels through the centuries.
“Two Suns Setting”
“The Dark Muse”
“Sing a Last Song of Valdese”
Young Ishta found it in the forest, buried beneath dead leaves: a rounded, flattened stone as black as onyx. One side held a golden oval that glowed with a unnatural light. Of course, it had to be magic.
But what did farmers know of magic? It could be dangerous, or it could be some harmless toy. They had to find out.
Since Ishta was too young to bring her discovery to the Baron of Varag’s stronghold, her older brother, Garander, went instead. Once there, Azlia, a beautiful wizard, recognized the stone immediately as Northern sorcery. She had to call Sammel, the local sorcerer, to find out its nature . . . a relic of the last great war.
When the Baron takes the stone for himself, that should have ended things. But it was just the beginning for Garander. Because that magical stone wasn’t the only relic left in the woods…
‘My name is Oonagh, granddaughter of the Countess Oona von Bek.’
While Elric, the last Sorcerer Emperor of Melniboné, hangs crucified above the deck of an enemy ship, his mind quests across worlds for the return of his sorcerous black sword Stormbringer.
In another universe, his daughter, Oona, follows her granddaughter through the multiverse, seeking to keep her from their enemy, Gaynor the Damned, and his allies
‘Oonagh, meanwhile, will require the help of Elric, his counterpart Ulric von Bek, and as many manifestations of the Eternal Champion as she can call upon, for Gaynor’s plan goes far beyond a simple kidnapping. If Oonagh can be forced to lead them to Elric’s albino son, Gaynor will be able to use him to summon the Runestaff. And that mystical artefact, in the hands of Gaynor and the Dark Empire of Granbretan, could threaten the entire multiverse, and the existence of the Cosmic Balance, itself …
He had forgotten his real name, so they called him “Spingarn” after the last role he had played. He was the man the directors of the Frames regarded as their major headache – for he was guilty of two unforgivable arrogances. He had programmed himself into every one of the vast world-staged dramas he had directed – and he had reactivated the forbidden Frames of the pre-human planet of Talisker.
In those days of an overcrowded colonized cosmos, a thousand years from now, the Frames were the major means of diversion. Historical re-creations and fictional dramas played out with planets as stages and while populations as actors – the Frame directors and their robot assistants had become the masters of all life.
They could not destroy Spingarn, THE PROBABILITY MAN, but they could sentence him to undo the damage he had done. So he was sent to the mad Frames of Talisker to unravel the secret of their origin a billion years before the universe
James Blish called him the “finest conscious artist science fiction ever produced.” Kurt Vonnegut based the famous character Kilgore Trout on him. And such luminaries as Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, and Octavia Butler have hailed him as a mentor. Theodore Sturgeon was both a popular favorite and a writer’s writer, carving out a singular place in the literary landscape based on his masterful wordplay, conceptual daring, and narrative drive. Sturgeon’s sardonic sensibility and his skill at interweaving important social issues such as sex-including gay themes-and war into his stories are evident in all of his work, regardless of genre.
Case and the Dreamer displays Sturgeon’s gifts at their peak. The book brings together his last stories, written between 1972 and 1983. They include “The Country of Afterward,” a sexually explicit story Sturgeon had been unable to write earlier in his career, and the title story, about an encounter with a transpatial being that is also a meditation on love. Several previously unpublished stories are included, as well as his final one, “Grizzly,” a poignant take on the lung disease that killed him two years later.
Set sixteen years after the events of The Exiled Earthborn, this explosive conclusion of the Earthborn trilogy tells the story of two brothers, the sons of Lucas and Asha, tasked with surviving the Xalan war to ensure the continued existence of the human race.
Noah, an orphan from Earth’s last days who, as a child, was smuggled to safety across the stars, is now nearly a man and a leader to the young enclave of Earthborn who reside on Sora. When the tranquility of their settlement is shattered by a shocking assassination attempt, Noah turns to his combative younger brother Erik, Lucas and Asha’s only child by blood, for aid. Their journey takes them to the remnants of a dead planet, an outlaw-infested space station, and back to Sora, whose inhabitants are bracing for a final showdown with the bloodthirsty Xalans.
They find themselves facing a new evil: the omnipotent Archon, who is somehow controlling the whole of the Xalan horde, and his bloodthirsty lieutenant, the Black Corsair, who has an unmatched taste for brutality. The Archon, so-called God of the Shadows, has unearthed knowledge that could wipe both Sorans and humans alike from the face of existence. The descendants of the Earthborn must uncover the true nature of the Archon and the Xalans before he burns everything they know and love to ashes.
“Variety is the soul of pleasure,” And variety is what this comprehensive new collection of Connie Willis is all about. The stories cover the entire spectrum, from sad to sparkling to terrifying, from classics to hard-to-find treasures with everything in between – orangutans, Egypt, earthworms, roast goose, college professors, mothers-in-law, aliens, secret codes, Secret Santas, tube stations, choir practice, the post office, the green light on Daisy’s dock, weddings, divorces, death, and assorted plagues, from scarlet fever to “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And a dog.
Famous for her “sure-hand plotting, unforgettable characters, and top-notch writing,” Willis has been called, “the most relentlessly delightful science fiction writer alive,” and there are numerous examples here. Among them, Willis’s most famous stories – the Hugo- and Nebula-Award-winning “Fire Watch” and “Even the Queen” and “The Last of the Winnebagos” – along with undiscovered gems like Willis’s heartfelt homage to Jack Williamson, “Nonstop to Portales.” Her magical Christmas stories are here, too, from “Newsletter” to “Just Like the Ones We Used to Know…” which last year was made into the TV movie, Snow Wonder, starring Mary Tyler Moore.
We’ve collected stories from throughout Willis’s career, from early ones like “Cash Crop” and “Daisy, in the Sun,” right up to her newest stories, including the wonderful “The Winds of Marble Arch.” There’s literally something for everyone here. If you’re a diehard Willis fan, you’ll be delighted with hard-to-find treasures like the until-now uncollected, “The Soul Selects Her Own Society…” If you’ve never read Connie Willis, this is your chance to discover “A Letter from the Clearys” and, well, “Chance.” To say nothing of, “At the Rialto,” the funniest story ever written about quantum physicists. And Willis’s chilling, “All My Darling Daughters.”
And…oh, there are too many great stories here to list and pleasures galore. So enjoy!
These seventeen classic stories create their own unique galaxy of vain, protective, and murderous robots; devilish angels; and warm and angry aliens. In “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”-the inspiration for New Line Cinema’s major motion picture The Last Mimzy-a boy finds a discarded box containing a treasure trove of curious objects. When he and his sister begin to play with these trinkets-including a crystal cube that magnifies the unimaginable and a strange doll with removable organs that don’t quite correspond to those of the human body-their parents grow concerned. And they should be. For the items are changing the way the children think and perceive the world around them-for better or worse.
Ray Bradbury called Henry Kuttner “a man who shaped science fiction and fantasy in its most important years.” Marion Zimmer Bradley and Roger Zelazny said he was a major inspiration. Kuttner was a writer’s writer whose visionary works anticipated our own computer-controlled, machine-made world. At the time of his death at forty-two in 1958, he had created as many as 170 stories under more than a dozen pseudonyms-sometimes writing entire issues of science fiction magazines-in close collaboration with his wife, C. L. Moore.
This definitive collection will be a revelation to those who wish to discover or rediscover Henry Kuttner, a true master of the universe.
For millennia, humankind and the other intelligent races had studied the bizarre and unfathomable constructs of the legendary beings known as Builders. But for all that study, they were still no closer to figuring out who – or what – the Builders had been, or where they had gone. Then, on the world called Quake, in the midst of the violent planetary upheaval that was Summertide, a small group of humans and aliens witnessed the culmination of all those years of watching and waiting: the planet Quake opened up, and something came out – and it looked as if, at long last, the discovery of the Builders themselves was at hand.
All her life, Darya Lang had dreamed of finding the Builders, whose artifacts she had single-handedly catalogued for the rest of the universe. Troubleshooter and adventurer Hans Rebka had his own dreams of unraveling the mystery of those artifacts. To Louis Nenda and the Cecropian Atvar H’sial, the Builder artifacts represented a once-in-a-lifetime shot at untold wealth. And close behind them came the others: Councilor Julius Graces, who did not trust anyone to make first contact unassisted; the slavesJ’merlia and Kallik, who craved only a reunion with their masters; and the embodied computer E.C. Tally, charged with finding out just what the rest were up to.
The trail that began at Quake led to unexpected Builder artifacts full of traps for the unwary and answers for those who knew how to ask the questions. But the biggest question of all would remain an enigma, while their search unleashed the greatest threat to civilization ever imagined…
In a distant future, on an Earth populated by a scant few hundred thousand humans, the Atkins’s Thomas performs without question the duties for which he was genetically bred. Called “Soldier” by one and all, he is a man of honor and ability, responsible for keeping the peace, for maintaining the status quo . . . and, most important, for guarding the great Book House on the hill – a vast repository of Last Culture knowledge presided over by Libary, Soldier’s mentor, the most senior of the mystic Celibate scholars.
Such is Thomas’s life in the serene, semi-primitive world without nations and cities and governments – until the night the starship comes home. Having fled a dangerously overcrowded Earth years before the Collapse and the Twilight that followed, for seven centuries the men and women of the space-going vessel Search have been combing the galaxy for inhabitable planets – their aging processes dramatically slowed by the relative magic of light speed travel and cryogenic sleep. And now, lonely and frustrated, the weary voyagers have returned to a homeworld unrecognizably altered by the relentless tides of time – a world that does not want them back.
A bitter welcome awaits the Searchers, as old Libary gathers Earth’s Ordinands and Elders together to tap the terrifying power of the collective unconscious – in preparation of the Carnival night when they will sweep the helpless intruders back to their lonely sky in the name of Holy Science. And it is Soldier who stands in the middle, silent and alone – bound by duty to evict the homesick star-travelers . . . yet cursed by a preordained genetic destiny that has decreed their eviction will mean Soldier’s death.
Ed Carter, a New York reporter on his way to his home town in Omaha for a short vacation, saw the missile in the last moments in its journey back to earth. A sweller on the brink, like all of us, he had no doubt about what it was; Oh God, he thought, this is it. The blast of the impact flung him some distance, and when he regained consciousness, his first reaction was one of surprised to find himself still alive, and not, it seemed, even badly hurt. Presumably the missile had been directed at the big Air Force base nearby, and should have destroyed everything and everyone within a radius of miles. Could it have failed to explode?
Carter sees the remains of part of the missile in an adjacent field and hobbles over to it. A minute or two later several Air Force officers arrive. They examine the remains, and find the burned-up body of a pilot. In other worlds, the missile was not Russia’s first shot in the Third World War, but a failure to launch a man into space. But Carter knows that the Distant Early Warning line will have reported the missile; that the senior Air Force officers, in accordance with plan, will have taken to the air – in the country’s interest, their lives must, of course, be preserved if possible; that by now the retaliatory American bombers will have passed the point of no recall; and that the Third World War has begun. Not so, Colonel Ben Goldwater tells him: “I called the bombers back.”
Goldwater, the man who had been left in command, has saved the world – for at least a little longer. So he becomes a world hero? Not a bit of it. On the contrary: a nightmare looms ahead both for him and for Ed Carter, and the reader watches it all with growing fury…
An introductory note seems called for to explain to the reader the origin of the following strange document, which I have received from a friend with a view to publication. The author has given it the form of a letter to myself, and he signs himself with his nickname, “Cass,” which is an abbreviation of Cassandra. I have seldom met Cass since we were undergraduates together at Oxford before the war of 1914. Even in those days he was addicted to lurid forebodings, hence his nickname.
My last meeting with him was in one of the great London blitzes of 1941, when he reminded me that he had long ago prophesied the end of civilization in world-wide fire. The Battle of London, he affirmed, was the beginning of the long-drawn-out disaster.
Cass will not, I am sure, mind my saying that he always seemed to us a bit crazy: but he certainly had a queer knack of prophesy, and though we thought him sometimes curiously unable to understand the springs of his own behaviour, he had a remarkable gift of insight into the minds of others. This enabled him to help some of us to straighten out our tangles, and I for one owe him a debt of deep gratitude. He saw me heading for a most disastrous love affair, and by magic (no other word seems adequate) he opened my eyes to the folly of it. It is for this reason that I feel bound to carry out his request to publish the following statement. I cannot myself vouch for its truth. Cass knows very well that I am an inveterate sceptic about all his fantastic ideas. It was on this account that he invented my nickname. “Thos,” which most of my Oxford friends adopted. “Thos,” of course, is an abbreviation for Thomas, and refers to the “doubting Thomas” of the New Testament.
Cass, I feel confident, is sufficiently detached and sane to realize that what is veridical for him may be sheer extravagance for others, who have no direct experience by which to judge his claims. But if I refrain from believing, I also refrain from disbelieving. Too often in the past I have known his wild prophesies come true.
The head of the following bulky letter bears the address of a well-known mental home.