The Humanx Commonwealth: Book Five.
He was smart. He was good. He was backed by the Commonwealth’s best equipment. So what could possibly go wrong?
‘In the midst of life…’ thought Evan Orgel.
A whole lot of life. Alien life-form upon alien life-form, crawling, floating, wriggling, darting and oozing. The entire unexplored surface of the planet Prism was unimaginably alive.
‘…we are in death.’
His death. His Mobile Hostile World suit – the very latest, state-of-the-art, off-world protection gear – had just failed. Attacked in just about the only way its proud makers hadn’t thought of.
So there he lay, a hermit crab trapped in his own armour, while the myriad alien life-forms of prism crawled, floated, wriggled, darted and oozed about him, getting ready to open him up like a tin of upmarket cat food.
Evan Orgell was full of misery.
Empath Kayla John Reed’s rebel forces, the War Minstrels, had struck a crucial blow at the heart of Yates Keller’s empire, conquering the Alliance capital, Vardalia. It should have been Kayla’s moment of triumph. But Vardalia was a shambles, and not only had Yates himself escaped, he claimed to have her friends and shipmates in his clutches.
Kayla had no choice but to agree to the terms he’d left in a holographic message. Meet him on their home world, the mining colony Styx, surrender the fabled Mindstone to him, and Keller would release her friends. Yet even as she set off for the rendezvous point, trouble was brewing among the War Minstrels – trouble that could transform their successful revolution into the deadliest kind of anarchy if she didn’t make it back in time. And what Kayla had no way of know foreseeing was that Styx itself hid a peril far greater than any trap Keller had planned for her…
‘All le Guin’s stories are metaphors for the one human story; all her fantastic planets are this one’ Margaret Atwood
ARMCHAIR TRAVEL FOR THE MIND:
It was Sita Dulip who discovered, whilst stuck in an airport, unable to get anywhere, how to change planes – literally. With a kind of a twist and a slipping bend, easier to do than describe, she could go anywhere – be anywhere – because she was already between planes … and on the way back from her sister’s wedding, she missed her plane in Chicago and found herself in Choom.
The author, armed with this knowledge and Rornan’s invaluable Handy Planetary Guide – although not the Encyclopedia Planeria, as that runs to forty-four volumes – has spent many happy years exploring places as diverse as Islac and the Veksian plane.
CHANGING PLANES is an intriguing, enticing mixture of GULLIVER’S TRAVELS and THE HITCH-HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY; a cross between Douglas Adams and Alain de Botton: a mix of satire, cynicism and humour by one of the world’s best writers.
It all began simply enough. A client had vanished, and Jay Corcoran went to investigate the man’s empty hotel suite. But Corcoran’s trick vision spotted the room-sized box stuck to the outside wall of the suite. There was no way to get into the box, so Corcoran cabled his long-time pal Tom Boone.
Boone had a talent. When threatened he could “step around a corner” into some otherwhere. Boone stepped into the box, taking Corcoran with him. The box turned out to be a time traveler machine that transported them back to 1745 England, where they found a family of refugees from a million years in the future. In that far future, alien Infinites were converting humanity to incorporeal form. When the family had refused conversion, they had to flee. For more than a century, the family had lain hidden in their time bubble.
Suddenly, the Infinites’ killer monster broke through–and things grew complicated as the family fled to the distant past and the farther future.
The Zardalu were the greatest menace ever known to the worlds of the spiral arm, enslaving entire races and exterminating others, guided by an unswerving belief in their own supremacy. Then their slaves rose up against them, and for eleven thousand years the Zardalu had been extinct and the spiral arm had known a kind of peace.
But now the Zardalu are back . . .
The search for the Builders, the legendary alien race whose unfathomable constructs continued to perplex scholars and explorers alike, had led Builder expert Darya Lang, adventurer Hans Rebka, and treasure hunters Louis Nenda and Atvar H’sial to an unknown Builder artifact far outside the spiral arm. There they found the Zardalu – just a few who had been trapped in stasis all those millennia, held there for purposes known only to the Builders. And in the struggle that ensued the Zardalu had been set loose, transported by Builder technology to to galactic parts unknown – free to ravage any world and any race within their grasp.
The only chance to eliminate the Zardalu threat was to find them and wipe them out before they had time to breed back up to strength and once again threaten civilized beings everywhere. The problem was that no one believed the story. Only Darya Land and her companions had actually seen the aliens – and no evidence existed to support their claims. And so the course seemed clear: get a ship themselves and search out the Zardalu.
But the way would not be easy. Even once they managed to locate the Zardalu, they still had the Builders to deal with. For the closer they got to their quarry, the more clear it became that the Zardalu and their world were closely entwined with the fate – and the plans – of the Builders themselves.
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…
Light on Bottom…
The light was artificial. Believe it if you can. I realise that for a normal person it’s hard. Wasting watts to light up the outdoors is bad enough. Spending the world’s limited power to illuminate the sea bottom, though – well, for a few moments I was too furious to think straight. My job has brought me into contact with people who were careless with energy, with people who stole it, and even with people who misused it; but this was a brand-new dimension!
I was lower now and could see acres and acres of light stretching off to the north, east, and west until it blurred out of sight. Acres and acres lighted by things suspended a few yards above the level bottom, things visible only as black specks in the centre of slightly brighter areas.
Then I got my anger under control, or maybe my fear did it for me. I suddenly realised that if I hit bottom the way I was heading I might never be able to get back to the…
Ocean on Top.
Grad-school dropout Matt Fuller is toiling as a lowly research assistant at MIT when, while measuring quantum relationships between gravity and light, his calibrator disappears – and reappears, one second later. In fact, every time Matt hits the reset button, the machine goes missing twelve times longer.
After tinkering with the calibrator, Matt is convinced that what he has in his possession is a time machine. And by simply attaching a metal box to it, he learns to send things through time – including a pet-store turtle, which comes back no worse for wear.
With a dead-end job and a girlfriend who left him for another man, Matt has nothing to lose by taking a time machine trip for himself. So he borrows an old car, stocks it with food and water, and ends up in the near future – under arrest for the murder of the car’s original owner, who dropped dead after seeing Matt disappear before his eyes. The only way to beat the rap is to continue time travelling until he finds a place in time safe enough to stop for good. But such a place may not exist…
THE BALANCE BETWEEN LAW AND CHAOS has long been maintained by the rulers of Béarn, but the death of the current king has enabled the elves to magically substitute one of their own on the throne. And, under the leadership of Dh’arlo’mé, the dark elves are preparing to claim their long-sought vengeance on mankind.
But when the small party which set out to find and bring back the last possible heir to the throne returns to Béarn, Dh’arlo’mé realizes that even magic and murder combined will not be enough to overturn the balance. Now his solution must hinge on Béarn’s burden and treasure: the Staffs of Law and Chaos. Within these plain-pieces of wood dwell the essences of Law and Chaos, each eternally seeking its Champion to destroy the other.
Lured into one Staff’s power, Dh’arlo’mé seeks to seduce the mortals into championing the other. And with all the worlds teetering on the brink of doom, it falls to Colbey Calistinsson – son of the god Thor and the greatest of Renshai warriors – to select that Champion. If he chooses wrongly, all life will come to an end. Yet even success will come at a high price. For the only way to insure that this danger can never arise again, is for both Champions and Staffs to be totally annihilated.
In an age of wizards and walled cities, Raffalon is a journeyman member of the Ancient and Honorable Guild of Purloiners and Purveyors. In other words, a thief.
His skills allow him to scale walls, tickle locks, defeat magical wards. He lifts treasures and trinkets, and spends the proceeds on ale and sausages in taverns where a wise thief sits with his back to the wall.
But somehow things often go the way they shouldn’t and then Raffalon has to rely upon his wits and a well calibrated sense of daring.
Here are nine tales that take our enterprising thief into the Underworld and Overworld, and pit him against prideful thaumaturges, grasping magnates, crooked guild masters, ghosts, spies, ogres, and a talented amateur assassin.
Includes “Inn of the Seven Blessings,” from the bestselling anthology, ROGUES, and “Sternutative Sortilege,” which appears only in this collection.
Praise for Matthew Hughes:
“Matthew Hughes does Jack Vance better than anyone except Jack himself” – George R.R. Martin
“Heir apparent to Jack Vance” – Booklist
“Hughes’s boldness is admirable”- New York Review of Science Fiction
“Hughes effortlessly renders fantastic worlds and beings believable”- Publishers Weekly
“A towering talent”- Robert J. Sawyer
“A treasure” – David Gerrold
Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast-no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.
When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body-any body-so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless-until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.
With two extremely strong female protagonists, Radiant is a story of fighting for what you believe in and finding strength that you never thought you had.
During the day a blazing and merciless sun beat down on “the boy” and at night a friendless and cold darkness enveloped him. It was a bleak and lonely countryside over which he had been wandering for ten years. A rare tree, bird or wild animal was the only life he encountered during his desolate trek through his young years of roaming. Infrequently, he was fortunate enough to find shelter and food in the shops of deserted villages; otherwise he foraged what he could from the nearly barren land. Contact with other humans was his innermost and greatest fear.
But the day came when his curiosity overcame his sensibilities of self-preservation and he was drawn to the sound of a great wailing not far from a place where he had come to rest.
Form that moment on his whole existence took on a radical change. His wanderings became a kaleidoscope of adventures, emotions, and responsibilities – never static, forever mobile, and potentially dangerous. There were moments when it would have been easier to turn his back, return to old ways, but somehow he knew this was an impossibility. He accepted his new fate, but still feared the greatest of all commitments until it was too late for him.
This fantasy adventure will not fail to excite and stir in every reader memories and emotions of seemingly forgotten times and moments.
Gifted novelist Fowler (Sarah Canary and The Sweetheart Season) delights in the arcane, and, as a result, these 15 clever tales are occasionally puzzling but never dull.
In the long title story, temperance activist Carry Nation is resurrected in the 1990s (“We’re talking about a very troubled, very big woman,” says one shaken barman to reporters) and becomes such a nuisance that the DEA is forced to dispatch her with voodoo. Other plots are only slightly less outrageous in conceit. In “Lieserl,” a lovesick madwoman dupes Albert Einstein into believing he has a daughter; in “The Faithful Companion at Forty,” Tonto admits to second thoughts about his biggest life choice (“But for every day, for your ordinary life, a mask is only going to make you more obvious. There’s an element of exhibitionism in it”). “The Travails” offers a peek at the one-sided correspondence of Mary Gulliver, who wants Lemuel to come home already and help out around the house. The homage to Swift makes sense, for, when Fowler doesn’t settle for amusing her readers, she makes a lively satirist. The extraterrestrials who appear in her stories (whether the inscrutably sadistic monsters in “Duplicity” or the members of a seminar studying late-1960s college behavior in “The View from Venus: A Case Study”) seem stand-ins for the author herself, who, in elegant and witty prose, cultivates the eye of a curious alien and, along the way, unfolds eccentric plots that keep the pages turning.
Black Glass (1991), Contention (1986), Shimabara (1995), The Elizabeth Complex (1996), Go Back (1998), The Travails (1998), Lieserl (1990), Letters from Home (1987), Duplicity (1989), The Faithful Companion at Forty (1987), The Brew (1995), Lily Red (1988), The Black Fairy’s Curse (1997), The View from Venus (1986), Game Night at the Fox and Goose (1989)