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Worlds Without End Blog

WoGF Review: Graceling by Kristen Cashore Posted at 7:30 PM by Stephanie


WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeStephanie (Rhetori_Cat), became a fan of science fiction and fantasy when she convinced her dad to hand over his copy of Ender’s Game by creepily reading over his shoulder until he couldn’t stand it anymore. Since then, she’s turned her love into a research interest as she works on her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition (don’t worry, nobody knows what that means). Her blog, Speculative Rhetoric, focuses on the relationships between speculative fiction and theories of gender, language, communication, and rhetoric.

GracelingKristin Cashore‘s debut novel Graceling was published in 2008, about two and a half weeks after Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. I make a point of saying this if only to remind myself that there is very, very little possibility that the novels are actually in conversation with each other, and instead they are perhaps reflecting larger cultural shifts. I read Graceling as part of the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge (henceforth the WoGF) since Cashore had been on my radar for a while, but I hadn’t actually read any of her work. I pretty much inhaled the novel; I read about half of it last night while I should have been reading for class, but no regrets.

The Plot: Katsa is the orphaned niece of King Randa and his number one thug. Possessing superhuman abilities, called her Grace, Katsa can kill pretty much anyone or anything with ease; unfortunately, she discovers her power by inadvertently killing an adult cousin when she was six years old because she did not want the man to touch her. Disgusted by her role as Randa’s enforcer throughout the seven kingdoms, Katsa organizes the Council, a group of individuals from lords down to servants who seek to protect citizens in all kingdoms from the power-hunger of their kings. Through her work for the Council, Katsa meets Po, a Graced fighting prince from the peaceful island of Lienid who searches for his kidnapped grandfather. After refusing to do Randa’s dirty work any longer, Katsa removes herself from the court and travels with Po as he seeks more information about his grandfather’s disappearance. What they discover is the underhanded work of the supposedly kind and beneficent King Leck of Monsea, who is himself Graced with the ability to fog people’s mind with his words and make them remember events as he chooses. Po and Katsa’s goal becomes saving Leck’s daughter Bitterblue from her sick, twisted, perverted, evil father.

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WoGF Review: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood Posted at 5:40 PM by Matt W.


WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeMatt W. (Mattastrophic), is a teacher and a PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition in Kentucky. SF is his literary indulgence, his escape from dissertation writing, and the subject of an occasional conference presentation. His blog, Strange Telemetry, is both his sounding board and his chronicle as he makes his way through the various sub-genres of SF in order to better understand his tastes as a reader and the craft of writing in general.

Oryx and CrakeOryx and Crake is told in the third person and it alternates between the past and present of Snowman, the last normal human survivor of an apocalyptic plague. Snowman is sworn to watch over the “Crakers,” bio-engineered humans created by his childhood friend Crake. Snowman is very much alone, however, since the Crakers are very naive and have had many human traits (like love and the need to eat animal meat) bypassed in their design. Snowman whiles away the time reminiscing about his previous life, when he was known as Jimmy.

Jimmy grew up under the domes of mega-corporations, segregated from the poverty-stricken, disease-ridden plebeians. Disregarded by his father (a corporate genetic engineer) and abandoned by his mother (who leaves him to become a corporate saboteur), Jimmy befriends Crake, a boy genius who grows up to become a leading corporate bio-engineer. The story of Snowman/Jimmy is told as he wanders the wastes of civilization, pondering his relationships with Crake and with Oryx (former child prostitute, teacher of the Crakers, and lover of both Jimmy and Crake), and trying to reconcile the events that brought him and the rest of humanity over the precipice.

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2012 BSFA Awards Shortlist Announced Posted at 1:00 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Dark EdenEmpty SpaceIntrusionJack Glass2312

The shortlist for the 2012 British Science Fiction Association Award has been announced. The nominees for Best Novel are:

The 2012 awards will be held at Olympus 2012, The 2013 Eastercon, which takes place from March 29 – April 1, 2013 at the Cedar Court Hotel, Bradford. Visit the BSFA website for the complete list of nominees in all categories. Congratulations to all the nominees.

What do you think of this list? Any favorites to win?

WoGF Review: The Bird of the River by Kage Baker Posted at 8:22 AM by Ann Walker

Ann Walker

WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeAnn Walker (Ann Walker) is well past the point of being embarrassed to say she’s a fantasy fan. When people try to talk to her about spy thrillers or romantic comedies, she smiles politely and hopes her eyes aren’t glazing over too obviously. Ann loves character-driven stories with rich, detailed world building. Her favorite authors, unsurprisingly, are Ellen Kushner, Robin Hobb, and Lisa Barnett. When she’s not reading, she’s doing yoga; when she’s doing yoga, she’s thinking about what she’s been reading, even though she knows she shouldn’t be.

The Bird of the RiverI needed to start my WoGF reading somewhere, and I had heard of Kage Baker, so I figured she would be a good place. I looked at some recommendations, chose the book with the highest reader rating, put in the request at my library, and sat down to wait. While I was waiting, I started reading the e-book, The Best of Kage Baker. The stories (mostly from The Company series) were enjoyable, but I didn’t really find them anything special.

Then I started reading The Bird of the River, and within the first twenty pages I was absolutely captivated.

First of all, the world building, one of my favorite aspects of fantasy, was rich and detailed, but unique in that the focus was not on wizards and princes but everyday people, working at everyday jobs – salvage workers, cooks, itinerant musicians. Real people in a real world that had some fantastical elements. The next aspect that delighted me was the joyful, lyrical language. Even when the subject matter was not in itself joyful or lyrical (more along the lines of the nitty-gritty of life) the writing was simply beautiful.

Kage BakerThe nitty-gritty of life: that’s what this book is mainly about. Poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, racism. But also the joy of finding your own way in life, your own unique skills and abilities, finding your place in the community, and making your future. It’s a YA book, so these issues are handled from a YA perspective, but the themes are universal.

There are two other books set in this same world, and as soon as they arrive from my library, I’ll put my WoGF challenge reading on hold for a bit (it won’t take long) and devour those two books. I wish I could review more articulately, to enumerate in detail with examples from the text, but I’m not that type of reviewer, I’m afraid – it’s all heartfelt and gut-felt from me. So a heartfelt, “Thank you, WoGF Challenge!” If not for you, I would never have discovered Kage Baker and this wondrous world.

WoGF Review: Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord Posted at 11:35 AM by Alexandra P.


WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeAlexandra P. (everythinginstatic) was first introduced to sci-fi by her father, at the age of 14. Although it took 3 years and 2 attempts to finish Foundation, she hasn’t stopped reading sci-fi since, branching out into fantasy and speculative fiction as well. Her biggest passions are reading, tea and photography, and she hopes that 2013 will be the year she finally revisits Hari Seldon. You can read more of her reviews on her blog Wanderlust.

Redemption in IndigoOh, I do love modern fables. There’s always something refreshing about different takes on the same stories that, to me, form part of the collective unconscious. Karen Lord takes a tale of redemption that, to some extent, we are all familiar with, and turns it into an enchanting story about resilience and the power of the human spirit. I found it, by turns, funny, sad, and absolutely exhilarating. For a first novel, it’s certainly a very strong effort and there are only minor quibbles with the overall thing that keep it from a full five star rating for me.

Redemption in Indigo is the story of Paama, the wife of the gluttonous, foolish Ansige, who one day leaves him and returns to her village of Makhenda. Her husband tracks her down and attempts to try and convince her to return, only to blunder his way into trouble, leaving Paama to deal with the consequences (mostly shame). This leads to her acquiring the Chaos Stick from the djombi, or undying ones, and the quest of one such spirit to retrieve all this power for his own gain. What follows is a wonderfully spun web of redemption, understanding and love through the mythical savannah.

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Grand Master Reading Challenge December Poll Results and Final Wrap Up Posted at 6:33 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Grand Master Reading Challenge

Scott LazerusThe December GMRC Review Poll is over and our winner is Scott Lazerus (Scott Laz) who actually tied himself in the voting for the 2 reviews he submitted: The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov and Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin. Congrats to Scott for exiting the GMRC in style!

For his efforts, Scott has won a GMRC T-shirt, a GMRC button and a set of commemorative WWEnd Hugo Award bookmarks as well as his choice of book from the WWEnd bookshelf. All runners-up will receive a button and a set of bookmarks.

2012 GMRC Finishers:

Some Final GMRC Numbers

So, how did it all turn out? Fantastic! We had really great participation throughout the whole year and learned a lot about running a challenge – info that has already helped us improve on this year’s challenge. Here are the final stats and some thoughts on each:

Participants: 174
When we started the challenge we had no idea how many people would sign up. Our expectations ranged from 10 on the low end to 100 in our dreams. We would have been quite happy to hit somewhere in the middle so 174 was a nice surprise. Of the 174 readers 28 read the full 12 books with 17 members who completed the whole challenge by submitting the required 6 reviews (names in bold). Congrats to all our finishers!

Books Read: 737
Taking out the 46 people who signed up but didn’t read any books we end up with and average of 5.76 books read per challenge participant. The folks who did not finish the challenge accounted for 401 of the books read while those who did managed the other 336.  Not too bad, I’d say!

Books Reviewed: 230
This is my favorite stat of the bunch! WWEnd members really came through on this count and out of 230 reviews we featured 90 of the best in the WWEnd blog. Well done everyone!

So that’s the end of the 2012 WWEnd Grand Master Reading Challenge! I hope you all enjoyed the experience and the great books and we want to thank all our readers for making it such a success. We had a lot of fun, brought in a ton of great new members into our little community and far exceeded our expectations on every level. The success of the GMRC has put us in a really great position for the Women of Genre Fiction challenge this year too. Many of the same readers are back for a second go and early indications are good that we’ll blow past last year’s numbers across the board.

Happy reading everyone and thanks again for being on the ride with us!

Free Audiobook: The Human Division, Episode 1: The B-Team by John Scalzi Posted at 12:02 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

The B-TeamThe Human Division,” John Scalzi’s eagerly awaited return to the Old Man’s War universe, is available at Audible beginning today, January 15. Even more exciting, the first installment of this innovative “episodic narrative” will be available free via Audible’s Facebook page. Episodes 2-13 are available for pre-order and will be released weekly, for $.99 each, through April; fans who choose to pre-order all 12 remaining episodes will automatically receive a new installment of “The Human Division” in their Audible library each Tuesday through April 9. For more information, see here:

If you’ve not tried audio books before and you’re a Scalzi fan this is a great chance to give it a go for next to nothing.  Audiobooks are rarely this cheap and the serial delivery is pretty sweet – like listening to an old time radio drama.  Check it out.

Free Books: The Taker Trilogy by Alma Katsu Posted at 8:08 AM by Dave Post

Dave Post

The  TakerThe Reckoning

Just in time for the WoGF Reading Challenge, fantasy author Alma Katsu is giving away autographed sets of her books The Taker and The Reckoning to one lucky winner each week for the next three weeks. This is in celebration of the trade paperback release of The Reckoning, book 2 in her Taker Trilogy. All you have to do to enter is visit her blog and post a comment – winners will be picked at random from each week’s comments.

Alma’s books are obviously eligible for the WoGF and, if you win, you can use her as your random author pick. Schweet! Be sure to let her know you saw the giveaway on WWEnd!

WoGF Review: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold Posted at 8:00 AM by Nathan Barnhart


WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeNathan Barnhart (Skynjay) is one of three reviewers for Fantasy Review Barn. Though he read Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books as a kid, he didn’t really get into the genre until a few years ago, at which point he started reading any speculative fiction he could get his hands on. If not reading or playing with his kid, you can find him at the rec getting beat in basketball.

The Cures of ChalionThis is another example of me finding a book that it feels everyone else already knew about, raved about, and left me wondering why the hell I have not read it before. The Curse of Chalion is my first reading of Lois McMaster Bujold, but will certainly not be my last. Here is an author who knows how to play with pacing, keeping the duller times in the character’s lives interesting somehow, but providing occasional action scenes that don’t lack either. Even better, in my mind, the very strong pacing and plot is outdone by the strength of the characters.

There really isn’t much the author didn’t do just right in this book. The book is the story of Cazaril, former soldier, former rower on a slave ship, and at the start of the book, a penniless man hoping to beg a job from a family he served earlier in life. Hoping for any job at all, he is surprised to be offered a job as secretary/tutor to Royesse Iselle, second in line to the throne. Doing his best to remain inconspicuous, he finds himself dragged into the political arena. Even worse, he becomes aware of a curse hanging over the whole family, and may be the only one who can remove it.

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John Milton, WWEnd author? Posted at 7:01 PM by Rico Simpkins


Space Devil!Occasionally, we at WWEnd find ourselves debating the same topics.  The fact that we can’t come to any resolution is interpreted by some to mean that we shouldn’t debate these topics at all.  To us, it’s precisely the reason we have so much fun discussing them.  One such topic is the perennial “Who was first?” question.  Among those, the most heated tends to be “Who was the first SF author?”  I, like many fans, have long argued that Mary Shelley ought to hold that distinction, while Dave (our fearless leader) holds that H. G. Wells deserves the title for actually sustaining a career in the genre over his lifetime.

We now have a new candidate for the for first SF author:  one John Milton.  Katy Waldman, over at Slate says that “the text of Paradise Lost is saturated in science.”

Milton met Galileo, for the first and only time, in a 1638 visit that Jonathan Rosen compared to “those comic book specials in which Superman meets Batman.” The “Tuscan artist” appears in Paradise Lost more than once. Book I compares Satan’s shield to the moon seen through a telescope. And the poem is studded with scientific details—“luminous inferior orbs” churning through outer space, descriptions of sunspots and seasons, creatures that evolve (according to divine plan, but still). Through it all, Milton, a storyteller, comes off as entranced by the laws governing the universe. (His mouthpiece in this regard is Adam, who cannot get enough of the angel Raphael’s disquisition on celestial motions in Book VIII.) There’s something very sci-fi about anyone who, while taking care to present his era’s astronomical theories as speculative, still likes to spin that speculation out into long descriptions of cosmic phenomena. Arthur C. Clarke would surely be proud.

Intrigued?  In that same article, Waldman quotes a passage describing Satan’s journey through the cosmos on his descent from Heaven to Earth, where he flies past “other worlds,” but does not stick around long enough to find out “who dwelt happy there.”  Perhaps Milton left those worlds unsung so that all the great authors we know and love could populate them one by one.

[Slate via Andrew Sullivan]