Time! Plus Book Reviews, Promotions and more.
The Lampworks Lamplighter SF & Fantasy News & Reviews
Time is something that humanity has always known and measured. Early humans marked the days of the year to know when the solstices were, when to plant crops, when to expect the monsoons. But we tend to think of timekeeping as a more modern device. Clocks to tell workers their shift at the factory, or when to expect the next train. (Time zones were the creation of the railroads to allow them to synchronize their schedules.)
I did some reading for a time-travel story. Would people a thousand years ago have said, "I'll meet you in an hour," or "it took fifteen minutes to get to the market?" I found that as early as 1500 B.C., sundials were in use that divided the day into twelve parts, the basis for our modern clock faces. The division of circles into sixty parts dates back to the early Babylonians. The astronomer Ptolemy divided them again into sixty. The first divisions were minutae (minutes), and the second divisions were minutae secundae (seconds). But while the hours were divided into minutes and seconds over two thousand years ago, they weren't used until the first mechanical clocks in the early fourteenth century, the time of Chaucer. (But a 'moment' was about 1/40 of an hour. Go figure.)
But the idea of time as something precious that can be wasted, which seems so modern, makes an appearance in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales:
Let's lose as little time now as we may.
My lords, it's time that wastes both night and day,
That robs us while we sleep without defense,
And while awake, through our own negligence.
It's like a stream returning not again,
Descending from the mountain to the plain.
Well Seneca, like others of his measure,
Bewails the loss of time more than of treasure:
'Of chattels there may be recovery,
But we are ruined by loss of time,' said he.
Now that I've wasted this time in researching minutia that might be at best background for a story someday, I'll leave you with this question. How can you count to twelve on the four fingers of one hand, as the ancient Babylonians might have? Or for a bonus question: A clerk in a hardware store once counted out 31 items for me using one hand. How did he do it? The first five people to send me a correct answer at email@example.com will win a free certificate for a kindle copy of one of our books, Sellenria or Knots. The answers will appear in next month's newsletter.
Monsieur Resche is an art thief. He has crossed a bridge into a quaint town, a town that disappeared from Switzerland four centuries ago. Magic is possible there; in fact, all the magic that our world once had has ended up there. A precisely tied knot, an exactly folded paper, or a cunningly drawn figure can unlock wonders and horrors.
Resche has a mind that lets him excel at this new craft, but that brings him to the notice of powerful mages who play a great game of geomancy with tiles the size of countries. And when he looks for the bridge back to Geneva, it is nowhere to be found.
The Fractalist priest offers aid that may not be what it appears, the Jeweler has intricate schemes, the newspaper editor has taken an interest, the Astromancer had good advice before she was murdered, and Resche's cat just makes wisecracks.
Knots is a compelling story filled with unexpected characters, plot twists, literal location twists, mystery, and redemption.
Visit our archive of reviews and recommendations on the Books We Like page of our website. You'll find over one hundred recommendations in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Non Fiction.
Any book that has an occupation of 'coincidence engineer' has something going for it. Undertow has some interesting propositions to set up its world: instantaneous interstellar travel but only for non-sentient matter; people have to take the slow boat. Quantum uncertainty that can be manipulated on the macro level to create 'luck'.
Those things got me hooked and kept me interested, but there were also a few things that left me unsatisfied. People's reactions to events were sometimes puzzling. Even though you eventually learn why, the lack of any other characters questioning the dissonance was rather odd. The resolution also struck me as a bit magical, and not as satisfying as it could be. I've enjoyed Bear's later works greatly. Despite a few flaws this is certainly worth reading.
House of Rain is one of those rare books that may change you forever. It's not destined to have that affect on everyone, but for those with even a passing interest in the ancient Anasazi culture of the American Southwest (think Mesa Verde or Chaco Canyon), this book is a page-turner. While archaeology can seem like a dry subject, Craig Childs is a different kind of archaeologist. Part scientist, part adventurer, and occasional mystic, he seems driven by a passion not just to discover and understand, but to FEEL.
He uses the power of archaeological research and analysis mixed with his remarkable knowledge of the desert itself to build up an understanding of ancient people like layers on a painting, giving them the details that are often missing from a purely scientific approach. He seeks out their motivations, joys, sorrows, aspirations, and tragic ends. Is he absolutely right in all his inferences? Sometimes yes, other times perhaps not, but that may not be the point. There are many sources of information about the Ancient Puebloan cultures that stick strictly to known, established data and analysis. The true value of this book is in the intelligent, informed questions it asks and the unique literal and figurative paths it explores through Childs' almost lyrical writing. His theories aren't completely out there, but he isn't afraid to ruffle feathers with unorthodox thinking and his style of writing is engaging and thought-provoking, liberally sprinkled with vivid descriptions and entertaining tales of his adventures in the desert backcountry.
House of Rain has a structure that is almost a story within a story, which ties the various anecdotes and vignettes together as he slowly builds his case for the explanation of the mysterious vanishing of the Anasazi around the 13th century AD. As a long-time archaeology fanatic (who actually minored in archaeology as an accompaniment to my anthropology major) and with a longtime interest in the Ancient Puebloan peoples of the Southwest, I found the final chapters of this book almost breathtaking. Childs looks deeper at the holes in the ground and the scant remains of a past civilization, as well as the environment in which they lived to discern amongst the detrius, fleeting glimpses what their lives were truly about.
In a world enlarged by augmented reality, where smart clothes and smart lenses add layers of context and metadata to your experience, those who came to this experience late in life are at a disadvantage compared to the younger generation. Our foil in this story is Robert Gu, recently cured of Alzheimer's, who is struggling to re-integrate with this society. His children and their friends introduce him to this world, with mixed results. One symbol of this change is the effort to digitize all the works in the University Library – an effort that will free the world's knowledge to be used by all, at the cost of destroying the books themselves.
A shapeshifter breaks the first rule of her kind and allows a human to learn what she is. It's fortunate that she did, because she'll need that friendship to sustain her when a predator threatens to make her the last of her kind. Julie Czerneda's universe is full of a wonderful biological diversity and she connects her characters' motives to their biological imperatives in a way that few other authors do.
Fifteen years before I joined Arianna on her quest to break the curse and end the drought, I was just a simple Faun trying to keep my family alive.
After the day the rain stopped, I was forced to make some difficult decisions. I never could have guessed those decisions would have such a profound impact on the entire Kingdom of Idril...
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When Magic’s about to die, who are you going to call? Mabon is nowhere to be found, and when a powerful deity goes missing, you call in the experts. Enter Vejuna Fandango, the greatest herbologist Ze World has ever known, and Bolonius Piliferakis, a renowned wizzer specialist in dimension magic.
Wizzers and herbologists have been rivals for so long, no one can remember why. But now, they must team up and travel to another dimension as Magic begins to fade, for without Mabon, Ze World's harmony is broken. Their planet faces imminent destruction, and time is running out fast, because to make matters worse, Mabon’s not only missing, he’s been godnapped!
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Plundering innocent worlds; that is Doc Roberts job, and he is good at it. He was awarded a letter of Marque and a territory to hunt in exchange for his service to the Alliance and of course, a cut of his take.
The Alliance government can't openly operate in Commonwealth territory without starting another war, so they use privateers like Captain Roberts to destabilize governments and cause unease among the people in hopes that they will ask for Alliance protection.
Cheating and treachery cause Captain Roberts to reevaluate his loyalty. He can live with a little pilfering, but not outright stealing from him by trespassing on his planet. There is only one thing he can do. Teach the Alliance government that there is a price to pay for taking what is not theirs.
The Alliance goes too far when they send an assassin to kill Doc's wife. Now it is outright war, for Captain Roberts anyway. Now he is both a pirate and a rebel with people on both sides of the border whom either loves him or hates him.
After fighting a duel with one of the Alliance's promising new captains, torturing him, and leaving him for dead; he has made powerful enemies in the Alliance hegemony. The Alliance military leaders want to make Captain Roberts suffer like he made their captain suffer.
One man can only do so much, and Doc is getting tired. It is time to pass the reins of command to his son. But first, he must crush his son's dreams and teach him what it means to be an Alliance citizen.
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Emily Voss scrapes a living performing exorcisms in New York city. Despite occasional encounters with actual demons, most of her work is little more than fakery. She takes the money anyway and drowns her guilt in a glass of whisky at the end of the day.
Called to investigate strange occurrences in an aging hotel, Emily comes face to face with something that's going to take more than a kilo of salt and a few latin phrases to deal with.
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When a signature has the power to start a galactic war….
Parv Zarinth learned early in life that if he wanted to defy his father, he’d have to do it from somewhere half-way across the galaxy. He does his best on Hettamir to represent his father’s interests. He steers away from any conflict that may threaten the family business which translates into galactic empire.
Hettamir is a world with no other than hospitality industry. It’s a pleasure to do business on Hettamir, in every sense of the word. And Parv has been mixing business with pleasure for five years now, flying under the radar of his tyrannical father. The business is to expand his father’s business empire. The pleasure has a name: Arun Dyem. She is as beautiful as she is crafty, having risen from the ranks of sex industry to lead her people in a ‘velvet’ revolt.
As the champion of her people’s rights and freedom, she is relentless in lobbying the Galactic Confederation for a treaty that will bring Hettamir protection. It is the last thing the warlords of New Hebrides want.
Parv watches the preparations for the grand event, even as he tries to shake off the feeling that something…or everything is going to go wrong. He finally has what he’s always wanted—a woman he loves and means to keep. She is his whole life, his destiny. And he will fight to his last breath to hold on to his future….
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Three unlikely guardians have been chosen to breathe life back into Earth, but the prophecy is not welcomed by all the planet's inhabitants.
Zoe Dawn’s headstrong tendencies has brought the wrath of the Doyen upon her. But another tribe has their eyes on her ignited fire and will stop at nothing to claim Zoe Dawn as their own.
Alex has traveled a long way to find a safe place to survive, but her first mistake was returning to her hometown. Thousands of years and an entirely different dimension will not stop her enemies from pursuing her flood of abilities.
Kia Lynn has been marked by the rune of protection, fracturing her elemental connection with the other guardians. As her best friend is dragged away by a masked intruder, the rune activates and she is forced into a whirlwind of chaos that is filled with ghosts from her past.
Once these three are united, an unstoppable force could be invoked, but if they remain separated without completing their destinies, the portal for Earth's destruction will open instead.
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