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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

The judges of the 2018 Philip K. Dick Award and the Philadelphia SF Society, along with the Philip K. Dick Trust, have announced the seven nominated works that comprise the final ballot for the award. First prize and any special citations will be announced on Friday, March 30, 2018 at Norwescon 41 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Seattle Airport, SeaTac, Washington.

THE BOOK OF ETTA by Meg Elison (47North)
SIX WAKES by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
AFTER THE FLARE by Deji Bryce Olukotun (The Unnamed Press)
THE WRONG STARS by Tim Pratt (Angry Robot)
REVENGER Alastair Reynolds (Orbit)
BANNERLESS by Carrie Vaughn (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
ALL SYSTEMS RED by Martha Wells (

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States during the previous calendar year. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust and the award ceremony is sponsored by the Northwest Science Fiction Society. Last year’s winner was THE MERCY JOURNALS by Claudia Casper (Arsenal Press Publications) with a special citation to UNPRONOUNCEABLE by Susan DiRende (Aqueduct Press). The 2017 judges are Deborah J. Ross (chair), Robert Onopa, James Stoddard, Amy Thomson, and Rick Wilber.

Meg Elison

The Book of Etta
The Road to Nowhere 2
47North, February 21, 2017
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 314 pages

In the gripping sequel to the Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, one woman undertakes a desperate journey to rescue the future.

Etta comes from Nowhere, a village of survivors of the great plague that wiped away the world that was. In the world that is, women are scarce and childbearing is dangerous…yet desperately necessary for humankind’s future. Mothers and midwives are sacred, but Etta has a different calling. As a scavenger. Loyal to the village but living on her own terms, Etta roams the desolate territory beyond: salvaging useful relics of the ruined past and braving the threat of brutal slave traders, who are seeking women and girls to sell and subjugate.

When slavers seize those she loves, Etta vows to release and avenge them. But her mission will lead her to the stronghold of the Lion—a tyrant who dominates the innocent with terror and violence. There, with no allies and few weapons besides her wits and will, she will risk both body and spirit not only to save lives but also to liberate a new world’s destiny.

Mur Lafferty

Six Wakes
Orbit, January 31, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must find their murderer -- before they kill again.

It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.

At least, Maria Arena had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died. That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died.

Maria's vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. And Maria wasn't the only one to die recently...

Deji Bryce Olukotun

After the Flare
Nigerians in Space 2
The Unnamed Press, September 12, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages

A catastrophic solar flare reshapes our world order as we know it – in an instant, electricity grids are crippled, followed by devastating cyberattacks that paralyze all communication.

Kwesi Bracket is an industrial engineer who works for NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab, running space-walk simulations for astronauts when the flare hits. His life quickly disintegrates – he loses his job and his wife leaves him, forcing him to take care of his daughter by himself. Meanwhile, America slowly descends into chaos as people turn inward to protect themselves.

Bracket soon discovers that Nigeria operates the only functioning space program in the world, which is recruiting scientists to launch a daring rescue mission to save a famous astronaut stranded aboard the International Space Station. With Europe, Asia, and the U.S. knocked off-line, and thousands of dead satellites about to plummet to Earth, Bracket heads to Kano in Northeastern Nigeria. But what he finds there is anything but normal. In the aftermath of the flare, the country has been flooded with advanced biohacking technologies, and the scramble for space supremacy has attracted dangerous peoples from all over Africa. What’s more: the militant Islamic group Boko Haram is slowly encroaching on the spaceport, leaving a trail of destruction, while a group of nomads has discovered an ancient technology more powerful than anything he’s ever imagined.

With the clock ticking down, Bracket – helped by a brilliant scientist from India and an eccentric lunar geologist – must confront the looming threats to the spaceport in order to launch a harrowing rescue mission into space.

In this sequel to Nigerians in Space, Deji Bryce Olukotun poses deep questions about technology, international ambition, identity, and space exploration in the 21st century.

Tim Pratt

The Wrong Stars
Angry Robot, November 7, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

A ragtag crew of humans and posthumans discover alien technology that could change the fate of humanity… or awaken an ancient evil and destroy all life in the galaxy.

The shady crew of the White Raven run freight and salvage at the fringes of our solar system. They discover the wreck of a centuries-old exploration vessel floating light years away from its intended destination and revive its sole occupant, who wakes with news of First Alien Contact. When the crew break it to her that humanity has alien allies already, she reveals that these are very different extra-terrestrials… and the gifts they bestowed on her could kill all humanity, or take it out to the most distant stars.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Adrift
| Liar Liar | Golden Spiders | Bridge the Void ]

Alastair Reynolds

Orbit, February 28, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Winner of the 2017 Locus Award

Revenger is a rocket-fueled tale of space pirates, buried treasure, and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism... and of vengeance...

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest crew members of the legendary Captain Rackamore's ship, using their mysterious powers as Bone Readers to find clues about their next score. But there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen, in particular.

The galaxy is filled with treasures... if you have the courage to find them.

Carrie Vaughn

The Bannerless Saga 1
John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books, July 11, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages

A mysterious murder in a dystopian future leads a novice investigator to question what she’s learned about the foundation of her population-controlled society.

Decades after economic and environmental collapse destroys much of civilization in the United States, the Coast Road region isn’t just surviving but thriving by some accounts, building something new on the ruins of what came before. A culture of population control has developed in which people, organized into households, must earn the children they bear by proving they can take care of them and are awarded symbolic banners to demonstrate this privilege. In the meantime, birth control is mandatory.

Enid of Haven is an Investigator, called on to mediate disputes and examine transgressions against the community. She’s young for the job and hasn't yet handled a serious case. Now, though, a suspicious death requires her attention. The victim was an outcast, but might someone have taken dislike a step further and murdered him?

In a world defined by the disasters that happened a century before, the past is always present. But this investigation may reveal the cracks in Enid’s world and make her question what she really stands for.

Martha Wells

All Systems Red
The Murderbot Diaries 1, May 2, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 160 pages

A murderous android discovers itself in All Systems Red, a tense science fiction adventure by Martha Wells that interrogates the roots of consciousness through Artificial Intelligence.

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Review: Liar's Bargain by Tim Pratt

Liar's Bargain
Author:  Tim Pratt
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 33
Publisher:  Tor Books, June 7, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765384317 (print); 9780765384300 (eBook)

Review: Liar's Bargain by Tim Pratt
Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, and board games. Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Bargain is the latest in their popular novel series.

The sequel to Hugo Award Winner Tim Pratt’s Liar’s Island! For charming con man Rodrick and his talking sword Hrym, life is all about taking what you can and getting away clean. But when the pair are arrested in the crusader nation of Lastwall, Rodrick faces immediate execution, with Hrym spending the rest of eternity trapped in an enchanted scabbard. Their only hope lies in a secret government program in which captured career criminals are teamed up and sent on suicide missions too sensitive for ordinary soldiers. Trapped between almost certain death and actual certain death, the two join forces with a team of rogues and scoundrels, ready to serve their year-long tenure as best they can. Yet not everyone in their party is what they seem, and a death sentence may only be the start of the friends’ problems.

Brannigan's Review

Liar's Bargain is the third book set in the Pathfinder world based on the characters of Rodrick and his talking sword Hrym. I read and reviewed Liar's Island a while back. I've come to see how Tim Pratt writes and I enjoy it. He doesn't let things get too serious. He likes his characters to have fun as well as his readers.

Rodrick is a confidence trickster finds himself caught by some holier than thou Paladins along with some other criminals. This group is quickly forced into performing some tasks that are the types of missions crusading paladin's are too good to do. It reminds me a lot of the Suicide Squad comic book, if you're familiar with that. This premise isn't new, but Pratt does a great job of keeping it fresh and allowing the characters to move the plot along. By the end of the book, I found myself wanting the group to stay together. The characters had a fun dynamic in their relationship while on their missions.

Even though this is the third book with Rodrick and Hrym, Pratt still finds some opportunity to show growth in his characters and their unusual relationship. The world building is perfect. Even after a few books in this world, each one has taken place in a new area with its own history and custom, and each writer has done an excellent job at breathing life into the world.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was the villain. I'm not going to tell you anything about the villain so you can enjoy it once it comes. I love being shown new creatures. I had never read about this one in particular, so I'm not sure if it's only found in the Pathfinder world or not, but a very cool monster.

Liar's Bargain is an enjoyable romp in the fantasy haystack. There is minor violence and minor adult themes. I'd recommend it to teens and adults. If you can't enjoy yourself while reading this book, you might need to talk to a doctor about supplementing your fun with funzala (side effects include giggling, uncontrollable smiling, the happy sweats, excited clapping, impossible death).


Liar's Blade
Pathfinder Tales 13
Tor Books, August 18, 2016
     eBook, 388 pages
Paizo Publishing, March 12, 2013
     Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Review: Liar's Bargain by Tim Pratt
With strength, wit, rakish charm, and a talking sword named Hrym, Rodrick has all the makings of a classic hero - except for the conscience. Instead, he and Hrym live a high life as scoundrels, pulling cons and parting the weak from their gold. When a mysterious woman invites them along on a quest into the frozen north in pursuit of a legendary artifact, it seems like a prime opportunity to make some easy coin - especially if there's a chance for a double-cross. Along with a hooded priest and a half-elven tracker, the team sets forth into a land of witches, yetis, and ancient magic. As the miles wear on, however, Rodrick's companions begin acting steadily stranger, leading man and sword to wonder what exactly they've gotten themselves into... From Hugo Award-winner Tim Pratt, author of City of the Fallen Sky, comes a bold new tale of ice, magic, and questionable morality set in the world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Liar's Island
Pathfinder Tales 28
Tor Books, August 25, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Review: Liar's Bargain by Tim Pratt
Rodrick is a con man as charming as he is cunning. Hrym is a talking sword of magical ice, with the soul and spells of an ancient dragon. Together, the two travel the world, parting the gullible from their gold and freezing their enemies in their tracks. But when the two get summoned to the mysterious island of Jalmeray by a king with genies and elementals at his command, they'll need all their wits and charm if they're going to escape with the greatest prize of all-their lives.

From Hugo Award winner Tim Pratt comes a tale of magic, assassination, monsters, and cheerful larceny, in Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

See Brannigan's review here.

Review: Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island by Tim Pratt

Liar's Island
Author:  Tim Pratt
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 28
Publisher:  Tor Books, August 25, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $14.99 (print); $9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765374523 (print); 9781466842649 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island by Tim Pratt
Rodrick is a con man as charming as he is cunning. Hrym is a talking sword of magical ice, with the soul and spells of an ancient dragon. Together, the two travel the world, parting the gullible from their gold and freezing their enemies in their tracks. But when the two get summoned to the mysterious island of Jalmeray by a king with genies and elementals at his command, they'll need all their wits and charm if they're going to escape with the greatest prize of all-their lives.

From Hugo Award winner Tim Pratt comes a tale of magic, assassination, monsters, and cheerful larceny, in Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Brannigan's Review

Tim Pratt knows how to write a fun fantasy. Liar's Island was just what I needed after reading a stinker. It's light and refreshing, like a palette cleanser for my soul and a reminder of why I love fantasy. It has great characters, an interesting story and a great pace. This is my first Pathfinder novel, but it reminds me a lot of the Forgotten Realms novels I started reading in middle school.

Pratt's characters are easy to like and have personality without trying hard to prove it. Everything comes across so effortlessly that I got lost in the story and enjoyed myself. Our hero Rodrick and his sword Hrym work well together as the sword has more personality than a lot of actual human characters I've tried to connect to.

I'm not going to focus too much on the Pathfinder world building itself, as it is a shared world and I'm not familiar with it enough to know how much of it Pratt helped create. Regardless, it is rich in history and well developed. I would honestly like reading another Pathfinder book just to explore the world more.

The only thing I didn't like about the book was how much the narrative voice would explain things far more than was needed. That being said, I understand that there is a wide age range of readers that would be interested in the book and I'm sure there are some younger readers that need the additional explanations to follow the story.

Pratt's Liar's Island is a wonderful fantasy story perfect for readers that need a refreshing read after a bout of bad books. There isn't an issue with language. Minor acts of violence and only suggested sexual situations making it appropriate for teens and adults. Treat yourself and pick up your own copy today.

Philip K. Dick Award Nominees AnnouncedReview: Liar's Bargain by Tim PrattReview: Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island by Tim PrattInterview with James L. Sutter and Giveaway

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