Book of the Week: The Black Chamber.

It is difficult to write anything about the background to SM Stirling’s The Black Chamber without casually breaking my own rules about not discussing certain topics.  Suffice it to say that, as an introductory book to an action series, it is quite good; plenty of fights and derring-do and super-tech (for 1916) gadgetry and whatnot.  It is also made reasonably clear that this alternate history (Teddy Roosevelt wins in 1912 after Howard Taft has a heart attack) is not quite the Progressive (note capitalization) Earthly Utopia that the heroine thinks that it is; quite a few rather ominous things and societal trends are lightly alluded to, in a way that allows the reader to raise an eyebrow at the implications. I look forward to some interest as to how the next few books in the series turn out, because there are some indications that it’s going to be set in an altogether pleasant world.


Book of the Week: The Black Chamber.

SM Stirling’s The Black Chamber is coming out in a couple of weeks: it’s an alternate history where President Taft suffered a fatal heart attack at just the right moment in 1912 to ensure that Woodrow Wilson would lose ignominiously to Teddy Roosevelt in the Presidential election.  From what I’ve read so far on Stirling’s site, the results from that are going to make a lot of people’s teeth grind. But there are fights on zeppelins and spying against perfidious Imperial Germans and high tech (by 1916 AD standards) and whatnot, so it’s all going to be good, hopefully. I’m looking forward to reading it.


In the Mail: The Sea Peoples.

SM Stirling’s The Sea Peoples is a day early, because Amazon works when the Post Office doesn’t. I can’t help but think that the Post Office should worry about that more. Or that I think that Amazon’s more reliable about things, too.



In the Mail: S.M. Stirling’s Prince of Outcasts.

Prince of Outcasts is part of S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse low-fantasy series; it’s partially about the South Seas, partially about the looming trans-Pacific war that’s about to erupt there (in a world where gunpowder and steam engines are being flat-out magically suppressed via a worldwide Change, no less) – and more than a little about the no-fooling Cthulhu Mythos (Carcosa edition), only nobody knows that because apparently the Lovecraft enthusiasts largely did not survive the Change. I’ve been looking forward to reading it, particularly because of the Mythos link; it’s going to be interesting when the people in that series really understand just how problematical their life has just become.

Now I just have to wait for another year for the next one to come out. Yay…


In the Mail: The Desert and the Blade.

The Change series is lots of fun, if you like post-apocalyptic fiction where technology above a certain level abruptly no longer works and the return of magic really doesn’t make up for it at all.  Which, yeah, led to billions of people dying.  But the survivors are having plenty of adventures! …Which, as S.M. Stirling himself noted elsewhere, means ‘somebody else in deep trouble, far away.’

Ahem. The Desert and the Blade: A Novel of the Change (Change Series) is a fun read so far; I’m enjoying it.  But you definitely should start with Dies the Fire, which is the first book in this series. Or maybe Island in the Sea of Time, which is kind of in the same universe but is a good deal more chipper. Assuming you haven’t read any of these before


Book of the Week: “Conquistador.”

Conquistador by S.M. Stirling is an… interesting book. The premise is classic Golden Age science fiction: a H. Beam Piper*-esque hero creates a stable dimensional portal to an alternate California that Europeans have never colonized, or even visited.  And so, in classic Golden Age style, the aforementioned Great Man of history goes and carves out a nice little kingdom for himself and his fellow freebooters… and that’s where the book gets a little enjoyably awkward, because S.M. Stirling quite enjoys reminding us that our grandparents and great-grandparents were from a completely different people.  The book is not precisely a dystopia, but the society it describes is perhaps not somewhere you’d want to live.  Read about? Sure.  Live? …Not so much.  But it is indeed a page-turner.  Especially if you like your adventure fiction to come with appendices, and who among us does not?

And so, adieu to Digital Divide.

Moe Lane

*This was so totally a homage to H. Beam Piper.  Stirling made it pretty explicit, in fact.


Book of the Week: ‘The Sky People.’

The Sky People is the first book of a two-book series (plus novella) that asks the question, Hey! Wouldn’t it have been great if Mars and Venus was actually as inhabitable as the Golden Age of SF assumed that they were? – only it’s hard science fiction.  It more or less assumes no change to our timeline until the 1940s or so, but after that the changes start to accumulate. In the meantime you get giant Venusian dinosaurs in this one (and Martian rapier fights in the sequel), which is really the important thing here.  Extra points for a universe where Edgar Rice Burroughs is the unchallenged greatest literary figure of the Twentieth Century…

And so, adieu to Blood Maidens.


Book of the Week: “The Peshawar Lancers.”

S.M. Stirling’s standalone book The Peshawar Lancers (there is a short story set in the same universe, mind) is an alternate history novel that asks What would happen if you dropped a comet or an asteroid into the Atlantic Ocean during the height of the Victorian era?  One answer apparently would be Eventually, Rudyard Kipling’s dream world.  It’s all very steampunk, in the brass-and-gears sense: but it’s also very deliberately evocative of Haggard and Kipling and Fraser (to give an idea, the Flashman novels are not so much evoked in this book as they were slipped a Mickey Finn and shanghaied to it).  I enjoyed it greatly, not least because Stirling is always good at showing the world-building.  Lots of fun and it’s a shame there hasn’t been a true sequel.

Adieu, The Lost Majority: Why the Future of Government Is Up for Grabs – and Who Will Take It. We’ll have need of your services again soon enough, I fear.

Moe Lane


SM Stirling, check with your attorney?

…I mean, I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen this “Revolution" thing before - only it was called Dies the Fire and was the start of a fairly involved, fairly well-known book series.  One hopes that NBC isn’t simply planning to file off the serial numbers and pass off Mr. Stirling’s work as their own…

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