Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Tor are currently giving away free ebooks as part of a promotion for their new website. Just sign up for their newsletter and once a week they'll email you a link to download it in html, pdf, or mobi format. They're on their third book at the moment: "The Outstretched Shadow" by Mercedes Lackey and Someone Else Whose Name Isn't As Distinctive. The previous two were "Old Man's War" by that nice Mr. Scalzi, and "Spin" by Robert Wilson.

I have a decent-sized screen on my PDA-phone-thing, and reading "Spin" was quite comfortable. There were advantages over the paper version (reading in the dark; not as heavy; easier to read one-handed while swaying on the commuter meat wagon; I always have my phone with me so I've always got a book too), and disadvantages (could not read at the beach; or anywhere in bright light; not as high contrast as print on paper which did give me a slight headache after an hour or so; my book now depends on batteries).

I'm not sure if I would pay for an ebook; I definitely would not pay anywhere near as much as a physical book. If they were a couple of dollars, and of that money a substantial amount went straight to the author (say 50%) then I would consider it.

Anyway, enough about the medium. On to the message.

Spin won the 2006 Nebula Award, and rightly so. It's a great read, chronicling a near future where the Earth has been squirreled away out of the normal flow of time and the way the inhabitants deal with it. The idea is that outside our atmosphere time flows normally, inside everything has been slowed down. So for every minute that passes down here, hundreds of years pass in the rest of the universe. There are some great ideas in here, and some interesting characters. I'll definitely be looking for the sequel, "Axis", and in that respect giving away this book for free has worked. Robert Wilson has been added to the list of authors that I look for in bookshops.

I managed to read one chapter of this week's book: "The Outstretched Shadow" by Mercedes Lackey and Some Other Guy. It's the first of a trilogy, and I guess the idea is that by giving this away you'll want to buy the other two. That might have worked, had the first chapter not annoyed the shit out of me. A whole chapter of shockingly clumsy infodump that was embarrassing to read, with ham-fisted world building and Genuine Fantasy Setting(TM):
"look, ma, they name their days differently and they use bells instead of hours"
"wow, that really is different. What do they call strawberries?"

Urgh. Mercedes Lackey will be assigned to the list of authors to avoid when browsing. Luckily for her co-author there's no chance of me remembering his name. You've gotten away with it this time, Mr. Other Fantasy Writer Dude. I'll get you next time.


  1. Anonymous18/4/09 17:43

    its a good book you're just used to reading harry potter DUH

  2. I didn't like it, that doesn't mean other people aren't allowed to like it, and I'm glad you did. Maybe it gets better later on - I just didn't want to invest the time.

  3. Anonymous24/7/09 04:56

    Well, frankly I /loved/ it. I understand that the first few chapters can be tedious, but I personally happen to like a little attention to detail. And if it helps you out at all, in the second series set in this world they call oranges "naranjes". Although I can't understand the nomenclature for fruit being a reason to put you off a book. Oh, and the 'other fantasy writer dude' is James Mallory.

  4. I followed your link from LibraryThing for Outstretched Shadow. I happen to have read Spin as well and agree with you about both books--Spin is outstanding and Outstretched Shadow beyond mediocre.

    However, FWIW, Lackey is a favorite author. I've read dozens of her books, and a few I've rated 5 out of 5, some 4, some three. This one I gave one star (because I have to leave a half star for abominations like Twilight.) Lackey isn't going to win awards for style at her best, and her worlds tend to be the standard pseudo European you see in high fantasy--but there's usually some interesting angle to her worlds, and she usually has a talent for making you care about her characters. (And her style isn't as wretched as OS would suggest.)

    Which is to say, I really, really don't think she should be judged by The Outstretched Shadow. She might not be your cuppa, but I don't think anyone should decide that without trying Arrows of the Queen or Magic's Price or Oathbreakers or Joust or her Diana Tregarde books. All are far more enjoyable than Outstretched Shadow, which is by far the weakest book by her I've read.