Razorhurst: blood-drenched gang warfare and ghosts in Gilded Age Sydney

Justine Larbalestier's Razorhurst is an historical novel that skilfully weaves in a ghost story that puts the action of gang-warfare exactly where it belongs: in the relationship between the living and the dead.

Complete Humble Ebook Bundle lineup revealed!

Four more books have been added to the final week of the third Humble Ebook Bundle: John Scalzi's Hugo- and Nebula-nominated novella The God Engines; Dia Reeves's Bleeding Violet; Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill's Arcanum 101; and Ryan "Dinosaur Comics" North's To Be or Not To Be, a bestselling, choose-your-own adventure version of Hamlet.

These are added to seven other books, from authors including Holly Black, Justine Larbalestier, Steve Gould, Scott Westerfeld, Wil Wheaton, Yahtzee Chroshaw -- and me!

Six of the books are available on a name-your-price basis; if you give $15, you get the whole whack, including the DRM-free audio adaptation of Homeland, which I paid for out-of-pocket, read aloud by Wil Wheaton! Read the rest

HOMELAND audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton, DRM-free, in the new Humble Bundle!

For the past two months, I've been working on a secret project to produce an independent audiobook adaptation of my bestselling novel Homeland, read by Wil Wheaton, one of my favorite audiobook voice-actors (and a hell of a great guy, besides!). The audiobook is out as of today, and I'm proud to say that for the next two weeks, it is exclusively available through the new Humble Ebook Bundle, which kicks off today, featuring an amazing collection of name-your-price DRM-free ebooks by authors like Holly Black and Scott Westerfeld, as well as Wil Wheaton. As always, there are some surprise bonus titles that will be added in week two, and so long as you pay more than the average at the time of purchase, you'll get these automatically. Read the rest

My favorite young-adult book reviews

In the tradition of August's book-review roundup, I've pulled together a collection of my favorite young adult reviews from the past decade. Hope you -- and the young adults in your life -- enjoy these as much as I did!

Planesrunner: Ian McDonald's YA debut is full of action-packed multidimensional cool, airships, electropunk and quantum physics: Planesrunner is the story of Everett Singh, a moderately unhappy schoolboy in London whose divorced, quantum physicist dad is kidnapped before his eyes one night. Everett embarks on an epic quest to find out what happened to his dad, a quest that is complicated by his mother's hostility to her ex-husband, a police cover-up, sinister visits from the head of the Imperial College physics department, and mysterious, threatening strangers who tail him through the streets of London.

[Buy it]

Read the rest

Whence springs Todd Akin's belief in magic, rape-proof vaginas?

Justine Larbalestier provides some context for Republican MO senate nominee Todd Akin statement that, "from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

It turns out that this belief in magic sperm-rejecting vaginas was the kind of thing that was believed in 1785, when Samuel Farr argued in his groundbreaking treatise on law and medicine that:

Samuel Farr, in the first legal-medicine text to be written in English (1785), argued that “without an excitation of lust, or enjoyment in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place.” Whatever a woman might claim to have felt or whatever resistance she might have put up, conception in itself betrayed desire or at least a sufficient measure of acquiescence for her to enjoy the venereal act. This is a very old argument. Soranus had said in second-century Rome that “if some women who were forced to have intercourse conceived . . . the emotion of sexual appetite existed in them too, but was obscured by mental resolve,” and no one before the second half of the eighteenth century or early nineteenth century question the physiological basis of this judgement. The 1756 edition of Burn’s Justice of the Peace, the standard guide for English magistrates, cites authorities back to the Institutes of Justinian to the effect that “a woman can not conceive unless she doth consent.” It does, however, go on to point out that as matter of law, if not of biology, this doctrine is dubious.

Read the rest

Team Human: a high-school vampire novel doesn't suck (it rocks)

Team Human is a new young adult novel from Justine Larbalastier and Sarah Rees Brennan, about an ancient vampire who enrolls at a small town high school, where a beautiful young girl falls in love with him.

No, it's not that novel. Far from it, in fact. Team Human is an incredibly fresh and original -- and absolutely charming -- take on vampire fiction. Larbalestier and Brennan have a wickedly sarcastic turn of phrase (as fans of Larbalestier's earlier books can attest), and their protagonist, Mel -- a high-school senior whose best friend is besotted with the vampire -- is one of those iconic, absolutely likable but flawed YA protagonists that you find in the genre's best books.

Mel's best friend is Cathy, and where Mel is flamboyant and outgoing, Cathy is serious and studious and shy. They live in the small town of New Whitby, the birthplace of America's compact with vampires and the origin of the social contract that sees humans and vampires living side by side in a civilized (if not entirely comfortable) fashion. From the start, Cathy falls hard for Francis, an ancient, charming vampire in the body of a teenager, who is attending high school for mysterious reasons of his own (though Mel has her suspicions).

Mel is afraid that her intense relationship with her best friend is endangered by this, but what she really fears is that Cathy might be contemplating vampirism herself. This is a dangerous process for humans -- accepting an offer of "transition" from a vampire means a small but real risk of death or worse. Read the rest

On writing fiction with voice-recognition software

Justine Larbalestier, a very good novelist with very bad RSI, has written a great post called "Why I Cannot Write a Novel With Voice Recognition Software." In it, she explains why machine-based speech-to-text software isn't sufficient for fiction. I think that if I absolutely lost the use of my hands and had no other choice, I'd probably dive into speech-to-text and gut it out, but nothing short of absolute necessity would get me to write fiction with machine-based speech-recognition.

Most of my first drafts are written in a gush of words as the characters and story come flowing out of me. Having to start and stop as I correct the VRS errors, and try to get it to write what I want it to write, interrupts my flow, throw me out of the story I’m trying to write, and makes me forget the gorgeously crafted sentence that was in my head ten seconds ago.

Now, yes, when I’m typing that gorgeously crafted sentence in my head it frequently turns out to not be so gorgeously crafted but, hey, that’s what rewriting is for. And when I’m typing the sentence it always has a resemblance to its platonic ideal. With VRS if I don’t check after every clause appears I wind up with sentences like this:

Warm artichoke had an is at orange night light raining when come lit.

Rather than

When Angel was able to emerge into the orange night Liam’s reign was complete.

Which is a terrible sentence but I can see what I was going for and I’ll be able to fix it.

Read the rest

Liar: YA suspense novel that elevates the unreliable narrator to a new level

I just finished listening to the unabridged audiobook of Justine Larbalestier's new YA novel, Liar, read by Channie Waites, and I'm here to tell you that it's Larbalestier's best book (and that's saying something). Here's a sample of the audio:

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Micah -- the unreliable narrator of this tale -- is a compulsive liar from a fraught background. Poor and biracial, she attends a posh New York alternative school through a scholarship. Her mother is a runaway, her father is from a reclusive back-woods family of illiterate survivalists, and so it's no surprise that Micah's identity is a little messed up. But Micah isn't just confused: she's deliberately confusing, a compulsive liar who fools everyone around her over and over (she is mistaken for a boy on her first day of school and so she undertakes to live as a boy, lasting days before she is found out).

But Micah's lies start to unravel when the boy she is secretly dating -- he is publicly involved with the most popular girl in school -- is murdered. As the school panics and the social order turns upside down, as Micah grieves, she is also found out, scapegoated, and suspected.

That's the setup. So far, it's your basic YA fare: complicated relationships, complicated identity, fraught situation. But Micah's circumstances grow progressively odder, as Larbalestier twists and turns the story in ways that are decidedly science fictional (or possibly fantastic) and that make this into one of the most original, oddest, and ultimately satisfying YA books I've had the pleasure of reading. Read the rest

Race and book covers: why is there a white girl on the cover of this book about a black girl? -- UPDATED

Update: Victory! Justine's publisher has replaced its whites-only cover with a gloriously brown one.

YA author Justine Larbalestier has gone public with her disappointment over her US publisher Bloomsbury's cover art for her forthcoming novel Liar. Specifically, Justine is upset that the cover shows a white girl, and the book is about a black girl. She took this up strenuously with her publisher but was overruled.

It's a rare author who gets final say in her cover, many don't get any say at all. I'm generally OK with this, since I figure the point of the cover is to convey to the reader, "this is this sort of book, and if you like this sort, you'll like this." And I figure that cover designers and art-directors who do hundreds of covers a year know, in a much more fine-grained way, what the psychology of covers is. It helps that Irene Gallo, Tor's art director who oversaw the covers of all my Tor books, is terrific, loves my work, and always does a good job, and that HarperCollins in the UK have also been kicking all kinds of ass on this score.

But Justine's right about this one, because, as she says,

This cover did not happen in isolation.

Every year at every publishing house, intentionally and unintentionally, there are white-washed covers. Since I've told publishing friends how upset I am with my Liar cover, I have been hearing anecdotes from every single house about how hard it is to push through covers with people of colour on them.

Read the rest

MBAs: Most Bloody Awful, Aussie radio documentary on the problem with biz-school

In this superb Australian public radio documentary, "MBA: Mostly bloody awful," the idea of "scientific management" and "professional management" is subjected to an extremely critical look and comes up wanting. Focusing on the Harvard Business School and the circumstances that gave rise to it (America: "a corporation founded by a corporation"; "scientific" Taylorism and its focus on quantifying the unquantifiable, the fad to quantification in management, such as Meyers-Briggs). It looks at the difference between MBAs and real entrepreneurs, looking at all those successful founders who didn't get MBAs (Gates, Jobs, Bezos, etc), and at the pants-wetting insecurity on display in the number of times the word "leader" and its associated terms appear in the bumpf for management programs ("every leader needs to have a bunch of followers -- do we want a world of followers?"). This is extremely meaty stuff, funny and engrossing and refreshing at once. Definitely worth the listen.

MBA: Mostly bloody awful (via Justine Larbalestier) Read the rest

Boing Boing's Holiday Gift Guide part two: Fiction

Here's part two of my Boing Boing Holiday Gift Guide -- wherein I list the bestselling items that have been reviewed here in the past twelve months. Today, it's fiction. Don't miss yesterday's Kids' stuff and stuff about kids post, too! (Note that some of these titles appeared on yesterday's kids' list -- I wasn't sure how to handle cross-referencing for items that qualified for more than one list, so I just duplicated them for people who wanted to dive straight into the fiction list -- say -- rather than picking through the kids' list too)

Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology (John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly) Post-Cyberpunk Anthology shows how sf has changed since the Mirroshades era Original Boing Boing post

Halting State (Charles Stross) Halting State: Heist novel about an MMORPG Original Boing Boing post

Interface (Neal Stephenson) Neal Stephenson's underappreciated masterpiece Original Boing Boing post

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse (John Joseph Adams) Anthology of apocalyptic fiction Original Boing Boing post

Futures from Nature (Henry Gee) 100 short-short sf stories from Nature Magazine Original Boing Boing post

The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent (James Morrow and Kathryn Morrow) A chance to read sf from outside of the Anglo Bubble Original Boing Boing post

Little Brother (Cory Doctorow) My bestselling young adult novel about kids who hack for freedom Original Boing Boing post

The Starry Rift (Jonathan Strahan) Science fiction anthology for teens Original Boing Boing post

Steampunk (Ann and Jeff VanderMeer) Steampunk: the anthology Original Boing Boing post

Distraction (Bruce Sterling) Bruce Sterling's visionary novel Distraction: still brilliant a decade later Original Boing Boing post

The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel (Michael Chabon) Wonderful blend of hard-boiled and Yiddish ironies Original Boing Boing post

Cory Doctorow's Futuristic Tales Of The Here And Now (Cory Doctorow) A six-edition series of comics adapted from my short stories by an incredibly talented crew of writers, artists, inkers and letterers Original Boing Boing post

Goodnight Bush: A Parody (Gan Golan, Erich Origen) A Goodnight Moon satire for the electoral season Original Boing Boing post

Saturn's Children (Charles Stross) Stross's robopervy tribute to the late late Heinlein Original Boing Boing post

Crooked Little Vein: A Novel (Warren Ellis) Comic net-perv novel that would make Goatse blush Original Boing Boing post

Random Acts of Senseless Violence (Jack Womack) Unflinching, engrossing, difficult coming-of-age story Original Boing Boing post

Boy Proof (Cecil Castellucci) A compassionate young adult novel about a weird, smart, angry girl Original Boing Boing post

Cycler (Lauren McLaughlin) Smart YA novel about sex and sexuality Original Boing Boing post

Anathem (Neal Stephenson) A great story, set in an alternative reality where people take long-term thinking seriously Original Boing Boing post

The Armageddon Rag (George R.R. Read the rest

Boing Boing's Holiday Gift Guide part one: Kids

Well, it's coming up to the holidays and I've started to make my list and fill it in. As a starting point, I went through all the books and DVDs and gadgets I'd reviewed on Boing Boing since last November and looked at what had been the best-sellers among BB's readership, figuring you folks have pretty good taste! As I was taking a walk down old review lane, I realized that many of you would probably be interested in seeing these lists too, so I've turned them into a series of blog-posts that I'll be sticking up, one per day, for the next week or so. Today I'm starting with kids' media and media about kids and child-rearing. Later this week, I'll do fiction, nonfiction, comics and graphic novels, CDs and DVDs and gadgets and everything else, one a day. Hope this helps you with your holiday shopping as much as it's helped me with mine!

Baby's First Mythos (C.J. Henderson) Cthluhoid picture book Original Boing Boing post

Invention of Hugo Cabret (Brian Selznik) Award-winning steampunk graphic novel for kids Original Boing Boing post

Good as Lily (Derek Kirk Kim) Ass-kicking girl-positive graphic novel for young readers Original Boing Boing post

The Plain Janes (Cecil Castellucci, Jim Rugg) Funny, spirited little story about a gang of girls named Jane at a strait-laced high-school, rejected by the mainstream, and their art adventures. Original Boing Boing post

Little Brother (Cory Doctorow) My bestselling young adult novel about kids who hack for freedom Original Boing Boing post

The Starry Rift (Jonathan Strahan) Science fiction anthology for teens Original Boing Boing post

St. Read the rest

Kelly's "Burn," a Creative Commons licensed podcast, wins Nebula Award!

The podcast edition of James Patrick Kelly's Hugo-nominated novella Burn won the Nebula Award last night. As far as I know, that makes it the first Creative Commons licensed work and the first podcast to win an Nebula.

Congrats are also in order for Justine Larbalestier, whose Magic or Madness won the Andre Norton Award. Link (via Whatever)

See also: Jim Kelly's Hugo-nominated "Burn" free ebook James Patrick Kelly's new podcasts: "Look into the Sun" and a story every week James Patrick Kelly's wonderful sf stories online as free audiobooks Hugo nominee James Patrick Kelly video podcast Three James Patrick Kelly audio stories free and CC-licensed James Patrick Kelly's podcast James P Kelly's "Burn" short sf novel podcast concludes Asimov's magazine on DRM, copyright and Creative Commons Read the rest

Locus Award closes tomorrow: vote for best sf of 2006!

The Locus Magazine poll for the best science fiction of 2006 is closing soon -- the poll is open to everyone, and invites you to select your favorite works published last year for receipt of the prestigious Locus Award (I've won it twice: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom won Best First Novel in 2004, and I, Robot won best Novelette in 2005).

I'm especially excited about the Best Novelette category, where I'm eligible twice: first for my story When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth, about the geeks who babysit the Internet after the apocalypse; and I, Row-Boat about robots who find religion in Asimovism after the humans all leave the planet. Both stories have been picked up for several reprints, including some of the Year's Best anthologies, and I've got Locus Award hopes there, too! If I had to pick one (and I do) I'd pick Sysadmins. I think it's got a little more heart.

2006 was an incredible year for sf. In the best novel category, we have two books by Charlie Stross; Karl Schroeder's magnificent post-singularity pirates-in-a-Dyson-bag adventure Sun of Suns, and Vinge's groundbreaking Rainbows End -- along with Rudy Rucker's sweet, smart Mathematicians in Love. Oh, and Jo Walton's haunting, blistering Farthing and Peter Watt's dark and savage Blindsight, his best book to date.

The Young Adult category has three Scott Westerfield novels -- and Larbalestier's wicked Magic Lessons.

I'm also going to have a hard time choosing my pick for the Best First Novel -- for me, it's a toss up between Klages's Green Glass Sea and Buckell's Crystal Rain. Read the rest

Magic or Madness kids' fantasy trilogy concludes with "Magic's Child"

Justine Larbalestier has concluded her wonderful young adult fantasy trilogy, Magic or Madness. The third volume, Magic's Child, brings the series to a really satisfying, complex conclusion that's both brave and thought-provoking.

In the Magic or Madness series, we are introduced to a magic system in which those born to magic die a little every time they use it -- but go insane if they refuse to use it (hence the title).

Reason Cansino, the 15-year-old narrator, starts the series by being separated from her maddened mother, and being sent to live with her "evil" grandmother. There, she learns that magic-wielders can extend their lives by drinking the magic of others, draining them to live.

By book three, the cast of characters includes nigh-omnipotent deceased relatives, evil, dysfunctional parents, and a trio of spunky young people whose hormones war with their senses.

I won't spoil the conclusion for you, but there's something really disturbing and thought-provoking that happens by the end of the book, a direction I hadn't expected and that has me thinking about it still.

This trilogy is ready-made for smart, curious kids who look to fantasy for more than escape -- who look to fantasy literature to stretch their understanding of the real world. Link

See also: Kids' fantasy novel blends magic with modernity - Tolkien meets Coupland Read the rest

Kids' fantasy novel blends magic with modernity - Tolkien meets Coupland

"Magic or Madness," a fantasy novel for young adults has everything it takes to be an instant classic for smart, curious kids who look to fantasy for more than escape -- who look to fantasy literature to stretch their understanding of the real world.

The author, Justine Larbalestier, is part of a renaissance in kids' fantasy and science fiction: genre fiction that takes the best elements of the literature's history and fuses it with contemporary settings and themes, a sort of Douglas Coupland meets JRR Tolkien that appeals to adults just as easily as kids. (her husband, Scott Westerfeld is also prominent in this)

"Magic or Madness" tells the story of Reason Cansino, a 15-year-old Australian girl whose crazy mother raised her nomadically in the bush, moving from settlement to settlement every few weeks. Reason is a math prodigy, and her mother has given her a thorough but eclectic education that is cut short by her mother's suicide attempt, which lands Reason in the clutches of her grandmother in Sydney. All Reason's life, her mother has warned her of her terrible, hateful grandmother, a woman who believes she is a witch, who sacrifices the family pet in the basement, who will take her and abuse her as she abused Reason's mother.

But Reason's grandmother doesn't appear to be the evil woman her mother warned her of, and Reason has to decide whom to trust.

"Magic or Madness" wonderfully mixes a genuinely creepy system of hereditary magic with Australian bush lore, sweet and canny details about New York's East Village, daily life in Australia, fashion and mathematics, sneaking lectures into dialog and description so subtly you never know they're there, only that you're getting the charge of soaking up new knowledge about how the world works. Read the rest