Novella Review: Snapshot

Snapshot
Note: If you like the cover art, Howard Lyon, the artist, has a cool process post and additional pictures here.

Disclaimer: I was a beta reader for this novella. My name is in the acknowledgments. My review may not be entirely unbiased.

From Goodreads:

Snapshot is a Science Fiction detective story following Anthony Davis, a cop assigned to Snapshot Duty. In this vivid world that author Brandon Sanderson has built, society can create a snapshot of a specific day in time. The experiences people have, the paths they follow—all of them are real again for a one day in the snapshot. All for the purposes of investigation by the court.

Davis’s job as a cop on Snapshot Duty is straight forward. Sometimes he is tasked with finding where a criminal dumped a weapon. Sometimes he is tasked with documenting domestic disputes. Simple. Mundane. One day, in between two snapshot assignments, Davis decides to investigate the memory of a call that was mysteriously never logged at the precinct, and he makes a horrifying discovery.

As in all many stories, Snapshot follows a wonderfully flawed character as he attempts to solve a horrific crime. Sanderson proves that no matter the genre, he is one of the most skilled storytellers in the business.

Snapshot is a novella, which means that it’s super short. At least, for the kind of books I like to read, it’s short. According to my Kindle, the whole thing can be read in an hour and a half. I definitely recommend reading works this short in a single sitting, because it really is one cohesive story, one single plot, and you’ll miss details if you take breaks. So if you want to read it, set aside the time to read it all at once, if you can. Also, read the Acknowledgments when you’re done. 🙂

Short doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot here, however. Snapshot is packed full of exciting moments, creepy thrills, and stunning twists. Sanderson is an expert at always keeping you unbalanced, guessing, unsure of what will happen next. There is never a boring moment in the book, and once you pick it up, it’s easy to just keep reading, to want to read just one more chapter, just one more, and suddenly, it’s done.

There are several plot twists here, and Sanderson’s ability to pack them into something this short amazes me. As with many of his books, there are bits that you will figure out ahead of time, but I guarantee there are also events that you won’t see coming. I hate it when, in a book that is about the twist, you can figure out the twists far ahead of time, and have the ending all plotted out in your head before it happens. I was super glad to find that Snapshot defied these expectations, in many ways making it feel like a full Sanderson novel.

The novella is based on a really cool idea, too, as with almost all of Sanderson’s novellas. In Snapshot, we’re asked what would happen if you could recreate a day at will, jump into it, do whatever, and leave again, with no consequences in the real world. Sanderson explores this through the lens of criminal investigations – what would the police do with this technology? It’s a fascinating question, and while his answers are only one possibility out of many, they are very interesting and thought-provoking.

As a side note, the setting is tangentially in the Reckonerverse, but you’ll only recognize this if you’re reading closely, as it’s only really hinted at in one or two paragraphs and is relevant only to the worldbuilding and not really the plot itself. If you are expecting more David and Megan, more Prof and Tia, more bad metaphors and gun nuts, you’ll be disappointed. Well, okay. Not about the gun nut part. But the rest of it. On the flip side, if you’ve never read the Reckoners books, you’re perfectly fine reading this at any time, because it won’t spoil any of that for you! (You really should read them, though.)

For all that, on the surface, Snapshot is a popcorn read, and a fun quick thrill ride, it presented a lot of interesting ideas about morality and reality that I am still pondering, several months after I first read it. When nothing is real, what is it okay to do? What is considered “wrong” in this case? How would you act? While It may not be quite as good at asking deep questions as The Emperor’s Soul was, Snapshot is a really good novella that handles the massive number of things that it is trying to do really well, and I absolutely loved it.

In summary, Snapshot is a quick, fun read, and when you can set aside an hour and a half, or maybe two hours, depending on your reading speed, you really should pick it up and read it all the way through. It is full of plot twists, cool worldbuilding, and somehow also manages to use this worldbuilding to ask some really interesting questions that I’m still not sure if I have an answer to. I give it five of five stars (but I may be slightly biased as a beta reader), and really think you should pick it up soon.

Note: While you can’t really get a physical copy right now (Vault Books is sold out, and the con exclusive is still con exclusive. I believe those’ll be available on Sanderson’s store sometime in November.), you can pick up the e-book for cheap right now at a variety of places.

Sanderson’s page with more info.

Goodreads.

Oops.

I’m mostly done with a very nice WorldCon review post that’ll probably have to be split into two or three parts. I was planning to have it all ready tonight for upload.

Then this thing called Oathbringer came along for beta reading.

Don’t expect to see a lot of me for the next 2 months. I’m going to be very busy. (I’ll still try to post, and will likely get reviews done, at least. And maybe I’ll get Shannon to clean up the WorldCon post and post it. Or maybe I’ll have a little free time, somewhere. We’ll see.)

2015 Favorite Books.

Now that the year 2015 is over, I’m going to talk about the books I enjoyed the most during the year. Not like certain places that have voting for the best books in October or November…

I’ve broken the books down into two categories for 2015’s reading. The first are the books I enjoyed reading more than any other, which were released in 2015. The second category is books that were not released in 2015—or books in series where only the latest book was released, but include the entire series. I realize the division is a little arbitrary, but it’s how the books break down in my mind, so it’s how I’m going to list them here. Also, note that I’m not including rereads here—all of these are books that I read for the first time in 2015, else the list would be pretty much the same (and almost completely Sanderson) every year.

Releases:

5. Gemini Cell.

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I don’t read a ton of SF books, but my 5th place for 2015 is actually a tie between two SF novels. The first, Gemini Cell, is a brilliantly paced, brutal, and exciting military SF/fantasy tale that I absolutely devoured. It’s an excellent starting place for Myke’s universe if you’ve never read any of his books before, so check it out!

5. Time Salvager.

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This was my first Wesley Chu book, which I read because 1) I had it, 2) Chu was nominated for the Campbell Award, and 3) I was going to get to see him twice in 2015 (ArmadilloCon and WorldCon). It earned him my Campbell vote, and is probably my favorite time travel novel. It’s a very dark book, but has beautiful glimmers of hope, and I’m really looking forward to Time Siege next year.

4. The Autumn Republic.

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The concluding volume of Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy, which is a series I’ve been following from the beginning. McClellan has a real talent for battle scenes and rough, gritty fantasy without being grimdark (in my opinion), and it really shines here, when everything is going wrong, and the gods themselves are waging war across the planet. If you’ve not read any of his work, go check out some of his short fiction—it’s an excellent and quick starting point at a good price-point, and will hopefully convince you to pick up Promise of Blood.

3. The Providence of Fire.

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Staveley’s another author I’ve been following since his first book came out—and even before. The Providence of Fire is slightly longer, and perhaps a little slower paced than The Emperor’s Blades, but is also a more satisfying and epic read, and I thoroughly enjoyed how it is unabashedly straight up epic fantasy, done right. I am eagerly anticipating the last volume, out in March.

2. A Darker Shade of Magic.

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After Vicious (see below) was my first read of the year in 2015, I immediately preordered this one, and it is not a decision that I regret. I enjoyed the parallel Londons and the amazing characters that Schwab presents in the book, and how easy, fast, and thrilling the book was to read.

1. Sanderson.

Surprise, surprise, right? Well, Sanderson continued to not disappoint in 2015, with not 1, but 2, absolutely stunning novels full of everything awesome.

1-1. Firefight.

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As the second volume in a strict trilogy, this one should have been a bit longer, slower, and more boring than the first one. Even in my favorite series, this happens, and I don’t complain.

Someone forgot to give Sanderson the note about that, though, and Firefight was, in my opinion, better than Steelheart, and it has the distinction of being one of two books I read (probably since The Princess Bride, certainly of 2015) where I thoroughly enjoyed and cheered for the romance.

1-2. Shadows of Self.

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Cosmere! Mistborn! Wax and Wayne! Steris! Marasi! [SPOILER]! What isn’t to love? Shadows of Self was easily my favorite book released in 2015, and I can only imagine how entertaining it must have been for the people riding in the car with me while I finished the book on my way to the Sanderson signing. So many amazing, unexpected, surprising, and downright mindblowing moments. If you’ve never picked up a Sanderson book before, I might have to start recommending the Era 2 (1.5?) books as another starting point now.

Other new reads/Authors:

This list is 7 books long because the last 3 spots were more or less a tie—I thoroughly enjoyed all of these books, though they were all quite different, and they all earned their spot on my list.

5. The Goblin Emperor.

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The Goblin Emperor was a book I read last year because it was on the Hugo nominees list—and it is the book that ended up getting my vote. It’s just so much fun and happiness. This book has been described as anti-grimdark, and it fits the label. If you need an uplifting fantasy novel, check this one out!

5. Robin Hobb.

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I only managed to read Robin Hobb’s first trilogy, The Farseer Trilogy, last year. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and while it’s not flashy, it is still powerful, and her writing has a way of making things compelling, and she puts her characters through intense torture without resorting to tactics such as chopping off hands or other bits. I’m definitely aiming to read more of her books in the coming year, though I don’t know if I’ll have time to catch up to the latest books she’s written or not—but I’ll certainly try!

4. Jaime Lee Moyer.

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Now, this one is a little bit of cheating, since I’m talking about the Delia trilogy, the last book of which, Against a Brightening Sky, came out in October. However, I decided to consider the series as a group, and so I placed it on this list, because the first two books came out before last year. I only managed to review the first book, Delia’s Shadow, before school overwhelmed me and I had to take a break for a few months from blogging, but I read and loved the entire trilogy. Set in an alternate San Francisco, the books fall largely into an alternate history setting. The characters are such good people, the mysteries are intriguing, the magic is exciting, and the endings were exciting, even if they left questions unanswered.

4. Dan Wells.

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This one is also cheating a little bit, since I’m talking about Dan’s John Cleaver books, the latest of which, The Devil’s Only Friend, was released in 2015. Also, the series in ongoing. But… This is my list, so I get to do what I want with it. While I felt the first book got off to a slightly rocky start—it foreshadowed the supernatural elements a little too heavily for my tastes—they ended up being really good, quick, exciting reads, even though horror is not usually my genre of choice.

3. City of Stairs.

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I’ve talked about this one a lot—it was a surprisingly good read, and I am so glad that I made the time to read it. I really enjoyed Shara, and Saypur and the continent, the worldbuilding, the way political issues were handled, and Sigurd. I can’t talk about Sigurd enough… I think the most convincing recommendation I can give for this book is that when I was about 100 pages from the end, and forgot my copy at home, I bought the eBook so I could finish reading it on my phone on the train to work.

2. Vicious.

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I keep talking about how Schwab is one of my new favorite authors from last year, and this is the book that did it for me. My first read of 2015, it set the tone for the rest of the year, and I am so glad to hear that we are going to get a sequel! Seriously fun tale of superheroes and supervillains—and of people. Also, it has a really cool time-line structure that I’ve never seen any other book pull off successfully.

1. Ready Player One.

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I read this book for the first time last spring. Upon finishing the book, I turned it back over and started from the beginning, not even pausing to have something to drink. I don’t think I’ve done that since Harry Potter.

Since then, I’ve listened to the audiobook. And reread the book. So yes, I’ve been through it 4 times last year, something else I’m not sure I’ve done since I was reading Harry Potter, back in the days when I wasn’t in college and had a lot more free time.

This book scratched every itch I didn’t even know I had. Gaming, nerd-dom, geekery, virtual reality goodness, some absolutely awesome characters and twists, as big of an epic battle of good against evil as you can imagine, and the other romance that I cheered for. It was perfect, and in the grand scheme of books I’ve read, the only ones I’ve loved more are the Stormlight Archive.

It’s that good.

I realize that I haven’t posted a review of it yet—that’s because I haven’t figured out how to hack Goodreads to give it 6 stars. (I’m working on it, though.)

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So that was my year in books… What did y’all enjoy reading last year, new or old?

Most Anticipated Books of 2016.

Yes, I’m back to blogging. More on this–hopefully tomorrow, depending on how travel goes. For now, the post.

2016 looks like it’s going to be another amazing year for books. I’ve managed to narrow my list of super most incredibly anticipated books down to 5 (with some wiggling). Before presenting the list, I’m going to note that I’m rather spoiler-phobic, so I haven’t read the blurbs yet for any of the books on this list that I haven’t read—therefore, my anticipation is largely based on series/authors whose work I’ve loved in the past. Authors I trust. Every single one of these books has been pre-ordered for months now, most ordered on the day I discovered they existed. So, without further ado…

5. A Gathering of Shadows.

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V.E. Schwab is one of my new additions to my favorite authors list. I read Vicious as my first book of 2015, and it was awesome. I read A Darker Shade of Magic as soon as I could get my hands on a copy, and I loved it even more. A Gathering of Shadows continues the series that A Darker Shade of Magic started, and I am super excited to get back to the world of the multiple Londons and all the amazing characters—Rhy, Kell, and Lila–who inhabit it!

4. City of Blades.

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City of Stairs was my most unanticipated love of 2015, and Robert Jackson Bennett is the other new addition to my favorite authors list I made last year. I actually got a chance to read this one this week, thanks to Patrick McQuoid, and it is a worthy successor to the first book. If you haven’t read City of Stairs, you really need to remedy that—it’s fast paced, has a really varied and unique cast, some really cool worldbuilding of a flavor I’ve never seen before, and Sigrud. You need Sigrud in your life.

3. Solutions and Other Problems.

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This one’s a little strange—everything else on my list is a fantasy novel of some sort. Allie Brosh’s books are part stick-figures-of-awesome comic book, part memoir, part fantastical stories, and complete and utter side-splitting hilarity, while sometimes delving into deep and important topics, such as depression. If you have not read her blog… Why are you reading mine? Hers is infinitely more awesome, GO READ IT.

2. The Last Mortal Bond.

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If you don’t want to order it just for that Richard Anderson cover… You need to go check out the first book in the trilogy, The Emperor’s Blades. The Last Mortal Bond finishes out the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy, and it promises to be an awesome adventure. Brian has said that the book will be considerably longer than The Providence of Fire, which I believe puts him firmly in the epic category. There were so many plot threads left up in the air, so many world-shaking events in progress, so much tension left at the end of the second book… GIVE IT TO ME ALREADY!

1. Sanderson.

Yes, okay. This is cheating. This is 3 books in 1, but without it, it would take up 3/5 of my list.

You probably know by now that Sanderson is my favorite author ever. (If you don’t go look at this.) I more or less worship him, and getting to go out to dinner with him was the highlight of my year.

1-1. The Bands of Mourning.

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I’ve read this one. It is everything it is promised to be, and more. All the best characters from this era of books, all of them being awesome. Plus, boatloads of Cosmere, one heck of an awesome plot, and some brilliantly funny moments. I cannot wait to see this one out in the world.

1-2. Calamity.

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Yes, I’ve read this one too. I was truly blessed with e-ARCs last year (I’m still looking for physical ARCs, so if you know how to get ahold of those, let me know.). It’s the end of a trilogy, the last book Sanderson is planning to set in this world (for a while, at least), and it’s named Calamity. What more could you ask for? It delivers on every promise, and there’s one sentence that I would pay to sit down and watch people’s reactions as they read it. SO GOOD.

1-3. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians: Book 5: The Dark Talent.

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I haven’t read this one. It’s going to be shorter, but it’s another series ender for Sanderson, and one that I’ve been anticipating for a long, long time. Alcatraz was the only series that could make me laugh when I was depressed a few years ago, and they’ve always held a special place in my heart. I am super excited to see what happens in the last book, and it looks like it’s going to be beautifully illustrated as well! (I’m anticipating the re-releases of the entire series quite avidly.)

Well, that’s my list for 2016. What are you looking forward to reading?

Sasquan: Day 5

The last day of WorldCon was a bit of a wind-down day. The Hugos were over, the big events had finished up, people had started departing already, and the majority of the others were planning to leave before the day was done. In general terms, it was the tail-end of the convention.

In the morning, I had to get up and check out of my hotel, which involved packing on my own. Because I had bought a number of books from the dealer’s room, I had to mail a box of books back home—which I am anxiously awaiting—which was yet another new experience. Thankfully, check-out went without a hitch, and I was able to bag check my suitcase at the con so that I did not have to haul it around the rest of the day.

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The box of books. Exciting stuff inside!

After checking my bag, I attended a Kaffe Klatche hosted by Dan Wells, which was great. Not only is Dan humorous and friendly, he’s also very smart. He talked about the books he has out, mental illnesses, and spoke at length—as prompted by our questions—about future plans. Dan’s upcoming novels excite me more than anything he’s written so far, and he’s written some great stuff. The upcoming movie made from his first book sounds fantastic, and I am eagerly anticipating its release.

Unfortunately, because I was attending Dan’s KK, I missed the Kate Elliott signing. I’ve been enjoying her books lately, including on my flights to and from WorldCon, and I was looking forward to meeting her. However, I still enjoy the books, and I expect–and hope–that I will have the chance to meet her at a future con.

I did make it to two panels, The Great Debate, in which Brandon Sanderson as The Lord Ruler debated Patricia Briggs as Asil for the vote of the attending crowd. It was easily the most hilarious panel of the con, and even though Brandon lost the vote, I’m glad that I went. After that was the “writing long series” panel which, while I did not get much new information out of, was still educational and gave me a chance to see some favorite authors.

I had been intending to talk with Peter and Brandon after the last panel, say a last few goodbyes, but apparently Brandon’s flight schedule did not allow it. Since my flight was not scheduled to leave until 9 PM, I sat around the con and ended up meeting up with some friends I had met during the week who were also going to be on the same flight as me. I am thankful that I did because, after we went out to dinner and made our way to the airport, our flight was cancelled due to mechanical issues, and we had to go across and spend the “night” in the local hotel. I got about 3 hours of sleep, and our morning flight left at 5 AM. It was nice to have friends through the ordeal, especially as it was my first time traveling without a group.

I made the 5 AM flight, and I’m finally home, resting up in the 2 days I have before the school semester begins. It’s going to be exciting. I’m going to do a general recap post of WorldCon in a few days, but my general impression of the con is incredibly positive. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I’m already trying to plan out which con I can attend next year to meet even more of my favorite authors. Right now, WorldCon 2016 is much closer to home than this year, and they have Tamora Pierce as their Guest of Honor, so I would be delighted to attend that one again, though I will try to consider my other options as well to find the most exciting con I can attend (over the summer, while school is out.). If you have recommendations, please let me know!

Sasquan: Day 4

By yesterday (Saturday. It was yesterday when I originally wrote this post.), I had come to accept that pretty much anything I could learn and hear on a general panel is something that I could also have learned online or in a book, especially if it’s writing related. Therefore, I drilled down and focused on connections and autographs, things that I cannot get in some way just by being online.

I did attend one panel, but I can not even remember what it was—it obviously wasn’t incredibly important. (Looking back on the pictures, it was a

I did attend 2 Kaffee Klatches, with Mur Lafferty and Joshua Bilmes. The KK with Mur was a delight—she’s an excellent author and a nice and funny person. I’ve been a fan of her I Should Be Writing podcast for years, and I’ve read both of her Shambling Guide books, so I was excited to finally meet her. The KK was really informal, and it provided a nice opportunity to get to know Mur and her other fans.

The Bilmes KK was quite the opposite. Bilmes is the president for life of a literary agency which represents, among others, Sanderson, Brett, and Charlaine Harris. He’s a much different person from Mur, and the KK was run much more strictly. We went around the circle and introduced ourselves, then asked a single question which he answered at length. At the end, we talked about submission. It was very educational, and also, I expect, will be a valuable connection in the future. I did not, however, get any kind of personal connection or conversation out of the KK. I found both KKs to be highly valuable, and I am glad I attended both, they were just completely different.

After that, it was time for some fun. I went to the signing up some up-and-coming kid named George R. R. Martin. You should look up his stuff. Some of his books are pretty good, and he might be big some day.

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Then I went through the Sanderson signing line, getting him to do dueling signatures for me. I’ll do another post once I get home and can unpack everything about the dueling signatures, which is a project I quite enjoyed working on. I felt a little silly going through his signing line after hanging out with him for dinner and playing Magic with him, but I did it and he was nice, as always. I also helped out to a small degree with directing his signing line, an enjoyable task that I would like to do more of in the future.

Post Sanderson, I went to dinner with Alice and Lyndsey. The food was decent, and the company was great.

The big event of the day was the Hugo Ceremony. I debated not going, simply because of all of the debate and nastiness surrounding the various parties contesting the award this year. However, while I am definitely intending to attend future cons, I’m not sure when I’ll get back to another WorldCon, and I knew it was going to be a historic Hugo ceremony regardless of the outcome, simply due to the number of voters. So, I went. I ended up sitting next to The Peter, which was awesome, and Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear were sitting a few rows in front of me.

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Hugo Crowd.

The ceremony itself was run by David Gerrold and Tananarive Due, who did an excellent job of entertaining the crowd and moving through the various ceremonies of the evening which had to happen before the awards themselves were given out. And then the awards were given out.

Wes Chu won the Campbell award, which set the tone for the night. Wes was the only non-puppy nominee on the slate and, in the opinion of many, the best writer of the group. I’ve read his latest book and it is freaking amazing. He deserved this award, and I expect that he would have, at the least, come in second even without the puppy nominees, if not outright won the award. He got up on stage and gave what I felt to be the most hilarious speech of the night, and had parts of the crowd in hysterical laughter.

During the ceremony, the grim reaper and a Dalek both put on appearances, keeping the mood as light as possible. They were quite well done, and I got a group picture with said dalek after the ceremony. The organizers put their full effort into making the ceremony as good as they could, and I personally think they succeeded.

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L-R: Nate, Alice, Dalek, Peter, Lyndsey, Me.

The rest of the awards proceeded apace, with many of the expected nominees winning. Before last night (Saturday), there had been a total of 5 “No Award”s given over the entire course of the Hugos’ 65-ish year history. Last night, as you’ve probably heard, there were another 5. All of the puppy-dominated categories were completely shut down, and the awards were tense for both the presenters and the audience.

The best novel award was presented by Kjell Lindgren, from the International Space Station. The award went to The Three-Body Problem, the first translated work to ever win a Hugo novel award. It was an amazing experience, and regardless of everything else was a historic moment for the Hugo Award.

I’m glad that I attended the ceremony, and I think that, regardless of the politics surrounding it, several awards went to deserving winners–Wes Chu in particular. Looking at the long-lists, I think the biggest travesty was that The Slow Regard of Silent Things didn’t even get a novella nomination. Regardless, I attended the Hugos and then crashed so I would be a little rested for the last day.

Sasquan: Day 3

If you missed them, here are my posts for day 1 and day 2.

It’s common wisdom that the value in attending cons is networking. I’ve come to realize rather quickly that panels, while awesome for learning, are not excellent for networking, because the panelist/audience member interaction is usually limited. And the kind of things that usually happen on panels are ones I can find later on the internet, especially at the bigger panels, with the authors I really want to see.

For day 3, I dressed up as Steelheart from Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson. It was the first time I’d done a cosplay of any sort, and I have to say that it was a blast. The costume itself was as simple as you can get, but it was still recognizable, and the people who know who the character was said that they liked it. I’m definitely glad that I did it, and I want to do something a little more interesting next time. I’ll have to think about that one.

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Steelheart cosplay.

I only managed to attend one official panel yesterday, the Writing Excuses live recording. They recorded 3 episodes, and it was entertaining and educational, both for the podcasts themselves (which you’ll be able to get online in the next few months) and for the experience of seeing all of the behind the scenes work that goes in to making these things really work. Their audio equipment set-up is intense. After the panel, I managed to snag Dan and Howard for some autographs, and then run off to Wesley Chu’s Kaffe Klatche.

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Writing Excuses with guest star Gail Carriger.

The Kaffe Klatche was informal and relaxing. 10 fans sitting around a table, chatting with Wes about his work. He’s a really nice guy, and the other attendees were interesting people with good questions and comments to add to the conversation. Kaffe Klatches are quite worthwhile for making connections, and they’re also a good relaxer point in the middle of an intense day. Sign-ups, at least here, were quite competitive, so make sure you watch for those so that you can get the authors you want. I opted to not attend Sanderson’s KK, because that would be me being too greedy with his time.

Instead, I spent the afternoon in the autograph area, tracking down other authors and getting books signed and personalized. I managed to get Ken Liu, Elizabeth Bear, Katherine Addison, Wesley Chu, Kameron Hurley, and Scott Lynch to sign books for me yesterday. It’s amazing to meet that many authors, even if it is for literally less than a minute each while they scribble in your books. And those signed books are treasures that I can take home and keep forever, they are my preciouses.

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Me with Scott Lynch.

I had dinner out with Alice, and stopped and chatted with several other people I’ve met, at various points, both authors and fans that I’d previously only known online. The air quality was horrible, to the point that you could see a faint haze inside from the smoke, and the convention put up signs on every door leading outside warning about the air quality. Thankfully, it looks like it has cleared off this morning, so I may try to do some more touristy things this afternoon, though that time will likely be taken up with packing to make sure I can get all of my books home. (I’ll do a round-up post when I get home, of all of the books I bought and books I got signed.)

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The Haze.
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The Sign.

The last event of the day was the Magic: The Gathering tournament with Brandon Sanderson. It was a draft from the latest Magic set, Origins. It was huge fun, and I met a lot of cool people while playing. I went 1-2 in the actual tournament, so I didn’t even come close to winning, but for my 1 out-of-tournament game with Brandon, I won. Yes, I beat Brandon (once) at Magic. It was worth being up until 2 AM to do that.

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Cutting Brandon’s deck before playing Magic with him.

And so begins the last full day of the con. I’m off to breakfast a few hours later than usual, but I got enough sleep, so I’m still feeling pretty good. 🙂

Sasquan: Day 2

Day 1 was really cool, but it had nothing on Day 2.

For starters, the most traveling I had to do was a mile-ish walk. My phone still says that I walked about 5 miles yesterday, and I totally believe it, but that was the entire distance I travelled. No plane flights or anything. And I was able to get up at a reasonable time, after going to bed at a reasonable time, and getting a reasonable amount of sleep.

After grabbing a delicious breakfast at the Satellite Diner (where I’m headed to eat again as soon as I finish this post), I arrived at the convention hall a little early, and figured out where most of the rooms are. That place is a long, thin maze, and I know several people got lost at various times. Still, I had a little bit of extra time, and the dealer’s room wasn’t open yet, so I sat around the entrance hall and met up with Alex Ristea. He seems like a cool guy. 🙂

The first panel I attended was on the food of Spokane, a panel during which the panelists recommended various local restaurants, several of which I now intend to try out. The second panel was one on Future Pharma that was a bit of a let-down. It had the potential to be very interesting, but it just never quite made it. Several audience members decided to inject their “expertise”, and… Eh.

The third panel I attended was much, much better. It was a live Ditch Diggers recording with Mur and Matt, accompanied by Kate Elliott, Aliette de Bodard, and several other cool authors and an editor. The panel was hilarious, and the comments made were intelligent. The audience had a lot of really cool people too. For example, I recognized Kameron Hurley in the back.

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Ditch Diggers Panel

After that, I took a break for lunch in the con suite, where I met Peter Ahlstrom, Brandon’s personal assistant. So that was cool.

Then was Brandon’s official reading. He read a scene from Stormlight 3 that was awesome. There are no recordings of this online, as Brandon has asked that they not be posted publicly until after his Shadows of Self tour in October. He took about half of the time to do a Q&A session also. There are recordings of that one that will go up online. I’ll post the one I took if nobody else has posted one by the time I get home. I also managed to get myself a copy of the Con Double, Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell/Perfect State, from Peter.

After the panel, I skipped out on my next panel to stand around and talk with Alice and Peter. I got to meet Karen, Peter’s wife, and Emily, Brandon’s wife, as well as several cool fans. Alice and I presented Peter and Brandon with their Sanderson Army shirts, designed by the amazing Nikki. (Alice and I wore our shirts all day yesterday, too, and got several appreciative comments.)

After presenting Brandon with his shirt, which he really liked, he invited us out to have dinner with him and some of his other friends.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Brandon invited me out to dinner.

Give it another minute.

Of course, you don’t have to be psychic to know what I said. Of course I said yes!

So, uh, I also missed the panel after that, because I was kind of wandering around in a daze. I did make it to the dealer’s room, where I grabbed the Wes Chu books I didn’t already have, and found the library edition of Firefight, which I also did not have. That makes 2 more Sanderson books in my collection. 93 down, 127 to go (Yes, I’m counting.).

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YA Panel.

I did make it to Sanderson’s second panel. The topic was the various subgenres of YA. It was moderately interesting, but, as a friend on Twitter observed, it was made up of SF authors who happen to write YA. This con does not bring in YA authors, which is a little unfortunate. Still, it was a pretty cool panel. Also, Peter was wearing his Sanderson Army shirt, which was totally awesome. (I think Nikki hates me now. I don’t blame her.)

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Peter wearing his Sanderson Army shirt.

After relaxing for a bit in my room, I went to dinner. I managed to behave myself, I think (I hope), and not pester Sanderson as a fan. Also in attendance were several beta readers and Dan Wells, and it was honestly the coolest thing that has even happened to me.

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Dinner

I’m not exaggerating about that. That was the coolest, most awesome thing that has ever happened to me. Yesterday, August 20, 2015, was the best day of my life (So far, but good luck topping that one.).

After that, I was mentally and physically completely exhausted, so I came back to my hotel room and crashed. Now I’m up for day 3, and off to grab some breakfast before another series of amazing panels.

Thank You, Brandon Sanderson

Today is the official 10th anniversary of the publication of Brandon Sanderson’s first novel, Elantris. Brandon is my favorite author, and I’ve written a short post about why, and phrased it as a thank-you note for Brandon. Here it is:

Thank you, Brandon Sanderson.

Thank you for writing such brilliant, mind-bending twisty endings that always make me gasp. Thank you for such well-defined magic systems that make me feel as if I could almost use them myself and always get my imagination going at full speed.

Thank you for writing such beautiful books, and ensuring that they are in such beautiful packages. Thank you for fighting for the cover art that the books deserve until they have it, and never compromising on this quality.

Thank you for writing so quickly that I’m always anticipating the next four novels you have out within a year, and even though you have a ridiculous number of simultaneous series going, I’m never waiting too long for the next installment.

Thank you for making your writing knowledge available to aspiring writers like me, through your podcasts and classes. Thank you for telling me, every week, that I’m out of excuses and I should go write.

Thank you for caring about me and the rest of your fans. Thank you for taking the time to sign all of our books, even when we have dozens of them, and to answer all of our questions, even if half of them are RAFOs. Thank you for not forgetting that you were a fan once, and knowing who we are and how to treat us right.

Thank you for helping me complete my collection with your generosity, even when it went way beyond what I expected of you.

Thank you for making my laugh with the Alcatraz series when nothing else could make me smile.

Thank you for writing such a massive variety of characters, not only physically, but also mentally. Thank you for writing so many odd little characters with mental disabilities that I can connect with.

Thank you for finishing my favorite series of all time, and finishing it right.

Thank you for 10 amazing years of books, and here’s to many, many more.

Thank you, Brandon Sanderson.

Book Review: The Hero of Ages

WARNING: THIS IS THE THIRD BOOK IN THE MISTBORN TRILOGY. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE FIRST ONE, GO CHECK OUT MY REVIEW AND READ IT. THIS REVIEW–AND THE SUMMARY–CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Hero of Ages

From Goodreads:

Tricked into releasing the evil spirit Ruin while attempting to close the Well of Ascension, new emperor Elend Venture and his wife, the assassin Vin, are now hard-pressed to save the world.This adventure brings the Mistborn epic fantasy trilogy to a dramatic and surprising climax as Sanderson’s saga offers complex characters and a compelling plot, asking hard questions about loyalty, faith and responsibility.

I usually think of Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, concluded in The Hero of Ages (HoA), as a single unit, split into three parts, much like Lord of the Rings. This is, I think, partly because of how Sanderson wrote the books, all back-to-back, and had therefore finished the first draft of HoA before The Final Empire went off for copyedits, and so he was able to tweak thematic things to make them fit and flow through all three books. And they flow quite well. The overarching story is nicely continuous, and built up magnificently.

That’s not to say that HoA picks up exactly where Well of Ascension left off. Rather, it starts with a bang, throwing the reader into new and exciting mysteries, and answering questions much more quickly than you would have thought. Sanderson does not save all of his secrets for the big finish, and HoA is an exciting book throughout. If you found Well of Ascension a little boring, do not fear, HoA remedies that and more. The set-up in the first two books begins to pay off in droves, and it is glorious.

It also starts off with the excellent epigraph, “I am, unfortunately, the Hero of Ages.” Remember that as you read it. (If you’ve already read it, I’m sorry—kinda—for doing that to you.)

Sanderson does not give everything away just to keep the book going, though. He saves his best tricks for the end. And what an end it is. The first two books really were just warm-up exercises, all set-up for the climax of HoA. The battles are epic on a scale rarely seen, the stakes are incredible, and the twists are marvelous. And then, just when you think it’s over, Sanderson gives you an epilogue that will make you tear up. Guaranteed, no matter how little you usually tear up at books. If you get even slightly emotional at the end of books, have chocolate and/or ice cream ready. Probably best to have a box of tissues and a friend as well. (If none are available in person, poke me or Nikki on Twitter, and we’ll assemble a support group for you. It may be wise to do this even before you reach the ending.)

I think he can manage this, in large part, because of the characters to whom we have become so deeply connected over the series. Elend and Vin, now married and fully-powered Mistborn, make an excellent kick-butt couple. Vin, in particular, has come so far from the little street urchin who doesn’t trust anyone, and I love how her journey continues here.

Sazed’s quest continues, and it is, in my opinion, the best character arc in the series. Sanderson is a deeply religious man, but that does not show in the slightest in his writing. Sazed’s belief, or lack thereof, is pulled off so convincingly, that it makes me question what it really means to believe, every time I read through the trilogy.

Spook’s arc also has a fitting conclusion, one I feel is fully justified and deserved, given how the other characters have treated him throughout the series. I feel perhaps most like him—shunted to the side, used as an errand boy, and always, always, wanting to do more to help. I do not, in any way, blame him for anything that happens.

Ruin. Ruin is the perfect villain. Simultaneously nebulous and concrete, yet utterly nefarious and evil, Ruin plays his cards so brilliantly that I’m not even disappointed that, at the end of Well of Ascension, we learn that our characters have been doing what he wanted/expected all along. Plots like this usually annoy me, but Ruin is just so… Disgusting and excellent that I have no problems with it here.

In summary, the capstone to Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy is a brilliant, feels-inducing, climax that ties up all the right threads and gives us satisfying—if unexpected—conclusions for all of our beloved characters, complete with an epic Sanderson Avalanche. Thought of as a single unit, the Mistborn Trilogy is one of my favorites of all time, and as Hero of Ages is, I feel, the best in the trilogy, I give it Five of Five stars without blinking. Go. Get it. Read it. You’ll thank me when you’re done crying.

Brandon Sanderson.

Goodreads.

Amazon.