Patrick's Periodic Picks

Patrick reads the best of speculative fiction from hard science fiction to space opera and from epic to modern fantasy ... and the occasional mystery. If it has a cutting edge plot and fully-realized characters, he's there. Of course a brief Apocalypse/Singularity once in a while or an interesting concept or even the occasional BIG explosion is always welcome.

(Sketch by Batton Lash; Comic-Con picture [l-r] Silvia Mancini, Sam Weller, Ray Bradbury!!, Patrick, Lori Tucker; Patrick again.)  



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Iron Gold: Book 4 of the Red Rising Saga Cover Image
ISBN: 9780425285916
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Del Rey Books - January 16th, 2018


And we’re back. There’s no such thing as “happily ever after.” Ten years have passed since the events in Morning Star … and the beat goes on. And on. War. The Forever War. Same old crap, different day/week/month/year/celestial body.

The same, sure, but this time out there are four points of view:

  • Darrow. Still the Reaper. Forever angst ridden. Still thinks it all rides on him. But now he’s also a husband and a father. Heavy hangs the head that wears the starShell. Luckily for him, and us, he still runs with a pack.
  • Lyria. Gamma liberated from the Martian mines, promised the worlds, but barely getting by. How bad does it have to get before she’s dreaming of better days back in the mines under golden boots? Her family may fall, but by the Vale, she’s gonna Rise.
  • Ephraim. Thief, rogue, badass. Tin man with a code … and a heart. Every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in. He’s been made an offer he cannot refuse. Honor among thieves? Hardly. Game on, bitches.
  • Lysander. Would be Sovereign, spared during the Rising. Little Lysander is not so little anymore. In fact he’s the same age that Darrow and Company were during the Rising. To say he has a razor to grind would be a bit of an understatement. Time for a Rising of his own.

Heroes? Villains? Time will tell. But everyone’s the hero of their own story, are they not?

I was a little worried going into this one. After all, how does one follow the bloodydamn awesomeness that was the Rising? Simple: Add three more points of view, up the stakes and the scope by an order of millions, and ramp up the action to Holy Crap! When’s the last time you had to catch your breath reading a damn book? Four points of view. Each would be great by itself, together they are remarkable. Start getting into Darrow’s point of view, then we’re on to Lyria. Start getting into Lyria and we’re on to Ephraim … and then to Lysander. It just doesn’t let up. You can’t put the bloodydamn thing down! And it ain’t over. Now you have to wait a bloodydamn year for the next bloodydamn installment. Stuff escalates.

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The Wrong Stars Cover Image
ISBN: 9780857667090
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Angry Robot - November 7th, 2017

The crew of the White Raven thought they had a nice bit of salvage until they discovered an occupied cryopod. That occupant, Dr. Elena Oh, wakes to a home system five hundred years older than when she left it, and she has one hell of a story to tell: First Freakin’ Contact! Fantastic, to be sure, but it turns out this is old news. Humanity met extra-terrestrials a long, long time ago. These aliens, however, have, shall we say, a rather loose grasp on the truth. The Liars, as they are known, gave us many wonderful things including advanced tech and access to many a star system. All in all they’re rather handy to have around, even if they are a bit fond of the odd exaggeration and tall tale. That said, turns out Elena’s extra-terrestrials are not Liars, and their truth could just lead to humanity’s end. The galaxy will never be the same again. The Wrong Stars is excellent space opera and great characters and lots of space-faring action and adventure. Especially awesome if you’re a fan of series like James SA Corey’s Expanse.

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The Core: Book Five of the Demon Cycle Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345531506
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Del Rey Books - October 3rd, 2017

Some of our heroes have fallen and the world’s gone to demon shit. All over the lands the peoples are in disarray. The Daylight War is in full bloom and without our Deliverers to keep their peoples united, treachery and villainy and chaos reign supreme. And that’s just the human side of the equation. A whole lot of hurt is about to be visited upon the surface from the dark deep below. Swarm! The Mother of All Demons is a-layin’ and all hell’s about to break loose ... literally. Can those above hold out until our alagai-kicking heroes can take it to the core itself and deliver Ala from evil? Inquiring minds want to know!

I’ve loved this series from the beginning and I loved its conclusion. It took me a while to read The Core, partly because it’s 800 some-odd pages sure, but mostly because I didn’t want it to end. Like your last glass of single malt, you have to savor every last sip. I’m going to miss Brett’s world and those who live, and lived, here. That said, ol’ Peat delivered us one hell of an epic sendoff. "Epic" is such a small word for such awesomeness.

And I’ve a feeling that more stories will rise to the surface some day. Master storyteller Brett did drop a seed or two amongst all the happenings and daring do in The Core. I honest word can’t wait until they grow.

Paradox Bound Cover Image
ISBN: 9780553418330
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - September 26th, 2017

Grab your favorite jalopy and hit the road in a timely fashion. You can’t really travel in time, actually, but you can travel through history. Take a trip down memory lane, visit a few sites along Route 66, and then chase that elusive American Dream. You just have to avoid those pesky paradoxes and those faceless buzz-kills who protect history from anomalies (i.e, you). These guys are more likely to hand out bullets than speeding tickets. (Anachronistic) hats off to Clines for juggling people, places, and moments without skidding off into contradiction’s ditch. Paradox Bound is a splendid romp through the hourglass of history and back to the future, all wrapped up in a red, white, and blue Möbius bow.

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Artemis Cover Image
ISBN: 9780553448122
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - November 14th, 2017

The author of The Martian sets his sights on a decidedly different celestial orb, the Moon, and its first city, Artemis. Meet Jazz Bashara, small-time porter and even smaller-time smuggler. She's been here on the Moon since she was, like, six and life here sure is no picnic, what with the nearest fresh air being 400,000 kilometers away, and everything being so god-awful expensive. She is on track to make a cool million slugs though. Only thing is that job isn't what you'd call strictly legal. But when you're living in a coffin and you’ve got bills and debts to pay, you gotta do what you gotta do, right? The Moon's not only a harsh mistress, she can be a downright bitch.


Artemis has many of the elements you loved in The Martian: cool tech, sciencing the shit out of things to not die, and one hell of a protagonist. Jazz Bashara is just as brilliant and irreverent as The Martian's Mark Watney. She's just a bit looser with her morals is all. Just a bit. And like our favorite Martian, Watney, she's in way over her head and in danger of sucking some serious vacuum. Unlike Watney, however, Jazz doesn't have an entire planet rallying to save her sorry ass from certain death. She's gonna have to do that little thing on her own (mostly). All of the awesomeness you'd expect from Weir in a book you may just read in one sitting.

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Nyxia Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399556791
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Crown Books for Young Readers - September 12th, 2017

Ten young people recruited to go to a distant planet, but only eight will go to the new planet’s surface and reap its rewards, or so they are told. And so they embark on a voyage most spectacular, spent training and competing for a spot on the mission, passage on a mission apparently only they can survive. Almost all who went before them did not come back alive. Fathom? File it under D for Deadly.

Nyxia, a miracle substance found only on that distant planet, a substance guarded most dearly by an indigenous species most dangerous. Nyxia is the mission. Fail, and it’s back to Earth with a bit of corporate pocket change … or in a box. Succeed and it’s riches beyond compare, for you, and for your family. File it under S for Set for Life.

Nyxia has been compared to a host of young adult novels from Ender’s Game to The Hunger Games, and even to Red Rising. Fair to be sure, for it is at heart a story of diverse personalities thrown together and forced to compete, and work together. That, and our window into Nyxia, young, broken Emmett would definitely give Ender and Katniss and Darrow a run for their money. Similar, sure, but as Shakespeare wrote, “The play’s the thing.” Seems Reintgen, a teacher of creative writing, can both teach and do, and I’d hazard a guess that many of his students will see themselves within the pages of this trilogy. Pick up Nyxia because it’s familiar, but read it because it is a worthy successor to those great works, and a real page-turner to boot. File it under E for Enjoy.

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Reincarnation Blues Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399178481
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Del Rey Books - August 22nd, 2017

Milo has lived many, many lives. And he remembers them all. Live a life as an investment banker, live the next as a water bug. So many, many lives. Takes a few to reach enlightenment. Some souls take time, some take a lot of time. Milo’s about at his life limit. Seems a soul can be canceled like a bad sitcom if it can’t get it right. We readers are Milo’s companions on his voyage backward and forward through time. And like the many past lives that haunt his present, cheering him on, and lamenting his failures, we watch our hero survive (and not survive) the trials and tribulations that those many, many lives encompass. We even get to experience a bit of the afterlife with him. Turns out our boy’s in love with Death, or to be more accurate, an incarnation of that concept, a lovely woman who prefers to be called Suzie. She’s been on hand through the millennia to guide him from one life to the next, but she grows weary of her existence and knows it’s time to move on … for them both. Reincarnation Blues is a fantastic look into the human condition told over ten thousand lifetimes. Highly enjoyable and recommended.

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Vanguard Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101988343
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ace Books - May 16th, 2017

Campbell takes us back in time to before there was an Alliance … to witness its birth. Remember those ancestors, the living stars, that Black Jack and company often prayed (of sorts) to? Well, prepare to meet them. If you thought fighting and a war of attrition across centuries and light years, or battling enigmatic aliens, were problems, try herding cats across the Down and Out. Only these cats are corporations and pirates and the disenfranchised, oh my! It’s the Old West on a galactic scale and not a marshal in sight. Those who would do good and who are just seeking a fresh start versus those who would capitalize on the extreme lack of accountability that interstellar distance makes possible. Campbell never fails to bring the story and I love every hero-filled moment of it. 

Heard of Jack Campbell but are a bit too daunted to get lost in the previous fifteen (so far) books in the Black Jack Universe? Well, here’s a great place to start … the beginning. Those of you who have read those earlier volumes will love meeting the ancestors.

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The Collapsing Empire Cover Image
ISBN: 9780765388889
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Tor Books - March 21st, 2017

Faster than light travel isn’t possible. Luckily for the citizens of the Interdependency there is The Flow, the unexplained something, kind of like a river, that allows travel between the stars. Until now, that is. The Flow is failing. Not common knowledge, to be sure, but a few know that things are about to get very interesting very soon. But what to do with that knowledge? Prepare humanity for the collapse … or capitalize on it? Politics, machinations, nobility … choices. The Interdependency is an empire, and like the name suggests, its constituents are quite dependent on each other. In fact, there’s really only one currently-reachable planet that can sustain itself, and that’s the appropriately named End. End is about to become the center of the known universe. I loved this novel and can’t wait for the next installment. Oh, and you’re gonna love Kiva. Even if she kills you.

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Mars One Cover Image
ISBN: 9781481461610
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - April 4th, 2017

Meet Tristin, sixteen-year-old high school student, astronaut-in-training, future colonist of the red planet, and semi-reluctant reality TV star. He’s been tapped to go to Mars since he was twelve. And it’s time to go. Too bad he’ll have to leave nearly everything and everyone behind, like his best friend, and especially his girlfriend. Talk about star-crossed lovers! But hell, it’s Mars, man. Can’t pass that up. He’s no ordinary kid, though. How many kids do you know that can repair a damaged starboard solar alpha rotary joint or a malfunctioning intake valve on an oxygenator? Still, he is quite young, the youngest on the mission. How’d you like it if all of your teenage angst and growing pains were played out in public for all the whole world to see … and in then again in space? A great coming-of-age-in-the-Space-Age story, and one kick-ass ride. One of those rare works that reads so visually that you might step a way for a few minutes, return, turn on your TV, and only then realize you’d been reading. And those last thirty pages? Wow.

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All Our Wrong Todays Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101985137
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dutton Books - February 7th, 2017

Tom Barron grew up in the utopia we were promised back in the 50s: flying cars, recreational space travel, universal health care. Or would have if he hadn’t screwed it all up by traveling back in time to the moment of his world’s big leap forward, the pivot point that made his reality a reality. Read Bradbury’s "A Sound of Thunder." Research the Butterfly Effect. Now John Barron is back in 2016. Our 2016: no flying cars, no recreational space travel, no universal health care. Sucks for us, but his life is actually a lot better: great career, mother and girlfriend are still around, he’s got a sister now, and dad’s not such a tool. Cool for Tom/John, but not so much for the billion or so individuals who now don’t exist. Moral dilemma: Get used to the new first name and enjoy the fruits of his stupidity or try to fix the timeline? This is the quandary that takes us on an adventure across our world, and through time and space. Thought-provoking, poignant, and brilliant. What would you do?