Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for October, 2012

Book Rave: Dispossession

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

BVC releases Chaz Brenchley's DISPOSSESSIONNew today from Book View Café is Chaz Brenchley’s Dispossession, an unusual, intricate, and engrossing mystery with an element of fantasy.

I picked this novel up by chance from the inner-sanctum of BVC, without knowing anything about it, not even what genre it was. It didn’t take long to hook me. The writing is gorgeous, and the story deeply intriguing: this is a tale of amnesia, as protagonist Jonty Marks wakes in hospital three months after his last recallable memory to find his staid life utterly changed.

Writers write for different reasons, for different goals, for different purposes. My own writing grew out of my love for adventure stories: lots of action, big sets, suffering heroes and antiheroes. Dispossession has its own action and determined plot, but it seems to me it’s written more to illuminate the human condition. In this age of 99-cent pot boilers, I’m almost afraid to tell you that much of this long book involves the inner reflections of the protagonist, Jonty Marks, and sadly it feels necessary to add the story is not boring at all! Here’s a quote to show you what I mean, with a few sentences snipped out that might be spoilers:

I still thought he was nineteen; still thought that was exact. Full growth but no maturity, whip-fast reflexes and not an ounce more flesh than he could need or want; fire and hunger, passion and arrogance and the habit of instant judgment with no sense of perspective, no leniency.

And beauty, of course […] and engulfing all, the certainty that there was no forgiveness, that there could be no reconciliation in this world or any other.

And that also was pure nineteen-year-old thinking, and not subject to debate.

As a writer, I deeply admire the ability to write descriptions like that.

Another interesting aspect of Dispossession for me: this is the most “British” book I’ve ever read. I was frequently asking my Kindle to provide me with definitions for unfamiliar words, and slowly realized that all the other books I’ve read by British authors must have been translated into “American.” This is the pure product.

You’ll find a more extensive description of Dispossession’s plot at Book View Café — too much description, in my opinion. Books should tell their own story, as the plot unfolds. My recommendation is to skip reading the BVC description and just grab the sample chapters. That will let you know if Dispossession is a book for you, or not.

If you do read it, let me know what you think!

Snippet: Vast

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Vast by Linda Nagata


A sense kicked in. Something like vision. Not because it emulated sight, but because it revealed. Himself: Nikko Jiang-Tibayan. An electronic pattern scheduled to manifest at discrete intervals. Nikko Jiang-Tibayan. He’d been an organic entity once. Not now.

Point one: identify.

Personality suspended on a machine grid: He is the mind of the great ship, Null Boundary. His memories are many, not all accessible. He’s locked much of his past away in proscribed data fields. He interrogates his remaining inventory, seeking an explanation. It comes in an amalgam of cloudy scents: the clinging stink of living flesh parasitized by aerobic bacteria. All defenses down. “Don’t be sad, my love,” she whispers. “Whatever the cost, you know we had to try.”

He explores no farther.

Point two and counting: status check.

A scheduled mood shift floods his pattern with easy confidence. He confirms that Null Boundary has long ago reached maximum velocity, four-tenths lightspeed. The magnetic scoops have been deactivated; the solenoids folded to a point piercing the increasingly thick interstellar medium. Duration? Over two centuries ship’s time have elapsed since Null Boundary left Deception Well.

Two more centuries.

His past has become unconscionably deep for a man who’d been condemned to die at the age of thirty standard years.

* * *
“VAST lives up to its name–big, important, yet written to a human scale so the perspectives of science emerge all the more strongly. Among hard sf writers, Linda Nagata is a pearl, able to render her complex landscapes in moving, quick-paced stories that linger in the mind.”

–Gregory Benford

“…one of the most enjoyable SF books I’ve read in the last 12 years…I can safely say that it is one of the very novels that has literally haunted my dreams, in that the book exerted such a powerful hold on my waking imagination that come nighttime I found my sleeping brain racing ahead with the story. It’s awesome!”

–Alastair Reynolds

“…Nagata’s vision broadens our sense of who we are and what we might one day become as few others have done before her. Recommended.”

–Tom Easton, Analog

“VAST blends solid reasoning, lyrical prose, and an almost mythic suite of characters to form one of the most satisfying sf novels of the decade.”

–Wil McCarthy

Available in print and ebook editions.

Snippet: “Nahiku West”

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Nahiku West by Linda Nagata

A railcar was ferrying Key Lu across the tether linking Nahiku East and West when a micro-meteor popped through the car’s canopy, leaving two neat holes that vented the cabin to hard vacuum within seconds. The car continued on the track, but it took over a minute for it to reach the gel lock at Nahiku West and pass through into atmosphere. No one expected to find Key Lu alive, but as soon as the car re-pressurized, he woke up.

Sometimes, it’s a crime not to die.


I stepped into the interrogation chamber. Key had been sitting on one of two padded couches, but when he saw me he bolted to his feet. I stood very still, hearing the door lock behind me. Nothing in Key’s background indicated he was a violent man, but prisoners sometimes panic. I raised my hand slightly, as a gel ribbon armed with a paralytic spray slid from my forearm to my palm, ready for use if it came to that.

“Please,” I said, keeping the ribbon carefully concealed. “Sit down.”

Key slowly subsided onto the couch, never taking his frightened eyes off me.

Most of the celestial cities restrict the height and weight of residents to minimize the consumption of volatiles, but Commonwealth police officers are required to be taller and more muscular than the average citizen. I used to be a smaller man, but during my time at the academy adjustments were made. I faced Key Lu with a physical presence optimized to trigger a sense of intimidation in the back brain of a nervous suspect, an effect enhanced by the black fabric of my uniform. Its design was simple—shorts cuffed at the knees and a lightweight pullover with long sleeves that covered the small arsenal of chemical ribbons I carried on my forearms—but its light-swallowing color set me apart from the bright fashions of the celestial cities.

I sat down on the couch opposite Key Lu. He was a well-designed man, nothing eccentric about him, just another good-looking citizen. His hair was presently blond, his eyebrows darker. His balanced face lacked strong features. The only thing notable about him was his injuries. Dark bruises surrounded his eyes and their whites had turned red from burst blood vessels. More bruises discolored swollen tissue beneath his coppery skin.

We studied each other for several seconds, both knowing what was at stake. I was first to speak. “I’m Officer Zeke Choy—”

“I know who you are.”

“—of the Commonwealth Police, the watch officer here at Nahiku.”

The oldest celestial cities orbited Earth, but Nahiku was newer. It was one in a cluster of three orbital habitats that circled the Sun together, just inside the procession of Venus.

Key Lu addressed me again, with the polite insistence of a desperate man. “I didn’t know about the quirk, Officer Choy. I thought I was legal.”

The machine voice of a Dull Intelligence whispered into my auditory nerve that he was lying. I already knew that, but I nodded anyway, pretending to believe him.

The DI was housed within my atrium, a neural organ that served as an interface between mind and machine. Atriums are a legal enhancement—they don’t change human biology—but Key Lu’s quirked physiology that had allowed him to survive short-term exposure to hard vacuum was definitely not.

I was sure his quirk had been done before the age of consent. He’d been born in the Far Reaches among the fragile holdings of the asteroid prospectors, where it must have looked like a reasonable gamble to bioengineer some insurance into his system. Years had passed since then; enforcement had grown stricter. Though Key Lu looked perfectly ordinary, by the law of the Commonwealth, he wasn’t even human.

I met his gaze, hoping he was no fool. “Don’t tell me anything I don’t want to know,” I warned him.

I let him consider this for several seconds before I went on. “Your enhancement is illegal under the statutes of the Commonwealth—”

“I understand that, but I didn’t know about it.”

I nodded my approval of this lie. I needed to maintain the fiction that he hadn’t known. It was the only way I could help him. “I’ll need your consent to remove it.”

A spark of hope ignited in his blooded eyes. “Yes! Yes, of course.”

“So recorded.” I stood, determined to get the quirk out of his system as soon as possible, before awkward questions could be asked. “Treatment can begin right—”

The door to the interrogation room opened.

I was so startled, I turned with my hand half raised, ready to trigger the ribbon of paralytic still hidden in my palm—only to see Magistrate Glory Mina walk in, flanked by two uniformed cops I’d never seen before.

My DI sent the ribbon retreating back up my forearm while I greeted Glory with a scowl. Nahiku was my territory. I was the only cop assigned to the little city and I was used to having my own way—but with the magistrate’s arrival I’d just been overridden.

* * *

Here’s what Locus says about “Nahiku West”:
“A complex mystery, with an intricate plot… Well conceived and well executed. RECOMMENDED.”

“Nahiku West” is a 9,000-word novelette. Find it at Book View Café Use coupon code NW1012 for $1 off through October 30, 2012.

Update on the novel-in-progress

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

This has been the process for the current novel-in-progress:

Draft 1: trust the process, tell the story, make up stuff as needed.

Draft 2: fill in holes, add details, consult reality**.

(** this means “research stuff” or “use Google to consult the global hive mind.” The Internet is awesome.)

As of today I’m not quite 2/3 of the way through draft 2. So far the manuscript has grown about 7,000 words since draft 1. That number surprises me. I would have guessed maybe 4,000 at most.

Soon I’ll be rustling up beta readers…

My First–Maybe My Last–Writer’s Retreat

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

I just got back from Oahu last night. I was there for five days, house-sitting — well, okay, dog-sitting — for my daughter and son-in-law. The idea was, this would be a writer’s retreat: five days of intense revision on the novel-in-progress, with occasional dog walking.

I’d never done a writer’s retreat before, nor had much desire too. Generally, when I decide “Now I will do hours of mind-expanding writing” that will be the exact moment that all desire to write suddenly leaves me. So why set myself up for failure? I write well-enough at home.

But in this case dog-sitting was needed, and my philosophy is “try new stuff.” Besides, I actually got a lot of useful writing done when I was traveling alone in July. So I packed up my Netbook and my folder of “to-do notes” and headed over to Oahu, where it was really hot.

Okay, that’s an unfair statement, because it’s not just Oahu that’s hot. Hawaii, at sea-level, is hot. Sure, there are warmer, more humid places, but the truth is I am spoiled. I live at a relatively high elevation on the island of Maui where the air temperature rarely if ever exceeds eighty degrees, and is much more commonly in the low seventies. Sure, it can be hot in the sun, but it’s almost always cool in the shade, and if the upstairs of the house gets kind of warm on a blazing summer day, well, the downstairs is still cool. So, yeah, spoiled.

Also, I grew up on Oahu, living at sea-level in a house without air-conditioning, and going to a school without air-conditioning. I know what it is to live and work in constant heat and humidity, and I’m not fond of it. The funny thing is, it really wasn’t that hot for the first three days, but regardless, I had a hard time settling into work. In the end, I managed two decent days of revision, but I did get to read a long and fascinating novel by Chaz Brenchley, which I will post on in more detail next week, when it’s released by Book View Café.

And next time I go to Oahu to dog-sit? I’ll plan on sightseeing and hiking, not writing. And if I happen to get some writing done on the side, that’s “cool” too.

Short story “Nahiku West”
now at Book View Café

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Nahiku West by Linda NagataThe October issue of Analog was published back in August and contained my novelette “Nahiku West.” The period of exclusivity has expired and I’m now free to re-publish the story — so I’ve done so, in ebook form. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, now’s the time.

For now the ebook is available only at Book View Café, but it can be purchased there in either mobi or epub versions.

Set in The Nanotech Succession story world, “Nahiku West” takes place in a nanotech-drenched future, where anything is possible, but not everything is allowed. Police officer Zeke Choy is charged with enforcing molecular law — but his first task is to determine if a crime has taken place. “Nahiku West” is set in the same world as the award-winning novel The Bohr Maker.

The list price of this story is $2.99, but for that handful of readers who visit my blog, use coupon code NW1012 for $1.00 off.

Click here to read the opening paragraphs.

Here’s what Locus says about “Nahiku West”:
“A complex mystery, with an intricate plot… Well conceived and well executed. RECOMMENDED.”