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Book Buzz: Year of the Spaceship
Virgin Galactic unveils the first commercial spacecraft
By Pat Ferrara
August 04, 2008
Concept Pic of Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo and White Knight Two
© Virgin Galactic
From Star Trek’s FTL warp drive to Carl Sagan’s concentric-ringed, space-tearing Machine, spaceships have been as much a staple of science fiction as aliens or any other concept that has helped define the genre. Within the fictional SF universe a spacecraft’s design is limitless, their propulsion systems and fuel types scientifically informed, but always outlandish.
Last week, however, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites unveiled the carrier ship for the first commercial spacecraft…and the most likely platform that will get you, me and other space enthusiasts into the black sky over the next few decades.
Modeled after Rutan’s Ansari X Prize-winning White Knight One, the White Knight Two (named ‘Eve’ after Branson’s mother) was displayed last week near the site of the soon-to-be ‘Spaceport America’ in New Mexico’s Mojave Desert. The largest all-composite spacecraft to date, WK2 has a wingspan of just over 140 feet and a service ceiling of 60,000 feet. From that height the carrier will release the passenger craft SpaceShipTwo, which will accelerate out of the atmosphere at Mach 3, or just over 2200 miles per hour, to offer passengers a firsthand, Blue Marble view of the Earth and five minutes of weightlessness.
The rollout of White Knight Two marks an enormous milestone for privatized space travel, one that’s already come with a hefty price. The WK2 rollout and overall project launch dates were pushed back last summer after 10,000 lbs of nitrous oxide exploded at the Mojave airport during a fuel flow test. Three Scaled Composites employees were killed in the blast while an additional three were seriously injured from shrapnel wounds.
But the devastating accident hasn’t blunted enthusiasm for Virgin Galactic’s maiden voyage, which Branson says could take place in 18 months. Over 200 people have already shelled out the $200,000 ticket price for their astronaut wings. Among those waiting for the trip up are William Shatner, Dave Navarro, Sigourney Weaver, Bryan Singer, Moby, Paris Hilton and even famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.
This Week’s Top Picks: Joe Haldeman’s Marsbound, Karl Schroeder’s Pirate Sun, Don Bassingthwaite’s Doom of Kings & Ben Bova’s Mars Life
New in Hardcover:
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown)
Twilighttempted the imagination. New Moon made readers thirsty for more. Eclipseturned the saga into a worldwide phenomenon. And now, the book that everyone has been waiting for...Breaking Dawn, the final book in the #1 bestselling Twilight Saga, will take your breath away.
Marsbound, Joe Haldeman (Ace)
A novel of the red planet from the Hugo and Nebula Award–winning author of The Accidental Time Machine and Old Twentieth. Young Carmen Dula and her family are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime—they’re going to Mars. Once on the Red Planet, however, Carmen realizes things are not so different from Earth. There are chores to do, lessons to learn, and oppressive authority figures to rebel against. And when she ventures out into the bleak Mars landscape alone one night, a simple accident leads her to the edge of death until she is saved by an angel—an angel with too many arms and legs, a head that looks like a potato gone bad, and a message for the newly arrived human inhabitants of Mars: We were here first.
Greywalker: Underground, Kat Richardson (Roc)
Harper Blaine was your average small-time P.I. until she died—for two minutes. Now Harper is a Greywalker—walking the thin line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And she’s discovering that her new abilities are landing her all sorts of “strange” cases. Pioneer Square’s homeless are turning up dead and mutilated, and zombies have been seen roaming the underground—the city buried beneath modern Seattle. When Harper’s friend Quinton believes he may be implicated in the deaths, he persuades her to investigate. But the killer is no mere murderer—it is a creature of ancient legend. And Harper must deal with both the living and the dead to stop the monster and its master…unless they stop her first.
Book of the Vampire, Nigel Suckling (Facts, Figures & Fun)
Nigel Suckling, one of the foremost authorities on unicorns, leprechauns, and angels, has developed a taste for blood. Book of the Vampire is a stimulating and chilling look at world-wide and ages-old myths about blood-sucking creatures. The accounts range from South America’s Chupacabras to Malaysia’s penanggalan, whose disembodied flying heads terrified believers. Suckling begins his inquiry with Bram Stoker, whose classic Dracula revived a flagging interest among Victorians for elegant hosts with curious appetites. The book digs deep into Stoker’s influences from ancient cultures, including the lamia and the succubus myths from Rome, Greece, and the Middle East, and also examines vampire myths from a spiritual perspective. Bruce Pennington, a well-known and extremely popular fantasy artist, contributes gorgeous illustrations that contribute to the Vampire attraction.
Virga: Pirate Sun, Karl Schroeder (Tor)
Return to Virga, a bubble universe artificially separated from our own future universe, and the setting of Sun of Suns and Queen of Candesce. Chaison Fanning, the admiral of a fleet of warships, has been captured and imprisoned by his enemies, but is suddenly rescued and set free. He flees through the sky to his home city to confront the ruler who betrayed him. And perhaps even to regain his lovely, powerful, and subversive wife, Venera, who he has not seen since she fled with the key to the artificial sun at the center of Virga, Candesce. Schroeder sets a whole new standard for hard SF space opera.
Mars Life, Ben Bova (Tor)
Jamie Waterman discovered the cliff dwelling on Mars, and the fact that an intelligent race lived on the red planet sixty-five million years ago, only to be driven into extinction by the crash of a giant meteor. Now the exploration of Mars is itself under threat of extinction, as the ultraconservative New Morality movement gains control of the U.S. government and cuts off all funding for the Mars program. Meanwhile, Carter Carleton, an anthropologist who was driven from his university post by unproven charges of rape, has started to dig up the remains of a Martian village. Science and politics clash on two worlds as Jamie desperately tries to save the Mars program and uncover who the vanished Martians were.
Exile—And Glory, Jerry Pournelle (Baen)
Earth was stagnating from a lack of resources, from corrupt governments that stayed in power by keeping their people in ignorance and poverty, and by the established power structures that stifled the creative technologies that could solve the planet’s problems. But the governments and power structures didn’t yet control space, where bold new techniques could freely be applied and the vast resources of the solar system could be utilized by such courageous men and women as:
Aneas MacKenzie—he had believed in the man he had helped to reach the office of the presidency of the United States, and had tirelessly rooted out corruption wherever he found it, until the trail led straight back to the White House. After that, no place on Earth was safe for him.
Laurie Jo Hansen—she controlled a multi-national corporation more powerful than many governments. Unlike those governments, she wanted to see Earth’s problems solved and reaching the high frontier was the only way to do that.
Kevin Senecal—he had made the mistake of fighting back against a juvenile gang, and accidentally killing one of them while escaping. Both the gang and the law were after him, and on all of Earth there was no place to hide.
Ellen MacMillan—a young employee of the Hansen Corporation who fascinated Kevin, she was on a secret mission, and the biggest secret was her real name.
Two complete novels—High Justice and Exiles to Glory—in one volume by a New York Times best-selling author, telling of an Earth sinking into a morass of corruption, red tape, and failure of nerve, while a dedicated few dare to reach for the stars.
City at the End of Time, Greg Bear (Del Rey)
Multiple Hugo and Nebula award-winning author, Greg Bear is one of science fiction’s most accomplished writers. Bold scientific speculation, riveting plots, and a fierce humanism reflected in characters who dare to dream of better worlds distinguish his work. Now Bear has written a mind-bendingly epic novel that may well be his masterpiece. Do you dream of a city at the end of time? In a time like the present, in a world that may or may not be our own, three young people–Ginny, Jack, and Daniel–dream of a doomed, decadent city of the distant future: the Kalpa. Ginny’s and Jack’s dreams overtake them without warning, leaving their bodies behind while carrying their consciousnesses forward, into the minds of two inhabitants of the Kalpa–a would-be warrior, Jebrassy, and an inquisitive explorer, Tiadba–who have been genetically retro-engineered to possess qualities of ancient humanity. As for Daniel: He dreams of an empty darkness–all that his future holds. But more than dreams link Ginny, Jack, and Daniel. They are fate-shifters, born with the ability to skip like stones across the surface of the fifth dimension, inhabiting alternate versions of themselves. And each guards an object whose origin and purpose are unknown: gnarled, stony artifacts called sum-runners that persist unchanged through all versions of time. Hunted by others with similar powers who seek the sum-runners on behalf of a terrifying, goddess-like entity known as the Chalk Princess, Ginny, Jack, and Daniel are drawn, despite themselves, into an all but hopeless mission to rescue the future–and complete the greatest achievement in human history.
New in Paperback:
The Legacy of Dhakaan: Doom of Kings, Don Bassingthwaite (Wizards of the Coast)
The return of the shifter Geth! In the wake of the Last War, a new king has risen and seeks to unite the newly formed goblin kingdom of Darguun under his rule. He seeks an ancient scepter, a symbol under which to unite his people and hires Geth, a shifter who owns one of the trio of artifacts to which the scepter once belonged, to find it. But will the artifact do what the Darguul king needs it to?
Dhulyn and Parno: The Sleeping God, Violette Malan (DAW)
Dhulyn Wolfshead and Parno Lionsmane are members of the Mercenary Guild, both veterans of numerous battles and missions, each a master of martial arts. And more than that, Dhulyn and Parno are Partners, a Mercenary bond that can only be broken by one or both of their deaths. Their past lives are supposed to be irrelevant—but Dhulyn and Parno have histories and secrets that may make all the difference between success and failure in the mission that awaits them...
The Legend of Drizzt: Passage to Dawn, R.A. Salvatore (Wizards of the Coast)
Revenge and Resurrection in a Frozen Wasteland! Drizzt and Catti-brie have been away from Mithral Hall for six long years, but the pain of a lost companion still weighs heavily on their strong shoulders. Chasing pirates aboard Captain Deudermont's Sea Sprite is enough to draw their attention away from their grief. Then a mysterious castaway on an uncharted island sends them back to the very source of their pain, and into the clutches of a demon with vengeance on his mind.
Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Ed. by Edmun R Schubert & Orson Scott Card (Tor)
Bestselling writer Orson Scott Card founded the online magazineIntergalactic Medicine Show in 2006. It has been a big success, drawing submissions from well-known sf and fantasy writers, as well as fostering some amazing new talents. This collection contains some of the best of those stories from the past year. There is fiction from David Farber, Tim Pratt, and David Lubar among others, also four new Ender’s Game universe stories by Card himself. This collection is sure to appeal to Card’s fans, and be a great ambassador to them for these other talented writers.
Necking, Chris Salvatore (Pocket Books)
He Always Knew She Was Exactly His Type: B Positive. Gia Felice has a Rolodex full of vampires, werewolves, witches, and aliens--not to mention the livestock suppliers, undead-friendly hotels, and sleazy bars that cater to her clients' more carnal needs. Sometimes being the premier book publicist to the underworld can suck--literally. Especially if you're human. Especially if you've got the hots for irresistible Johnny and his sly half smile that shows just a little fang. Her best friend, Lola, a werewolf, can't talk any sense into her, and now Gia's agreed to help Belladonna Nightshade, a New York Times bestselling vampire author, find the supernatural killing machine who changed Bella centuries ago...if he doesn't find Gia first. Yesterday, Gia's biggest problem was how to get an alien with a metal skeleton through airport security. Today she's got a bloodthirsty boyfriend dying to get into her pants, and an evil, centuries-old vampire on the hunt for her. Who knew publicity was such a deadly business?
Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Ravens of Avalon, Diana L. Paxson (Roc Trade)
Diana L. Paxson expands Marion Zimmer Bradley's beloved and bestselling Avalon series in a dramatic new installment. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ravens of Avalon, the prequel to The Forest House, tells the story of the Roman conquest of Britain and the origin of the Forest House that preceded the return to Avalon.
Dragonfire: Kiss of Fury, Deborah Cooke (Signet)
Alexandra Madison has discovered an invention that could change the world. When her partner is murdered and their lab destroyed, Alex knows she has to rebuild her prototype in time...Donovan Shea knows the Madison project is of dire importance to the ongoing Pyr/Slayer war. So when he sees Alex being followed by a Slayer, he reacts and defends her, never imagining that she’s his destined mate...As Slayers close in on their prey, Donovan knows he’ll surrender his life to protect Alex—and lose his heart to possess her...
The Promethean Age: Hell and Earth, Elizabeth Bear (Roc Trade)
From the “talented” (Entertainment Weekly) award-winning author of Whiskey and Water and Blood and Iron…Kit Marley and William Shakespeare are playwrights in the service of Queen Elizabeth, employed by the Prometheus Club. Their words, infused with magic, empower Her Majesty’s rule. But some of the Prometheans, comprised of England’s most influential men and mages, conspire to usurp the Queen. Able to walk in both worlds, Kit seeks allies to aid him in his mission to protect Elizabeth—only to encounter enemies, mortal and monster, who will stop at nothing to usher in a new age. But despite the might of his adversaries, Kit possesses more power than even he can possibly imagine.
Stardoc: Omega Games, S.L. Viehl (Roc)
Dr. Cherijo Torin faces a different kind of epidemic—a mysterious black crystal spreading like cancer throughout the galaxy. The hunt for information leads Cherijo to the planet Trellus, whose inhabitants exhibit excessive paranoia and anger, taking out their frustrations in the Omega Dome in simulated combat against battle drones. But someone is killing victims outside the arena, and Cherijo believes the black crystal infection is responsible for this horror…
Weather Warden: Gale Force, Rachel Caine (Roc)
Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin is on vacation when her Djinn lover, David, asks Joanne to marry him. She’s thrilled to say yes, even if some others may be less than happy about it. Unfortunately, Joanne’s pre-marital bliss is ended by a devastating earthquake in Florida. And she can’t ask David and his kind for assistance. Because the cause of the quake is unlike anything Joanne has ever encountered—and a power even the Djinn cannot perceive.
The Dragon Temple Saga: Forged by Fire, Janine Cross (Roc)
In violation of every law of the Dragon Temple, which forbids women to own property, Zarq Darquel has secured a dragon estate for herself. But now that her former overlord has begun a fanatical crusade to find her, Zarq’s last ally—his turncoat brother—can no longer stand between her and the threat of imprisonment. Abandoning the estate where she thought she would be safe, she journeys deep into the jungle in search of an ancient dragon secret that would give her the power to overthrow her pursuer and the corrupt Dragon Temple. She has taken with her some of the female dragons from her own estate, and in the jungle she will once again risk the dragons’ highly addictive, hallucinogenic venom— renewing a craving that is becoming an obsession...
The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Fatal Revenant, Stephen R. Donaldson (Ace)
The instant New York Times bestseller, and the return of the Thomas Covenant series— "a landmark fantasy saga."(Entertainment Weekly) In the most eagerly-awaited literary sequel in years, Linden Avery, who loved Thomas Covenant and watched him die at the end of Book Six, has returned to the Land in search of her kidnapped son, Jeremiah. As Fatal Revenant begins, Linden watches from the battlements of Revelstone while the impossible happens—riding ahead of the hordes attacking Revelstone are Jeremiah and Covenant himself, apparently very much alive. But Covenant is strangely changed...
Enchantment Place, Ed. by Denise Little (DAW)
Seventeen original stories about a mall where anything you can imagine is for sale—but who will pay the price? The stores in Enchantment Place live up to the title, catering to a rather unique clientele ranging from vampires and werecreatures to wizards and witches, elves and unicorns—in short, anyone with shopping needs not likely to be met in the chain stores. Here are seventeen shopping trips you’ll never forget, from a store that sells the highest quality familiars…to the non-magical daughter of a magic-filled family who is left to mind the family jewelry store though she has no means to defeat an enchanting thief…to a woman running a Wiccan supply store who is suddenly faced with an IRS audit…
Karavans: Deepwood, Jennifer Roberson (DAW)
Diviners have told Audrun that the child she carries must be born in a haven of peace, far from her war-scourged homeland, but as she flees she finds only far greater danger. For her karavan is overtaken by Alisanos, the deepwood—a dangerous magical forest that harbors not only demons, gods, and other otherwordly creatures, but also its own sinister intentions—and which may have already claimed Audrun and her child for its own.
The Stonetellers: Death March, Jean Rabe (Wizards of the Coast)
Jean Rabe's long-anticipated return to Krynn continues! Escaping from the slave pens of a Dark Knight mining camp was no easy feat, but what awaits Direfang, a former hobgoblin slave who has become the reluctant general of a growing goblin army is every bit as perilous. From the cruel ogre mountains to the shores of Newsea, Direfang, Mudwort the shaman, and the Dark Knight wizard Grallik fight the natural and unnatural forces that seek to destroy them. Direfang is tested to his limits by once-friends and powerful foes as he undertakes a death march to the Qualinesti Forest. His eyes on independence, Direfang refuses to surrender, and pledges his life for a chance to be free, even as he learns that freedom is a deadly prize.
Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: Bloody Bones, Laurell K. Hamilton (Berkley Trade)
For the first time in trade paperback: the fifth novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series. When Branson, Missouri, is hit with a death wave— four unsolved murders—it doesn't take an expert to realize that all is not well. But luckily for the locals, Anita Blake is an expert in the kinds of preternatural goings-on that have everyone spooked. And she's got an "in" with the creature that can make sense of the slayings—the sexy master vampire known as Jean-Claude.
Ghosts of the Old West, Earl Murray (Tor)
Even today the American West remains a frontier of mystery and intrigue, filled with the spirits of trappers and traders, Native Americans and settlers. These spirits have been sighted while haunting the West's beautiful and rugged land. In Ghosts of the Old West, acclaimed Western author Earl Murray conveys these stories in a narration so eerie and so chilling we advise reading this with all the lights on in the safety of your home. Saddle up, my friend, and take a ride into the unknown. Traveling through Murray's West, you'll encounter: a soldier at Fort Laramie, dead for almost two centuries, who still insists on silence during war-straegy meetings, and La Llarona, also known as the weeping woman, who roams the hills and valleys of the Spanish Southwest. You'll hear stories of the Little People with their hidden powers and the Snake People, who are feared by the Native Americans to this day. And many, many more. Come along my friend, but be wary--the night comes early out here, early and dark.
Between Planets, Robert A. Heinlein (Baen)
Don Harvey was attending school on Earth when his parents suddenly and urgently called him home to Mars. He had been skeptical about the talk of interplanetary war breaking out if Mars and Venus followed through on their threats to declare independence from Earth, but he was wrong. War broke out, and he was stuck on Venus, with no way of getting home. Then there was the ring that an old family friend had given him just before he had left Earth. Shortly afterward, the friend had been questioned by Earth’s secret police and had died—from “heart failure,” they claimed. When Earth troops landed on Venus and started looking for Don and that mysterious ring, he realized that he was trapped in the center of a war between worlds that could change the fate of the Solar System forever!
New in Audiobook:
Judas Unchained, Peter F. Hamilton (Tantor Media Unabridged)
After hundreds of years secretly manipulating the human race, the Starflyer alien has succeeded in engineering a war which should result in the destruction of the Intersolar Commonwealth. Now, thanks to Chief Investigator Paula Myo, the Commonwealth's political elite finally acknowledges the Starflyer's existence, and puts together an unlikely partnership to track down this enigmatic and terrifying alien. The invasion from Dyson Alpha continues with dozens of Commonwealth worlds falling to the enemy. The navy fights back with what it believes to be war-winning superweapons, only to find that the alien fleet has been given equally powerful weapons. How the aliens got them is the question which haunts Admiral Kime. Could it be that the Commonwealth's top-secret defense project has been compromised by the Starflyer's agents, or is the truth even worse? To Mark Vernon, mechanic and general repairman extraordinaire, it appears he's landed on his feet when he finds the perfect job on the most secure world in the Commonwealth. He and his family will never be in danger again now that he's helping to build the starships that will evacuate the ultra-rich should the war be lost. Until one day when Nigel Sheldon arrives to ask him a small favor. You don't say no to the man who created the Commonwealth. But the problem with small favors is the way they tend to grow... With the war going badly and the Starflyer's treachery threatening the very heart of the Commonwealth, only the alien's destruction can turn the tide. As Paula Myo finally begins to close in on her prey, the operation is sabotaged from within. If the nemesis is ever to be beaten, Paul will have to work out which of her colleagues is plotting to betray the entire human race. Read by John Lee.
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (Macmillan Young Listeners Unabridged)
The Earth is under attack and the survival of the human species depends on a military genius who can defeat the alien “buggers.” Recruited for military training, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin's childhood ends the moment he enters his new home: Battle School. A reader's guide is available for this Starscape edition—perfect for readers ten and up—of the beloved science fiction classic by best-selling author Orson Scott Card. Read by Stefan Rudnicki and Harlan Ellison.
Dark-Hunter: Acheron, Sherrilyn Kenyon (Macmillan Audio Unabridged)
Eleven thousand years ago a god was born. Cursed into the body of a human, Acheron spent a lifetime of shame. His human death unleashed an unspeakable horror that almost destroyed the earth. Brought back against his will, he became the sole defender of mankind. Only it was never that simple. For centuries, he has fought for our survival and hidden a past he never wants revealed. Until a lone woman who refuses to be intimidated by him threatens his very existence. Now his survival, and ours, hinges on hers and old enemies reawaken and unite to kill them both. War has never been more deadly...or more fun. Read by Holter Graham.
Check back next Monday for all the latest info on current sci-fi, fantasy, and horror book releases. Questions or comments? Hit me up at Pferrara.firstname.lastname@example.org.