Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Space Pirates Go to Hell

These days, listening to the SFF community recommeding books reminds me of listening to my parents trying to coax a much younger me into eating Brussels sprouts.  Whether it’s to choke down another vegetable or to support the newest in a never ending parade of social causes du jour, the reason is the same: It’s Good For You.  In both cases, precious little time is spent answering the one question that matters to me.  Will I like it?  In that spirit, let me take a moment to speak to the sense of wonder of those who might be on the fence about buying Nethereal, by Brian Neiemeier.

Space Pirates Go to Hell.

One might expect that Nethereal would be about a series of just but cruel punishments served to a crew of hardened criminals.  I certainly did after reading that description online.  However, the space captain, Jaren Peregrine, is a mysterious yet charismatic leader who wages a personal rebellion against a Guild that holds all space travel in its iron grip.  His crew follows him out of loyalty, not lucre.  And in the pursuit of his war, Jaren flies his ship straight through Hell itself.  

For anime fans, think Captain Harlock instead of Peter Pan’s Captain Hook.

Hell in Nethereal is not the lake of fire of current religious depictions.  Instead, it is patterned after the Nine Circles of Dante’s Inferno, complete with cities of the damned, backstabbing demon lords, and horrors, but built vast enough to fly a spaceship through.  Like the Inferno, the only escape is to go deeper through the horrors of the Circles, to the heart of Hell and beyond.  Yet Nethereal chooses inspiration instead of a direct science fiction retelling of the Inferno.  (For that, I recommend Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Inferno and Escape from Hell.)  This gives the adventures of Jaren and his crew a Blake’s 7 meets Firefly meets Event Horizon flavor.

I could go on about how Nethereal is a genre-blending amalgam of science fiction, fantasy, and horror harkening back to the days of D&D’s Appendix N and the pulps, but that’s starting to veer too close to “It’s Good For You”, at least for my own sense of wonder. Fortunately, we have an entire month to delve into the plots and the characters that flesh out Nethereal from the concept of “Space Pirates Go to Hell” into the wonderful novel that robbed me of sleep when I first read it.

You can buy Nethereal at

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Welcome Our New Contributors

Everybody welcome our first two volunteers as bona-fide Contributors to the Puppy of the Month Book Club.  These Contributors will be posting their detailed thoughts and analyses of the Book of the Month for your own thoughts and analysis.  Remember that the goal of this blog is to create a community where fans of the new wave in sci-fi and fantasy can gather to discuss the works we enjoy.  These two Contributors are stepping up in a real way, and for that we should all be grateful.

The first, Nathan Housley, is a long time volunteer in the fight to prevent puppy sadness, going all the way back to the first campaign.

You've probably already heard of the second Contributor, The Frisky Pagan, who runs a blog of the same name.

No doubt these voices will add more depth and variety to the initial conversation about each of our books.  We're glad to have them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

September 2016 Puppy: Nethereal, By Brian Niemeier

The inaugural Puppy of the Month selection, slated for reading and discussion in September 2016 is Brian Niemeier's Nethereal (available here at as "space pirates in hell"...that's all you need.  Space pirates.  In hell.  If you're not already sold on this book, then maybe the Puppy of the Month club isn't for you. 
This book is the first in the Soul Cycle series, and if you pick up a copy to read for the Club, then you should also get the second book in the series, Souldancer.  It's available for free through Amazon this week (link).  That's two books for the prices of one! 

Brian Niemeier was nominated for the 2016 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, where alongside legendary sci-fi author Jerry Pournelle, he earned the distinction of placing behind No Award.  In short, he is disliked by all the right people.

To join the Puppy of the Month club, all you have to do is read Nethereal some time over the next couple of weeks, and submit a blog post detailing your thoughts  on the book.  Alternatively, you can wait for others to post and just join in the comments.  As things stand, you're reading the only official Contributor for blog posts, but we'd love to have more.  If you're interested, leave a comment, or contact me via Twitter.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hello, World!

Fight Puppy Related Sadness - Join the Club!
The Puppy of the Month Book Club is a collection of science-fiction and fantasy fans who favor the open minded diversity of works approved by the Sad Puppy and Rabid puppy collectives.  Puppy related works are on the table as well, provided they meet the same standards of high-quality, swashbuckling fun, and healthy disregard for the political requirements imposed by the entryists and tastemakers (i.e. the CHORFs.)

We are looking for contributors who want to be a part of the September edition of the Puppy of the Month Book Club.  If you are interested, shoot the administrator and email at puppymonthclub at gee-mail dot com.  He'll tell you what the first book, for September 2016, will be, and you can get started.  For the first month, the schedule will be pretty flexible as we iron out the kinks, but moving forward, here's what you can expect:

During the first week of each month, Contributors will post an analysis, or review, or random thoughts on the Book of the Month.  The book will be selected by the 15th of the previous month, providing ample time to read the work and prepare a brief blog post.  The remainder of each month will be spent discussing that work both through new posts, providing links and discussion to other analyses of that work, and whatever else strikes the fancy of the Contributors - provided that each blog post relates back to the Book of the Month.

Participation in the Puppy of the Month Book Club is not limited solely to Contributors.  Contributors are merely those willing to commit to reading and posting on each book.  Anyone who wants to read the Book of the Month, or has read it, are welcome to join in the conversation as well. 

So what makes a book a viable candidate for Puppy Of the Month?  Easy:
  • Any novel nominated by the Sad Puppies for a Hugo nomination
  • Any novel nominated by the Rabid Puppies for a Hugo nomination
  • Any work listed in Appendix N of Gary Gygax's D&D Dungeon Master's Guide
  • Any work published by Castalia House
  • Any work selected by a Contributor that isn't shouted down by the rest of the contributors as an inappropriate selection
The only other criteria for selection is that the work has to be reasonably readable in two weeks, including shipping.  No 1,000 page magnum opuses.  Selected works should also be readily available, preferably through Gutenberg Project,, or one of the remaining major book chains.  Any work nominated that required multiple trips to boutique booksellers or 'knowing a guy what knows a guy' - if we can't all find it we can't all read it, and hence we can't all discuss it.

If you're the kind of reader that loves writing about books, and talking about books, almost as much as you like reading them, and you find the modern Hugo's contempt for sci-fi and fantasy fans aggravating, then this just might be the Book Club for you.  Stop by and join in the fun.