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The Glass Bead Game

Hermann Hesse

The final novel of Hermann Hesse, for which he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, The Glass Bead Game is a fascinating tale of the complexity of modern life as well as a classic of modern literature.

Set in an unspecified future, The Glass Bead Game is the story of Joseph Knecht, who has been raised in Castalia, the remote place his society has provided for the intellectual elite to grow and flourish. Since childhood, Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy, which he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi (Master of the Game).

How Firm a Foundation

Safehold: Book 5

David Weber

The Charisian Empire, born in war, has always known it must fight for its very survival. What most of its subjects don't know even now, however, is how much more it's fighting for. Emperor Cayleb, Empress Sharleyan, Merlin Athrawes, and their innermost circle of most trusted advisers do know. And because they do, they know the penalty if they lose will be far worse than their own deaths and the destruction of all they know and love.

For five years, Charis has survived all the Church of God Awaiting and the corrupt men who control it have thrown at the island empire. The price has been high and paid in blood. Despite its chain of hard-fought naval victories, Charis is still on the defensive. It can hold its own at sea, but if it is to survive, it must defeat the Church upon its own ground. Yet how does it invade the mainland and take the war to a foe whose population outnumbers its own fifteen to one? How does it prevent that massive opponent from rebuilding its fleets and attacking yet again?

Charis has no answer to those questions, but needs to find one... quickly. The Inquisition's brutal torture and hideous executions are claiming more and more innocent lives. Its agents are fomenting rebellion against the only mainland realms sympathetic to Charis. Religious terrorists have been dispatched to wreak havoc against the Empire's subjects. Assassins stalk the Emperor and Empress, their allies and advisers, and an innocent young boy, not yet eleven years old, whose father has already been murdered. And Merlin Athrawes, the cybernetic avatar of a young woman a thousand years dead, has finally learned what sleeps beneath the far-off Temple in the Church of God Awaiting's city of Zion.

The men and women fighting for human freedom and tolerance have built a foundation for their struggle in the Empire of Charis with their own blood.

By Heresies Distressed

Safehold: Book 3

David Weber

Now the battle for the soul of the planet Safehold has begun.

The Kingdom of Charis and the Kingdom of Chisholm have joined together, pledged to stand against the tyranny of a corrupt Church. The youthful Queen Sharleyan of Chisholm has wed King Cayleb of Charis, forging a single dynasty, a single empire, dedicated to the defense of human freedom. Crowned Empress of that empire, Sharleyan has found in Cayleb's arms the love she never dared hope for in a "marriage of state." In Cayleb's cause, his defiance of the ruthless Group of Four who govern mother Church, she has found the task to which she can commit her mind and her courage. It is a cause for which she was born.

Yet there are things Sharleyan still does not know. Secrets Cayleb has not been permitted to share, even with her. Secrets like the true story of humanity on Safehold. Like the intricate web of lies, deception, and fabricated "religion" which have chained humanity for almost a thousand years. Like the existence of the genocidal alien Gbaba, waiting to complete mankind's destruction should humans ever attract their attention once more. Like the existence of a young woman, Nimue Alban, nine hundred years dead, whose heart, mind, and memories live on within the android body of the warrior-monk she knows as Merlin.

And so Empress Sharleyan faces the the great challenge of her life unaware of all that task truly entails...or of how the secrets the man who loves her cannot share may threaten all they have achieved between them... and her own life.

A Mighty Fortress

Safehold: Book 4

David Weber

Young Cayleb Ahrmahk has accomplished things few people could even dream of. Not yet even thirty years old, he's won the most crushing naval victories in human history. He's smashed a hostile alliance of no less than five princedoms and won the hand of the beautiful young Queen Sharleyan of Chisholm. Cayleb and Sharleyan have created the Charisian Empire, the greatest naval power in the history of Safehold, and they've turned Charis into a place of refuge for all who treasure freedom.

Their success may prove short-lived. The Church of God Awaiting, which controls most of Safehold, has decreed their destruction. Mother Church's entire purpose is to prevent the very things to which Charis is committed. Since the first attempt to crush the heretics failed, the Church has no choice but to adopt some of the hated Charisian innovations for themselves. Soon a mighty fleet will sail against Cayleb, destroying everything in its path.

But there are still matters about which the Church knows nothing, including Cayleb and Sharleyan's adviser, friend, and guardian- the mystic warrior-monk named Merlin Athrawes. Merlin knows all about battles against impossible odds, because he is in fact the cybernetic avatar of a young woman named Nimue Alban, who died a thousand years before. As Nimue, Merlin saw the entire Terran Federation go down in fire and slaughter at the hands of a foe it could not defeat. He knows that Safehold is the last human planet in existence, and that the stasis the Church was created to enforce will be the human race's death sentence if it is allowed to stand.

The juggernaut is rumbling down on Charis, but Merlin Athrawes and a handful of extraordinary human beings stand in its path. The Church is about to discover just how potent the power of human freedom truly is.

Seven Surrenders

Terra Ignota: Book 2

Ada Palmer

In a future of near-instantaneous global travel, of abundant provision for the needs of all, a future in which no one living can remember an actual war... a long era of stability threatens to come to an abrupt end. For known only to a few, the leaders of the great Hives, nations without fixed location, have long conspired to keep the world stable, at the cost of just a little blood. A few secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction can ever dominate, and the balance holds.

And yet the balance is beginning to give way. Mycroft Canner, convict, sentenced to wander the globe in service to all, knows more about this conspiracy the than he can ever admit. Carlyle Foster, counselor, sensayer, has secrets as well, and they burden Carlyle beyond description. And both Mycroft and Carlyle are privy to the greatest secret of all: Bridger, the child who can bring inanimate objects to life.

Off Armageddon Reef

Safehold: Book 1

David Weber

Humanity pushed its way to the stars - and encountered the Gbaba, a ruthless alien race that nearly wiped us out.

Earth and her colonies are now smoldering ruins, and the few survivors have fled to distant, Earth-like Safehold, to try to rebuild. But the Gbaba can detect the emissions of an industrial civilization, so the human rulers of Safehold have taken extraordinary measures: with mind control and hidden high technology, they've built a religion in which every Safeholdian believes, a religion designed to keep Safehold society medieval forever.

800 years pass. In a hidden chamber on Safehold, an android from the far human past awakens. This "rebirth" was set in motion centuries before, by a faction that opposed shackling humanity with a concocted religion. Via automated recordings, "Nimue" - or, rather, the android with the memories of Lieutenant Commander Nimue Alban - is told her fate: she will emerge into Safeholdian society, suitably disguised, and begin the process of provoking the technological progress which the Church of God Awaiting has worked for centuries to prevent.

Nothing about this will be easy. To better deal with a medieval society, "Nimue" takes a new gender and a new name, "Merlin." His formidable powers and access to caches of hidden high technology will need to be carefully concealed. And he'll need to find a base of operations, a Safeholdian country that's just a little more freewheeling, a little less orthodox, a little more open to the new.

And thus Merlin comes to Charis, a mid-sized kingdom with a talent for naval warfare. He plans to make the acquaintance of King Haarahld and Crown Prince Cayleb, and maybe, just maybe, kick off a new era of invention. Which is bound to draw the attention of the Church... and, inevitably, lead to war.

It's going to be a long, long process. And it's going to be the can't-miss SF epic of the decade.

By Schism Rent Asunder

Safehold: Book 2

David Weber

The world has changed. The mercantile kingdom of Charis has prevailed over the alliance designed to exterminate it. Armed with better sailing vessels, better guns and better devices of all sorts, Charis faced the combined navies of the rest of the world at Darcos Sound and Armageddon Reef, and broke them. Despite the implacable hostility of the Church of God Awaiting, Charis still stands, still free, still tolerant, still an island of innovation in a world in which the Church has worked for centuries to keep humanity locked at a medieval level of existence.

But the powerful men who run the Church aren't going to take their defeat lying down. Charis may control the world's seas, but it barely has an army worthy of the name. And as King Cayleb knows, far too much of the kingdom's recent good fortune is due to the secret manipulations of the being that calls himself Merlin-a being that, the world must not find out too soon, is more than human. A being on whose shoulders rests the last chance for humanity's freedom.

Now, as Charis and its archbishop make the rift with Mother Church explicit, the storm gathers. Schism has come to the world of Safehold. Nothing will ever be the same.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

Gregg Press Science Fiction Series: Book 68

Philip K. Dick

The Three Stigmata hid a secret that could transform the world - or end it...

When the mysterious Palmer Eldritch returned from a distant galaxy, he claimed to have brought a gift for mankind. Chew-Z was a drug capable of transporting people into an illusory world, a world the could linger in for years wihout losing a second of Earth time. For the lonely colonists living out their dreary term on Mars, here was the ultimate trip, a pastime that could deliver immortality, wish fulfillment... the twin-power over time and space.

But in return, Palmer Eldritch exacted a terrible price. He would enter, control and be a god in everyone's private universe - a universe from which there was no escape, not even death...

Star Maker

Early Classics of Science Fiction: Book 13

Olaf Stapledon

Widely regarded as one of the true classics of science fiction, Star Maker is a poetic and deeply philosophical work. This 1937 successor to Last and First Men offers another entrancing speculative history of the future. The story details the mental journey of an unnamed narrator who is transported not only to other worlds but also other galaxies, intelligent star clusters, mingles amoung alien races and continues on to parallel universes, until he eventually becomes part of the "cosmic mind."

First published in 1937, Olaf Stapledon's descriptions of alien life are a political commentary on human life in the turbulent inter-war years. The book challenges preconceived notions of intelligence and awareness, and ultimately argues for a broadened perspective that would free us from culturally ingrained thought and our inevitable anthropomorphism.

This is the first scholarly edition of a book that influenced such writers as C.S. Lewis, Doris Lessing, and Arthur C. Clarke. Jorge Luis Borges called this work "a prodigious novel."

Courtship Rite

Courtship Rite

Donald Kingsbury

The planet of Geta is a harsh and unforgiving world where only one source of meat exists: man. Cyclical famines have made a distinct, ritualistic form of cannibalism a necessity, and intricate rituals involving courtship, love, death, and multiple marriages are the rule. Gaet, Hoemei and Joesai are three sons of the old Prime Predictor, Tae ran-Kaiel of the Kaiel clan. They are bound to each other, as well as their two wives, Noe and Teenae. They hope to soon complete their most-desirable Six-marriage with Kathein, a scientist. But the new Prime Predictor, Aesoe, has other plans.... In order to gain an outlet to the sea, Aesoe orders the brothers to marry Oelita, the Clanless One.

The Gentle Heretic has a legion of followers that would give the Kaiel allies against their powerful opponents, and a foothold in the coastal lands. The brothers choose to court Oelita - and have her prove her worth - through a complicated Death Ritual. Oelita has the audacity to question the existence of the God of the Sky - who has begun to speak. Pestilence, plague and conflict are brewing across the land. Now the courted and her suitors find themselves in the center of a violent storm where destiny and death walk hand-in-hand with the secrets of an ancient past....

The Book of Strange New Things

Michel Faber

Peter - devoted pastor, dedicated missionary, and loving husband to his wife, Bea - has just accepted a demanding and perilous new job. He's to travel to a new planet, Oasis, to work for a mysterious corporation called USIC. He's tasked with reaching out to the indigenous race, to make sure they are as peaceful as they seem. Resolutely devout and strengthened by his letters from Bea at home, Peter undertakes his job with complete focus. The Oasans are shockingly open to his teachings, but things start to unravel when Bea's missives from Earth take a dark tone. Earth appears to be coming apart at the seams: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries and governments are crumbling. Even the hospital where she works has ceased to function. Their unearthly divide is testing Peter and Bea's relationship to a startlingly degree. Peter is thrown into crisis. USIC might be hiding its true motives in developing Oasis, and the Oasans themselves are frustratingly opaque. Bea's desperate letters are only fomenting his doubt. Peter is suddenly faced with an impossible-and dangerous-decision: to follow his faith, or follow his heart. His life depends on it.