Libri ex Machina

(Click on any of the listed titles to get a copy of your own.)

Some books are sought for in vain, while others just fall unexpectedly into your lap—libri ex machina you might say. But rarely do both things happen at the same time.

Two books are always better than one

Check out this weird little confluence of events, which all started with A Princess of the Linear Jungle by Paul Di Filippo

I ordered Princess from PS Publishing at the same time I ordered my Mystery Box, and never got it. So I wrote PS and they immediately shipped out a copy. Happily it was one of the 100 signed and numbered editions I had requested (though they forgot to number it, which I hope will make it even more collectable as time passes).

Fast forward a few weeks. A second package from PS arrives, with another copy of Princess inside. I assumed that they finally found and processed my original order, but it’s a good thing I wrote them when I did, because the second copy turned out to be one of the 500 unsigned editions that they’re also selling. So now I have two copies of A Princess of the Linear Jungle for the price of one, which creates a strange coincidence.

Di Filippo Deja Vu

My first-ever purchase from PS Publishing was the Princess prequel, A Year in the Linear City, also signed and limited. Only the first copy I got was damaged in shipping. So I wrote to PS and they sent me another copy, free of charge. Some guiding force out there must really want me to have books by Di Filippo. And I’d be willing to bet that I have the only library in town that boasts double double-limited Linear Di Filippos.

In case you’re wondering, A Year in the Linear City depicts a city that consists of a single street flanked by buildings that, in turn, are flanked by Heaven on one side and Hell on the other. A Princess of the Linear Jungle expands that universe, apparently going far afield from the linear cityscape to more wild environs. Judging from the cover, it’s an homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs style adventure, which is just fine by me!

Free online text? We don't need no stinking free online text!

About the same time I ordered Princess, I also ordered Scratch Monkey by Charles Stross, from the New England Science Fiction Association Press.

This early Stross novel has long been available for free on the author’s website. And if you’re asking why I would spend money on a book that I can get online for free, click here. In any event, I had to have it.

This is my first book from NESFA, and I am thoroughly impressed and pleasantly surprised. Their website called it a trade edition, so I was expecting a large paperback, not a handsome hardback. The arresting dust jacket is by artist Gregory Manchess, who gives workshops on painting at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, which I visited a few years ago (another coincidence).

But if you want your own copy, you’ll probably have to find it on Amazon. NESFA almost certainly will have sold out of the 800-copy limited run by the time you read this. I was also late to the party, which is why I missed out on the 140-copy boxed, numbered and signed edition—or so I thought, leading to my second encounter with libri ex machina.

My NESFA-direct copy of Scratch Monkey arrived in the mail the same day I attended the last I-Con Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. And what’s at the very first book table I hit in the dealers’ room? Yep. The boxed, numbered and signed edition. I clutched it greedily and cursed the book gods for toying with me so mercilessly. But as my book budget is not unlimited, I reluctantly put it down and asked the dealer what other signed and limited editions he had.

I happily plunked down $25 on this little novella

That’s how I scooped up The Three Quests of the Wizard Sarnod by perennial favorite Jeff VanderMeer, a 500-copy limited edition from the Washington Science Fiction Association Press, specially designed for sale at the Capclave 2010 book convention.

Based on Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series (which I’ve never read), here’s how Three Quests is described on VanderMeer’s website:

“The Wizard Sarnod has lived in isolation on an island in the middle of a lake for centuries. But one day, the Nose of Memory arrives to destroy his calm by dredging up the past, and he must send three of his familiars to the subterranean Underhinds on a quest to find two people, long banished: his brother and a former lover. In the Underhinds, they will encounter living dirigibles, fire dragons, the Bloat Toad, unimaginable perils, and long-buried secrets . . .”

Sounds too cool.

Alchemical forces converged to put this book in my hands

The same book dealer also had a copy of the trade edition of The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi, from Subterranean Press—a novella which I had just been contemplating on the Subterranean website in the wake of Bacigalupi’s Hugo win for The Windup Girl. I grabbed it, of course.

Here’s the publisher’s description for Alchemist:

“Magic has a price. But someone else will pay. Every time a spell is cast, a bit of bramble sprouts, sending up tangling vines, bloody thorns, and threatening a poisonous sleep. It sprouts in tilled fields and in neighbors’ roof beams, thrusts up from between street cobbles, and bursts forth from sacks of powdered spice. A bit of magic, and bramble follows. A little at first, and then more—until whole cities are dragged down under tangling vines and empires lie dead, ruins choked by bramble forest. Monuments to people who loved magic too much.”

Again, too cool. And all mine.

Limited Editions Rule!

If there’s any lesson to be learned from these weird little incidents of libri ex machina, I think it’s that the book gods want to giveth far more than they want to taketh away. I’ve long held that while it might take time, the books you want will eventually come to you. Maybe even more copies than you anticipated. Sorry about that, Mr. Di Filippo…


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