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Downloads

I've made my first novel, Ventus, available as a free download, as well as excerpts from two of the Virga books.  I am looking forward to putting up a number of short stories in the near future.

Complete novel:  Ventus

 

To celebrate the August, 2007 publication of Queen of Candesce, I decided to re-release my first novel as an eBook. You can download it from this page. Ventus was first published by Tor Books in 2000, and and you can still buy it; to everyone who would just like to sample my work, I hope you enjoy this version.

I've released this book under a Creative Commons license, which means you can read it and distribute it freely, but not make derivative works or sell it.

Book Excerpts:  Sun of Suns and Pirate Sun

I've made large tracts of these two Virga books available.  If you want to find out what the Virga universe is all about, you can check it out here:

Major Foresight Project:  Crisis in Zefra

In spring 2005, the Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts of National Defense Canada (that is to say, the army) hired me to write a dramatized future military scenario.  The book-length work, Crisis in Zefra, was set in a mythical African city-state, about 20 years in the future, and concerned a group of Canadian peacekeepers who are trying to ready the city for its first democratic vote while fighting an insurgency.  The project ran to 27,000 words and was published by the army as a bound paperback book.

If you'd like to read Crisis in Zefra, you can download it in PDF form.

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Ventus

Nanotech & AI meet high fantasy in my first novel

My first novel:  Ventus

JVentusordan Mason of the planet Ventus comes from a long line of stoneworkers, and he has a clear understanding of his place in his world. He is subservient to the aristocracy, who in turn bow to the Winds, who control the weather, plant and animal life, and human undertakings. Lately, Jordan has had troubling visions, in which his immediate surroundings are blotted out by a different sky and a different forest, and he sees through another man's eyes. One night, searching in the forest for his sister, Jordan meets captivating Calandria May, who says she can explain his visions if he will help track Armiger, through whose eyes he has gazed. Armiger is a rogue artificial intelligence (AI), sent to Ventus to co-opt the Winds, which are also AIs, into enslaving humans and creating a powerful, ruthless world-mind. Through Armiger's eyes, Jordan sees how his interactions with an independent, tender peasant woman and a fierce, lonely queen are changing the AI's cold objectives. As Jordan and Calandria close in on Armiger, they see that the Winds are divided into pro-human and antihuman camps. Wondering whether he is on the right side, Jordan uses his visionary power to speak directly to the Winds. A final battle for Ventus brings human generals, intelligent moons, and a roving off-planet archaeologist onstage. Although strictly hard sf, full of technology, Schroeder's novel is so rich in character and emotion that it feels like classic fantasy.

--Roberta Johnson, Booklist Review

Ventus was a highly personal project for me.  It took me seven years, off and on, to write this book.  I'd written several novels when I started this one; none had sold.  One of my problems was that I had been trying to "write to market"--trying to figure out what the readers might like, and do that.  In frustration after those failures, I decided to write a book just for myself--a book I knew nobody would buy.  I worked on it in my spare time for several years, and then reluctantly (since I'd been talking about it) showed it to several friends.  They declared it the best thing I'd ever done. 

When the book was about 1/3 done, I mentioned it to David Hartwell at Tor Books, and he was interested. He encouraged me to do exactly what I wanted with the project (though in the end he also oversaw massive cuts from the original 180,000 word monster).

I couldn't be happier with the result.  I love this book, and were I not intimately familiar with every page, I would reread it myself, just to recapture the sense of magic that inspired me to write it.  I hope you read it and enjoy it; best of all, if you're unsure, you can download it for free from this site!

Reviews and Reception

Ventus was extremely well received, a 2001 bestseller in the SF category according to Locus Magazine. The December 2, 2001 issue of the New York Times Book Review listed it as one of a few "notable" books for that year.  Reviewers were highly enthusiastic:

Publisher's Weekly:

"Although Aurora Award-winner Schroeder is probably best known for his fantasy fiction, this novel, his first large-scale SF work, should greatly expand his reputation. A thousand years ago, highly advanced artificial intelligences (AIs) called Winds terraformed the planet Ventus into a comfortable world for human settlement--but something went wrong, and the Winds never relinquished control. Now they rule as gods, using their "mecha" creatures to squelch anything--or anyone--who creates imbalance in their perfectly groomed environment. Enter young Jordan Mason, whose visions show him dreamlike images of far-distant events that are somehow linked to the Winds. But Jordan only begins to realize the truth after he meets two off-worlders, the assassin Calandria and her partner, Axel. Jordan's visions link him to Armiger, a spy created by a megalomaniac AI called 3340. Though Calandria "destroyed" 3340, she fears Armiger carries the seeds to resurrect the entity. Jordan's link offers the only hope of finding Armiger, but there are other forces at work as well. Civil war fomented by the Winds threatens to overthrow mad Queen Galas, the most egalitarian ruler in Ventus's history. And in a distant system called the Archipelago, Calandria's boss, a rival AI, is sending warships to decimate Ventus and insure 3340's demiseDpermanently. Canadian Schroeder handles his large cast of characters with impressive dexterity. Fans of the high-tech foundation and grand world-building of Iain M. Banks and Ken MacLeod will feel right at home here, as will anyone else who appreciates a challenging, original story." (Dec. 18)

Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Norman Spinrad in Asimov's:

Karl Schroeder herein, at least for my money, has done more on both a technological level and a literary level with what is by now the hoary cliché of nanotechnology than anyone has before, with the possible exception of Greg Bear in Blood Music, and particularly where the technological and literary levels cross in the territory of metaphysical speculation on the question of where and when and how being arises out of artifact.

Booklist:

New York Review of Science Fiction:

If there is such a thing as a pagan sf novel, Ventus is it. Science has placed humankind at the center of the universe, as discoverers, observers, and definers of the essence of everything else that exists. The creators of the Ventus Winds challenged that claim of definition. So, too, does the author.

New York Times Book Review:
Deeply Satisfying
Kirkus Reviews:
Delightful and engaging, both intellectually and viscerally: a superb achievement.

Lady of Mazes & Thalience

Ventus is chronologically the sequel to Lady of Mazes, and deals with many of the same themes.  In particular, where Lady of Mazes is about people's relationships with one another--it's about "the technology of culture and the culture of technology"--Ventus is about our personal relationships to nature.  All of that is summed up in the concept of thalience.

 

Will Sargent described thalience in an article, Thalience and the semantic web:

 

To humans, who have concepts thousands of years old for naming and identifying the world around them, from Eden onwards, it would be a little unnerving to have trees, rocks and soil identifying themselves. However, this is precisely what the omnipresent Winds must do; as the form changes from sand grain to rock to brick, the Winds exchange information about what they are and what they do. When there isn't a clear word for what they are, they invent one and scatter consensus information about it. The end result is that while a human can pick up a sand grain and talk to it individually, he has no hope of talking to the desert, which is the communual intelligence of billions of sandgrains and an uncountable number of nanotech entities.

I wrote Lady of Mazes several years later, and it picks up these threads and runs with them.

 

Editions and Free Ebook

You can download and read Ventus for free.  I'm anticipating a new edition from Tor Books in the future, but for now, it's yours to read, distribute and discuss.  Check out the ebook link in the navigation box for download links.

There have been foreign editions of Ventus:  Russian and French to date.  I've made a page for these as well.

 

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About Me

I'm a Canadian author and futurist with ten published novels and twelve years of experience in strategic foresight. I write, give talks, and conduct workshops on numerous topics related to the future, including:

  • Future of government
  • Bitcoin and digital currencies
  • The workplace in 2030
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Augmented cognition

For a complete bio, go here.

The Future of Governance

I use Science Fiction to communicate the results of actual futures studies. Some of my recent research relates to how we'll govern ourselves in the future. I've worked with a few clients on this and published some results.

Here are two examples--and you can read the first for free:

The Canadian army commissioned me to write Crisis in Urlia, a fictionalized study of the future of military command-and-control. You can download a PDF of the book here:


Crisis in Urlia

For the "optimistic Science Fiction" anthology Hieroglyph, I wrote "Degrees of Freedom," set in Haida Gwaii. "Degrees of Freedom" is about an attempt to develop new governing systems by Canadian First Nations people.


I'm continuing to research this exciting area and would be happy to share my findings.

 
Available Editions

English:

French mass market edition

Download the Ventus ebook
Support Karl by buying it


OR...

Click me to download for free

Help support my writing
Science Fiction that's about something

“The most thought-provoking and interesting work of hard SF that I've read in the past year."
—Charles Stross

"With paradigm shifts one inside another like a set of Russian dolls, this splendid novel propagates into a demolition derby of Big Ideas. Required post-human reading.”
—Scott Westerfeld, author of Uglies, Pretties, and Specials

“An astonishing saga. One helluva read!”
—Charles Harness

“Karl Schroeder has always had a knack for intelligent and provocative thought experiments disguised as space opera. Now he ups the ante with a fascinating riff on consensual [and conflicting] realities. Lady of Mazes contains more cool ideas than Ventus and Permanence combined.”
—Peter Watts