The Mountain in the Sea
If you were to visit the San Francisco Bay Area and ask me for a pastry recommendation, I would direct you to sample the croissants at Pâtisserie Rotha in Albany.
Croissants are my favorite pastry. I once spent a week in Bordeaux in search of the best croissant. I have tried those on offer from many Bay Area bakeries. Fournée’s are very good. Tartine’s are, frankly, overrated. None of them come close to Rotha, where the innumerable layers of flaky dough speak to a painstaking labor of love. They are super duper duper delicious. They will transport you to buttery, glutinous heaven.
I’ve been sending this newsletter for eight years. For the first two, I experimented, trying to find the right format. For the past six, I settled into a comfortable rhythm of sharing three book recommendations every month. I only recommend books I enjoy, books that I get something from, books that I think you will get something from. But recently, I’ve been thinking about how three a month means I’m recommending books that are great and books that are good. I’ve been directing you to Rotha and Fournée (but not Tartine).
It’s time to switch things up. From now on, I’m going to send you one book recommendation at a time. Each will be super duper duper great. Each will contain innumerable layers that speak to a painstaking labor of love. Each will be a Rotha.
And now, a book I love that you might too:
The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler is a gripping near-future thinker-thriller that offers the reader one of fiction’s greatest gifts: new ways of seeing. There is so much fun to be had in these pages—secret islands, drone swarms, spiraling intrigue, rogue scientists, and more octopuses than the cover leads you to expect—and this is one of those rare stories where fun and depth not only coexist, but reenforce each other: the adventure will suck you in for its own sake and spit you out mind reeling with fresh ideas and heart expanding to find ever more empathy not just for other people, but other species.
Things worth sharing:
Want to gift an autographed copy of one of my books? I will personally sign and ship it anywhere in the continental US for $40: Reap3r, Veil, Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Neon Fever Dream, Cumulus, Exit Strategy, Power Play, and Version 1.0.
I just hit 30k words in the rough draft of a new novel. From the work in progress: "It may sound counterintuitive, but I’ve come to appreciate weaponized vulnerability in this business because arming the weapon requires genuine disclosure."
Life has no plot, but we invest memory with plot by rationalizing life retroactively—“making sense of things.” In this way, good stories imitate memory, not life. Narrative is how we transform life into memory and events into story.
You can watch a recording of my GamesBeat Summit panel about how fringe ideas are shaping the future of gaming.
The surest way to make a flop is to aim to please everyone. If you make something that some people love, but most people don't, your true fans will tell their friends. Once enough people are talking about it to generate normie FOMO, you have a hit. Remarkable work is, by definition, worth talking about.
From the archives: How to Kill a Dragon.
Our friend’s trainer explained that dogs don’t have morality, they have feelings. If they feel safe, they learn fast. If they’re scared, they lash out unpredictably. Training a dog isn’t about instilling a code of ethics, but managing emotions. Humans work the same way.
YouTube Premium is the best internet subscription nobody talks about. It would be the last one I’d cancel, and the one I’d miss most if I did.
When I visited Vancouver Island in September, my aunt directed me to Ánian, which she had first stumbled upon when the founders were operating out of a storage container. Their Modern Melton Wool outershirt fits me perfectly, will probably outlive me, handles any Bay Area weather with ease, has earned more compliments than anything I've worn in years, and is made from 80% recycled wool fibers from landfills. Highly recommended.
Deep dives on niche topics are tremendous fun, but I’m also a sucker for sweeping posts like this fromthat reframe the entire world. Writing science fiction often requires this kind of thinking because you’re cooking up a holistic future by remixing ingredients from the present.
Don't let preparation become a place to hide. Make the thing you want to make. Do the thing you want to do. You don't need to feel "ready"—you'll figure it out along the way.
Thanks for reading. We all find our next favorite book because someone we trust recommends it. So when you fall in love with a story, tell your friends. Culture is a collective project in which we all have a stake and a voice.
Eliot Peper is the author of Reap3r, Veil, Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Neon Fever Dream, Cumulus, Exit Strategy, Power Play, and Version 1.0. He also consults on special projects and tweets more than he probably should.
“Near-future science fiction at its best.”
-Ozan Varol, author of Think Like a Rocket Scientist, on Reap3r