Tough Traveling: Heists/Cons

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The Thursday feature “Tough Traveling” is the brainchild of Nathan oReview Barn, who has come up with the excellent idea of making a new list each week based on the most common tropes in fantasy, as seen in (and inspired by) The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones. Nathan has invited anyone who is interested to come play along, so be sure to check out the first link for more information.

This week’s tour topic is: Heists/Cons

Smash and grabs are not always the best way to illicitly acquire objects in fantasy land. Sometimes these things take planning, a loyal crew, and a little bit of luck. But a good crew can always get the job done.

Mogsy’s Picks:

I LOVE this week’s topic! Heist books and stories about daring capers are like my guilty pleasure and I’m really looking forward to what everyone else has on their lists. I’m constantly on the lookout for more heist books.

Palace JobEdit: Well, I originally thought I’d leave The Palace Job for either Tiara or Wendy but I guess we love that book so much here that it’s a given. Patrick Weekes‘ rollicking fantasy heist book definitely deserves top spot in this week’s topic. It’s great. Read it.

PremonitionsPremonitions by Jamie Schultz

Premonitions has got it all, including your quintessential caper crew. However, there’s nothing typical about Karyn Ames and her team of thieves. Karyn herself fits the role of mastermind, but also has this debilitating condition which allows her to hallucinate slices of the future – a useful power when you’re the one responsible for the safety and wellbeing of your crew, but it can get out of hand, especially when a notorious crime lord offers you and your friends two million dollars to steal an ancient occult artifact.

California BonesCalifornia Bones by Greg Van Eekhout

California Bones has everything I want in a heist novel: a diverse crew with each member equipped with specific, specialized talents? Check. High stakes? Check. Innovative solutions to get around alarm systems, physical barriers and other security measures? Check. And last but most importantly, lots of plot twists to set up an explosive final act. Double check. Our protagonist Daniel and his friends are offered the job of a lifetime. The score? Caches of untold osteomantic treasures in the Heirarch’s heavily guarded storehouse.

The Magician's LandThe Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

In the first half, we have an exciting heist story. Quentin meets up in the back of a book store with a bunch of other strangers, called there by a mysterious benefactor, a…talking crow? All of them are put through tests until the ultimate team is chosen. Departing from convention, however, this heist doesn’t go well at all. Despite months of preparation, things get pretty disastrous.

f0f2b-skingameSkin Game by Jim Butcher

The latest Dresden Files book is a heist story, I was happy to discover when I picked it up. Some old friends come along for the ride, as well as a few new faces. Among this team of talented individuals, we have the thief Anna Valmont, the rogue warlock Hannah Ascher, the wizard mercenary Binder, a shapeshifter named Goodman Grey, and even a forest creature called a Genoskwa. And of course, Harry, Karrin Murphy, and Michael Carpenter. They are led by the nefarious Nicodemus and his daughter Deirdre, and as we all know, whenever the Denarians get involved, we get our fair share of treachery, deceit, and unexpected twists and turns.

The Lies of Locke LamoraThe Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

I would be shocked if we don’t see this one on a lot of lists this week. Young Locke Lamora and all his friends in the Gentleman Bastards crew live for heists and long cons, led by their mentor Father Chains. This first book as well as its sequel Red Seas Under Red Skies both prominently feature a heist story or caper themes.

mistbornMistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

It’s easy to forget sometimes that Mistborn is essentially a fantasy caper story. We have Kelsier the charismatic leader and mastermind, his various friends with clashing personalities and unique talents, and finally a young newcomer in the form of Vin to round out this motley thieving crew of magic users. The job: to overthrow the Final Empire by robbing its treasury blind and collapsing its entire economy.

NeuromancerNeuromancer by William Gibson

Most heist stories make for rather light and fun books, though the same really cannot be said of Neuromancer it’s a much heavier and more challenging read, but it does feature a caper. Case is a burned out hacker and cyberthief, ruined when his ability to jack into the matrix is taken away by a neurotoxin. Then a mysterious employer contacts him and offers him a sweet job to steal a ROM module that holds the saved consciousness of one of Case’s old mentors.

089df-jheregJhereg by Steven Brust

Vlad Taltos works as a killer-for-hire in the House of Jhereg (an order like the mafia in this fantasy world). One day, a powerful underworld boss offers him a lucrative contract to track down and assassinate a council member. It is discovered, unfortunately, that his target has fled to the home of Dragonlord Morrolan who is also Vlad’s good friend. Now Vlad has to try and figure out a way to fulfill his contract without royally pissing off Morrolan, whose strict rule against the killing of anyone on his premises while they are under his protection is proving to be more than just a minor inconvenience. Much of the book revolves around Vlad trying to come up with creative ways around the rules of Morrolan’s hospitality.

5d23a-thespiritthiefThe Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

Some thieves like to go big, but none probably go as far as Eli Monpress who has gotten it into his head to steal not an object of value or item of power. No, the magician-thief has set his sights on stealing the king himself. If he pulls this off, he’ll gain what he’s always wanted, which is the reputation as being the best thief in the world. His plans to increase his notoriety fall through, however, when he unwittingly brings about political turmoil that could threaten the kingdom and even the spirits of the land.

InceptionInception written and directed by Christopher Nolan

While I’ve got a couple more books in mind, I wanted to stick to 10 and round up my last pick with a nod to a great film, one of my favorite sci-fi heist/caper stories of all time. The film is, of course, Inception. Cobb works as a freelance “extractor”, cracking into people’s dreams like a thief would crack into a bank vault. He rounds up a team for one big job, though instead of “stealing” something, they are attempting to plant an idea in their target’s head.

Tiara’s Picks

Since I’d used The Palace Job for a lot of these, I decided not to use it this time. I was actually going to choose Neuromancer first, but Mogsy best me to it. I’ve actually read more heist/con-like stories than I give myself credit for but more in the science fiction vein. However, I was able to rustle up a few fantasy books I’ve read, too, aside from The Palace Job. The Palace Job was just one of the more fun fantasy ones I’ve read.

The Quantum ThiefThe Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

Jean le Flambeur is a thief including being a mind-thief. In fact, he’s been many con-types throughout his lifetime, and now, he’s serving time in the Dilemma Prison, which he’s sprung from by a woman named Mieli. However, he now has two dilemmas. He has to keep his other self from killing him and he has to pull off a helluva heist, the one that got away.

The Space MerchantsThe Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth

In the 22nd century, people are needed to colonize Venus because Earth is overpopulated. Only problem is Venus is not a great place to live (yet), so the government uses a copywriter, Mitch, to write enticing ads, conning people into moving to Venus. Mitch wakes up one day to find his identity erased, but he still has his skills and starts using them to not only find out what happened but to help the revolutionists with their plan.

The Long RunThe Long Run by Daniel Keys Moran

Trent is the last of Earth’s telepaths (latent telepathy in his case) after a massacre orchestrated by the Peacekeepers rids the world of them. Treat is an engineered human who becomes a cyberthief intent on taking down the military force dominating the world. He teams up with another telepath and his old crew for quite the adventure. Trent kind of makes me think of Case from Neuromancer.

Signal to NoiseSignal to Noise by Eric S. Nylund

Cryptographer, Jack Potter, works for the highest bidder–legal or not. This is one of those somewhat hard sci-fi books that’s full of cyber theft, espionage, and shady aliens. The problems come into play when Jack begins trading information with aliens who are a little too happy to deal with humans. Then, the con really starts.

The HobbitThe Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I don’t like Tolkien (but I’ve read the books). A kinder, gentler heist, but a heist all the same, and I don’t care what you say. This was a damn heist. You know it. I know it. That’s all I have to say here. Let’s move on.

God StalkGod Stalk by P.C. Hodgell

God Stalk follows Jame, a woman who has amnesia (except the amnesia works kind of stupid and is just obviously a plot device as needed) and Penari, a thief. They live in a world described as “god-infested.” Jame (who also has a strong moral compass and sense of honor despite even going as far as to join a Thieves Guild) manages to find a lot of excitement in their “god-infested” city, especially when she takes up a daring task.

Retribution FallsRetribution Falls by Chris Wooding

The Ketty Jay is manned by Captain Frey and his band of degenerate misfits. They do various things from robberies to whatever the hell else they think will annoy the law. Frey and friends find themselves targeted when a heist goes extremely wrong, and then, suddenly, it’s not so fun to be the outlaws anymore. This kind of makes me think of Firefly in terms of setting and storytelling.

TwinbornTwinborn Trilogy by J.S. Morin

Pirate ships. Fire. Antics. This probably has heist/con-like elements more so than being a straight up heist/com. The premise of this book says that our dreams are actually real, alternate, magical realities and tells us what happens when these two worlds get a little too close for two people. Did I mention there were pirate ships and fire? You can’t go wrong there.

The Adventures of the Stainless Steel RatAdventures of the Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison

James Bolivar DiGriz alias The Stainless Steel Rat alias Slippery Jim should’ve had a place on The Weasels list and/The Ace list, but I didn’t think about him until a friend and I started talking about this series. DiGriz does a little bit of everything–master thief, master martial artist, master con artist, master… you get the point. In his mind, he’s providing a service to the populace by keeping them entertained with his antics.

Valour and VanityValour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal

If Jane Austen wrote a heist novel with magic, I’m sure this what you’d get. In this world magic is known as “glamour” and its users “glamourists.” I actually found this book through my mother who is bookish, too, while I was on hiatus from the site last year. This hiatus including me spending a lot of time with my mom, and this was one of the books she was reading at the time. I don’t think I got a chance to read the ending, though, because I can’t remember how this ends. Two glamourists, Jane and Vincent, are robbed by corsairs. Vincent ain’t having that, and they concoct a heist to get their money back. Also, this is not the first book in the series. I’m glad I couldn’t tell and my mom kept quiet. I would’ve died.

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22 Comments on “Tough Traveling: Heists/Cons

  1. Oooh, Inception is a great pick! I loved that movie. It also freaked me out a lot – can you imagine this being a real thing? SO scary!

    And yes, The Hobbit is definitely a heist story 🙂 Bilbo not only steals from Smaug, but from the dwarves as well!

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  2. I’d agree that The Hobbit is a heist story. 😉 Apart from that, I can’t think of other heist stories I’ve read in science fiction or fantasy…

    But Inception. Such. An. AWESOME MOVIE. 😀 Now I want to watch it again!

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    • Inception was AMAZEBALLS. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, sometimes it seems like Chris Nolan is the only director out in Hollywood today still making totally original and unique films that aren’t remakes/sequels/adaptations. I haven’t seen Interstellar yet, I’ve heard that it’s gotten mixed reviews, but at least it was an original screenplay yet again.

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      • Interstellar was OK. I personally got confused by all the scientific jargon, and it felt too long. But other people didn’t feel the same way, so it could just be me…

        Have you seen The Prestige? Apart from Inception, that might be my favorite non-Batman film by Christopher Nolan.

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  3. I wanted to read The Spirit Thief recently – but for some reason my local library has all of the books in the series EXCEPT the first one. What is up with that??

    Lots of great choices as usual 🙂 I agree that Palace Job and Prophecy Con are my favourite fantasy heist novels in recent memory…. good times.

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    • Ah, I bought the omnibus of the Eli Monpress books, but yeah it would be frustrating not to have the first book – it REALLY doesn’t make much sense! Maybe they have the collection too? Hopefully.

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  4. So many great picks this week! Mistborn is perfect, and so is Neuromancer! I’ve heard good things about Jhereg, though I don’t know if I want to commit to another long fantasy series. Mary Robinette Kowal’s books are on my ‘must-read’ list – regency era heists?! Who could resist?

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    • Yeah, there are so many Vlad Taltos books! They all look super short though, and for what it’s worth, I’ve heard that you don’t have to read the books on order; in fact, I believe Brust said that he wrote them all in a way that you can start anywhere.

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  5. While naming Locke Lamora seemed mandatory, given this week’s topic 🙂 (and who better to represent the… category? LOL), the mentions of “Inception” and “The Hobbit” took me by surprise because I would never have thought about them but they fit the bill more than perfectly!
    As for “Valour and Vanity”, that I finished recently, that was indeed a delightful read because the main characters are as far from the swindler mold as possible and yet they managed pretty well, all considered 🙂

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    • Yeah, there are a lot of heist films, but Inception was the one to come to mind that had a sci-fi theme – and it was awesome to boot, so PLONK into the list it goes!

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  6. What a great list. The Hobbit didn’t occur to me but when you think about it they were going to steal from a Dragon!
    I have to read the Eli Monpress books – I’ve had them for ages and don’t know why I’ve not got round to them yet – especially as they get such a lot of positive attention.
    Lynn 😀

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    • I’ve only read the first Eli Monpress, I don’t know why I haven’t continued with the series either! Like you said, many positive reviews of it all around.

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  7. Way good call on Mistborn! I completely zoomed right past that one in my brain’s catalog. I also Like Kowal’s Glamourist series and have only read the first two – excited to here I have a heist and corsairs in store for me! Despite being rather fond of Heists, I don’t apparently read many books involving them so this week will fix that I suppose. As always y’all brought the list – awesome to read list for me!

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    • I was actually surprised to hear of a heist story in Kowal’s series – it just wouldn’t have ever occurred to me! I’ve only read book two, so I’m glad that Tiara brought Valour and Vanity to my attention. And glad to know it’s a stand alone, though then I’ll be skipping every other book. What a way to read a series XD

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  8. wow so many examples! I had forgotten all about Neuromancer, good one. Tiara’s picks are mostly all new to me, so I guess I can add a bunch of good heist stories to my TBR:-)

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    • Yeah I can see Neuromancer being easy to miss because it’s just so different in tone and style from a lot of heist books, which are often quirky and funny/adventurous. Neuromancer is a lot of things, but probably not quirky or funny in the conventional sense…

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