Monday, February 04, 2008

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/2

Following last week's lead, I'm going to stop obsessively listing the ways I got each book -- in future, they'll all be listed together, and some will be review copies, some will be things I bought myself, and some will be from the library. (And maybe some will be books other people lent to me, or books I found on the street, or books that appeared before me in a blinding halo of light; anything is possible in an ainfinitely expanding universe.) This week I'm also listing a few things I got some time back, before I was going into this much detail on new books.

(I do hope to become at least a bit more comprehensive, with the help of some contacts at various publishing houses, but we'll have to see how that works.)

This week, I'll talk about:

That Salty Air, a graphic novel by Tim Sievert, coming from Top Shelf in April. It's Sievert's book-length debut -- and I don't know if he's published anything at shorter lengths, either -- and is the tale of an obsessed fisherman, which the publisher compares to Moby-Dick. That's a big comparison, to be sure, but I'm more likely to believe it from people who know to put the hyphen in the middle of Melville's title. Also in the positive column: Top Shelf has had excellent taste so far, so I'm more likely to believe them when they compare a new book to Melville than I am to believe certain other publishers whose every project will "change everything forever."

No Dominion by Charlie Huston is the middle volume of the three (to date) "Joe Pitt" detective mysteries. I'm not sure why I've missed this series so far -- though I don't think I saw the first two at my old job -- but it sounds right up my alley; dark modern noirish stories with a conflicted "hero." I will admit that the idea of a vampire detective sounds ancient and worn-out, even if I can't think of many examples. (There's P.N. Elrod's "Vampire Files" books, which are historical, and some of the books in Saberhagen's long, complicated "Dracula" series might count as detective stories -- what else?)

The Lou Anders-edited Fast Forward 1 was one of the two major original anthologies of last year, as far as I can see -- along with Jonathan Strahan's Eclipse One, which I already have a bookmark in. Anders makes the point in his introduction that the Fast Forward series will be entirely science fiction, while Strahan takes a broader genre scope in his book -- I wonder if I'll agree with either of them about the classifications of all the stories? (Pronouncements that a particular story is one genre or other can often fuel months-long fan-feuds, especially in this Internet age.) Whether or not, I look forward to reading the stories in both volumes.

Mainspring has a quote on the back about how impressive this debut novel of Jay Lake's is; I find it even more impressive that Lake has now managed to publish three debut novels -- this one, from Tor, in 2007; Trial of Flowers, from Night Shade, in 2006; and Rocket Science, from Fairwood, in 2005. A man who can debut three times is a power to be reckoned with, and I now have all three debut Jay Lake novels lined up on a shelf -- perhaps I should read them all in quick succession? Mainspring has the most audacious concept of the three: it's set in a literally clockwork solar system, in which brass gears circle the Equator and some supernatural entity is clearly keeping everything running. So this one may get read first -- I do feel like I should read more of Lake than I have so far, since he's interesting on-line and is quite likely to be one of the major writers of the current generation.

Dragon Harper is the latest Pern novel, by Anne McCaffrey and her son Todd McCaffrey, and was published by Del Rey just about a month ago. I believe this series is still one of the best-selling and popular properties in the SF world, but you don't hear much about Pern these days; the kind of people who populate Internet boards don't like it and the people who read McCaffrey (probably a bit older and more female than those Internet fans) aren't hip in the least. And, of course, long-running series mostly stymie critics and juried awards. (I hope I can say the latter without it looking like an attack; it was an issue the other judges and I grappled with when I was a World Fantasy judge a couple of years back -- it's unlikely that any set of judges will have intimate knowledge of all major ongoing series, even collectively, and series books often have different structures and payoffs than solo novels.)

Victory Conditions is the new, and final, Vatta's War novel from Elizabeth Moon; I have to admit here that I haven't read any of the previous books in the series. (At the old shop, my boss had been a major Moon fan for years, and she grabbed the series as soon as it started.) It's from Del Rey, and will hit bookstores in about two weeks. One interesting thing about Moon is that her series have so far all been closed-ended; she writes a few novels in one particular world, closes off that series, and then moves on. In a world where most series run for as long as an author can keep getting new contracts, it's a striking statement in favor of stories having a definite shape, and a permanent end.

And last this week is the big anthology canonizing The New Weird, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer. (Parenthetically, I wonder how many references to that book will unthinkingly credit it to "Jeff & Ann VanderMeer"?) It's publishing in March from Tachyon, who are making a habit of concretizing SFnal movements; last year they published the James Patrick Kelly-John Kessel anthology Rewired, which brought together the best "post-cyberpunk" stories. And I'm not late in reading this one yet, so I still have hope of getting to it before it officially comes out!


Unknown said...

I myself have rather surprised by my continually rotating debut status. But then at the age of 43, I am also considered a young writer.

And thank you for the kind words, btw. I hope you enjoy the books.

Anonymous said...

Worse, alas, Andy--we've actually had cases of people saying I was the fiction editor of Weird Tales rather than Ann. Sigh.


Anonymous said...

Moi? Not hip? Well, I am older and female. That Pern book came the other day. I save new Pern books for when I need something to read that won't engage my brain. They're nice stories and I don't have to think about physics or complicated plots or anything.

And the last Vatta's War book came, too, and I'm glad to know it's the last because now I can start reading the series. Someday. When I have time.

RobB said...

Nice overview Andrew.

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