Monday, March 24, 2008

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/22

Not a huge pile this week, but a very choice one; I want to read everything here. (Whether I'll manage to do so -- especially since one of these books is guaranteed to take more than a week of reading time all by itself -- is another story, though.)

For most of the past two decades, it was hard to surprise me in the SFF field; I was keeping track of it obsessively for work, and something immediately wonderful and surprising was usually a sign that I'd failed at that job somewhere along the line. But I'm doing something else now, so books I had forgotten were coming can pop up and make me amazingly, unexpectedly happy.

This week, that book is The Born Queen, fourth and last in Greg Keyes's great "Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone" series, which started with The Briar King. I bought the first three of these for my old job, and burbled about them to anyone who would listen -- this is really good secondary-world fantasy, more in the George R.R. Martin vein than traditional plot-coupon epic fantasy, and populated with a wide array of distinctive, memorable characters. I think this is going to be the next big book I read; I'm that excited to see it. It's published by Del Rey, and it's supposed to officially be in stores everywhere tomorrow -- if you haven't read this series before, give Briar King a try.

I've had a galley of Life Sucks for a little while now, but I've held off reviewing it because ComicMix prefers to be useful to readers/buyers and only review things once they're available. (And I'm mostly of that opinion personally, as well -- once in a while, there's a book I can't stand to wait to read, but, in general, pre-pub reviews are just for the industry, and I have hopes that real readers will be interested in what I say.) It still seems to be a ways off -- the letter says that First Second will publish it on May 1st -- but the finished book has arrived, so I'll move it up the pile. Life Sucks is a modern-day vampire graphic novel written by Jessica (La Perdida) Abel and Gabe Soria, with art by Warren Pleece.

Parenthetically, can I complain about how some publishers -- usually ones from the book trade moving into the comics world -- will run credits as "by" the writers and then "illustrated" by the artists? What comics artists do -- even the ones who work from detailed panel-by-panel breakdowns -- is substantially more than "illustrate" a pre-existing story; they provide a huge chunk of the actual story-telling.

Singularity's Ring is a first novel by Paul Melko, which Tor published in early February. It's sounded intriguing from the reviews so far -- especially the fact that the hero is a five-person "pod" with linked minds -- so I've added it to my groaning pile. God knows when I'll get to it, but it looks like the kind of SF I always want to see more of, so I feel obliged to take note of it. I believe I've read his story "The Walls of the Universe," and was impressed by it.

Back to comics with Cyril Pedrosa's Three Shadows, a graphic novel that won the 2008 Prix Essentiel at Angouleme (the massive French convention, which is more like a combination of WorldCon, the National Book Awards, and a small World's Fair than the San Diego con). First Second is publishing it on April 1st, so I should get to this quickly as well. The art is smooth, looking almost dashed-off, but still precise -- it reminds me a bit of Marc Hempel.

Prime Books published Ekaterina Sedia's first novel The Secret History of Moscow some time last year, but they're still promoting it, which is encouraging to see. I just got a copy of it this week, but I've been thinking about it since I saw a review of it by OF Blog of the Fallen. Let's see if I can squeeze this one in somewhere...

I still haven't gotten to Ann & Jeff VanderMeer's wonderful-looking anthology The New Weird, and already they've lapped me -- Tachyon will be publishing another VanderMeer-VanderMeer anthology, Steampunk, in June. Tachyon is really owning the category of smart, well-chosen anthologies that encapsulate various movements and themes in the SFF world, and I'm very glad that they're out there doing that. Now, if everyone would just slow down their publishing schedules so I can catch up...

Not helping at all on that account is Tor, which has been issuing the door-stopping novels of Steven Erikson's massively ambitious "Malazan Book of the Fallen" series as quickly as they could, to catch up with Erikson's British publishers. With Reaper's Gale, they're now less than a year behind and closing -- this is the first one where I couldn't get the UK mass-market paperback (or C-format, to be more precise) to read before the US edition. Reaper's Gale was published in the US in March, and the next book, Toll the Hounds, will see the gap drop to only three months later this year. Given that these books are 800+ pages long each, with casts of thousands, maps that cover entire continents, and complicated, twisty, huge-scale plots, just getting them copyedited is a massive undertaking. I am very fond of this series, but it's not for everyone -- you need to have read piles of epic fantasy (preferably in one's ill-spent youth) and gotten a bit tired with them to be ready to make the leap up to Erikson. (If anyone wants more of my blathering on the subject, here are my reviews for the last two books in the series: The Bonehunters, Midnight Tides.)


Howard said...


I read Singularity's Ring, and thought it was pretty good. It did end up feeling like a YA book a bit, but I certianly thought enough of it that I'll keep an eye open for his future work.

james-nicoll said...

The Melko is nice and short and you will have read part of it already.

Stupid Itzkoff and stupid New York Times. I totally asked the same question yesterday but do I get any love from a major paper? [Rude word]

Clarke does seem to have predicted something like the pornotopia that the internet made possible [1], if not the exact mechanism that would be used.

1: It's very hard to find a phrase of the form [noun porn] that doesn't get at least some hits on google.

Tim said...

I liked the Born Queen pretty well... but to my shock, I found myself wishing he'd slowed things down and done a bigger book (or even a fifth volume). Some of the plot threads were dealt with rather hastily, I thought, though he spent a good bit of time on my favorite characters (Aspar and Stephen), so I was mostly content.

Paul D said...

I started reading Gregory Keyes after a recommendation by you (I think it was in rec.arts.sf.written), and I'm very glad that I did so. For anyone who's looking for something to tide them over while they wait for the next George RR Martin book to come out, Keyes stuff, despite the cheesy covers, is a great read.

RobB said...

I was pleasantly surprised when The Born Queen arrived on my doorstep a few days ago, too. Saturday, I think.

I love this series too, though it gets a bad rap as Martin-lite.

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