Monday, June 15, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/13

As always, I make these Monday-morning posts to give some attention to all of the books I was sent for review (and, occasionally, other things), since no human man could read and review them all. I haven't read any of these books yet (with one exception this week), so my comments are based on hearsay, informed speculation, and half-formed memories of earlier books by the author and/or publisher.

With that said, here's what I saw this week, which turned out to be a big one for mail:

Charles Stross's new short-story collection Wireless is the one exception to my usual "haven't read it" rule -- I saw it in galleys a couple months ago and I'm poking away at a review right now. The last Charles Stross book -- last year's entertaining but gloomy and not completely successful late-Heinlein pastiche Saturn's Children -- got me to write a review that was generally misunderstood. (Which means I wasn't as clear as I should have been.) Wireless has given me another Unified Field Theory -- Stross's fizzy and intellectually-dense books just affect me that way -- which I am currently trying to bash into better shape than last year's theory. Further updates may appear in this space; I'm hoping to post the review on Wireless's official hardcover publication date of July 7th.

The rest of the stack for this week is organized by size, with mass-market paperback on top and the biggest stuff on the bottom, which is as good an organization as any.

So on top is Kristin Landon's The Dark Reaches is the third in her SF series, after The Hidden Worlds and The Cold Minds; Ace is publishing it in mass-market in July. Despite the cover, I'm pretty sure it's not actually the story of two devastatingly stylish bouncers in Iceland.

Gamer Fantastic, an original anthology edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes and published by DAW in July. It has thirteen short skiffy stories about video games -- written by names like Ed Greenwood, Jody Lynn Nye, S.L. Farrell, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Bill Fawcett -- and is this month's entry in the Tekno Books anthology-of-the-month club.

Also from Ace as a July mass-market, Patrice Sarath follows up her debut novel Gordath Wood with a sequel, Red Gold Bridge. It's a portal fantasy with a horse on the cover, and that about exhausts my knowledge of it.

A week earlier from Ace -- coming in mass-market on June 30th -- is Marjorie M. Liu's Darkness Calls, the cover of which features extensive use of the kind of shiny foil intended to signal chain-store buyers that this is a big big book that they should stock in depth at all locations. (Liu's previous book in this series, The Iron Hunt, was a New York Times bestseller -- as far as I can tell, hitting the extended list at #35 for one week -- which is even more likely to make those buyers take notice.) The astute browser can see that the heroine of this novel (Maxine Kiss, a demon hunter -- it's another one of those contemporary fantasy novels that we used to call vampire-shaggers) is remarkably tough, since she is clutching her shiny shiny foil-sword by the blade rather than the handle. Plus, she has a lot of tattoos on her half-naked back and is wearing a lot of leather. So don't mess with her. Plus, of course, she's a demon hunter, so presumably the likes of you and me wouldn't even make her raise a sweat.

Charles de Lint's new book Medicine Road -- coming from Tachyon as a trade paperback in July -- has a 2004 copyright date, so I suspect it appeared in some other form, probably with a more expensive package, in that year. (de Lint mentions Bill Schafer in his acknowledgements, so I suspect it was from Subterranean Press, so let me check Amazon -- yep, that was it.) Anyway, this is the story of bluegrass musicians Laurel and Bess Dillard, touring the American Southwest and meeting mysterious, magical strangers, as it was in 2004 (for those people, unlike me, who noticed at the time), but now it's available for much less money, and will likely be available, and known, to more people. It's also handsomely illustrated by Charles Vess, but those illustrations look to be picked up from the original edition, so it's not a net plus. Still: cheaper and not out of print are very nice.

Pyr is publishing James Barclay's fantasy trilogy "Chronicles of the Raven" in back-to-back-to-back months, and I have the first two of them in front of me right now: Dawnthief and Noonshade, coming in trade paperback in September and October, respectively. "The Raven" is a group that the back cover refers to as "six men and an elf" -- I think I saw that movie! (One of them, I see from the dramatis personae, is even named "The Unknown Warrior," but I doubt it's the one who I used to watch wrestle back in the late '80s.) This is secondary world adventure, somewhere between David Gemmell and R.A. Salvatore, the kind that always makes me wonder if the author is or was a gamer. There are also a bunch of glowing quotes from various UK media -- Barclay has been published long enough over there that this series has already had the eye-gougingly vivid covers and then the tasteful, subdued ones -- though of course readers always claim that quotes and reviews and the recommendations of taste-makers never ever influences their own buying decisions, uh-uh, no way.

And then there's Harry Potter's Bookshelf: The Great Books behind the Hogwarts Adventures, written by John Grander, whom Ace bills as "renowned Potter pundit" and whom has been riding Rowling's gravy train for some time now. I have no idea who buys these pseudo-academic explications of the purported influences on major pop-culture icons, but someone must, since they keep being published. I am vaguely surprised to see this one coming from Ace; it looks like a Citadel book all the way. But, if you want this, it'll be available in trade paper with a carefully non-infringing cover on July 7th.

From AdHouse, a small comics publisher that does some really interesting, quirky stuff, comes Ace-Face: The Mod with the Metal Arms by Mike Dawson, who also did the book Freddie & Me (which I reviewed in the middle of this long post). It's about...well...a '60s era British superhero who has cyborg arms, and who is, in fact, a mod. (Rather than a "rocker," for those of you who have thankfully forgotten or never knew that particular cultural chasm.) There seem to be some other strips in here as well, all by Dawson but featuring other characters from the same fictional world, including the Face's non-superheroic son and two wild talent grade-schooler brothers who seem to spend all their time and talents in tormenting each other (which certainly rings true to this father of two grade-school boys). Ace-Face was published in April.

Also from AdHouse, and also a sideways take on superheroing, is Remake by Lamar Abrams, which seems to be about that little superhero (kid?) on the cover. His name is Max Guy, and it looks like this book has both superhero-y adventures and more mundane "real-life" stories about him. This one was published in May.

Not actually a comic, but based on one, is Greg Cox's novelization of Countdown, the huge DC weekly comic that ran from the summer of 2007 to the summer of 2008 as the transition between two major crossover events that I'm trying not to waste brain cells remembering. I'm not sure why anyone thought this story required novelization in the first place -- probably because enough people bought the previous similar books by Cox (Infinite Crisis and 52), if I had to guess -- but here it is. It's an Ace trade paperback on July 7th, and if you want to read about a lot of superheroes running around punching things but are allergic to actual comics, it will be perfect for you.

I've never read a novel by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg -- she writes thrillers that usually have an audience more female than male, sometimes with women- or children-in-danger plots -- but I used to sell her books regularly back when I ran a bookclub for large-print readers. So I'm familiar with her name, though I didn't expect to see her new book, The Cheater, show up in my mailbox for review. The Cheater returns to one of Rosenberg's most popular characters, Lily Forrester, the heroine of her first novel Mitigating Circumstances (and also Buried Evidence, if my research is correct). This time, Lily is a judge who has to deal with her husband being arrested for a rape he swears he didn't commit, plus the investigation of a serial killer who targets cheating men. It was published by Forge on June 9th in hardcover.

Rift in the Sky is the third novel in "Stratification," which is also part (if I'm following this correctly) of a larger series called "The Clan Chronicles," and it's by Julie E. Czerneda. My old boss, Ellen Asher, used to grab Czerneda's books as soon as they came in to the SFBC, so I've never read her -- Ellen and I more-or-less split the field down the middle, though in no obvious way. She's also the Master of Ceremonies at this year's Worldcon, which I think means that all Canadians are now required to buy and/or read her books. (Though I'll have to check the by-laws to be sure.) Rift is a DAW hardcover in July.

And last for this week is another graphic novel from AdHouse, Fred Chao's Johnny Hiro. It's set in New York, and looks to have both ronin, giant lizards, and touching domesticity. The first story, in fact, is titled "Big Lizard in My Backyard," and I'm strongly inclined to love any book that leads off with a Dead Milkmen reference. This one was published in June, and I should note that the original Johnny Hiro series -- which this book collects, along with much new material -- was nominated for four Eisners in 2007.

1 comment:

mjlayman said...

Rift is SFBC this month. We did the first book of the original trilogy for bookgroup last month and here's my review plus the comments of someone who wasn't able to make it to the meeting but read the book.

I did go on to read the Species Imperative books, but I only thought half of them were good and you'd still have to read all of them to have enough background.

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