Monday, July 20, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 7/18

Well, here it is Monday again, so it's time for a list of what came in the mail last week. I'll end up reviewing some of these books, but -- if the past is any guide -- certainly not all of them. But I do want to give at least a little spotlight to each of them -- every book has a reader, and that may be you -- so here's a quick look at the eight books that hit my mailbox in the last seven days.

First up is a new edition of Ian McDonald's 1998 debut novel, Desolation Road, which I'm pretty sure is the best novel ever written about trains on Mars. This attractive new edition is a trade paperback from Pyr, and it should be in bookstores everywhere next week.

DAW has turned two linked novels by S. Andrew Swann -- Dragons of the Cuyahoga and The Dwarves of Whiskey Island -- into a new omnibus under the fairly obvious title Dragons & Dwarves. (In fact, I'm pretty sure I played Dragons & Dwarves at some point in the '80s.) It's an urban fantasy, deviating from the norm in having the main character be male (reporter Kline Maxwell), and looking back to the first wave of urban fantasy with its Bordertown-ish setup: Cleveland now has a magical Portal, through which all sorts of creatures and people have migrated. Dragons & Dwarves is an August mass-market paperback.

The Grave Thief is the third book in Tom Lloyd's "Twilight Reign" epic fantasy series, though not the end. (Do any of us expect big fantasy series to end at three books these days? I'd think that the publishers have thoroughly trained us out of that assumption over the past decade.) It follows The Stormcaller and The Twilight Herald, neither of which I've read, so, for this book, I can say little more than that it's more adventures of those same people, but that the world has not yet been saved. Grave Thief is coming from Pyr in September.

Also from Pyr is the new fantasy novel by James Barclay, Nightchild, the third book in the "Chronicles of the Raven." As I recall, The Raven is "four men and an elf," which always strikes me as the beginning of a joke told in a bar. This was originally published in the UK in 2001, which may make it faintly familiar to some of you. But this American edition of Nightchild is coming in November.

In the tradition of such my-college-admissions-essay novels as Daniel Pinkwater's The Education of Robert Nifkin (and probably a dozen more famous books that I'm forgetting for the moment) comes a first novel by E. Van Lowe called Never Never Slow Dance with a Zombie. It's a first-person novel for teens in which our heroine/essayist Margot must deal with her junior year at a school where most of the the other students have suddenly been transformed into flesh-eating zombies. (And, if that doesn't turn into a mild allegory, I'll eat my hat.) Never Slow Dance With a Zombie is a Tor Teen trade paperback, coming in September.

I mentioned The Sheriff of Yrnameer once before, when I saw the bound galleys, but I'll mention it again, since I now have the very green (and oddly textured) final hardcover in my hands. It's a humorous SF novel -- heavily in the Hitchhikers school, from what I can see -- by the television writer Michael Rubens, whom I'm sure is a fine writer and human being despite his TV background. Pantheon is publishing Sheriff in August.

The Birthing House is a horror novel in a ghost-story style, about a couple who buy an old house -- once a haven for unwed mothers -- and come to be haunted by it. (In horror novels, nothing old is ever any good for you -- the only solution is to buy brand-new things, with no history or connections to anyone who might ever have died. If you suspect you are living in a horror novel, take that advice to heart.) Birthing House is written by Christopher Ransom, who is credited as "International Bestseller" on the cover, though he's American and Birthing House is billed as his first novel. So it's not entirely clear what he's sold best, internationally. But Birthing House has a panoply of laudatory quotes, from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal through Michael Marshall Smith and Jacquelyn Mitchard to my old colleague Jane Dentinger of the Mystery Guild, which strongly implies that it's a very good novel of its kind. If you like modern horror -- Joe Hill, say -- then you might want to find you way to a bookstore in August, when St. Martin's Press will publish Birthing House.

And last for this week is Stephen Hunt's new novel, the steampunk fantasy The Kingdom Beyond the Waves. It's set in the same world as The Court of the Air -- which might make excessively tidy minds wonder if Earth or Fire will be next. Tor is publishing Kingdom in hardcover this very week -- it should be in stores everywhere as of tomorrow.

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