Monday, March 08, 2010

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/6

It was another week with just a few books, which is fine with me: it makes these posts easier to do and increases the chances that I'll get to the books quickly. (Last week saw five books in the mail, and I've already read three of them and written a review of one.) But, as usual, I have to lead off with the standard disclaimer: I haven't yet read any of these books in their current form -- though I have read large portions of the first two in other ways -- so what I'm about to say about them is based on my prior knowledge and whatever materials their publishers sent me.

First up is Cyanide and Happiness, a collection of the webcomic of the same name, by "Kris, Rob, Matt & Dave." (Last names Wilson, DenBleyker, Melvin, and McEffatrick, respectively.) The strip is rude, often offensive, crudely drawn, and nearly always about appalling subjects. I read it every day, and laugh most of the time, which probably makes me a bad person. In any case, I'm happy to see that itbooks (an oddly named imprint of the HarperCollins megalith) published this collection in trade paperback in February. If you're old enough to remember laughing at 101 Uses for a Dead Cat -- or if you're too young, but going to Google that name right this second -- then Cyanide & Happiness is for you.

The other book this week that I've already read is a new edition of Robert Silverberg's 1971 novel The World Inside, set in a massively overpopulated future where the population lives in small apartments gathered into supermassive Monads. For a while, this had the distinction of being the oldest book continuously in print during my days at the SFBC (after Charles Eric Maine's Alph finally stopped selling -- both books required warnings for sex, which may help to explain their continued appeal to the mail-order audience). Incidental smuttiness aside -- and it's only smutty for 1971, to be honest -- The World Inside is another one from the long string of amazing novels that Silverberg wrote between 1967 and 1972 (with several novels each of those years, all of them good and many of them as good as the field gets -- sure, Silverbob was helped by the fact that a SF "novel" was typically noticeably shorter in those days, but it's still the most impressive effort of sustained excellence the field has to offer), and well worth reading today. Tor's Orb imprint is bringing The World Inside back into print this March, and any serious SF readers who haven't read it yet should take this chance to do so.

Blake Charlton's debut novel Spellwright is coming out from Tor in March as well, and it's an epic fantasy with an interesting twist: the author is severely dyslexic, and he's made his hero a dyslexic wizard in a world where words are the essence of magic. Charlton is also currently a medical student (at Stanford, which implies that he's no slouch academically, dyslexia or not), which I hope also informs his work. (It would be too much to expect him to turn into another J.G. Ballard -- probably the most famous med student-turned-SFF writer -- but there are plenty of other models, from Michael Crichton to biochemist Isaac Asimov.)

Also being published in hardcover by Tor -- though this one came out three weeks ago, so you may have seen it already -- is Alexey Pehov's Shadow Prowler, the first in an epic fantasy trilogy and the first book to be translated into English by that bestselling Russian writer.

And last for this week is Changes, the latest book in Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" series, about the man who used to be Chicago's only consulting wizard, but hasn't had time for anything as mundane as an investigative job for a half-dozen books by now. (I like this series a lot, but all-saving-the-world, all-the-time can become a tiresome diet.) This book might be a departure though -- as the title signposts -- because it sees Harry Dresden head to South America to save the daughter he didn't know he had from a society of vampires intent on using her to destroy him. (That still sounds pretty big, but perhaps the "this time, it's personal" aspect of the plot will keep it grounded.) I know I'm going to have to read this one...and I don't know if I'll have the willpower to wait until April 6th, when Roc will officially publish it in hardcover.

Listening to: Kate Tucker & The Sons Of Sweden - First Day Of The Year
via FoxyTunes

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