Monday, December 06, 2010

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 12/4

Happy Monday to you all, and welcome back to one of the longest-running mailbox examinations in north-central New Jersey! As always, below are the books that arrived in my mail last week, with as much information I can figure out about them by a quick glance and whatever prior knowledge I may have. (I may be wrong, I may be confused, I may be biased.) I haven't read any of these books yet -- they just showed up a few days ago! -- but I may do so sometime soon.

First is the new twentieth book in Loren Estleman's Amos Walker series, The Left-handed Dollar (I reviewed ten Walker novels back during the summer of 2007, when I was unemployed and looking for something quixotic to do with my time, under the ungainly title Hornswoggler's Estelman Loren Project. There are also six or seven other novels that I'd read previously, I believe two that I still haven't gotten to, and the recent massive and self-defining Amos Walker: The Complete Story Collection.) Estleman is one of the best writers of the classic PI style still working; he's not precisely a throwback to the '60s and '70s, but his work comes from the kinds of books popular then and translates them into the modern world. Forge officially publishes this new book in hardcover tomorrow; you could almost certainly get a copy right this second if you wanted to. I like the series, and recommend it to fans of classic hardboiled mysteries -- see the link above for more details -- and I also have a difficult time understanding how someone could not like classic hardboiled mysteries.

I try not to make fun of the books that come in for review, since I think that's a pretty rude and uncouth thing to do. (I'm not saying I always succeed, but I do try.) And so when something called Boondocks Fantasy -- edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg, with twenty original stories from writers including Gene Wolfe, Timothy Zahn, Jay Lake, Anton Strout, and Mickey Zucker Reichert, publishing from DAW in mass-market in January -- lands on my desk, with the cover you see to your left, all I can say is..."Gene Wolfe? Really!?" It's, as the title makes clear, an anthology of stories set in rural America -- the more rural and backwoods, the better -- with fantasy elements. This kind of thing has been done well in the past, as witness Manly Wade Wellman's "Silver John" stories, so I'll smile and remain optimistic.

Also in mass from DAW in January is the reprint of Michelle West's City of Night, the second book of her "House War" series. I believe I mentioned this when it was published in hardcover, and now I mention it again.

Yet a third mass-market from DAW in January is Diana Rowland's Secrets of the Demon, second in an urban-fantasy series that began with Mark of the Demon. It also has an excellent Dan Dos Santos cover [1] that solidly places the book in urban fantasy territory -- and establishes our heroine as a policewoman, among other telling details -- without using any of the overused and trite iconography of the subgenre. If the book is as good as the cover -- and isn't that how it's supposed to work? -- it will be very good indeed.

Published by Tor in hardcover recently is Beth Bernobich's first novel Passion Play. I saw this in bound galley form a few months ago -- and still haven't read it, I'm afraid, such is the state of my to-be-read pile -- so I'm going to quote what I wrote about it then: This is a secondary world fantasy, with back cover copy that hints heavily at sex without actually saying anything gauche (it's all "every pleasure has a price" and "the other half of her heart" and "intrigue, seduction, and treachery"), treading -- as far as I can tell -- in the sexy fantasy footsteps of Jacqueline Carey, among others. It also features a fantasy kingdom named Melnek, which may or may not be on the continent of the Lower East Side. If you like your fantasy to come with heaving bosoms -- and why wouldn't you? -- it looks like Passion Play would be a great read.

And last this time out is a big, wonderful-looking book that I was sure I'd have to spend my own money on. (And was quite willing to do so, actually.) It's Songs of the Dying Earth, a major anthology of new stories in honor of the incomparable Jack Vance, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. It has stories from so many great writers that I think I only have room for last names: Silverberg, Resnick, Vandermeer, Volsky, Simmons, Waldrop, Gaiman, Eisenstein, Baker, Cook, Hand, and Williams (Liz, Tad, and Walter Jon). And, of course, these are stories set in Vance's Dying Earth -- or something similar -- which adds its own appeal. It was originally published by a small press (and, as a trade hardcover, in the UK) last year, but Tor has now published a hardcover at a slightly more wallet-friendly price, which is what I'm currently looking at. It looks like an awesome collection of fiction by some of the best names, and it's large enough to stun a medium-size rabbit if hurled with moderate force -- what more could one ask of a book?

[1] This may be a tautology; I don't think I've seen a cover by Dos Santos that isn't at least "really good," and most of them have been excellent.

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