Monday, August 19, 2013

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 8/17

I have no witty opening here this week -- I've sat with this screen open for about fifteen minutes (mostly doing other things, admittedly), and nothing has come to mind. So you'll have to do without my attempts to be witty this time out.

The books below arrived at my house this week, mostly unexpectedly. They're all new -- just published, or just about to be published. I might not love all of them, but you're not me: so I try to figure out what's most interesting about each one (quickly, on a Sunday morning as I write these) and present that to you. As always, comments are welcome from anyone who knows more about the author, series, or other identifying marks.

I'll lead off with the title that amuses me the most: James Enge's Wrath-Bearing Tree, second in his "Tournament of Shadows" series, which is a prequel to his earlier books about Morlock Ambrosius. I like this book's title because my house has a wrath-bearing tree, or at least we thought it did when we moved in. We gave it fruit spikes every summer, and it produced small hard lumps, dropped all its leaves in August, and keened a song of terror and loathing in the quiet mornings. Sadly, it turned out to be a quince tree, so we've given up trying for wrath-fruit. Enge's book, though, is the real deal -- modern sword & sorcery by a fine writer (I've only read his This Crooked Way so far, but I've got several more on the get-to-them-when-you-can shelf), though you'll probably want to begin with its immediate precursor, A Guile of Dragons, which is the earliest-set of the Morlock books to date and the beginning of this more strongly linked series. Tree is published in trade paperback by Pyr, officially hitting stores on Tuesday, August 20th. (Tomorrow as you read this, assuming you're reading it the day it posts.)

Next I have three mass-market paperback from Ace, all publishing in September. (I've said this before, but Ace was my very first favorite publisher, back in the '80s, and they're still unparalleled at a certain kind of fun, fast-moving genre adventure, usually with mystery trappings -- Ace paperbacks are dependably entertaining whether you're buying them thirty years old from a paperback trader or brand-new from some shiny Internet shop.)

Simon Green's "Ghost Finders" series returns for a fourth entry in Spirits From Beyond, in which the team from the Carnacki Institute face a famously haunted inn in a small English country village.

Perdition begins a new series for Ann Aguirre, "The Dred Chonicles," about one of those unlikely SFnal prisons. This one is a derelict spaceship orbiting a barren asteroid, somewhere off in the seedier reaches of space. Dred is her heroine, queen of one of the current six territories jockeying to control Perdition, which, as you might expect, is not in the best shape. I imagine the series will get more complicated as it goes on, but this is the beginning, so it's a great place to jump on -- particularly if you find yourself complaining that there's no SF by women out there.

And the third Ace paperback is Benedict Jacka's Chosen, fourth in an urban fantasy series about Alex Verus, mage and diviner. This time out, Verus's old master -- a particularly nasty Dark mage, naturally -- is rumored to be returning, which will not be pleasant for our hero.

Ace doesn't just publish in paperback, of course -- and I have here The Last President, the third in a near-future post-apocalyptic SF series by John Barnes, following Directive 51 and Daybreak Zero. I have to admit that I'm no fan of near-future apocalypses -- I have an unreasoning prejudice against books that kill me and my family -- but Barnes is a smart, sneaky author who's always writing at least two levels at once, so I might have to take a look at it. It hits stores on September 3rd.

From Ace's fraternal twin sister Roc comes what I think is the twelfth (?!) "novel of the Change" from S.M. Stirling, The Given Sacrifice. (See above for my opinion on apocalypses; I haven't read any of this series.) From the book's own description of itself -- with suspiciously capitalized Powers, for example -- I wonder if this series wandered into fantasy somewhere along the way (which would be a reverse of Terry Brooks's Shannara series, come to think of it). Anyway, it's a popular series, and this is the last in at least this chunk of it, so go forth and grab it if this is your kind of thing.

Hey, sharecropping is back! (Maybe it never left, but I haven't seen any sharecropped books for a while.) Also from Roc in hardcover in September is Isaac Asimov's I Robot: To Obey by Mickey Zucker Reichert, which followed last year's To Protect. (And, if I know anything about this field's tropism towards trilogies, a book called something like To Survive is on its way for next year.) These are novels about Susan Calvin, set in a version of Asimov's timeline that puts US Robots and Mechanical Men about twenty years in our future (which, after all, is where it has always been, since the 1940s).

And last for this week is K.W. Jeter's new novel, Fiendish Schemes, billed as a "stand-alone sequel" to his classic Infernal Devices (one of the major contenders for the title of first steampunk novel, back when steampunk was a weird little subgenre of written SF and not a fashion statement). I never managed to read Infernal -- and my copy disappeared in the flood two years back -- but Jeter is a fearless, exciting writer, and it's good to see him doing something ambitious. Fiendish is a Tor hardcover, coming in October.

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