Monday, September 15, 2014

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 9/13

I'm back again for another week of new books -- as always, my hope is that one of these will be your favorite book of the year, or at least something you read and enjoy. All of the below items came to me through the offices of the hard-working publicists of "big publishing" -- I haven't yet read any of them, so none of this is technically a "review." But I can tell you some things about these books from looking at them and from prior knowledge, so that's just what I'll do.

Last Plane to Heaven is the final short-story collection from Jay Lake, and probably his last book; he was fighting colon cancer -- hilariously, heartbreakingly fighting it, out in public, at conventions and in his online writings -- for several years before he died this June, and cancer and the drugs that fought it stole Lake's ability to write fiction along the way. (Yet another twisted irony that the stronger Lake would have made much of: his cancer killed him by inches, stealing all of the things that mattered one by one before that final blow.) I haven't read as much Lake as I should -- I used to have a shelf of his novels waiting for me, before the flood -- but I hope to make time for this, to remember a fine writer and a great member of the SF community, an excellent man who stood up and said "fuck cancer" as loudly as he spun intricate stories and told the truth of this world as he saw it. Last Plane to Heaven is a Tor hardcover, officially going on sale tomorrow.

Nancy Kress has a new short novel, Yesterday's Kin, available now as a slim trade paperback from Tachyon -- who also published her Nebula-winner After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, two years back, in the same format. It's an alien-contact story, with a landing in near-future New York and the evolutionary biologist who's dragged into their schemes.

Jack Campbell's major military SF series is back in The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword, the third in that series (which I think is a continuation of his previous ten-book series "The Lost Fleet"). It's an Ace hardcover coming October 7th, and it involves the liberation of something called the Midway Star System -- I suspect there may be a certain historical parallel in mind here.

Mercedes Lackey has a new Valdemar novel in Closer to Home, the first in a new subseries called "The Herald Spy." It's a DAW hardcover coming October 7th, and it centers around Mags, a popular character from Lackey's previous Valdemar subseries, "The Collegium Chronicles." I haven't read Lackey's books in a few years, but I found her '90s and '00s books always dependably entertaining and usually a lot of fun -- she was my guilty pleasure at the SFBC for a lot of years.

Terry Pratchett has mostly concentrated on novels over his long and wonderful career -- it's how he's written over fifty of them -- but I guess he has written enough nonfiction to fill a book. Because that book now exists: A Slip of the Keyboard, a Doubleday hardcover coming September 23rd. (Doubleday is in the middle of a big Pratchett burst, focusing on the odder Discworld pseudo-non-fiction books, for which I love them: if they can manage to bring the hilarious and nearly untranslatable [1] Nanny Ogg's Cookbook to American shores, they'll officially become my favorite publisher ever.) I've been a Pratchett reader for a couple of decades now, and I'm a huge lover of novelists' occasional nonfiction -- don't ask me why, but it's a form I always love -- so this was a book that raised an audible sound from me when I opened the package. (As a respectable middle-aged man, I won't characterize that sound.)

Doubleday is also bringing out an American edition of The Compleat Ankh-Morpork, a massively expanded and updated version of the map that Pratchett's UK publisher first released a decade or so ago. This version is credited to "Terry Pratchett, aided and abetted by The Discworld Emporium," which I suspect means that Pratchett organized and edited and approved all of it, but that others ferreted out all of the references from his novels and did most of the heavy lifting to put it all together. (In particular, I can't find a notice of who actually drew the map, which is a gigantic double-sided thing -- even after the substantial work of organization, just putting it onto paper was a massive undertaking.) This will be available October 28th, and is a perfect example of the kind of thing book publishing can do and electronic publishing simply can't. If you had any questions about the muckily fabulous twinned central cities of Discworld, this is the place to go for your answers.

[1] British English is not that far from American English, admittedly. But British cookery, and the details thereof, is very, very far.

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