Thursday, April 16, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/11, Part Three

Today we come to the epic conclusion, when great deeds will be done and the names of our heroes will resonate down the ages forever.

Or, just maybe, it will all fizzle out with a whimper, like far too many real epic fantasy trilogies.

This is the third piece of what is usually one post on Monday mornings, and it's (by design) the least and shortest piece. (See, it's a metaphor! Don't you believe me?) It was supposed to be the fiction end of my giant pile of mail from last week, but -- as I got down to the bottom of that pile -- I discovered two sneaky manga volumes stuck in there. So maybe that makes my metaphor even better -- the big finale of the trilogy is now notably shorter than the previous installments and doesn't match the initial hype.

Anyway, these are books that showed up on my doorstep last week, and I'm grateful for every single one of them (even the ones I will never read). I hope you find something here you will love.

First up is a book handed to me by a friend in publishing, because this is my blog and I can do what I want. Also, I missed this book entirely when it came out in 2012, so you might have, as well. It's Losers in Space, a YA science-fiction novel by John Barnes set a century from now in a post-scarcity future, where the only way to have more than anybody else -- one of the great motivators of humanity -- is to become a professional celebrity. Several teens, wanting this in the way only teens can want something, stow away on a ship bound to Mars, to get that fame. It doesn't work out that simply, of course, but I'm eager to see what Barnes does here, since he's been good at teens and their voices since all the way back to Orbital Resonance.

Next I'll throw in those two pesky manga volumes that escaped the first two parts of this epic trilogy -- both of them are from Vertical, and both were recently published. They also both have covers that aren't as easy to read as they should be, which is unfortunate. (Books sell primarily online these days, so it's vital to have something that "reads" cleanly at thumbnail size -- and a title and author that are readable at standard display size.) The more difficult to read is Ryu Mizunagi's Witchcraft Works, Vol. 3, which is one of those stories about a young man dragged into the secret supernatural world and how he makes his way. This particular series is full of witches, who seem to be having big battles around him, and he's also discovered that they're everywhere around him, from home to school.

The other book from Vertical is Mitsuhisa Kji's Wolfsmund, Vol. 6, a dark retelling of the Robin Hood story with lots of blood and gore and nastiness. (This particular volume has an extended sequence involving an execution via pointed stake, a la Vlad Tepes.) I reviewed the third volume last year, if anyone wants more details.

And now, finally!, we get into SFF publishing around now, with Marie Brennan's Voyage of the Basilisk, the third of the "Memoirs by Lady Trent" novels about a female naturalist in a vaguely 19th century world filled with supernatural creatures. It's a Tor hardcover, published March 31st, and I still have the first two books on my shelf of stuff I really should get to one of these days.

But then I immediately wander away from pure fiction, with Darwin's Watch: The Science of Discworld III, by Terry Pratchett with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. It's the third of the four books mixing a Discworld story (by Pratchett, about the Unseen University wizards poking around with the pocket-universe "Roundworld" they created, in alternating chapters) with real science (by Stewart and Cohen, about evolution, in the rest of the chapters). Darwin's Watch was originally published in the UK back in 2005, but it's only just making it to my side of the pond in a trade paperback from Doubleday -- it'll be available in June.

And then last for this week is a new story collection, The Essential W. P. Kinsella, from Tachyon. Kinsella, of course, is the author of the novel Shoeless Joe, which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, and also the author of a number of other works mixing sports and the fantastic. Essential collects twenty-seven of his stories, some of them about baseball and some not, from the length of his career, including "Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes To Iowa," which became the first chapter of the novel Shoeless Joe.

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