Monday, April 06, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/4

Since I sort-of review books -- or, some weeks, feel guilty about not reading and/or reviewing more -- I get books to review in the mail, in the timeless way of book publishing. And, every week, that guilt drives me to post about those books soon after they arrive, since that's the best time to let other people know they exist.

I'm not exactly recommending any of these books, since I haven't read any of them. At best, I can say "this is a thing I personally really want to read," and I only do that when it's true. But the world is wide and tastes are varied, so what I like might be horrible to you. And so I try to describe these books, sometimes honestly and sometimes humorously, to either entertain you here briefly or point you to something that may entertain you for a longer stretch of time.

This week, there are four books to describe, and I'll start with the one from the King of the Sad Puppies, the man who woke up yesterday with six brand-new Hugo nominations: John C. Wright. The Architect of Aeons is the fourth and final book in his current (nameless, as far as I can tell) series, but it doesn't say that on the book anywhere. I do have a letter from Wright's publicist, which tells me that it is #4 and that it ends the series that previous comprised Count to a Trillion, The Hermetic Mellennia, and The Judge of Ages. It's a Tor hardcover, arriving April 21st, with perfect timing to capitalize on Wright's newly increased profile. I believe this series is far-future space adventure in the old style -- the first line of dialogue looks very much like a Skylark of Space nudge -- full of million-mile spaceships and their coruscating beams of force. But the flap copy also nods towards a different old tradition in SF, the Stapledon-esque story of successive races of intelligent beings and the godlike forces that mold them. If either of those things appeal to you, Wright is someone to check out.

Also from Tor as an April 21st hardcover is the new book from the dependably brainy Robert Charles Wilson, The Affinities. It sounds a bit like the backstory for a popular YA dystopia: in the near future, personality and genetic mapping are making/helping/forcing people to identify ever more with specific interest groups, or Affinities. After about two dozen such Affinities solidify and line up against each other, they of course begin a regime of world domination and all-out war against each other, exactly as we expected corporations would back in the cyberpunk years. Presumably, fifty years later, one plucky teenager will rise up (with the help of the two hunky guys she can't choose between) and destroy the entire system, but Wilson's story is about a man trying to live through the rise of the Affinities.

Yet another April 21 Tor hardcover is Adam Christopher's The Machine Awakes, which is a medium future star-spanning mystery story set against the backdrop of one of those massive wars against implacable machine-based inhuman monsters that mankind is slowly and inexorably losing. Our hero is investigating a murder, and I'm sure the train will lead to much bigger things.

Last for this week is Clifford Jackman's The Winter Family, a dark Western that I think is also a first novel. It's a hardcover from Doubleday, coming April 14. It's about a band of very nasty Union soldiers, their charismatic leader Augustus Winter, and what they do over the thirty years during and after the Civil War. From some hints in the letter, and the fact that I'm seeing it at all, I suspect it has at least one minor supernatural element in it somewhere, and probably more than that.

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