Monday, June 15, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/13

I'm back again with a few books that showed up on my doorstep this week, like foundlings of the publishing world. I didn't expect any of these, which makes them more interesting, and it's entirely possible that one of them will turn out to be your favorites book of the year.

As usual, I haven't read any of these yet, but here's what looks interesting and/or amusing about them to me:

The Stellow Project is, I believe, the first novel from Shari Becker, who has written picture books and done other things related to the entertainment world. It's from Amazon's newish YA imprint, Skyscape, and is available June 23rd in trade paperback and electronic formats. Unexpectedly, it seems to be set in the modern world and not a dystopian hellhole, which is refreshing. Our heroine is sent away from the family's Manhattan home in an unexpected "killer storm" (which reminds me of the song "Wildfire" and its tragically killing frost, because I am old) with her younger sister, and left without the experimental drug that keeps her alive. This is a YA book, so I'm sure she both survives and learns that Everything She Knows Is Wrong -- primarily concerning the evil and duplicity of adults.

My next book here is for slightly younger folks: Life of Zarf: The Troll Who Cried Wolf continues Rob Harrell's middle-grade series (after The Trouble With Weasels) about a troll kid trying to survive in a fairy-tale school. Harrell is the creator of the syndicated Adam@home newspaper strip, as well as the graphic novel Monster on the Hill, and he makes this book into something in between a novel and a graphic novel: each page has at least one spot illustration, which are part of the flow of the story, usually showing a line of dialogue or a moment of action. Troll Who Cried Wolf is coming in September -- just in time for a new crop of anxious middle-schoolers -- from Dial Books for Young Readers.

Nick Harkaway is a British writer who works with SFnal and spy-story ideas but gets published mostly on the "general fiction" lists -- possibly because his father is the writer John le Carre, so he knows how the business works from the inside -- and his third novel, Tigerman, is hitting paperback here in the US on June 23 from the good people at Vintage. Tigerman, unlike his first two books, doesn't seem to have any fantastic elements: it's about a British soldier given a quiet last job before retirement, watching over things on the backwater ex-colony of Mancreau. But, of course, books about quiet tropical paradises always turn out to be really about the things lurking beneath the surfaces of those seeming paradises, don't they?

And last for this week is an unabashed fantasy novel, The Hollow Queen, coming from Tor in hardcover on June 30. It's the eighth in the "Symphony of Ages" series by Elizabeth Haydon, and finishes up the current trilogy. (There was a long gap between books two and three, which I looked up after seeing Haydon thank her original editor, my old SFWA-party buddy Jim Minz, in her acknowledgements -- that surprised me, since Minz left Tor a good decade ago.) I haven't read Haydon in a while, but I have good memories of the first trilogy in this series -- starting with Rhapsody back in 1999 -- since I read and bought them for the SFBC back in those days of the earth's youth. This is big fantasy in a world where magic relies, at least some of the time, on music, and Haydon, as I recall, was good at characters and relationships and actually had a number of important women in her books.

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