Monday, June 29, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/27

Yep, it's the same ol' thing once again: books in the mail, I write about 'em here, yadda yadda yadda. And so I'll dive directly into the probably vaguely accurate description of things I will take my first serious look at in about five seconds:

The Philosopher Kings get to go first because it's the new Jo Walton novel, and she's an interesting and quirky writer who does different things each time out and has written a number of excellent novels (e.g.: Among Others, Half a Crown and the rest of that loose trilogy) in recent years. This one is the sequel to last year's The Just City, in which the goddess Athena set up a city in the distant past as a utopia to educate intelligent youngsters from all of history, with a faculty of robots and philosophers. Things apparently did not go entirely to plan in that first book -- if things did got to plan all of the time, our novels would be very boring -- and so now the situation is much more complex and dangerous back in that supposedly perfect city. And there's at least one book to go -- I read Walton's blog, where she's been talking about writing the third book -- so this will not be the end of the story. I've still got The Just City on my shelf to read, but I would recommend not waiting as long as me. Philosopher Kings is a Tor hardcover coming June 30th, and I hope I don't have to try to spell "philosopher" again for ten years.

Changing gears entirely, how about a graphic novel for kids? Judd Winick, who would probably prefer if people like me didn't point out that he began his media-figure career as a contestant on the show that spawned the entire hideous "reality" genre, and so is partially responsible for the horrible state of the world today, is back with Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. The title character is a Zot-ish blond-haired innocent with some manner of superpowers, but a few years younger and vastly more innocent than Scott McCloud's '80s hero. He arrives on Earth, meets the obligatory completely normal kid, and wacky hijinks ensue. There will clearly be more of these -- the numeral "1" in the title is the big clue there -- but this first one is coming from Random House's Young Readers operation in hardcover on the first of September.

Chris Willich is back with the third novel about the poet Persimmon Gaunt and the thief Imago Bone -- and, from the cover, the Viking-looking guys with big axes that want to kill them -- in The Chart of Tomorrows. The previous books in the series were The Scroll of Years and The Silk Map, our married heroes are still trying to keep their baby son from being the locus of all evil on their particular secondary world -- as you do -- and this book promises to have war-balloons in it. How can you turn aside a book with war-balloons, I ask you? This one is a Pyr trade paperback, available July 7th.

Who says steampunk is just for adults? Certainly not Alan Gratz, who is back with the second novel in his "League of Seven" series (after the eponymous first book), The Dragon Lantern, which comes complete with extensive illustrations by Brett Helquist (whom some of us remember fondly from Lemony Snicket's "Series of Unfortunate Events" and others probably remember fondly from other stuff). This series is set in an alternate 1875 powered by steam and where Native Americans seem to be at least nominally in charge of the United Nations of America, and whose world is periodically threatened by the evil Mangleborn and then in turn saved by the resurgent of a League of Seven, who always follow exactly the same template, because this is a book for middle-school kids, and they love specific rules and details. This is from the Tor Starscape imprint, and should be already available from your favorite retailer. (If not, why are they your favorite, exactly? It came out on June 9th.)

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