Monday, October 05, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/3: Skiffy

Some day, this blog will turn into something other than a weekly list of books that showed up in my mail box. (Really -- this has happened before, a couple of times.) But it won't be this week, and it probably won't be this month.

But you do get this, at least. This week, I'm catching up on the backlog, which is nice for me (closure!) and nice for you (a longer list!). As always, I haven't read any of these books, and I won't promise when or if I'll get to read any of them. Nevertheless, I can tell you they exist and try to find the most intriguing things about each of them.

To make it seem like I'm posting more, I'm splitting this week's "Reviewing the Mail" into an unprecedented three posts! (Note: this is not unprecedented. I've done it at least once before.) And, in honor of the field I worked in, once upon a time -- and still have vague dreams of getting back to, some day -- I'll lead off with SFF books.

A Borrowed Man is the new novel by Gene Wolfe, one of the greatest and trickiest writers in SF. (Seriously, if you haven't read his four-book "Book of the New Sun" series, what have you been doing? And if you did read that, you need to find the loosely related "Book of the Long Sun" and "Book of the Short Sun," the latter of which is possibly Wolfe at his very sneakiest. The other major contender for that crown is his novel Peace, which I also recommend.) I'm already two books behind on Wolfe, because I'm not reading as much SFF these days, but this one is short and has a neat hook: the narrator is a library copy of the downloaded brain of a now-dead mystery writer. checked out of that library to help a young woman investigate the mysterious disappearance of her wealthy father. It's a Tor hardcover, coming October 20th, and any Wolfe book will exercise your brain while you read it.

Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper is the third in a steampunk series by David Barnett about the young adventurer who went from reading fantastic adventures to living them as Hero of the Empire. (As usual, steampunk means Queen Victoria Uber Alles.) This one is the inevitable amnesia plot, with Smith thrown into London's seedy underbelly (TM) and bereft of his memories. Can! He! Fight! Back!? (Of course.) This is a Tor trade paperback, clanking its way onto shelves October 13.

An Apprentice to Elves is the third book in Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear's fantasy series about a Viking-esque society and the wolves they telepathically bond with. (There are elves, too, as the title implies, but they seem to be more saga-style and less Tolkien.) This time out, we follow the daughter of the original series hero as she runs up against all of the things her society says women can't do...and she calmly accepts that all lives have limitations, and makes the best of her situation. Ha! Of course not -- fantasy novels are entirely about destroying all limitations and becoming the most special person in all existence, because the book is about YOU. This one's a Tor hardcover on October 13.

And last for this installment is Radiance, the new novel from the inventive and surprising Catherynne M. Valente. This one is set in an alternate past in which Golden Age SF-style rockets ships ply the old-fashioned solar system (ancient desert Mars, jungle-shrowded Venus, and so forth) but the movies are still silent due to a stranglehold by Edison patents. Our heroine launches on a career to make talking documentaries about the wonders of those strange planets, and Valente tells her story in what seems to be a multiplex way, with a novel in different fonts for different kinds of texts and first-person narration alternates with excerpts from gossip magazines and screenplays. Radiance looks deeply weird and idiosyncratic, which I appreciate, and I hope you will, as well.

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