Monday, March 16, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/14

The tide of mail ebbs and flows at La Casa Hornswoggler, sometimes with a melancholy, low, withdrawing roar...but never mind about that now. What I meant to say is that some weeks are more comics-heavy, and some are all SFnal. This past week, for whatever reason, was one of the latter, with nothing from the comics side on the review front. (Which is fine with me, since I got a Big Eisner Box from the mothership, as well as picking up 15 other books for Eisner consideration at the library at various times during the week.)

By the way, in case the point of this post is confusing: I review books (here and elsewhere), so I get books in the mail to review. (It's a fairly simple mechanism, but one which the comics industry struggles to understand.) Since I know I won't manage to read everything -- I read pretty quickly, but get through only a small fraction of what I see -- I do Monday-morning posts to list and discuss the books that I've just seen, to bring a little attention to them and (sometimes) to make snarky comments.

And so it's time for me to get started...

First this week is one of the very best books written in the SF field. Period, full stop, no weasel words. Up there in the top 10 SF novels ever written. So, if you haven't read Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside yet, you're in luck -- Orb released this new edition on March 3rd, so you can find it at your favorite bookseller right now. (And if you happen to be reading this, Dave Itzkoff, you'll be happy to note that it has a cover that no one will sneer at on the subway.) It's the story of David Selig, a telepath who's used his power to slide easily though life -- but finds it fading as he sinks into middle age. Dying Inside is one of the two or three novels I'd recommend to literary fiction readers to show them that SF can do everything their genre can, and then some -- it's that good. And it's now back in print to show a whole new generation just how true and real a SF novel can be.

(And a comparison of the final cover -- above -- and what's showing many places online -- look here for a decent-sized version -- is yet another example of the difference between a lightning bug and real lightning. The other version has all the same elements, but the final cover tightens the focus on the image, making that single white eye the focus of the cover and emphasizing the idea of vision. The quotes are also both more prominent and clearer on the final cover.)

Urban fantasy heroes have proliferated to fill an entire fantasy ecosystem: there are wizards and druids, necromancers and slayers, and of course vampires and werewolves. I hesitate to say that any particular character type is new as an urban fantasy hero, since there have been so many, but I don't recall any ex-archangels before Tom Sniegowski's Remy "Remiel" Chandler, hero of last year's A Kiss Before the Apocalypse and now a second novel, Dancing on the Head of a Pin. He's also one of the few urban fantasy protagonists who doesn't narrate his adventures himself; this novel looks to be written in a tight third person. Dancing will be published by Roc on April 7th in trade paperback.

Also in the urban fantasy line, but with a more traditional background -- a young Chicago woman called Merit who's just become a vampire and who tells her story in the first person -- is the debut novel from Chloe Neill, Some Girls Bite. I do like that the girl on the cover is facing forward, fully dressed, and not sporting any too-obvious tattoos, but it otherwise looks to be very much down the middle of the genre. Some Girls Bite comes from NAL, Roc's elder sister in the Penguin empire, and will also be a trade paperback hitting stores on April 7th.

I'm not sure how to respond to Dragons Luck, the sequel to last year's Dragons Wild and probably the last novel that will appear under the byline of Robert Asprin, who died last May. On the one hand, I tremendously loved Asprin's early novel The Bug Wars when I was young, and the "Thieves World" series -- which he edited by Lynn Abbey -- was hugely influential on me and a generation of readers. (Plus his "Myth" light fantasy series, which I enjoyed for a while and my younger brother devoured.) But, on the other hand, he reportedly had a near-complete writer's block for more than a decade before his death, and no books credited only to him had appeared before Dragons Wild for quite some time. And this book is copyright in the name of the packaging firm Bill Fawcett & Associates. So I hope that all was a dodge to keep the IRS off of his back, and that he did write two substantial novels in the last years of his life. This counts as urban fantasy, too, I suppose -- Griffen McCandles learned in the first book that he was not a human professional gambler (as he had thought), but instead a powerful dragon. And it's coming in trade paperback from Ace on April 7th.

I also have here the first two books in a new series -- they don't seem to be a complete story, since the second book is described as a "continuation" rather than a "conclusion" -- by Mark Chadbourn, from Pyr. "Age of Misrule," about the return of the ancient Celtic pantheon and their immediate apocalyptic battle between good and evil forces in modern Britain, begins in May with World's End and immediately continues the next month with Darkest Hour. (A little research shows that this is a trilogy, originally published between 1999 and 2001 in the UK, and that the third book is called Always Forever. No sign yet of a publication date for that over here, though.)

And next is Nebula Awards Showcase 2009, the annual anthology collecting the previous year's Nebula Award winners, along with various other stories, pieces of winning novels, explanations of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America -- and, yes, the reason why the second "F" in the acronym is suppressed is one of the things that always require explanation), and whatever else seemed like a good idea that year. For the last decade or so -- since it took its current format -- it's been an interesting snapshot of the field at the time, though a bit scattershot -- and these books do sometimes seem like a year-delayed "Best of the Year" anthology. This year's edition is edited by Ellen Datlow, and includes all of that usual stuff. (There's also an essay by my former boss Ellen Asher, about her tenure at the SFBC, and I have to hang my head in shame and admit that I just skimmed it, looking for my name. I'm a bad, bad man.) Roc will publish this in trade paperback on April Fool's Day -- but don't read to much into that choice.

There's a beefy shirtless dude in chains on the cover of Sarah Monette's Corambis, indicating to me that this fourth book in her highly-acclaimed series (the one starting with Melusine) is still probably not my kind of thing. It's a secondary world fantasy, and it's always struck me as sounding like a Mauve Decade version of Scott Lynch's novels -- I'm sure someone will correct me if that's utterly wrong. Corambis will be published in hardcover by Ace on April 7th.

And last for this week is the new novel by Robert J. Sawyer, WWW: Wake, first in a new trilogy about that old faithful SFnal idea, the computer network that wakes up. And, from the title, I expect you can guess just which network Sawyer picked for this series. But this particular book looks to be more specifically about Caitlin Decter, a young blind woman who gets an experimental treatment designed to allow her to see -- which doesn't go quite the way it was planned. Wake is coming in hardcover from Ace on April 7th.

1 comment:

Lou Anders said...

Always Forever will be published in July, the month after Darkest Hour.

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