Monday, September 14, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 9/12

In case you've missed this before: every Monday morning, I post a list (with comments) of the books I saw for review the previous week. Since even a minor blogger like me can get a dozen or more books a week, and I can't read a dozen books a week, simple math shows that I'm not going to be able to read every one of those books. (Even if I wanted to, and I don't always.) So I do these "Reviewing the Mail" posts to give a little attention to all of those books, and say whatever I can about them without having read them.

Occasionally, a book I paid for will sneak in, as is the case this week. I'll try to remember to specify which one it is, but, if not, take your best guess in comments.

First up this time is The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines, the sequel to The Stepsister Scheme in a series that will be at least a trilogy (as promised on the card page). It's another in the long line of Fractured Fairy Tales, this time with a modern feminist spin. (I haven't seen a fairy-tale-esque story without a spunky, and much-too-liberated-for-her-society, heroine for dogs' years.) This one retells the story of Andersen's "The Little Mermaid," with the aid of the heroines from the first book, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White. Expect a lot of singing Motown into shampoo bottles, or whatever the fantasy-novel equivalent of the "girls bonding montage" is, when The Mermaid's Madness hits stores in the convenient mass-market format on October 6th, published by DAW.

On the same day -- and published out of the same building, this time by Roc -- you'll be able to find Laura E. Reeve's Vigilante, which is "A Major Ariane Kedros Novel." (The first such was Peacekeeper, which also seems to have been Reeve's first novel.) Given the fact that it has a blonde woman in camo pants and a tank top firing a gun with an unfeasibly large barrel on the cover -- though the gun itself is reasonably sized, for once -- I will make the cognitive leap that this is a military SF novel. (Women on MilSF cover occasionally wear their full dress uniforms, if they're receiving medals or something like that, but they invariably go into combat in tank tops. It's probably similar to the reason why fantasy warrior-women always wear "armor" bikinis.) From the back cover, I see that this is also a "we discovered ancient alien artifacts" book, and I always used to love those. (Haven't read a really good one in a while -- anyone have any recent suggestions?)

A week earlier from Roc's corporate sibling Ace, there's Xombies: Apocalypse Blues. (And what's the difference between an ordinary "zombie" and a fancy "xombie," anyway? Are the ones with Xs the fast-moving ones? I find this terribly annoying, particularly since I've finally managed to remember what "zuvembies" are.) It's by Walter Greatshell, and was previously published five years ago as simply Xombies (So all you huge Greatshell fans need to simmer down back there -- though there is a teaser for a sequel, Xombies: Apocalypticon, which is coming next March.) As you might guess from the title, this is yet another the-dead-are-rising-and-eating-people story, which are inexplicably popular these days. This one has an ostensibly SFnal explanation, for those who prefer that -- for myself, I tend to go for the old-school "there's just no more room left in hell" rationale when it comes to shambling corpses.

Publishing the same time (September 29th) and from the same publisher (Ace) is Ilona Andrews's On the Edge, the first in a new series. (Oddly, the press release says that "Ilona Andrews" is the pen-name of a husband and wife writing team named Andrew and Ilona, but the book is dedicated to "my husband." From that, I begin to suspect one of the team may be doing more of the writing than the other. But I could be wrong.) On the Edge is another Borderlands-style novel, set in the area where faerie (here called the Weird) touches mundane reality and featuring a tough, magical female main character who travels between the two worlds (and, according to the cover, has the head and shoulders of a hunky dude floating above the engine of her pick-up).

Another tough-looking woman -- in a tank top, but carrying some kind of short cattle-prod looking device with electricity sparking all around it -- glares forth from the cover of Ann Aguirre's Doubleblind, the third in the series about Sirantha Jax, a pilot of FTL starships. According to the back cover, Jax is one of those tough-talking, non-nonsense SFnal types -- they used to be all men, and it's nice to see that there are now female versions, minus the cigar-chewing and crew-cuts -- who finds herself running a diplomatic missions to an equally tough alien race. Doubleblind is another Ace mass-market coming on September 29th.

The book I bought -- see, I did remember! -- is the new collection of Roger Langridge's The Muppet Show comics. I've always liked Langridge's work when I've seen it, and I've always intended to seek it out more often, but I generally haven't. But his style is perfect for the Muppets, and I think I can pass this book on to my sons after I read it, and that was enough to push it over the edge. (Also, it was inexpensive -- only ten bucks -- and right on the shelf in a store where I was already buying a couple of things for my sons.) Boom! Studios published The Muppet Show back in July.

I know that William C. Dietz typically writes in duologies -- I did a number of his books back in my book-club days -- but I can't tell from At Empire's Edge whether it's the first half or the second half of a story. (And there's always the possibility that it's a standalone or part of a longer series; writers don't always keep doing the same thing indefinitely.) So, I'll start to use my massive ratiocinative abilities...and then look at the press release, which says in its first line that it's "the first book in an exciting new science fiction duology." So my massive skills were not terribly taxed there. This one is a hardcover from Ace -- and I think they've been Dietz's publisher all the way along, and have had him in hardcover for close to two decades, so that's no surprise -- coming October 6th.

I let out an audible yelp of joy when the next book arrived -- ask my wife, she'll confirm it. It's not an expensive book, and it's not going to be a hard one to find, but I'm still amazingly happy when a book I was perfectly prepared to go out and spend my own money on shows up on my doorstep unasked. This time, it was Neil Gaiman's Odd and the Frost Giants, the American edition of a short novel for younger readers that Gaiman originally wrote to be published in the UK on World Book Day in 2008. The letter says that it's appropriate for ages 8 and up, so this may just be the first Gaiman book I share with my younger son. (We're currently reading Daniel Pinkwater's excellent middle-grade book Fat Men from Space, and I suspect we may go back to reading together more at bedtime for a while.) Odd will be published by HarperCollins on September 22nd, probably to the joy of a great number of young people (as well as a certain number of the not-so-young like myself).

Hunting Memories is the second book in Barb Hendee's "Vampire Memories" series -- which I presume means it's the memories of a vampire, rather than someone else's memories of the vampires they met ("Ah, yes, I staked that Hungarian bitch back in '47, just after the war -- rather a simple go, I must say, since she couldn't even shapeshift.") -- after last year's Blood Memories. (Hendee is probably best known as half of the writing team on the vampire/epic fantasy mash-up series "The Noble Dead Chronicles." Hunting Memories is a trade paperback from Roc, coming October 6th.

I mentioned Tom Lloyd's The Grave Thief -- third in the "Twilight Reign" series, coming from Pyr as a trade paperback on September 8th -- about two months ago, when I saw it in galley form, and now I'll mention it again, since I have in my hands one of the finished books.

And last for this week is Sharon Shinn's new book Quatrain, which features four originally novellas set in her different fictional worlds. The four stories are called "Flight," "Blood," "Gold," and "Flame," and all have in common the fact that I know very very little about the worlds they're set in. This one is an Ace hardcover, coming October 8th.


Anonymous said...

A big week for tough chicks. The difference between an ordinary "zombie" and a fancy "xombie" is this:

Zombies are raised using occult magic.

Xombies are raised using occult magyk.

C'mon, everyone knows that.

James Davis Nicoll said...

Empire's Edge seems to be a stand-alone.

Ilona said...

"(Oddly, the press release says that "Ilona Andrews" is the pen-name of a husband and wife writing team named Andrew and Ilona, but the book is dedicated to "my husband." From that, I begin to suspect one of the team may be doing more of the writing than the other. But I could be wrong.)"

No, just one of the team resents having to always look through final galleys because she is "better" at it. Coincidentally that same person was in charge of dedication. That's why it says, "I bet you didn't see that one coming." If he looked through the galleys, he would've seen it.

Re: faerie, nope sorry. No faerie in the book. :( But there are zombie grandpas , so hopefully that will make up for it.

Major Major said...

"(I haven't seen a fairy-tale-esque story without a spunky, and much-too-liberated-for-her-society, heroine for dogs' years.)"

Not to mention indeed just about every other sort of fantasy story. I think I got about two chapters into Ash before I gave up at the unreality of the protagonist. And don't let's mention "Arabian Nights" fantasies, where the spunky and much too liberated for her society heroine would be dead.

And you could have mentioned the vampire books, which all seem to feature vampire hunters --- hunteresses, I'd have said --- in leather pants and bikini tops getting it on with hunky vampires. The original vampire was a bit too much like a corpse, and the thought of Anna Paquin getting it on with an overweight Al Lewis just won't fly today.

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