Monday, March 14, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/12

It is ridiculously cold in my stereotypical bloggers' basement as I type this -- with an array of fans blowing across the newly-cleaned (but still damp) carpet and a bunch of windows open -- and the whole family is supposed to decamp before long to visit my in-laws for the first of several gala celebrations for the momentous occasion of my older son, Thing 1, reaching his dreaded teenage years. (That occurs, officially, at 10:45 AM on Thursday.) So this post may turn out shorter and more desultory than usual; if so, I apologize in advance.

As always, this is a listing, with comments and random thoughts, of the books that arrived in my mail last week for review on this very blog. I haven't read any of these books yet, so what I say may, once in a very long while, be slightly at odds from the actual truth -- and I apologize in advance for that as well, if it happens. I try to judge as little as possible, since the book you will love could be very different from my favorite, but I'm an inherently judgmental person, so that rarely comes out well.

Anyway, I'll start with the biggest (happy) surprise of the day: a paperback of Dave Barry's recent book I'll Mature When I'm Dead. It came without a letter, but it's clearly an April release from the fine folks at Berkley Books. And if the fourteen-year-old Andy Wheeler -- who discovered Barry's The Taming of the Screw in a mall Waldenbooks way back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, starting a long shelf of Barry books that are still with me today -- knew that someone would once send him the new Dave Barry collection for free, that boy would probably keel over from shock. I realize that I haven't read Barry as much this last decade -- he stopped the newspaper column, and I wasn't a big fan of the novels he's written with Ridley Pearson [1] -- and this is a great excuse to correct that. Thanks, Berkley!

Next comes the best cover this week, from Jon Sullivan on Mark Hodder's The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, the second in his steampunk alternate-history series about Sir Richard Francis Burton and Algernon Winburn, mid-Victorian secret agents and detectives. The plot of this book -- in a wink to those that know -- features a lost heir named Sir Roger Tichborne and the titular automaton. Pyr publishes it this month in trade paperback.

DAW Books is publishing at least three mass-market paperbacks in April -- I know this because I have three of them in front of me right now. The first is S.L. Farrell's A Magic of Dawn, the finale of the "Nessicanto Cycle," which was originally published in hardcover last year. (And great kudos to Farrell for not naming a three-book series a trilogy; resisting temptation like that is impressive.)

Also from DAW in April, and also originally a hardcover, is C.J. Cherryh's Deceiver, the eleventh novel of Bren Cameron and the alien atevi, the middle book of the fourth trilogy in that series. (The finale of that trilogy is either imminent or already out; DAW hasn't sent me hardcovers lately, so I'm not sure which.) I read the first nine or so of these, but I have to admit that I lost track of the series when I fell from grace back in 2007.

And the third of those DAW paperbacks is Alien in the Family, the third in a humorous-romantic-adventurous SF series by Gini Koch with a clear Men in Black influence.

I saw Mark Chadbourn's The Scar-Crow Men -- second in his secret history "Swords of Albion" series, featuring Will Swyfte, spy and agent of Queen Elizabeth (the one who didn't have a "the first" at that point) -- back when it was in advance-proof form, and now I see it again now that it's a finished book. (I have good eyes; I can see things twice sometimes.) It was published by Pyr on March 8th.

Steven Gould is back with his first new standalone novel since 2000's Blind Waves in 7th Sigma, a July hardcover from Tor. (I assume the title has a purpose other than confusing and amusing those of us far-too-deeply stuck in the performance-management world, but I expect I'll have to read the book to find out that purpose.) It's a near-future novel, set in the desert Southwest where unexplained self-replicating (and metal-eating) machines showed up about fifty years before, with a hero who may be seven sigmas from the norm -- on what graph, precisely, the copy on 7th Sigma doesn't say.

Alex Bledsoe has been writing hybrid secondary-world fantasy/hard-boiled mysteries for a few years now, with the first two books about his detective Eddie LaCrosse: The Sword-Edged Blonde and Burn Me Deadly. And now Eddie is back with a third adventure: Dark Jenny. The cover is a bit odd -- it looks like a classy historical romance, or possibly a Tudors spin-off -- which may be because this book is set entirely in one castle, full of intrigue and murder accusations. Dark Jenny will be published by Tor in trade paperback on March 29th.
Cory Doctorow, ready as ever to experiment with distribution and always looking for a new audience. , is publishing his next short-story collection, With a Little Help, himself, under the Sweet Home Grindstone Press imprint. And he's casting his publicity net very widely, since he even sent me a copy. With a Little Help collects twelve Doctorow stories, mostly from 2007-2010, along with a Jonathan Coulton foreword and an afterword by Doctorow's agent, Russell Galen. It will be available as a print-on-demand paperback -- updated with typo fixes in near-real-time, and under one of four covers -- as an ultra-limited-edition hardcover with fancy extras, as an audiobook read by various interesting people (Mary Robinette Kowal, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and some poor others with only two names like Wil Wheaton), and as DRM-free name-your-price electronic editions. So, if you want to read Cory Doctorow stories at all, you really can't complain about lack of choice. All those things are available now, since the book launched in December 2010 -- well, the ultra-limited edition is probably impossible to find now, but that's what happens when you snooze.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson are taking some time out from their string of Dune prequels to start a new adventure-SF series with a big fat book called Hellhole. It was published by Tor on March 15th, and, presumably, the title wasn't chosen to make us all think of this:

And last for this week is the twentieth (!) book in the "Graphic Classics" series edited by Tom Pomplun -- celebrating more than a decade of adapting great stories into graphic form -- in Western Classics. This time around, stories by Zane Grey, Robert E. Howard, Bret Harte, Willa Cather, and others are adapted and illustrated by folks like Trina Robbins, Arnold Arre, Rod Lott, Dan Spiegle, George Sellas, and Pomplun himself.

[1] Though Barry's first two solo novels, Big Trouble and Tricky Business, are wonderful: Carl Hiaasen-style Florida caper novels with Barry's inimitable light touch and without Hiaasen's underlying pessimism. They're great, and the movie made from the first one is a lot of fun, as well.

1 comment:

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Thanks for the rundown on all these books. It's amazing you can keep up with it all (makes my eyes swim).

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