Monday, March 07, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/5

I'm typing this at speed, since there's Family Stuff going on most of today (Sunday) and tomorrow (Monday) that will keep me away from this computer and possibly completing this. So if this post stops abruptly mid-thought, know that I'll be back sometime later on Monday to finish it up.

And, of course, this is the usual list of books that came in my mail last week -- of which I have read exactly none. All possible caveats thus apply to my descriptions of these books, which are uniformly much more awesome than I am describing them as.

(I just deleted a paragraph about a book I didn't get this week -- you can guess which one; it's the gigantic brick-shaped object that was released on Tuesday -- because it was off-topic and probably contained more than the USDA recommended amount of whining.)

And why should I whine, anyway? Look what I did get: John Scalzi's new novel, Fuzzy Nation, the unexpected reimagining of H.Beam Piper's classic Little Fuzzy. (And I am old enough to have grown up reading Piper, thank you very much -- I read the Fuzzy books back before the lost third book was rediscovered!) I will say that it's weird to see a Fuzzy book being published by anyone but Ace -- this one will be a Tor hardcover on May 10th -- but that's just thirteen-year-old Andy rearing his uncomprehending head. Scalzi is something like our decade's version of Piper to begin with: a smart writer who specializes in very entertaining, incredibly popular books solidly in a tradition midway between Military SF and that ill-defined thing "Hard SF." So I'm expecting his version of Jack Halloway and Little Fuzzy to be entirely awesome.

And then I have three fantasy novels for not-quite adults, all by writers I don't know, all from various pieces of the vast Penguin Empire. (Penguins secretly rule much of the Atlantic seaboard, you know.) First is Catherine Fisher's The Dark City, the first in a four-book "Relic Master" series coming out this summer from Dial Books -- as in, all four books will be out this summer, to best capture the short attention spans of teenagers and other fantasy readers. Dark City is thus coming in May, with the other three novels following through the end of the summer. (I see that Fisher is the author of Incarceron, which I have heard of, so I take back my claim not to know who any of these authors are -- there are so many good writers in the world that it's hard to keep track of them all.) "Relic Master" is the story of Anara, "a world mysteriously crumbling to devastation, where nothing is what it seems: ancient relics emit technologically advanced powers, members of the old Older are revered by the people but hunted by the governing Watch, and the great energy that connects all seems to also be destroying all." So it sounds much closer to conventional adult epic fantasy than most YA fantasy is these days: secondary world, fate of the universe, secret powers, all of those exciting things. Fisher is a past New York Times bestseller, and probably will be again: you could read this yourself, or wait until some sassy seventeen-year-old rolls her eyes when you haven't....

Next is Franny Billingsley's Chime, also from Dial Books, but publishing this very month. This one looks more like what we think of as YA fantasy: focused on one young woman, Briony, whose secret "killed her stepmother, destroyed her sister Rose's mind, and threatens all the children in the Swampsea." That secret has something to do with magic -- she's a witch or faerie, something not-quite-human and despised -- and so she must keep it totally to herself or be hung. And there's also a gorgeous young man, "Eldric with his golden mane and lion eyes and electric energy," who fires up the romance part of the plot.

And the third book from the Empire of Penguins is Eona by Alison Goodman, sequel to last year's Eon. It will be published by Viking on April 19th, and it finishes up the saga of the Empire of the Celestial Dragons, Eona, and her new-found dragon. And who can resist the story of a strong young woman and her kick-ass dragon? None of you, I'm sure.

Something entirely different is Ivan Brunetti's Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, a book about art and the creative process by one of today's smartest and most self-conscious comics creators. It's being published in paperback by Yale University Press -- and so you know it will be both Smart and Important -- on March 29th.

And last for this week is Michio Kaku's Physics of the Future, a book I'm sure a thousand SF writers are already poring over to mine plot ideas for their next six novels. Kaku is the real deal -- renowned teaching professor, co-founder of string theory, author of a number of books explaining real cutting-edge science to a lay audience, and possessor of an impressive head of hair -- so this will be both Good Science and Stuff You Can Understand, which are not always found together. Physics of the Future looks at what life might be like for the average person in 2100, based on Kaku's interviews with hundreds of current working scientists. And Doubleday will put it into your hot little hands, if you'd like, on the 15th of this very month.

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