Monday, July 01, 2013

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/29

Nothing at all strange is happening this week -- after three weekends where I was away from home for part or most of the time -- and that's tremendously relaxing. So this is a pure "Reviewing the Mail" column, without any caveats or excuses from your Hornswoggler -- if you don't notice any difference, well, that's either a compliment or a complaint, and you'll have to decide which for yourself.

As always, these are the books that arrived on my doorstep in the past week, sent by their various publishers. I haven't read any of them. I probably will read at least some, and review at least a subset of the ones I read. But that will be later. For now, here's what I can tell you about these shiny, attractive new book-shaped objects:

Neptune's Brood is Charles Stross's new novel, a space opera set farther up the timeline from Saturn's Children. (I reviewed that when it came out, and definitely went too far in attributing aspects of the book to the author. But it will be interesting to see if space-travel is quite as much like a BDSM scene in this book.) This time out, it's 7000 AD, the human race is extinct for the fourth time, and our evolved-robot descendants have spread across what seems like a fair bit of the galaxy. Our first-person narrator is Krina Alizond-114, and she's traveling to find her sister Ana to recreate the "fabled Atlantis Carnet, a lost financial instrument of unbelievable value," through what I expect will be the usual space-opera dangers and travails. It's an Ace hardcover the officially publishes tomorrow.

Blood of the Lamb is a religious thriller with supernatural elements -- somewhere in the Dan Brown space, all secret societies and long-buried shocking truths -- credited to Sam Cabot, which the back flap admits is a pseudonym for professor Carlos Dews and crime writer S.J. Rozan. It's about two people -- a Jesuit priest and a female vampire -- chasing down a mysterious lost document that would destroy both the Catholic Church and all of the vampires. (No points for guessing the nature of the document's revelations, he said, pointing at the title and nudging you heavily in the ribs.) It is quite likely much smarter than it looks, and it will be published by Penguin's Blue Rider Press on August 6th in hardcover.

Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes return with Storm Riders, the second novel in the epic fantasy series that began with Shadow Raiders. It's got countries at war, dragons, assassins, a big powerful Church, the dread Library of the Forbidden, and, inevitably, "a ragtag group of friends caught up in the conflict after being stranded on an island by a notorious Freyan assassin." It's a Tor hardcover in July.

Tony Cliff has had stories in several Flight anthologies, and his first full graphic novel, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, is solidly in that style: colorful in art and event, careening from one situation to another, full of boundless enthusiasm and energy, focused on a charismatic, nearly omni-competent heroine designed for maximum audience appeal. Delilah herself is a globetrotting, sword-wielding adventurer -- in what seems to be the real early 19th century, so this is not an overly realistic historical story -- who picks up a sidekick in the form of the second half of the title. It hits bookstores in August from First Second.

The fourth book in George Mann's "Newbury & Hobbes" steampunk mystery series is The Executioner's Heart, coming from Tor in hardcover on July 9th. This time out, the two indomitable investigators tangle with a possibly-immortal French female assassin called The Executioner, who has a habit of stealing her victim's hearts. (By cutting them out after their deaths, of course.)

On the Razor's Edge is the fourth book in the dialect space opera "Spiral Arm" series by Michael Flynn, continuing to follow the adventures of people called Donovan buigh and Bridget ban and a secret war among the Shadows of the Name. It's also a Tor hardcover, and will be in stores tomorrow.

The Goliath Stone is a near-future (2052) SF novel from Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington, in which nanotech has revolutionized medicine and is being applied to the other obvious use immediately afterward: guiding asteroids to Earth! (Hard SF writers are completely obsessed with asteroid-mining; you just have to let them go with it.) Unfortunately, the first such attempt failed miserably, and the giant planet-killing asteroid might just have been aimed by those very same nanites. (Oops.) But, luckily, our hero is a genius doctor who can talk to the nanites and get them to save the Earth, if petty bureaucrats and other backwards types don't stop him first! Goliath Stone is a Tor hardcover, and it's already out there for those of you who want a biotech-versus-big-space-rocks fix.

If you want to draw American-style superhero comics exactly as well as Stan Lee does, the book you need is Stan Lee's How to Draw Superheroes. It is attractively illustrated, including a lot of covers and other art from famous comics stories, and displays an encylopedic knowledge of the required cliches of the business. According to the copyright page, Stan Lee's How to Draw Superheroes was written by Danny Fingeroth,  Keith Dallas, and Robert Sodero -- all renowned artists in their own right, of course. The actual art inside that shows readers how to draw is not specifically credited, but I suspect it's by Ardian Syaf, who did the cover. So, to sum up: Stan Lee's How to Draw Superheroes is not by Stan Lee, who isn't an artist anyway, and the actual how-to-draw art is uncredited. It does appear to be a decent look at creating generic superhero stuff besides that, and will hit bookstores from Watson-Guptill on July 9th (and possibly comics outlets at a different time from Dynamite, which seems to have packaged this).

Last for this week is Ofir Touche Gafla's The World of the End, a novel translated from the Hebrew by Mitch Ginsburg and the winner of the 2005 Geffen and 2006 Kugel awards. It's an afterlife fantasy, in which an "epilogist" -- who fixes endings of all kinds for other writers -- kills himself to reunite with his beloved wife and finds the Other World is nothing like he expected, and his late wife is nowhere to be found. This one is also from Tor, and hit stores last week.

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