Monday, March 31, 2014

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/29

These are books that arrived at my house over the last week, mostly without my specifically asking for them. They all were good enough to be published, and each one of them will be somebody's favorite book of the year -- maybe yours. I haven't read them yet, but I'll tell what I can about them, and try not to get too snarky. (That's my default Internet mode, but it's not terribly helpful for an exercise like this.)

Nathan W. Pyle moved to New York City a few years ago to pursue various careers (illustration, TV production), and he quickly learned that big cities have their own rules for behavior. And so he started codifying those rules on a website, which quickly caught on -- "went viral," as the kids say today -- and was linked to and reported on by all of the usual Internet chatterers. And now that site and his rules have become a book: NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette, containing 135 explanations of what to do and not do in New York. (And, honestly, the vast majority of these will be good in any big city, and lots of them are helpful anywhere there are crowds. New York is not some bizarre unique place.) It's a trade paperback from William Morrow, available April 15th, and somehow I doubt there will be a lot of copies sold in Pyle's native Ohio.

We're all going to die. And Annalee Newitz thinks that many or most of us may die at once, which is disconcerting. So she took the time to study the various possibilities for megadeath -- plus mitigation techniques, escape routes, and other options -- and codified them all into her new cheery book Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction. Popular science has rarely been this depressing. This one is an Anchor trade paperback coming April 8th -- but I wouldn't wait if I were you, since the New Madrid fault has been looking iffy this week, and you never know when the planet-killing meteor will show up.

I saw the new reprint anthology Robot Uprisings -- edited by Robopocalypse author Daniel H. Wilson and his generation's master anthologist John Joseph Adams -- a couple of months ago as a bound galley, but now I have a shiny trade paperback, so I can mention it again. It's a Vintage trade paperback, arriving April 8th, and it's got stories about killer robots from Charles Yu, Genevieve Valentine, Hugh Howey, Cory Doctorow, Alastair Reynolds, Seanan McGuire, and Nnedi Okorafor, among many others.

Tom Rachman, author of the amazing first novel The Imperfectionists (see my review) is back with a second novel, The Rise & Fall of Great Powers. It's a Dial Press hardcover arriving May 27th, and I'm sure Rachman and his publishers are feeling absolutely no pressure right now. This one is the story of a woman who spent her childhood globe-hoppping with a weird group -- the back cover calls them "seductive outsiders" and their activities "capers," so I deduce a not-entirely-legal element to their activities -- but has settled into a quieter life when, of course, her past suddenly comes back.

And last for this week is a new novel by two grand old men of science fiction: Shipstar by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven. It continues the story of the giant enigmatic alien artifact discovered in Bowl of Heaven -- something like a half-Dyson sphere, a celestial bowl containing a star and puttering through space on an apparently meaningful course. By this point, our human heroes have landed on the colossal artifact, been separated into groups, and are having various adventures among the strange inhabitants there. Shipstar is a Tor hardcover, available April 8th -- if you like your Big Dumb Objects, this looks like one of your best fixes this year.

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