Monday, June 16, 2014

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/14

As you read this -- assuming you're reading it right after I posted it, which probably is too much assumption -- I'm in the air on the way to my usual round of summer accounting conferences. And that means now is exactly the time to talk about SF and fantasy novels. (Because I need to have something to get my mind off the day job.)

Like always, the four books below came into my mailbox last week, and, like usual, they were all surprises: I didn't specifically ask for any of them. (One of the small joys of reviewing books online is that unexpected things arrive regularly.) I haven't read any of these books, and I can't promise that I will read any of them, in time to influence your buying decision or at all. But, since they're all fresh and new and shiny, I can write a bit about them here and see if that entices any of you.

First up is James Morrow's new novella in book form, The Madonna and the Starship, a Tachyon trade paperback available now. (Morrow's last book, Shambling Towards Hiroshima, also came out from Tachyon, though I was a bit disappointed in it at the time.) This, like Hiroshima, is a SF story set in the past -- a writer of a Mr. Wizard-esque TV show in the 1950s is contacted by an alien race that loves his show, which pleases him. But the aliens seem to also be planning to kill millions of humans for something they don't love, and, in most typical Morrow fashion, that seems to be based on a religious TV show. There's no one who does blasphemous SF better than Morrow -- see Towing Jehovah and Only Begotten Daughter -- and he's also good at apocalypses (as in This Is the Way the World Ends). So Madonna and the Starship looks to be right in his sweet spot; I'm looking forward to it.

If you're a fantasy reader, you've dreamed at least once -- certainly when young, maybe even now -- that you were secretly someone important from another world, a magical world, and that your decisions and adventures would be rousing and meaningful. That doesn't happen in real life, but we do have fiction: and that's exactly what happens to twenty-something Sophie, who finds herself transported from modern-day San Francisco to the otherworldly Stormwrack Archipelago in A.M. Dellamonica's new novel Child of a Hidden Sea. Sophie, of course, is originally from Stormwrack, and discovers unexpected family members, danger, allies, and adventure, as she must. Hidden Sea is a Tor hardcover, available July 24th.

I have not previous heard of "flintlock fantasy" -- stories, apparently, of secondary worlds at an Age of Enlightenment technology level, where magic mixes with relatively crude guns. But one of the leading lights of this new subgenre is Django Wexler,who returns to the world of The Thousand Names with the second book in the "Shadow Campaigns" series, The Shadow Throne. This one seems to be an evil Grand Vizier story, in which a young Queen Regnant tries to get out from under the thumb of a scheming Duke (also the Minister of Information and head of the secret police -- he may be more of a Richelieu than a Grand Vizier) with the aid of a war hero and his friends. I'm detecting at least a subtle Three Musketeers vibe here, which may be appealing to many of you. Shadow Throne is a Roc hardcover, available the first of July.

And last for this week is a book that has a strange lack of faith in its audience: Daniel H. Wilson's Robogenesis. On its spine, that title is presented as Robogenesis_A_Novel_, as if it were a twenty-year old Windows file name, and also as if its expected readers wouldn't realize that something called "Robogenesis" by the author of several novels about killer robots would be itself a novel. Anyway, this is the sequel to Robopocalypse -- though, as I think I've said before, typically a "-genesis" comes before a "-pocalypse," by definition -- picking up whatever's left of humanity from that first book and throwing more killer robots at them until all four hundred pages are filled up. You can find Robogenesis_A_Novel_ at better retail outlets as a Doubleday hardcover immediately, but you should hurry, because the killer robots are definitely coming for you.

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