Monday, November 15, 2021

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/13/21

So I missed last week. I realized it around noon on Monday, far too late to do something else to take the slot. But I had no new books then, as you might have guessed, so the empty page was not inappropriate.

This week I do have a couple of books to mention, both of them from Tachyon. Both of them are publishing soon (well, one of them was published last Tuesday, but you know what I mean), and here's what I can tell you about them.

51 is Patrick O'Leary's first novel in nearly two decades: he had three quirky, acclaimed books from 1996 through 2003, a couple of short-story collections in the Aughts, and has been (as far as I know) mostly silent since then. I know I saw his books at the SFBC; I know they looked interesting. I can't for the life of me remember how much of any of them I read; that was a long time ago.

This one is a SF novel, a conspiracy thriller, maybe something odder than either of those. The 51 of the title is Area 51, but the description makes it clear there are no aliens there. But there is "something so weird it bears little resemblance" to any of those previous explanations. This book also seems to have a succession of American presidents appearing in it, up to at least the previous one.

O'Leary was always a weird writer: he appears to be back exactly the same way he left, which is encouraging. 51 will be published on February 8th of next year.

The other Tachyon book also takes ideas from elsewhere to build something new: Arch of Bone is a short novel by Jane Yolen about Josiah, the son of dead Starbuck. (Think Moby-Dick, not Battlestar Galactica.) A single sailor returns from a disaster, a man we might as well call Ishmael, and tells Josiah his father, and everyone else on that ship, is now dead. So Josiah sets out to discover what really happened, and how his father died.

The title is an actual place, and is where Josiah ends up. I'm not quite clear what evidence anyone can find in the mid-19th century from a shipwreck in the middle of the sea, but that's the story here. My guess is that, unlike a lot of Yolen's work, there's no fantasy element here: this looks to be a historical novel, probably tuned to a middle-grade audience. It was published last week, includes illustrations throughout by Ruth Sanderson, and is available wherever you prefer to get your books.

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