Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Only one review this week at SFFWorld, but the review is of a book that is a front-runner for my favorite Science Fiction Book of the year. Leviathan Wakes is the first book by the author duo known as James S.A. Corey and is also the first book in their Expanse series:
The driving characters in this novel are police detective Miller, and a ship’s captain Holden. Miller is working the case of the aforementioned missing young woman, which of course turns out to be more than simply a missing person’s case. Holden’s ship hauls ice across the galaxy and when his ship, the Canterbury, is attacked, rash decisions lead to a potential galactic war between Earth, Mars, and the Belters. Holden’s actions lead he and his crew to cross paths with Miller as the far ranging conspiracy behind the missing girl and the attack on the Canterbury prove to have much in common.

Corey (who everybody reading this review probably knows is the shared pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) pens and unabashed, fun, rollicking read in Leviathan Wakes. The influences seem to be unabashedly all over the map in this novel, everything from Firefly to the manga Planetes to recent characters from
Green Lantern (the Red Lanterns, specifically). In addition to the SF influences / homages, Leviathan Wakes often feels like a noir/mystery, with Detective Miller straddling that grey line in order to get to the heart of the mystery with which he becomes increasingly obsessed in ways that play with his mind. Miller could easily be part of a 30s detective film and conversely, Corey makes him fit in with this story just as well.

Also of note at SFFWorld is a giveway we are holding for Shadow's Lure the second novel by John Sprunk.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-05-28)

Not too much considering BEA was this past week, but here goes…

Legend by Marie Lu (Trade Paperback 5/24/2011 G.P. Putnam’s Sons) – Youthful protagonists in a dystopian future United States, a lot about this reminds me of The Hunger Games. This is one of the earliest ARCs I’ve ever received and the package in which the book arrived is pretty impressive. Clearly, the publisher has high hopes for this one.

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

The Chapter’s Due (A Ultramarines/Warhammer 40,000 novel) by Graham McNeill (Black Library Mass Market Paperback 06/01/2011) – McNeill is a superstar at Black Library and churns out novels in a number of the subseries of both WH Fantasy and WH 40K.

War is unending in the life of a Space Marine. After defeating tau forces, Captain Uriel Ventris of the Ultramarines has returned to the Chapter’s homeworld of Macragge, but there is little respite. The Ultramarines are thrust back into battle, and this time the enemy is the Chapter’s greatest nemesis. The traitorous Iron Warriors, led by renegade Warsmith Honsou, have gathered together a massive and brutal warband. Their target is the realm of Ultramar. Their objective is total annihilation. It is a final showdown between legendary Space Marines, and Uriel Ventris must take on the might of Honsou if he is to save his Chapter’s homeworld..

Thursday, May 26, 2011

BEA 2010 Recap and Book Pr0n

Every May, the US book publishing industry has its annual conference, BookExpo America. This is where publishers show off their wares for the up coming year to libraries, booksellers, wholesalers and the general book reading/buying/selling industry. Although I’m not currently employed by the book publishing industry, I still have friends in the industry who managed to help me gain entrance to this year’s conference. Unlike previous years, I wasn’t tied down to manning a (albeit large) conference booth, so I had more of an opportunity to walk the floor, hunt for jobs and get a handle on what publishers planned on putting on bookshelves in the upcoming 12 months.

In past years, and this year, my favorite folks to meet with have been the Orbit Books crew. The staff are always really great, personable, and really have passion for what they do and the books they’ll be publishing. One of the books they were pushing for the fall is Michael J. Sullivan’s Theft of Swords. Sullivan is one of those rare success stories in self publishing, after receiving a great deal of acclaim for his work over the past couple of years Orbit signed him and is reissuing the six book Riyria Revelations series in three omnibus volumes, each containing two books over the course of three months. Orbit (as well as Del Rey) have proven this monthly successive publishing program to be very successful in the past, and one of the other books I picked up, Blood Rights by Kristen Painter, is the first of three books being released over three months.

I also picked up Orbit’s catalogue and some really interesting books are coming out over the next few months. As I said, they have been starting to reissue a lot of their series in omnibus format (something DAW has done very well in the past), such as Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series and Pamela Freeman’s Castings Trilogy. In the fall/winter, Orbit is reissuing the Eli Monpress series by Rachel Aaron as an omnibus (Mark Yon had nice things to say about the first book) and the Griffin Mage trilogy by Rachel Neumeier.

I stopped by the Black Library booth spoke to them for a bit and lamented that they publish a lot of interesting looking books, too much for me to read in a timely fashion.

Right next to Black Library was the Abaddon/Solaris/2,000 AD booth, where they were kind enough to pass me a copy of Eric Brown’s Kings of Eternity as well as a catalogue. I really need to catch up with a bunch of their authors. I also found out James Lovegrove is penning another novel in his thematically connected Pantheon series titled Age of the Aztecs, featuring gods of the Americas, which should be a blast. I loved Age of Odin, and still need to read the previous two books.

Fantasy Flight Games also had a booth, highlighting their impressive stable of games, one of which is Talisman, a favorite of mine I’ve mentioned in the past as well as the hugely popular games (board and card) based on A Song of Ice and Fire. What also pleasantly surprised me is that they are launching a fiction publishing program, tie-in novels for their popular games. One that stood out to me is their Arkham Horror game line, the first novel will be written by Legend award winner Graham McNeill (who is probably Black Library’s #2 author just after Dan Abnett). Kind of ironic, as I was discussing with the rep at the show, that this is a Lovecraftian based game and that, of course, Lovecraft mythos started out as prose fiction, then moved to gaming and is now back full circle to fiction, They've also got Tracy Hickman (he of DragonLance and Darksword fame) penning Fireborn/Embers of Atlantis a London-based urban fantasy, as well as William H. Keith (who has written quite a few Battletech novels as well as some military/space opera under the name Ian Douglass) writing cyberpunk/post-apocalyptic stories for them under their Android gaming banner. With those authors, that reads like a good way to launch a tie-in imprint, no? I’m hoping to get copies of the Arkham and Android books for review.

The Paizo booth was well attended and they were showing off their fiction line based off the popular Pathfidner RPG (hence the copy of Elaine Cunningham’s Winter Witch, though I was a bit sad to learn Paul S. Kemp’s novel had been canceled. Paizo is launching a “beginner’s” gaming set, much like the old Dungeons and Dragons red box.

The Prometheus/Pyr booth was, as always, very nice and I snagged up a signed copy (as pictured above) of Vampire Empire #1 The Greyfriar and was pleased to find out the second book is on the way.

I also stopped by the Book Country booth and chatted with the always affable and just plain cool Colleen Lindsay who is running Book Country. Book Country is a writing community, not unlike the Online Writing Workshop (once sponsored by Del Rey), with one difference – Book Country has no registration fee. Colleen said a few agents and editors are part of the community, too. It sounds like a great place which I’ll be joining very soon.

All in all, it was a good show and I hope I made some career contacts that will bear some fruit in the near future.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Moon & Donaldson reviewed at SFFWorld

Two reviews this week at SFFWorld, one from me and one from PeterWilliam.

My review is of the second book in Elizabeth Moon’s Paladin’s Legacy series Kings of the North
Early in the novel, potential princesses visit Kieri in the hope of becoming his betrothed and mother of his children. Kieri has no interest, partially because he was married once, and more so because he wishes to marry out of love rather than for a simple union. One of the potential mates the Pargunese girl Elis, turns out to have murderous, albeit half-feigned and reluctantly murderous, intentions. When Kieri speaks to Elis and eventually her father, Torfinn, a clash of wills is unavoidable. However, and this is where I think Moon really does some great things in the book, the two rulers actually talk rather than fight. Torfinn is initially taken aback by Kieri’s eventual proper treatment of him and the shedding of preconceived notions on the part of both men came across as genuine, honest, and helped to keep the narrative flowing nicely.

As mentioned earlier, Kieri does not rule Lyonya alone, for his Elven grandmother the Lady rules alongside him. Through the course of the novel, the Lady becomes more distant, easy to anger, and less helpful than she should be. This mirrors the shaky relationship between humans and elves in the world. As Kieri realizes he may have found the woman to marry, he presents her to the Lady only to be shot down once again, further angering the new King and driving his potential wife to leave in favor of keeping the peace. What she finds, after leaving the King’s realm, is something older and more powerful than she, or anybody, could have ever imagined.

PeterWilliam, a fellow fan of Stephen R. Donaldson and Tad Williams, took a look at the most recent installment of Mr. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant saga Against All Things Ending:
The tale unfolds through five main, and sequential, acts. In labeling them, according to their setting, they are: Andelain, Gravin Threndor (Mount Thunder), the Spoiled Plains (where the group splits), Muirwin Delenoth (a region south of Kurash Qwellinir, i.e. the Shattered Hills, which ring Foul's Creche - Avery's party) and Ridjeck Thome (the proper name for Foul's Creche - Covenant's party). Those who love and defend the Land are confronted by numerous enemies and an impending apocalypse. Throughout this tale, lives are lost, choices are made and consequences are borne, willingly or not.

Throughout, Linden Avery and Thomas Covenant are their typical selves. Surely, there has been some dislike of the two characters over time. However, it seems most likely that the antipathy for the characters stems from the characters' penchant for: 1) unintentional destruction and damage, 2) subsequent self-doubt and loathing and, 3) the emotional or mental paralysis suffered by the character consequently. Such circumstances can be disheartening and drive one to look away when descried in another. Perhaps because it brings on a disturbing sense of discomfort - reminding us of similar events we have suffered. No sane person wants to go there ever again.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-05-21)

A brief respite after a couple of weeks of big arrivals.

Nebuala Awards Showcase 2011 edited by Kevin J. Anderson (Trade Paperback 5/24/2011 Tor) – The annual anthology switches publishers to Tor with the 2011 edition.

With this inaugural volume at Tor, the annual Nebula Award collection is reborn as a fiction-only anthology. This collection of nominees for 2010’s Nebula Awards includes all of the prior year’s most celebrated stories, and will be published in time for the 2011 Nebula Awards in May, 2011.

2009’s award winners, announced in May 2010, include Kage Baker’s novella “The Women of Nell Gwynne’s,” Eugie Foster’s novelette “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,” Kij Johnson’s short story “Spar,” plus Paolo Bacigalupi’s novelette, “The Gambler.”

Hexed (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1) by Kevin Hearne (Del Rey, Mass Market Paperback 06/03/2011) – Second novel from Hearne, and the second in his series. As I write this post, I’m reading the first book, Hounded. I expect the third book will show up in about a month. The book is already a fair amount of discussion at SFFWorld about the book.

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty—when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of World War II.

With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

City of Ruins by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Pyr Trade Paperback May 2011) – Sequel to Diving into the Wreck was reviewed at SFFWorld by Dan Bieger late in 2009 and thought it “was very good.” I may jump into this book myself.

Boss, a loner, loved to dive into derelict spacecraft adrift in the blackness of space...

But one day, she found a ship that would change everything—an ancient Dignity Vessel—and aboard the ship, the mysterious and dangerous Stealth Tech. Now, years after discovering that first ship, Boss has put together a large company that finds Dignity Vessels and finds “loose” Stealth Technology.

Following a hunch, Boss and her team come to investigate the city of Vaycehn, where fourteen archeologists have died exploring the endless caves below the city. Mysterious “death holes” explode into the city itself for no apparent reason, and Boss believes Stealth Tech is involved. As Boss searches for the answer to the mystery of the death holes, she will uncover the answer to her Dignity Vessel quest as well—and one more thing, something so important that it will change her life—and the universe—forever.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On Basilisk Station by David Weber, plus Mamatas Interviewed

As I’ve recounted quite a bit on the ‘o Stuff, David Weber is climbing my list of favorite writers, thanks to his epic Safehold saga, so I figured I should try the series that really put him on the map, Honor Harrington, specifically, the launch of the series On Basilisk Station. My review went up at SFFWorld today:

Though Weber’s first novel was published in 1990 - Insurrection - a collaboration with Steve White on a novel based on the Starfire board game, and his first solo novel – Mutineer's Moon –published in 1991, it was On Basilisk Station that really gave an indication of greater things to come.

On Basilisk Station introduces readers to Commander Honor Harrington of the Royal Manticoran Navy upon her graduation from the Academy. Despite much promise, she is given a ship that is stripped down so suffers defeat and is assigned (more like banished) to the titular Basilisk Station. The only relief is that her nemesis from the Academy, who is in charge of the Basilisk Station, leaves to have his ship repaired thus leaving Harrington in charge of the problematic station. Honor soon discovers much clandestine and black market activity on the Station which had been allowed to occur for years as those who run the station, for lack of a better term, turned a blind eye. It is here that Weber begins to further flesh out his future universe, hinting at the divide present in a galactic society. Furthermore, this novel begins to establish the two primary powers – the aforementioned Star Kingdom of Manticore and the Republic of Haven.

Mark interviewed outspoken writer Nick Mamatas recently for SFFWorld, which can be found here.
Another friendly reminder about the book club discussions at SFFWorld for May 2011:
The Keepby F. Paul Wilson
BlackOut by Connie Willis

Lastly, the second Dresden Files post, focusing on Fool Moon, by SFFWorld co-hort Mark Yon is now live at Orbit Books blog (UK).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Used Book Pr0n - Donaldson & Hambly

A fairly small haul this visit, but significant, I think. For years I've been hunting used book shops for a full set of Stephen R. Donaldson's Gap Cycle and I finally found it in what I consider the best used book shop in NJ - The Book Trader. When I was a lot younger, I visited this book shop quite often, they have a very good selection of old SF/F paperbacks and a lot of the yellow-spined DAW paperbacks. The store moved to a new location a few years ago and it seems more spacious. I hadn't visited the shop in years since being married and having moved close to an hour or so away. I also picked up Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane, a novel that's been on my back burner/mental to read list for a while.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-05-14)

A big haul this week at the o' Stuff, many of which are the second and third copies of books I'd already received. It's been a couple of months, so I might as well drop in the semi-regular disclaimer about these Books in the Mail posts:

As a reviewer for SFFWorld and maybe because of this blog, I receive a lot of books for review from various publishers. Since I can't possibly read everything that arrives, I figure the least I can do (like some of my fellow bloggers) is mention the books I receive for review on the blog to at least acknowledge the books even if I don't read them.

Sometimes I get one or two books, other weeks I'll get nearly a dozen books. Some weeks, I’ll receive a finished (i.e. the version people see on bookshelves) copy of a book for which I received an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) weeks or months prior to the actual publication of the book. Sometimes I'll want to read everything that arrives, other weeks, the books immediately go into the "I'll never read this book" pile, while still others go into the nebulous "maybe-I'll-read-it-category." More often than not, it is a mix of books that appeal to me at different levels (i.e. from "this book holds ZERO appeal for me" to "I cannot WAIT to read this book yesterday").

Conviction: (Fate of the Jedi Book Seven) by Aaron Allston (Hardcover 5/09/2011 Del Rey). Seventh book, and last contribution from Allston, in the latest series involving that pesky Skywalker clan. I received a copy last week and this week, so three in total counting the ARC.

Chief of State Natasi Daala has been overthrown, and the Jedi Order has taken control of the Galactic Alliance. But while the new governors dismantle Daala’s draconian regime, forces still loyal to the deposed official are mobilizing a counterstrike. And even the Jedi’s new authority may not be enough to save Tahiri Veila, the former Jedi Knight and onetime Sith apprentice convicted of treason for the killing of Galactic Alliance officer Gilad Pellaeon.

Meanwhile, Luke and Ben Skywalker are relentlessly pursuing Abeloth, the powerful dark-side entity bent on ruling the galaxy. But as they corner their monstrous quarry on the planet Nam Chorios, the two lone Jedi must also face the fury of the Sith death squadron bearing down on them. And when Abeloth turns the tables with an insidious ambush, the Skywalkers’ quest threatens to become a suicide mission.

The Measure of the Magic (Legends of Shannara) by Terry Brooks (Hardcover 8/30/2011 Del Rey) – I've said it before, I find him a frustrating writer in that I like the concepts of what he wants to do, but my reading sensibilities don't always agree with his execution of those concepts. I really enjoyed The Scions of Shannara when I read it and think Brooks is one of the most important fantasy writers of the last 25-30 years.

After more than three decades of captivating epic fantasy readers, the storytelling magic of New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks’s Shannara saga continues to enthrall. Now the fascinating chronicle of Shannara’s prehistory reaches a thrilling new peak in the sequel to Bearers of the Black Staff.

For five hundred years, the survivors of the Great Wars lived peacefully in a valley sanctuary shielded by powerful magic from the blighted and dangerous outside world. But the enchanted barriers have crumbled, the borders have been breached by predators, and the threat of annihilation looms large once more. Sider Ament, bearer of the last black staff and its profound power, devoted his life to protecting the valley and its inhabitants—and, in his final moments, gave stewardship of the black staff to the young tracker Panterra Qu. Now the newly anointed Knight of the Word must take up the battle against evil wherever it threatens: from without, where an army of bloodthirsty trolls is massing for invasion; and from within, where the Elf king of Arborlon has been murdered, his daughter, Princess Phryne Amarantyne, stands accused, and a heinous conspiracy is poised to subjugate the kingdom. But even these will pale beside the most harrowing menace Panterra is destined to confront—a nameless, merciless figure who wanders the devastated land on a relentless mission: to claim the last black staff . . . and the life of he who wields it.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon by Peter David (Del Rey Mass Market Paperback 05/24/2011) – With the new Transformers movie comes another novelization, this time from a man familiar with novelizations (comic books, fantasy, and ‘stuff’) Peter David:


All humankind was watching that fateful day in 1969. But only a handful knew the real mission behind America’s triumph in space. Now the treacherous Decepticons have set their sights on unearthing government secrets. The only hope of averting a crisis rests on the Autobots—yet who knows what remains in the shadows, hidden from man and machine?

Dwarfs by Nick Kyme and Gav Thorpe (Black Library Trade Paperback 6/07/2011) – One of the best things Black Library does, as I’ve said in the past, is keep their titles in print through handy ominbii. This is the most recent and if you can’t guess the running theme throughout the novels and stories contained within, then you’re a little short on brainpower.

The story
The dwarfs are a stoic and long-lived race. Their unbending will and pride serve them as fearsome warriors on the battlefield and the greatest craftsmen across the Old World. But cross them at your peril, as a dwarf grudge is never forgotten, a quest for revenge handed down from generation to generation until the debt is settled in blood…

About the book

In this action-packed omnibus, the bravery and resilience of the dwarfs is brought to life as they wage war against the twisted powers of Chaos, vile skaven ratmen, brutal greenskins and their oldest adversaries, the mysterious and powerful elves. From the ancient dwarf holds to the killing fields of the Empire, war will be waged in the name of Grungni , Grimnir and Valaya, and no foe shall forget the day they met these unbreakable warriors in battle. Contains the novels Grudgebearer, Oathbreaker and Honourkeeper.

Bloodforged (Ulrika the Vampire #2) by Nathan Long - (Black Library , Mass Market Paperback 06/07/2011) – Nathan Long is another of Black Library’s top new writers, this is his second novel about Ulrika the Vampire, set in the “Old World” of Warhammer Fantasy.

Unable to adapt to Lahmian society, Ulrika seeks her own way, striking out to the Chaos-besieged city of Praag to seek old friends and glory in battle. On her arrival, she finds a devastated but defiant people and the invaders repelled. But the Ruinous Powers can take many forms, and now a more insidious threat is rising from within – a Slaaneshi cult that seeks to claim dominion in Praag. Shunned by her Lahmian sisters, decried by the humans she seeks to protect, Ulrika treads a lonely path as she tries to find the root of this destructive plot. Caught between the will of the vampires and the insane designs of Chaos sorcerers and cultists, Ulrika must call upon all of her cunning and savagery if she is to triumph...

Wayfinder (Book Two of The Worldwalker Duology) by C.E. Murphy (Trade Paperback 09/6/2011 Del Rey) – Crossover fantasy featuring a Boston woman fighting in the world of Faery. .


Lara Jansen is a truthseeker, gifted—or cursed—with the magical ability to tell honesty from lies. Once she was a tailor in Boston, but now she has crossed from Earth to the Barrow-lands, a Faerie world embroiled in a bloody civil war between Seelie and Unseelie. Armed with an enchanted and malevolent staff which seeks to bend her to its dark will, and thrust into a deadly realm where it’s hard to distinguish friend from foe, Lara is sure of one thing: her love for Dafydd ap Caerwyn, the Faerie prince who sought her help in solving a royal murder and dousing the flames of war before they consumed the Barrow-lands.

But now Dafydd is missing, perhaps dead, and the Barrow-lands are closer than ever to a final conflagration. Lara has no other choice: she must harness the potent but perilous magic of the staff and her own truthseeking talents, blazing a path to a long-forgotten truth—a truth with the power to save the Barrow-lands or destroy them.

Nights of Villjamur (Book #1 of Legends of the Red Sun) by Mark Charan Newton (Bantam Spectra Trade Paperback 05/24/2011) – This is the third copy of the book I received, after the ARC and the published copy, I reviewed the book back in November of last year.

The world is at the nadir of civilization and on the brink of an impending winter, order is crumbling with chaos knocking on the door of the castle. Set against this backdrop is what seems to be a murder mystery and the ascension of a new ruler. Thus you have the beginnings of Mark Charan Newton’s Nights of Villjamur, a novel that arrived in the States with a great deal of pomp based on very high praise from outside the States when it was publisher a year ago.

The world in which Newton has set his novel could very well be our own, perhaps an age or two before the Dying Earth made so famous by Jack Vance. Specifically, the focal region of this world is an archipelago empire whose emperor is going insane. The empire is awaiting his heir whilst, fearing the empire’s lack of stability and the threat of a dooming ice age, a stranger is investigating a seemingly set of connected murders. Stolen identities and political machinates comprise a majority of the drive behind the character’s actions, though there are battles and action scenes to counter-balance.

Pinning down a main character outside the city of Villjamur itself would be difficult in this large cast of characters. It could be Brynd Lathraea, a commander in the army of the empire who must keep the peace and status quo when the Emperor Johynn takes his own life. Coming to assume the role of Empress is Johynn’s niece Jamur Rika to rule. Complicating the situation is Rika’s sister, Eir, and her developing relationship with her appointed sword-master, the man who goes by the name of Randur Estevu. Jeryd, the rumel (a humanoid race with a tail that has inhabited the world for at least as long as humans) is the investigator who is tasked with finding the person responsible for a string of political deaths. Perhaps the most intriguing character is Jurro, the sole member of the Dawnir race how posses vast knowledge of both magic and technology. The plot is further thickened when refugees from the Empire’s outlying regions arrive in Villjamur hoping to receive protection from the much-feared and predicted cataclysmic ice age. Clearly, much chaos is in the air of Villjamur.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW Trade Paperback 06/02/2011) – This is the second version of the book I’ve received, after getting the Hardcover last year around this time.

An award-winning literary author presents her first foray into supernatural fantasy with a novel of post-apocalyptic Africa.

In a far future, post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, genocide plagues one region. The aggressors, the Nuru, have decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke. But when the only surviving member of a slain Okeke village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand and instinctively knows that her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means "Who Fears Death?" in an ancient African tongue.

Reared under the tutelage of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers her magical destiny-to end the genocide of her people. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to grapple with nature, tradition, history, true love, the spiritual mysteries of her culture-and eventually death itself.

Haven (A Trial of Blood and Steel #2) by Joel Shepherd (Pyr, Trade Paperback, 05/23/2011) – Fourth and final volume in Shepherd’s historical fantasy, the first book of which received some good reviews.

The great powers of the Saalshen Bacosh are falling. The feudal army of the Regent Balthaar Arosh marches victorious across Rhodaan and Enora, determined to restore the old human ways that were abolished by the serrin of Saalshen two centuries before. The army of Lenayin marches in their wake, in shame. The greater battle was won, yet Lenayin’s part in it was defeat, their king slain, their warriors sent running from the field.

Sashandra Lenayin marches with her people, yet she sees the carnage the Regent’s armies are inflicting upon her former allies, and like most Lenays, she feels dishonored. Sasha leads three quarters of the army of Lenayin to defect and fight for Saalshen, leaving her brothers Koenyg and Myklas with the Verenthane hardliners to fight for the Regent.

All forces now converge on the city of Jahnd, an Enoran word meaning “Haven.” A city of humanity’s refugees in Saalshen, its serrin hosts have allowed it to build into a major power over the centuries, humankind’s only outpost in Saalshen. But the Saalshen Bacosh’s third province, the mountainous land of Ilduur, refuses to come to the aid of its neighbors and without it victory is impossible. Sasha must lead a delegation to the Ilduuri capital, to combat the xenophobic Ilduuri regime’s retreat into isolation, and convince the Ilduuri army to defy their own leaders and rise up in rebellion to fight a foreign war that most Ilduuris do not want.

To save Saalshen and all that she loves about Lenayin, Sasha must become a true Lenay warlord, feared and hated by her enemies, uncompromising and all conquering. But will her own people now inflict upon her one of her worst nightmares, by insisting that she, and not her brother Damon, should assume the Lenay throne and lead her people in the greatest battle that the land of Rhodia has ever seen?

Hitler's War by Harry Turtledove (Del Rey Trade Paperback 05/24/2011) – I easily get more books by Harry Turtledove than any author, and more often than not, I get at least two copies of the same book, or in this case, three counting the ARC, Hardcover release and Trade Paperback release. I’ve yet to read one of them. It seems as if he’s re-imagined so many facets of WWII that one day, he’ll re-imagine if Hitler brushed his teeth at 9:45 AM rather than 9:15 AM.

What if British prime minister Neville Chamberlain had defied Hitler? What if the Munich Accord had gone unsigned, and Nazi Germany had launched its bid for conquest sooner? How would World War II have unfolded—and with what consequences? Dean of alternate history Harry Turtledove has the stunning answers in his breathtaking sequel to Hitler’s War.

In the wake of Hitler’s bold invasion of Czechoslovakia, nations turn against nations, old enemies form new alliances, and ordinary men and women confront extraordinary life-and-death situations. An American marine falls in love with a Russian dancer in Japanese-held Singapore, as Chinese guerilla resistance erupts. A sniper on the frontlines of France finds a powerful new way to ply his deadly art—while a German assassin hunts him. In the icy North Atlantic, as a U-boat with a secret weapon wreaks havoc on British ships, occupying Nazi forces target Denmark. And in Germany, a stranded American woman encounters Hitler himself, as a Jewish family faces the rising tide of hatred. From Siberia to Spain, armies clash, sides are chosen, new weapons raise the deadly ante, and new strategies seek to break a growing stalemate. But one question hangs over the conflict from West to East: What will it take to bring America into this war?

Vortex (Spin Cycle #3) by Robert Charles Wilson (Tor Hardcover 05/31/2011) – Spin is one of the best SF novels I’ve ever read, and one of the best of the past decade. Human, big ideas, and terrific storytelling. RCW is slowly becoming one of my favorite SF writers. This is the third and final book in the sequence, but I still need to catch up with the second.

Vortex tells the story of Turk Findley, the protagonist introduced in Axis, who is transported ten thousand years into the future by the mysterious entities called “the Hypotheticals.” In this future humanity exists on a chain of planets connected by Hypothetical gateways; but Earth itself is a dying world, effectively quarantined.

Turk and his young friend Isaac Dvali are taken up by a community of fanatics who use them to enable a passage to the dying Earth, where they believe a prophecy of human/Hypothetical contact will be fulfilled. The prophecy is only partly true, however, and Turk must unravel the truth about the nature and purpose of the Hypotheticals before they carry him on a journey through warped time to the end of the universe itself.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ruminations on Various Books

No new review from me this week, at least yet, but quite a few from other SFFWorlders, which I'll mention below. I finished up On Basilisk Station by David Weber a while back and put together a review, which I'll post to SFFWorld next week. Right now I'm in the middle of Leviathan Wakes and really enjoying it. It started out well, then summarily began to kick serious ass about 150-200 pages into the book. I'll be posting the review to that the following week.

Before jumping aboard Leviathan Wakes, I finished up The Keep by F. Paul Wilson and thoroughly enjoyed the book. Creepy, moody, realistic, great sense of secret history and a true page-turner. Discussion is still relatively light over at the SFFWorld Book Club.

As for this week's reviews, Mark reviewed a plethora of older books. The first of which is a reissue of a book from about a decade ago, Kristin Britain's debut novel Green Rider
In 1998, Kristen Britain had her first novel published. Now reissued in a lovely re-covered edition, along with the two sequels, First Rider’s Call and The High King’s Tomb (and with the fourth, Blackveil, due in paperback later in 2011), now’s a good time to catch up with the series.

Being over a decade old, perhaps unsurprisingly, my first impression was that Green Rider is determinedly old-fashioned, albeit smoothly written and charmingly positive. Its heroine, Karigan G’ladheon, is clearly heroic in the traditional fantasy sense that she is a young merchant’s daughter with a destiny, to be a Green Rider. Green Riders are King’s Messengers, the fantasy equivalent of the Pony Express, which powers of access above and beyond the normal.

Mark reviewed another, older and perhaps forgotten classic of the genre The Lincoln Hunters by Wilson Tucker
The Lincoln Hunters is one of those worth resurrecting. The tale itself is now seen as rather mundane perhaps, but at the time of its original publication it must have been a great entertainment.

It is essentially a time travel tale. In the rather sterile future of 2578, the company Time Researchers sends people (called ‘Characters’) back in time to record or transcribe famous events for home museums.

On this occasion Benjamin Steward is sent as part of a team to audio-record President Lincoln’s so-called ‘Lost Speech’ of May 19, 1856 in Bloomington, Illinois. This was a speech about slavery that, according to history, was so impassioned that the reporters there forgot to write it down. (Alternatively, it has been suggested that the speech was conveniently lost afterwards due to its controversial content.)

Newly christened SFFWorld Moderator PeterWilliam took a look at up-and-coming author Liane Merciel's Heaven's Needle, her second novel
Liane Merciel released a well-crafted debut effort (The River Kings' Road) a little over a year ago, it was a fine effort, in fact an effort that left an indelible imprint which served as a reminder to acquire and read her next work as quickly as reasonably possible. After having just completed the final, and stunning, four hundred and seventy-three pages, I am rather relieved. Perhaps a fear of the worst prevailed as I approached this new work, but happily it can be said that Merciel suffered no sophmore jinx. Heaven's Needle is everything one might have hoped for, and certainly everything Merciel promised it would be in previous interviews.

In Heaven's Needle, Merciel brings back a couple of characters from the first book, Kelland and Bitharn, and a host of new characters. The new characters include a Thornlord of Ang'arta, a sigrir warrior woman of the far northern seas, some novices of Celestia, some tragic, if ethically challenged, victims and a Mad God. Based upon the ending of the first book, it was expected that the next novel of Ithelas was due to take a darker turn - and it sure did that.

The last book Mark/Hobbit reviewed is Greybeard another reissue of a Brian Aldiss Classic:
Much of the tale is therefore what we see and what happens to them along the way. Britain’s aging population is now pretty much made up of isolated enclaves, people huddled together to maintain their survival with little or no interest in the outside world.

This might sound depressing and morbid, yet the pages turn quite nicely. There’s a nice combination of things happening in the now and flashbacks to earlier times. I was surprised to recognise a very similar approach and style echoed in what I’ve recently read in David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo series, Son of Heaven. (Though perhaps that should not be too much of a surprise - Wingrove and Aldiss worked together on their non-fiction history of SF, Billion Year Spree in the 1970’s and later Trillion Year Spree in the early 2000’s.)

The context of Greybeard is quite interesting in that Aldiss has been widely quoted as a critic of the popular author of the time, John Wyndham, stating that The Day of the Triffids author was writing ‘cosy catastrophies’.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-05-07)

A bunch of stuff from the Penguin imprints arrived this week at the lair of the o’ Stuff…Pray tell in the comments, what interests you the most?

Conviction: (Fate of the Jedi Book Seven) by Aaron Allston (Hardcover 5/09/2011 Del Rey). Seventh book, and last contribution from Allston, in the latest series involving that pesky Skywalker clan.

Chief of State Natasi Daala has been overthrown, and the Jedi Order has taken control of the Galactic Alliance. But while the new governors dismantle Daala’s draconian regime, forces still loyal to the deposed official are mobilizing a counterstrike. And even the Jedi’s new authority may not be enough to save Tahiri Veila, the former Jedi Knight and onetime Sith apprentice convicted of treason for the killing of Galactic Alliance officer Gilad Pellaeon.

Meanwhile, Luke and Ben Skywalker are relentlessly pursuing Abeloth, the powerful dark-side entity bent on ruling the galaxy. But as they corner their monstrous quarry on the planet Nam Chorios, the two lone Jedi must also face the fury of the Sith death squadron bearing down on them. And when Abeloth turns the tables with an insidious ambush, the Skywalkers’ quest threatens to become a suicide mission.

Prince of Thorns (Book One of The Broken Empire) by Mark Lawrence (Hardcover 08/2/2011 Ace) – This is both Lawrence’s debut novel and the first of a trilogy, which has been generating a fair amount of pre-publication buzz. Mark has been visiting the SFFWorld forums on and off for the past few months.

Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother's tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that's true enough, but there's something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse."

Once a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg's bleak past has set him beyond fear of any man, living or dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father's castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.

The thorns taught him a lesson in blood...

The Prince of Thorns is the first volume in a powerful new epic fantasy trilogy, original, absorbing and challenging. Mark Lawrence’s debut novel tells a tale of blood and treachery, magic and brotherhood and paints a compelling and brutal, sometimes beautiful, picture of an exceptional boy on his journey toward manhood and the throne.

Timecaster by Joe Kimbal (Ace Mass Market Paperback 05/31/2011) – First SF novel from a writer who has published extensively under other names.

Chicago, 2064: Talon Avalon is bored.

Talon is a timecaster—one of a select few peace officers who can operate a TEV—the Tachyon Emission Visualizer—which allows the user to record events (most specifically, crimes) that have already happened. Violent crime is at an all-time low and there hasn’t been an unsolved murder in seven years. So Talon has little to do except give lectures to school kids—and obsess about his beloved wife’s profession as a licensed sex partner.

Then one of her clients asks Talon to investigate a possible murder. And when Talon uses the TEV to view the crime, the identity of the killer is unmistakable—it’s him, Talon Avalon. Someone is taking timecasting to a whole new level and using it to frame Talon. And the only way he can prove his innocence is to go off the grid—which even in 2064 is a very dangerous thing to do…

The Golden Key by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott - (DAW , Mass Market Paperback 06/07/2011) – This is a re-reprint of the World Fantasy nominee by three of the top Fantasy writers from DAW’s stable. I’ve read Elliott and enjoyed her work, but not the other two. What bothers me is how they chopped the original art by Michael Whelan

In Tira Virte, art is prized for its beauty and as a binding legal record of everything from marriages to treaties. Yet not even the Grand Duke knows how extraordinary the Grijalva family's art is, for certain Grijalva males are born with the ability to alter events and influence people in the real world through that they paint. Always, their power has been used for Tira Virte. But now Sario Grijalva has learned to use his Gift in a whole new way. And when he begins to work his magic both the Grijalvas and Tira Virte may pay the price.

Hot & Steamy by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg (Mass Market Paperback 6/07/2011 DAW ) – The monthly themed anthology from DAW for June 2011 is a mash-up of romance and Steampunk.

From the co-editor of Steampunk'd comes an all-new collection of adventure and romance amid Victorian steampunk settings. Sparks fly in these original stories of a steam-driven airship searching for a lost city, a crazy inventor in a powered wheelchair with a plot to take over the world, and a love story set in an alternate history version of America. Adventure abounds in these stories of love, loss, and danger- and there is plenty of steam!

Thistledown by Irene Radford (DAW Mass Market Paperback 6/7/2011) – Standalone from Radford, known for series about Dragons and Merlin, this one plays on the myth of faeries and imaginary friends.

Desdemona "Dusty" Carrick had lived in the small town of Skene Falls, Oregon her entire life. And, like many of the local children, she had played with "imaginary" Pixie friends in and around Ten Acre Woods. With each generation, as the children grew up they forgot their Pixie friends. Or most of them did. Others, like Dusty and her brother Dick, never truly forgot. For the Pixies of the Skene Falls were not in the least imaginary. And now their most treasured haven, the Ten Acre Woods, might soon be destroyed – and without the woods, the Pixies themselves would die.

The only hope for the Pixies rested with Thistle Down, exiled from her tribe and trapped in a mortal woman's body. Only if Thistle could adjust to being in a mortal body – minus her wings and most of her magic – and succeed in convinving Dusty and some of the townspeople of the danger they all faced, would she have any chance to save her own people and, perhaps, be allowed to return home...

Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds (Ace Mass Market Paperback 05/31/2011) –I received this in hardcover last year but never read it, the book just kept getting pumped on the to-read pile. I will read this sooner rather than later since I’ve enjoyed all of the books I’ve read by Mr. Reynolds

Spearpoint, the last human city, is an atmosphere-piercing spire of vast size. Clinging to its skin are the zones, a series of semi-autonomous city-states, each of which enjoys a different - and rigidly enforced - level of technology. Horsetown is pre-industrial; in Neon Heights they have television and electric trains . . . Following an infiltration mission that went tragically wrong, Quillon has been living incognito, working as a pathologist in the district morgue. But when a near-dead angel drops onto his dissecting table, Quillon's world is wrenched apart one more time, for the angel is a winged posthuman from Spearpoint's Celestial Levels - and with the dying body comes bad news. If Quillon is to save his life, he must leave his home and journey into the cold and hostile lands beyond Spearpoint's base, starting an exile that will take him further than he could ever imagine. But there is far more at stake than just Quillon's own survival, for the limiting technologies of the zones are determined not by governments or police, but by the very nature of reality - and reality itself is showing worrying signs of instability . . .

Hex by Allen Steele (Ace Hardcover 06/07/2011) – This is an offshoot of Steele’s popular Coyote saga, perhaps it works well enough on its own for new readers?.

The two-time Hugo Award-winner expands the universe of his Coyote saga.

The danui, a reclusive arachnid species considered the galaxy's finest engineers, have avoided contact with the Coyote Federation. Until, that is, the danui initiate trade negotiations, offering only information: the coordinates for an unoccupied world suitable for human life-a massive sphere, composed of billions of hexagons.

But when the Federation's recon mission goes terribly wrong, the humans realize how little they know about their new partners

The Scarab Path (Shadows of the Apt 5) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Pyr , Trade Paperback 04/13/2010) – This series is really gaining momentum. For my part, I read the first installment and found it interesting – not perfect, but with enough potential (coupled with the good word of mouth the series gets) to have me interested in the subsequent volumes. Tchaikovsky writes fast and Pyr is gaining ground on the UK release schedule, so I’ve now got four books in the series if I want to fully catch up.

The war with the Wasp Empire has ended in a bitter stalemate, and Collegium has nothing to show for it but wounded veterans. Cheerwell Maker finds herself crippled in ways no doctor can mend, haunted by ghosts of the past that she cannot appease, seeking for meaning in a city that no longer seems like home.

The Empress Seda is regaining control over those imperial cities that refused to bow the knee to her, but she draws her power from something more sinister than mere armies and war machines. Only her consort, the former spymaster Thalric, knows the truth, and now the assassins are coming and he finds his life and his loyalties under threat yet again.

Out past the desert of the Nem the ancient city of Khanaphes awaits them both, with a terrible secret entombed beneath its stones...

This is the fifth novel in the Shadows of the Apt series following Empire in Black and Gold, Dragonfly Falling, Blood of the Mantis, and Salute the Dark.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Among Others by Jo Walton & SFFWorld Miscellania

Jo Walton has been writing fantasy and science fiction for about a decade, at least as a published writer. Her novel Tooth and Claw won the World Fantasy Award and her novel Ha’penny won the Prometheus Award. Though I haven’t read any of her fiction prior to this novel, I’ve been reading and enjoying the many posts she makes at Tor.com. My review of her latest novel, Among Others went up at SFFWorld today:

A novel like this is very difficult to sum up without giving away too many spoilers or revealing the joy of discovery Mor experiences. Essentially, Among Others is epistolary novel told through Mor’s diary. Though I haven’t read too many novels structured in this manner, I wonder if they all hold the same addictive, powerful and voyeuristic appeal as does Walton’s novel. What made this novel work so well for me, and many readers of SF, is Mor’s unbridled love of the genre and perhaps more importantly, how it essentially saved her and allowed her to move on from the tragedy she experienced into the next stage of her life. The novel can be seen as a testament to not only the power of story and the written word, but also the power of community so strongly associated with SF. In fact, as I was reading the novel I very much wanted to visit some of the books Mor read. I made a journey to the local used bookshop to pick up some older SF contemporary with many of the novels Mor read, as well as Walton’s debut novel The King’s Peace.

We’ve got some other things going on at SFFWorld as well, such as the usual Book Club discussions wherein members engage in more detailed discussions of books they’ve chosen through a poll. For the month of May the books are as follows:

The Keep by F. Paul Wilson - I’ve read only one book by Wilson, which is part of his Repairman Jack cycle of novels, Legacies and enjoyed it a great deal. Wilson is an author I really need to read more of since (1) he writes very well and (2) he’s a New Jersey guy like me. This is one of his first and best regarded novels, and considered a modern classic of the horror genre.

BlackOut by Connie Willis - I've never read anything by Willis, but this one seems to be a strong contender for the Hugo award. I know Mark Yon, of SFFWorld is a big fan of Mrs. Willis.

Lastly, speaking of Mark, he was invited by Orbit Books (UK) to write up introductions for their re-release of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, and the first post went live today.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-04-30)

Another eclectic mix of genre books arrived at the o' Stuff abode this week. Shall we proceed?

Zendegi by Greg Egan (Trade Paperback 05/5/2011 Night Shade Books) – Egan is one of the preeminent Hard SF writers, this is a trade paperback reissue of the hardcover published last year.

In the near future, journalist Martin Seymour travels to Iran to cover the parliamentary elections. Most would-be opposition candidates are disqualified and the election becomes the non-event the world expects. But shortly afterward a compromising image of a government official captured on a mobile phone triggers a revolutionary movement that overthrows the old theocracy. Nasim Golestani, a young Iranian scientist living in exile in the United States, is hoping to work on the Human Connectome Project - which aims to construct a detailed map of the wiring of the human brain - but when government funding for the project is canceled and a chance comes to return to her homeland, she chooses to head back to Iran.

Fifteen years after the revolution, Martin is living in Iran with his wife and young son, while Nasim is in charge of the virtual world known as Zendegi, used by millions of people for entertainment and business. When Zendegi comes under threat from powerful competitors, Nasim draws on her old skills, and data from the now-completed Human Connectome Project, to embark on a program to create more lifelike virtual characters and give the company an unbeatable edge. As controversy grows over the nature and rights of these software characters, tragedy strikes Martin's family. Martin turns to Nasim, seeking a solution that no one else can offer... but Zendegi is about to become a battlefield.

Central Park Knight by C.J. Henderson (Tor , Trade Paperback 05/10/2011) – Second in an urban fantasy series that should appeal to fans of Harry Dresden and Indiana Jones.

Professor Piers Knight is the Brooklyn Museum’s very own Indiana Jones. His specialties include lost civilizations, arcane cultures, and more than a little bit of the history of magic and mysticism. What his contemporaries don't know is that in addition to being a scholar of all these topics, he is also proficient in the uses of magical artifacts.

Knight receives a chilling message from Tian Lu, a former lover and an agent for the Chinese government. Years ago, they made a frightening discovery at an archeological dig when out of the depths rose… a living, fire-breathing dragon. Now, the dragons are waking from their slumber before their scheduled time. And one particularly diabolical dragon is set on eliminating the others and taking over the world.

As civilization plunges into panic, Knight, Lu, Knight’s seventeen-year-old techie intern George Rainert, and an untrustworthy dragon ally must use all their resources— magical and otherwise—to stop the destruction before it’s too late.

Steelhands by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett (Bantam Spectra Hardcover 08/02/2011) – This is the fourth novel set in the author team’s in a “magicpunk” fantasy series featuring dragons made of magic and mechanics. The author team impressively jumped from trade paperback to hardcover with this volume. I’ll say this for their books, the cover designs are awesome.

With Havemercy, Shadow Magic, and Dragon Soul, the acclaimed writing team of Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett has fused magic and technology into something that can only be termed “magicpunk.” Their distinctive style, featuring a chorus of quirky first-person narrators and brilliantly sophisticated world-building, has won these young writers the plaudits of fans and critics.

In the Volstov capital of Thremedon, Owen Adamo, the hard-as-nails ex–Chief Sergeant of the Dragon Corps, learns that Volstov’s ruler, the Esar, has been secretly pursuing the possibility of resurrecting magically powered sentient robot dragons—even at the risk of igniting another war. That Adamo will not allow. Though he is not without friends—Royston, a powerful magician, and Balfour, a former corpsman—there is only so much Adamo and his allies can do. Adamo has been put out to pasture, given a professorship at the University. Royston, already exiled once, dares not risk the Esar’s wrath a second time. And Balfour, who lost both hands in the climactic battle of the war, is now a diplomat who spends most of his time trying to master his new hands—metal replacements that operate on the same magical principles as the dragons and have earned him an assortment of nicknames of which “Steelhands” is the least offensive.

But sometimes help comes where you least expect it. In this case, from two first-year university students freshly arrived in Thremedon from the country: Laurence, a feisty young woman whose father raised her to be the son he never had, and Toverre, her fiancé, a brilliant if neurotic dandy who would sooner share his wife-to-be’s clothes than her bed. When a mysterious illness strikes the first-year students, Laurence takes her suspicions to Adamo—and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change Volstov forever.

Embassytown by China Miéville >(Del Rey, Hardcover 05/17/2011) – Miéville turns his pen to far-future (some might say space opera) in what looks to be another terrific, and at the very least, interesting novel.

China Miéville doesn’t follow trends, he sets them. Relentlessly pushing his own boundaries as a writer—and in the process expanding the boundaries of the entire field—with Embassytown, Miéville has crafted an extraordinary novel that is not only a moving personal drama but a gripping adventure of alien contact and war.

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.

When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties—to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi (Hardcover 5/10/2011 Tor ) – When this book published in the UK last year, many touted Rajaniemi as a bold new voice in SF, sort of the new author SF may have been wanting. Well, the book looks beautiful and I’ll be giving it a shot.

Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist, and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy— from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. Now he’s confined inside the Dilemma Prison, where every day he has to get up and kill himself before his other self can kill him.

Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turnedsingularity lights the night. What Mieli offers is the chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self—in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.

As Jean undertakes a series of capers on behalf of Mieli and her mysterious masters, elsewhere in the Oubliette investigator Isidore Beautrelet is called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, and finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur….

The Quantum Thief is a crazy joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people communicating by sharing memories, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as MMORPG guild members. But for all its wonders, it is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, revenge, and jealousy. It is a stunning debut.

Eclipse Four edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade Books Trade Paperback May 2011) – This is the fourth in Strahan’s acclaimed annual, unthemed anthology series of original fiction. I thought the first one was good and Dan liked both the second and the third installments.

Award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan continues the spectacular and award winning original genre fiction series, Eclipse. Continuing in the spirit of the genre's previous groundbreaking, original anthology series (Universe, Orbit, Starlight), Eclipse provides a high profile home for cutting-edge genre fiction, helping define what the fantastic genres can aspire to be in the twenty-first century.

Continuing in the footsteps of the multiple-award-nominated anthologies Eclipse One, Eclipse Two, and Eclipse Three, Eclipse Four delivers new fiction by some of the genre's most celebrated authors, including Andy Duncan's tale of a man's gamble that he can outrun a bullet; Caitlin R. Kiernan's story of lovers contemplating the gravity of a tiny black hole; Damien Broderick's chronicle of a beancounter who acquires a most curious cat; Michael Swanwick's tale of the grey man who pulls an unhappy woman from the path of an oncoming train; Nalo Hopkinson's story of ghosts haunting a shopping mall; and Gwyneth Jones's story of an alien priest who suffers a crisis of faith...

The Big Switch (The War That Came Early) by Harry Turtledove (Del Rey Hardcover 07/19/2011) – Another re-imagining of the outcome of World War II from the writing machine that is Harry Turtledove. Over the past couple of years, I’ve probably received over a dozen Turtledove books for review..

In this extraordinary World War II alternate history, master storyteller Harry Turtledove begins with a big switch: what if Neville Chamberlain, instead of appeasing Hitler, had stood up to him in 1938? Enraged, Hitler reacts by lashing out at the West, promising his soldiers that they will reach Paris by the New Year. They don’t. Three years later, his genocidal apparatus not fully in place, Hitler has barely survived a coup, while Jews cling to survival. But England and France wonder whether the war is still worthwhile.

Weaving together a cast of characters that ranges from a brawling American fighter in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain to a woman who has seen Hitler’s evil face-to-face, Harry Turtledove takes us into a world shaping up very differently in 1941. The Germans and their Polish allies have slammed into the gut of the Soviet Union in the west, while Japan pummels away in the east. In trench warfare in France, French and Czech fighters are outmanned but not outfought by their Nazi enemy. Then the stalemate is shattered. In England, Winston Churchill dies in an apparent accident, and the gray men who walk behind his funeral cortege wonder who their real enemy is. The USSR, fighting for its life, makes peace with Japan—and Japan’s war with America is about to begin.

A sweeping saga of human passions, foolishness, and courage, of families and lovers and soldiers by choice and by chance, The Big Switch is a provocative, gripping, and utterly convincing work of alternate history at its best. For history buffs and fans of big, blood-and-guts fiction, Harry Turtledove delivers a panoramic clash of ideals as powerful as armies themselves.

Dancing with Bears by Michael Swanwick (Nightshade Books , Hardcover 05/11/2011) – Swanwick is a major writer in the genre so whenever a new book from him publishes, it is good news. This one sounds like a lot of fun:

Dancing With Bears follows the adventures of notorious con-men Darger and Surplus: They've lied and cheated their way onto the caravan that is delivering a priceless gift from the Caliph of Baghdad to the Duke of Muscovy. The only thing harder than the journey to Muscovy is their arrival in Muscovy. An audience with the Duke seems impossible to obtain, and Darger and Surplus quickly become entangled in a morass of deceit and revolution. The only thing more dangerous than the convoluted political web surrounding Darger and Surplus is the gift itself, the Pearls of Byzantium, and Zoesophia, the governess sworn to protect their virtue.

Star Wars: Choices of One by Timothy Zahn (Hardcover 7/19/2011 Del Rey). Zahn is the author who helped to really launch the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels. Here he returns to the “Classic” era.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Timothy Zahn comes a brand-new Star Wars adventure, set in the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and featuring the young Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and the beloved Mara Jade.

The fate of the Rebellion rests on Luke Skywalker’s next move.
But have the rebels entered a safe harbor or a death trap?

Eight months after the Battle of Yavin, the Rebellion is in desperate need of a new base. So when Governor Ferrouz of Candoras Sector proposes an alliance, offering the Rebels sanctuary in return for protection against the alien warlord Nuso Esva, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie are sent to evaluate the deal.

Mara Jade, the Emperor’s Hand, is also heading for Candoras, along with the five renegade stormtroopers known as the Hand of Judgment. Their mission: to punish Ferrouz’s treason and smash the Rebels for good.

But in this treacherous game of betrayals within betrayals, a wild card is waiting to be played.

Don’t miss the new novella by Timothy Zahn, “Crisis of Faith,” featured in the 20th anniversary edition of Star Wars: Heir to the Empire