Tag Archives: new releases

Unreality Junction: Books Ahoy!

Some novels to explore:

 

A Darkling Sea by James Cambias – SF: Humans encounter their first alien species underwater underneath miles of ice. Immortal Muse by Stephen Leigh – Historical Fantasy: An immortal muse survives on the creativity of the artists she inspires but must contend with another immortal who feeds off human pain in a story that ranges from the 1300’s to present day New York. Spider Wars: The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher — SF: A grand epic in the far future in which a disconsolate spaceman believes he hears space transmissions from the rumored lost Soviet cosmonauts of the past, indicating a danger of an alien nature.

Prospero’s War: Dirty Magic by Jaye Wells — Urban Fantasy: First in a new series in an alternate Earth where magic comes in the form of alchemy and drugs, and a female cop must help a federal task force with a case with connections to her troubled past.

Ancillary Justice  by Ann Leckie – SF: A female soldier who was once a massive starship linked to corpse solidiers via A.I. seeks vengeance on those who destroyed her.

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Unreality Junction: Goodies for the Holidays!

I’m still dealing with the fallout of this last part of the year, but here are the book goodies I got (not that I necessarily need an excuse to get them, but you know, it looks better when you have a handy gift giving seasonal cover.)

1. White Trash Zombie Apocalypse by Diana Rowland

The third novel in Rowland’s contemporary fantasy series about Louisiana morgue attendant and zombie Angel. I read the first one of this series, My Life as a White Trash Zombie, and liked it, though I thought the ending seemed a little rushed and overly heightened. But then I got the second book, Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, where Angel starts to find out a lot of info about being a zombie and the ending of the first novel made more sense from that. This third installment ups the action even more than the first two as Angel has to deal with a zombie film shoot, mysterious deaths, the local zombie syndicate, the return of various antagonists, rain and flood, taking the GED, etc. Rowland is great at combining her small town frame with Angel getting her life together, with essentially a spy thriller. This novel has a bit less humor than the first two, but also an increasingly confident Angel. My only complaint is that the heavier spy thriller aspects meant less cop and morgue time this go round. Rowland is a former cop and morgue worker, so she does that stuff very well, as well as a really interesting take on zombism and the strange mix of pathos and advantage therein.

2. Codex Born by Jim C. Hines

Moving on to the new titles I haven’t read yet, is the second novel in Hines’ new contemporary fantasy Magic Ex Libris series about a libromancer, Isaac, who can pull things from books and helps guard the world from magical threats. The second book focuses more on Lena, the dryad dragged from the pages of an old pulp fantasy novel, who is Isaac’s bodyguard and sometime lover. New enemies are after Lena’s powers, and that can mean some very bad things for everyone. The first novel, Libromancer, made quite a big splash, has a lot of humor and interesting stuff, and also let Hines bring in his fire spider from his Jig the Goblin novels, so I’m looking forward to this one.

3. Nysta: Duel at Grimwood Creek by Lucas Thorn

Continuing with the sequels is book two of Australian author Lucas Thorn’s Nysta series, a secondary world western, D&D epic, satirical dark fantasy revenge quest mash-up of awesome cussing proportions. I featured the cover art for the first volume, Nysta: Revenge of the Elf, on my blog, by artist Amir Zand, then got the first book and featured the next two covers. The Nysta books read exactly like westerns, except they are about elves, wizards, gods and magical forces in really interesting landscapes. The first book was violent, rough, slyly funny and quite moving all at the same time. Nysta, the central character, is an elven destroyer out to get the gang of elves who killed her husband. In the second book, she is closing in on the Bloody Nine but dealing with strong magical forces and monsters in the Deadlands. (I’m hoping that Thorn and Zand can get some sort of comic book spin-off going on this world sometime — great fun.)

4. Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Not a sequel, but a continuing world novel, and a western to boot, in this novel Abercrombie expands his First Law world by traveling to a new frontier land in which presumed dead Northern barbarian king, the legendary Logan Ninefingers, has been hiding out on a farm under the name Lamb. The central character is Shy, his stepdaughter, who sets off after her kidnapped brother and sister with Lamb/Logan in tow. Other characters from Abercrombie’s previous novels make appearances and probably there are clues to the mysterious past of wizard battles that seems to subtly affect everything in Abercrombie’s secondary world. You probably don’t have to read the First Law trilogy and standalones Best Served Cold and The Heroes first, but it would help to get the full effect. Abercrombie’s mix of brutal war, black humor, and fascinating mythology is a hoot but it’s his characters who sing — each has a distinct voice that lets him try out one type of story after another. Interesting to see what he will do with the western one.

5. The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Lynch broke on the scene with the first book in this series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, to much acclaim. The satirical dark crime thriller fantasy about con artists in a remarkable city had a few minor plot issues for me, but the writing was lovely with its dual chronologies and the scenery sublime. The sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, had some plot issues too, but expanded the world of the story in interesting ways, plus pirates! Lynch ran into some personal issues that delayed this third book in the series, and it may be the last, but I think it may also be the most interesting. A poisoned Locke has to become a pawn in a battle of mages that pits him against the long gone con-woman he loves — Sabetha, whom we finally get to see. So fun and I had to get.

6. Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

Wendig’s first book in this Miriam Black series, Blackbirds, was another book whose cover art first drew my attention to it. It’s a contemporary fantasy series about a sarcastic and desperate young woman who, when she touches someone, knows when and how they will die. In this sequel, Miriam is trying to do the settling down thing with her truck driver boyfriend and has achieved more control over her powers, but then she sees a death that may change everything. Wendig has a deft hand, a sensibility with looney and weird characters, and a central character with a great voice. It also has some genuine mystery to the suspense and interesting supernatural elements.

7. Feed by Mira Grant

I read Grant’s contemporary fantasy novel, Rosemary and Rue, written under her main name Seanan McGuire, and liked the writing (she’s a Campbell award winner,) but wasn’t quite as blown away by the world and focus of that story. So I decided to try her horror science fiction with this first book in her Newsflesh trilogy. Feed got a ton of attention and a Hugo nomination. It’s a near future zombie thriller that takes the mutated virus approach to zombies, with a dark satire of political campaigns and conspiracies, news media and blogging, horror films, medical research, etc. Grant has a very sharp eye, so I suspect I will like it.

8. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I am a huge Atkinson fan. She has occasionally dipped into fantasy, magic realism style, and her standalone bestselling novel Life After Life is a full out fantasy novel that has been nominated for the Orange Prize and probably will pick up quite a few of the major nominations for the year. The novel is about Ursula, who continually dies but in alternate overlapping universes lives as the world marches towards World War II and a fate that Ursula’s unique repeating life may affect. That’s going to be rich toffee, the way Atkinson writes, so I shall probably save it for a bit later when chaos declines a little, but I am looking forward to it, even though WWII is not my favorite era.

9. Shadow’s Sun by Jon Sprunk 

Technically this wasn’t a new goodie for the holidays, but it was a book temporarily misplaced in our move last year, so now I’ve got it recovered finally and can tackle it. It’s Sprunk’s debut secondary world fantasy novel, with divine cover art, about an assassin named Caim, who finds himself, as assassins frequently do, a pawn in a complicated and high stakes plot. But this particular assassin has some unusual aspects to his life — ever since he was a child damaged by tragedy, Caim can call shadows to cloak him, a magic that haunts him and he distrusts, and he has been visited by a ghostly, mercurial and mysterious spirit named Kit who sometimes helps him out. The writing style has a traditional, grand feel to it, but with bickering, a combination I think I’m going to like. It reminds me a bit of some of Glen Cook. Sprunk has started a new series, The Book of the Black Earth, which sounds interesting, so I will have to catch up over time. But I think I will enjoy Caim’s tale first.

My mother was astonished that my husband and daughter were watching the end of How to Train Your Dragon, a favorite animated film of ours. I was astonished that she hadn’t seen the movie, as it’s tailor-made to be the sort of movie my mom would like. So we sat down and watched the film and she did indeed love it. There is also a cartoon spin off; if you’ve got young kids you might as well try it out. And the sequel film, How to Train Your Dragon 2, comes out next year; we’re looking forward to it. Here’s the trailer:

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Unreality Junction — Books, Books, Books

“Science-fiction balances you on the cliff. Fantasy shoves you off.” — Ray Bradbury

There are a lot of books out there. Some ones that may be interesting:

The Wall of  Night series by Helen Lowe         

Book One: The Heir of Night; Book Two:  The Gathering of the Lost (due out in April)

New Zealand author Lowe serves up a secondary world, multiverse tale of alien guardians against demonic monsters. When the guardians are overrun due to treachery, one young woman has to navigate a complicated land of rival clans and discover the secrets of her people to knit worlds back together. Multiverses and portal structures are coming back to secondary world fantasy with larger frequency in a number of ways, and this series combines a traditional hold against the dark idea with a wider universe that sounds a bit reminiscent of Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle and is being compared to Barbara Hambly’s Darwarth trilogy.

Artic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell    

Science fiction author Buckell offers a highly relevant near future, hard SF environmental thriller.  With global warming in  full swing, changing the Artic landscape and global politics drastically, an Earth-saving solar invention that could be the deadliest weapon ever collides with an international  investigation into a stolen nuclear missile. Environmental crises have obviously become a subject of fascination to SF authors this last decade, and this looks to be a doozy in Nebula nominee Buckell’s very capable hands.

Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

Wide Open by Deborah Coates

Real world events are increasingly points on which contemporary fantasy mysteries are being hung, not unlike their non-SFF counterparts, and these are two in that mold that sound interesting. Johnson’s urban fantasy thriller posits an Earth in which wizards guard places from supernatural incursions and problems, a favorite of fantasy stories. An apprentice wizard in New Orleans hasn’t much to do, until Hurricane Katrina hits the city, ripping the boundaries between worlds, and her mentor, the city’s chief guardian, disappears.  Magazine writer Johnson is a long time New Orleans resident who helped in the rebuilding efforts, so this is a debut fantasy novel liable to ring true for a lot of people.

Deborah Coates also debuts with a ghost story about a sergeant stationed in Afghanistan who returns home on compassionate leave  to be greeted by her sister’s ghost, a suicide the woman then believes is really a murder. An investigation turns up more ghosts, sabotage, and an enemy possibly controlling an ancient power. Coates is well known for her short fiction, so this look at the fall out from the war mixed with a ghostly mystery could be interesting.

Faith by John Love 

Retired music industry exec Love debuts with a funky military SF tale of battling spaceships. In a far future where humans have spread out among  the stars, a giant alien ship nicknamed Faith once came and destroyed an empire.  Many years later, Faith has returned and the Commonwealth that has risen in the empire’s place is determined not to bear the same fate. A fleet of ships, built in secret, totally without law, and run by crews of convicts and psychopaths whose special talents fit the mission, begin a battle that will change human understanding of the universe they inhabit, particularly for the crew of one of the ships, the — wait for it — Charles Manson. Yes, he went there. The thriller definitely is drifting into Peter Watts territory with its themes and ideas and so I’m kind of intrigued. It’s definitely not your usual space opera battle saga.

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When Good Book Reviews Go Bad

During the holiday craziness at the end of 2011, several friends asked me what I thought of author Glen Duncan’s now notorious book review of Colson Whitehead’s zombie novel Zone One in the New York Times, in which he pairs “genre” novels with porn stars and praises Whitehead’s novel by mostly ignoring that book and using the review as a platform to claim that works like his own novel, The Last Werewolf, can’t be properly understood by fantasy fans:

www.nytimes.com/2011/10/30/books/review/zone-one-by-colson-whitehead-book-review.html

My reaction was of course: poor Colson Whitehead. Not only are Whitehead’s views not in line with Duncan’s, (his response to those wondering why he would ever write a zombie novel was “don’t be such a snob,”) but his big Times review could have easily been assigned to a writer like Lev Grossman, China Mieville, Charles Yu, David Eggers, Catherynne M. Valente or Jeff VanderMeer, who have a clue what they are talking about regarding fantasy fiction, rather than a writer who saw the review as an opportunity to audition for media gigs as a 1960’s curmudgeon.

Whitehead, however, has been frequently paired up with Duncan in media coverage for Zone One, (Duncan’s Werewolf is published by Whitehead’s publisher’s sister house, Knopf,) and it was this reason why I was asked about the book review. Back in the summer, the Wall Street Journal, whose interest in fiction is practically non-existent but whose interest in what big movie deals are percolating was attracted by Justin Cronin’s deal for his vampire apocalypse novel The Passage, did an article that incited a wide ranging discussion on SFFWorld. The article couldn’t be just about The Passage for WSJ purposes; it had to be about a proposed “business trend,” and so it was about how non-genre, “literary” writers were recently now turning to genre fiction, presented as the land of the non-literary, to make money:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304520804576343310420118894.html

The article included Duncan, who also had a film deal, and Whitehead, and several other authors.

http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=31197

In the discussion at SFFWorld, I pointed out that Lev Grossman, who was covered in the piece, was not new to this type of fiction as he’s been steeped in the community for years in his work as a critic and then as a writer, and two of the authors touted in the article, Melissa Marr and Michael Koryta, had never been anything else but genre novel writers, Marr writing her YA fantasy series and Koryta writing crime novels. Most of Duncan’s previous novels as well have been suspense and SFFH. His best known novel before The Last Werewolf, I, Lucifer, was a fantasy novel, and there has been no real indication that The Last Werewolf is somehow enormously different from how he’s written his other works, except this time he has had the resources of Knopf behind it in the U.S. The WSJ article was, as has often come up before regarding the imaginary fiction culture war, a bad social science and market research piece that included factual errors, as were Duncan’s assertions into Whitehead’s review about the thinking of fantasy fans, and the follow-up Times piece he got himself, in which he swears it was completely fine to disservice Whitehead in favor of his tirade because some Amazon customer reviews of Whitehead’s novel supposedly proved his point about the rest of us.

I said at the time of the SFFWorld discussion about that Wall Street Journal article that Whitehead had been too lukewarm in his quote in the article for my tastes, but since then in marketing Zone One he’s impressed me. I also said that I hoped Duncan’s novel did well and that this would help other authors get attention as well, even if he was propagating an outdated credo as a PR strategy. So my friends asked if I still had that wish, in light of Duncan’s engineered controversy with the Whitehead review. And the answer is that I do still wish Glen Duncan success, because success for one book helps the rest and success for a fantasy novel helps all other authors doing fantasy, not simply in sales but in media attention, wider awareness, and the kind of understanding about readers of fantasy, science fiction, horror and suspense that Duncan rejects. The Last Werewolf was a bestseller and I do not wish the series ill. For every Michael Chabon, Junot Diaz or Jonathan Lethem, who not only write like a dream but actually understand the historical context and literary power of these types of stories, there’s going to be a Glen Duncan, clinging to a fading dream of an empire that never was and being kind of a jerk about it.

Am I, though, going to read The Last Werewolf? Probably not. There are other writers whose work I value more highly and there’s only so much time in the day. But Zone One by Colson Whitehead? That is a novel I’ll likely try to read at some point. After all, Glen Duncan recommends it, even if he did so as sort of a backhanded compliment.

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2010 SFFH Novels to Check Out — Welcome to Fall!

Shiloh Walker, in a post for Tor.com, gave one of the best explanations of the compulsion of fiction writers I’ve encountered: “Because it’s shiny.” Here’s the link: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/07/because-its-shiny

Her newest paranormal romance title, Veil of Shadows, takes place in an alternate realm facing a war against demons and tells the story of a couple who may have found love amid war, or betrayal.

Anthony Huso‘s The Last Page is getting some good buzz. It’s a dark alternate world fantasy with a steampunk vision and a young king and sewer monsters. I always like sewer monsters.

John Dickenson, a British author, offers a chilling vision of the possible future in the SF thriller We, when a man must leave the interconnected Earth for a life mission to a distant and isolated  ice moon, and from there, he will begin to see what humanity has become.

Seanan McGuire just won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the 2010 Aussie WorldCon. An Artificial Night, the third novel in her contemporary fantasy series October Daye, is now out. Half-fae, half-human detective Toby Daye has to tackle the Wild Hunt to rescue kidnapped children, while dealing with omens of her own demise.

Catherine Jinks brings horror to space in the YA novel Living Hell, about a youth on a colonizing spaceship which begins an organic transformation that causes it to seek to expel the human passengers.


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SFF Novels to Check Out

Debra Doyle & James Macdonald — Lincoln’s Sword – In this alternative history fantasy set during the U.S. Civil War, the prophetic dreams of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln may save the Union. From the authors of  Land of Mist and Snow.

Jocelyn Drake – Pray For Dawn, Wait for Dusk – Books #4 and #5 of Drake’s increasingly popular vampire enforcer series.

C.L. Anderson – Bitter Angels – Anderson won the Phillip K. Dick Award for this well regarded tale of spies in space.

Carlos J. Cortes – The Prisoner – In a future, dystopian Earth, political prisoners escape into the sewers in this SF thriller.

Darryl Gregory – The Devil’s Alphabet – From the author of the acclaimed Pandemonium, another bizarre horror story about a strange disease that turned folk in a small town into three strange races except for one teen who returns to the town later in adulthood to figure out its mystery.

J.A. Pitts – Black Blade Blues – A lesbian blacksmith/movie props master fixes a possibly magic sword, deals with dragons and may have to save the world while her own world is falling apart. (Pitts, by the way, is a guy. Not that it should matter in 2010.)

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Movie Trailers Because T.V. is Boring Right Now

The “serious” trailer for The Expendables (otherwise known as the Stallone got you all jobs so now pay up film) due out in August:

A school comedy for September (with literature!) Easy A starring Emma Stone:

And not until November, but it looks like sappy fun, Morning Glory:

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