Monday, October 8, 2007

Publisher Weekly genre reviews (October 8th issue)

Here ya go, kidz. For the full fiction and YA reviews, click here and here.
Still Life with Devils by Deborah Grabien (Drollerie): "Grabien (New-Slain Knight) turns to supernatural crime with an artistic twist in this eerie thriller. Leo Chant and her brother, SFPD Lt. Cassius Chant, join forces to identify Captain Nemo, a psycho who kills pregnant women and then arranges their corpses according to feng shui principles. After Nemo claims a seventh victim in broad daylight, an elderly Chinese eyewitness helps Leo provide the police with a sketch, but the almost demonic features give Leo a shock. Has she seen them before? Digging through old sketchbooks with Mara, her preternaturally wise teenage niece, leads Leo to a dangerous attempt to catch Nemo by entering the “shadowlands of painted reality” through Leo's painting of the killer. Leo's blend of art and magic is a novel and intriguing method for closing cases and will leave readers hoping that a sequel is in the works." (Dec.)

Lye Street: A Novella of the Deepgate Codex by Alan Campbell (Subterranean): "Campbell's nightmarish prequel to Scar Night (2006) explores the depths of twisted revenge. Every half-century since the Deepgate year 511, when Henry Bucklestrappe was extracted mysteriously from the temple dungeons and nastily murdered, the hideously scarred angel, Carnival, has slain a Bucklestrappe descendent. Now, in 1012, it is wily old prospector Sal Greene's turn to be a victim. He asks phantasmacist Laccus Ravencrag to summon up the demon Basilis, unexpectedly impotent, to battle Carnival, herself victimized by her own psyche and trapped by the brutal witch Ruby. Campbell meshes pity with terror against the bleak phantasmagoric backdrop of a city suspended from chains, swinging dismally over a yawning abyss. In a civilization literally built upon nothing, dark magic and vengeance are the rule of the day, and Campbell will quickly have readers under his creepy and sometimes heartbreaking spell." (Jan.)

Dreamsongs: Volume II by George R.R. Martin (Bantam): * Starred Review * "Equal parts short fiction collection and candid retrospective, this second and concluding volume of Martin's shelf-bending compendium highlights a wide variety of his later work, including two stories set in the shared, superhero-laden universe of Wild Cards; “The Hedge Knight,” a prequel to the epic Song of Ice and Fire fantasy saga (A Game of Thrones, etc.); and “Doorways,” an action-packed, exceptionally plotted pilot script for a science fiction television series that never aired. Other notable selections include “Portraits of His Children,” the Nebula-winning story of a self-absorbed writer forced to come face-to-face with the consequences of his own heartlessness, and two outstanding cautionary tales featuring space-faring ecological engineer and savvy opportunist Haviland Tuf. Science fiction, fantasy and horror fans alike will be blown away by the diversity and quality of stories as well as by Martin's extensive and frank commentary about his life and experiences in the publishing and television industries, backed up by a 24-page bibliography. Both physically and thematically immense, this extraordinary collection is one to cherish." (Dec.)

High Deryni by Katherine Kurtz (Ace): "Fans of Kurtz's Chronicles of the Deryni will enjoy this convoluted conclusion to the newly revised trilogy (after Deryni Rising and Deryni Checkmate) originally published some 30 years ago. After much struggle, 14-year-old Kelson Haldane has become the first king of magical Deryni heritage to rule Gwynedd. He still faces trouble, however, from a suspicious Church that doesn't trust magic or anyone of Deryni blood, and from certain nobles who would exploit that distrust. Chief among these is Wencit of Torenth, a sorcerer king who is determined that he, not Kelson, will unite and rule the 11 Kingdoms. As Duke Alaric Morgan and Father Duncan McLain, powerful lords excommunicated for their use of magic, work to reinstate themselves with the Church and gain its support for Kelson, Wencit schemes to weaken Kelson's hold on the throne. With a complicated cast and tension-reducing plot twists, this volume doesn't stand alone well, but series completists will be more than satisfied." (Dec.)

Rise of the Blood Royal: Volume III of the Destinies of Blood and Stone by Robert Newcomb (Del Rey): "The chilling conclusion to Newcomb's majestic but sometimes ponderous trilogy (after March into Darkness) suggests that the bloody, centuries-old War of Attrition between the countries Rustannica and Shashida may never end. Evil wizard Gracchus Junius is determined to persuade the impoverished Rustannica Emperor Vespasian, whose magical gifts far exceed those of all other Rustannica wizards combined, to destroy Shashida with banned magic and steal all its gold. Meanwhile, Prince Tristan and Princess Shailiha of the distant country Eutracia, talented magicians destined to end the War of Attrition, are struggling to learn to use the magical substance known as “subtle matter” and find the subterranean Azure Sea that will take them to Shashida. Those who haven't read earlier installments and the preceding trilogy may feel a bit lost amid the intricate magical systems and large cast, but Newcomb juggles the various plots and people with aplomb." (Dec.)

The Sagittarius Command: A Novel of the U.S.S. Merrimack by R.M. Meluch (DAW): "Nostalgia-minded readers who yearn for the days of “Doc” Smith's Lensman books will enjoy the third installment (after 2006's Wolf Star) of Meluch's barely modernized space opera series. When the Palatine Empire's home world of Roma Nova almost falls to the voracious, nigh-invulnerable Hive, which travels between the stars in search of organic matter to consume, Caesar Magnus reluctantly subjugates the empire's forces to Capt. John Farragut and the U.S.S. Merrimack. This marriage of convenience is strained when the Legate voices suspicions that the Americans are trying to steal technology developed by long-dead Roman genius Constantine. As Farragut and the Roman cyborg Augustus (who plays a combination of Spock and McCoy to Farragut's Kirk) investigate the Hive infestation, they come to suspect Constantine might be not only alive but in possession of the secret to defeat the Hive. Assassinations, the threat of civil war and a canonically evil villain all keep things hopping in this fast-paced space adventure." (Nov.)

Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel (Tachyon): "Arranged loosely in order of publication, the 16 diverse selections in this decade-spanning anthology add up to a plausible snapshot of cyberpunk's short-form evolution. Kelly and Kessel (Feeling Very Strange) clearly describe cyberpunk counterculture in a cogent introduction, yet draw only one story from a nongenre source (Greg Egan's “Yeyuka”) and greatly undervalue the subgenre's ability, at its most popular, to reach beyond SF's core audience. While some entries (Charles Stross's “Lobsters”; Cory Doctorow's “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth”) focus strongly on techno-geek culture, others apply high-tech ideas in more down-to-earth contexts (Mary Rosenblum's “Search Engine”; Paolo Bacigalupi's “The Calorie Man”). The critical matter is too scant for academic readers and too intrusive for genre fans; discussion of specific stories is extremely sparse, and excerpts from correspondence between Kessel and Bruce Sterling distract rather than enlighten. Readers seeking a thorough critical study should look elsewhere, but those looking for well-told stories will be satisfied." (Nov.)

Carnifex by Tom Kratman (Baen): "Kratman (A Desert Called Peace) raises some disquieting questions about what it might take to win the war on terror in this military SF novel set in a future world with obvious parallels to our own. When Salafi fanatics launch a 9/11-style attack on the hated Federated States of Columbia, they end up killing the family of Col. Patricio Carrera. Carrera vows to destroy Salafism by any means necessary and raises an army in his wife's native land to provide that means. He takes the fight to Pashtia, where the planners of his family's doom are cowering. This disturbing but insightful narrative takes Nietzsche's aphorism about staring into the abyss and runs with it to its grim conclusion. As always, Kratman delights in offending left-wing sensibilities, but this will only enhance its appeal to his target audience, who will enjoy it for its realistic action sequences, strong characterizations and thoughts on the philosophy of war." (Nov.)

The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh (Hyperion): * Starred Review * "Marsh, a New Republic editor making her children's book debut, reworks the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in a supernatural tale about a 14-year-old boy's quest through an underworld in New York City, in search of his late mother's spirit. After introverted ninth-grade prodigy Jack Perdu is involved in a near-fatal accident, he is sent to see a specialist in Manhattan. There he meets Euri, a self-proclaimed “urban explorer” who reveals herself to be a ghost—part of a vast and complex community of people who have died in NYC. (Euri tells Jack that he might be able to find his mother if she has not completed her unfinished business in the world and “moved on” to Elysium, which is “somewhere in the Hamptons,” by her best guess.) Euri becomes his personal tour guide as they explore the city by night, when ghosts can leave the underworld to roam unseen. The pair tries to avoid capture by underworld authorities as they seek Jack's mother, in the process unraveling mysteries surrounding his parents' relationship and Jack's ability to infiltrate the spirit world. Mixing numerous references to mythology and classical literature with deft touches of humor and extensive historical details (former mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Dylan Thomas and corrupt police captain “Clubber” Williams, among others, make cameo appearances), this intelligent and self-assured debut will compel readers from its outset, and leave them satisfied as it explores universal themes of love, loss and closure. Ages 10-up." (Sept.)

The Glitch in Sleep by John Hulme and Michael Wexler, illus. by Gideon Kendall (Bloomsbury): "Hulme and Wexler turn the intelligent design concept on its ear in their children's book debut, a kickoff to The Seems series. The premise: everything that happens in our world, from falling in love to the weather to time itself, is controlled by The Seems—“the place on the other side of the World responsible for generating what you see outside your window right now.” Twelve-year-old Becker Drane lives a double life, secretly working for the Institute for Fixing & Repair; when something goes wrong in The Seems, “Fixers” put the cosmic cogs back in working order. Becker's first mission as a Fixer is a doozy—find the glitch in the Department of Sleep that has turned everyone in the world into an insomniac. The authors use the conceit to the fullest, creating a complex and intricate world with a sometimes daunting array of gadgets, bureaucracy, vocabulary and capitalization (a glossary is included—and welcome). These details don't become overwhelming, fortunately, thanks to the book's consistently lighthearted tone (the Department of Sleep's radio station, WDOZ, broadcasts tracks like “The Hum of the Air Conditioner [Remix]” into humans' subconscious minds). The high sense of adventure and an abundance of goofball humor should appeal especially to boys. Ages 10-up." (Oct.)

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