Inferno, edited by Ellen Datlow (Tor): * Starred Review * "Datlow (The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror) makes a solid claim to being the premiere horror editor of her generation with this state-of-the-art anthology of 20 new stories by some of horror fiction’s best and brightest. Several outstanding selections feature imperiled children and explore the horrific potential of childhood fears, among them Glen Hirshberg’s “The Janus Tree,” which gives a creepy supernatural spin to a poignant memoir of adolescent angst and alienation, and Stephen Gallagher’s “Misadventure,” in which a young man’s near-death experience as a child endows him as an adult with consoling insight into the afterlife. The compilation’s variety of approaches and moods is exemplary, ranging from the natural supernaturalism of Laird Barron’s cosmic horror tale “The Forest,” to the unsettling psychological horror of Lucius Shepard’s “The Ease with Which We Freed the Beast”; the metaphysical terrors of Conrad Williams’s “Perhaps the Last”; and the slapstick grotesquerie of K.W. Jeter’s black comedy “Riding Bitch.” If this book can be taken as a gauge of the vitality of imagination in contemporary horror fiction, then the genre is very healthy indeed." (Dec.)
Any Way You Want It by Kathy Love (Brava): "Musicologist Maggie Gallagher and friends arrive in New Orleans from Washington, D.C., for a much needed vacation. On the grave of a legendary voodoo priestess, Maggie makes a wish for a “hot fling.” Later that night, she hears strains of the mysterious sonata she’s been hired to authenticate coming from a Bourbon Street bar. Ren Anthony, the man behind the keyboard, is the leader of the Impalers, a bar band specializing in drippy ’80s pop. He’s also a vampire, or rather, a lampir (an immortal energy sucker rather than a blood guzzler), and in mortal life was Renauldo D’Antoni, a composer born in 1785. Ren, believing all the women he loves are doomed, tries to avoid relationships, but sparks fly when Maggie walks into the bar. Whether or not Maggie can change Ren’s mind about getting involved is pretty much all the plot there is, but Love (I Only Have Fangs for You) lets the good times roll while they find out." (Jan.)
Sucker Bet by Erin McCarthy (Berkley): "The fourth installment of McCarthy’s toothsome Vegas Vampire series (following Bled Dry) finds sexy Gwenna Carrick, a 900-year-old vampire, living at the casino owned by her brother, Ethan Carrick, the current president of the Vampire Nation. She meets Metro police detective Nate Thomas at a crime scene and offers her help in cracking a case involving an Internet vampire slayers group. Nate is grieving over the death of his sister, and Gwenna has been divorced from Vampire Nation vice president Roberto Donatelli for 300 celibate years. Sparks flare into true love very quickly—inflaming Gwenna’s jealous ex-husband, who quickly orders a hit on Nate. Worse challenges await the lovers, as McCarthy delivers her latest with fang-in-cheek flair." (Jan.)
Breath and Bone by Carol Berg (Roc): "Replete with magic-powered machinations, secret societies and doomsday divinations, the emotionally intense second volume of Berg’s intrigue-laden Lighthouse Duet (after 2007’s Flesh and Spirit) concludes the story of Valen, a sorcerer who finds himself at the center of a looming conflict that could cast the realms of both humankind and the feylike Danae into a nightmarish dark age. Caught between the maneuverings of the enigmatic Osriel, bastard prince of Evanore, and apocalypse priestess Sila Diaglou, Valen must determine which perceived villain is less evil. Although billed as an epic fantasy, this duology is more accurately an intimate, character-driven journey of redemption and self-discovery. Valen’s heroic quest to unlock the secrets of his heritage and save a world from destruction suffers from languorous pacing throughout and may discourage readers who like their fantasy fast and furious, but fans of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Avalon sequence and Sharon Shinn will be rewarded." (Jan.)
Dragon Harper by Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey (Del Rey): "As a terrible plague sweeps Pern, a brave Harper apprentice emerges as a true hero in this satisfying third collaboration between McCaffrey mère and fils (after 2006’s Dragon’s Fire). The danger this time is not the deadly Thread but a virulent disease, similar to our world’s 1918 influenza epidemic or the more recent outbreaks of SARS. Kindan, a young apprentice of the Harpers’ Guild who’s dedicated to music, education and healing, had hoped to become a dragonrider, but failed to bond with a dragon at the last hatching. Then his education and budding romance with a lord’s daughter are disrupted by the epidemic, which poses a particular threat to the dragons and dragonriders who will be needed to fight the approaching Thread. The McCaffreys depict the crisis vividly, with enough detail to make the tragedy all too real and with enough hope to keep fantasy fans happy." (Dec.)
Metal Swarm: The Saga of Seven Suns, Book 6 by Kevin J. Anderson (Orbit): "Bestseller Anderson’s super-size mosaic of intergalactic, Darwinian conflict has been compared to some of the genre’s grandest epics with good reason, but the breakneck sixth book (after 2006’s Of Fire and Night) of this shelf-bending space opera fails to satisfy on its own merits. The quickly deteriorating Terran Hanseatic League (Hansa), the formidable Ildiran Empire and the newly created Confederation of Hansa’s ex-colonies and rivals are in a fight for their very existence, battling not only each other but rogue robots, sentient fire entities and an ancient insectoid race, thought long extinct, which plans to eradicate all life on the planets it claims to own. Although Anderson brings all of his considerable skill to bear, much of the action-packed conflict remains relatively predictable, perhaps due to the unwieldy cast of characters, tapestry of intertwining subplots and eon-spanning backstory. A sparse conclusion leaves readers hanging in anticipation of book seven." (Dec.)
Captain’s Fury: Book Four of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher (Ace): "Sharp tactical plotting, hazardous cross-country travel and a dash of sardonic humor mark Butcher’s fourth Codex Alera novel (after 2006’s Cursor’s Fury). Two years into a difficult campaign against the wolflike Canim invaders, Calderon legion captain Tavi is saddled with an unqualified but politically powerful superior whose plans threaten disaster and force Tavi into potential treason. Meanwhile, aging ruler Gaius Sextus plans a final strike against the rebellious lord of Kalare, but to get close enough to act, he must set aside his power to control the elements and make a painful overland slog that neatly challenges genre conventions. Butcher deftly deploys intrigue, conflicted loyalties and hairbreadth action to excellent effect. Few writers balance military realism and cinematic swashbuckling with so much skill or wit. Series fans will welcome the revelation of Tavi’s long-secret heritage and the strong climaxes resolving most of the immediate conflicts, while newcomers will have no trouble navigating the well-developed landscape." (Dec.)
Amberlight by Sylvia Kelso (Juno): "Kelso (Everran’s Bane) paints a hypnotic but prose-drowned portrait of a complex matriarchal society powered by “qherrique,” a semisentient stone that can control minds and power machinery. When a male Outlander is found on the streets of Amberlight, robbed, raped and left for dead by a girl gang, the qherrique informs Tellurith, the powerful head of Telluir House, that he must be kept alive. As Tellurith’s household nurses the stranger back to health, he reveals the terrible truth about the nearby rulers who purchase qherrique statuettes from Amberlight and use them to enslave people and wage war. As Tellurith comes to see and question the rampant poverty and bias in Amberlight, she opens a furious debate over the Houses’ responsibility to make sure qherrique is used wisely at home and abroad. Kelso’s self-consciously overwrought verbiage (“Crafters’ coats and cloaks festoon the pearl-grime”) distracts from an otherwise intriguing exploration of sexual politics and the difficult calculus of leadership." (Nov.)
Devil Inside by Jenna Black (Dell Spectra): "Though demon possession is bad enough for the average Joe, Black’s new heroine, native Philadelphian Morgan Kingsley, is a professional exorcist—making her possession by a powerful demon all the more infuriating (and embarrassing). Worse, the demon inside her, Lugh, is next in line to become king of the demon realm, and factions are hard at work to off him before he takes the throne. As neither of the standard options for demon killing appeal to Morgan (exorcism, which usually leaves the human host a mindless wreck, or burning at the stake, with predictable results), Morgan and Lugh (who communicate in dreams) must race against time to discover how he was implanted into her and, while keeping the rival demons at bay, how to get him out without killing her in the process. Although Black doesn’t break any new ground, she’s got a winning heroine, a well-crafted contemporary world where demonic possession is just a part of life and a nice balance of mystery, action and sex, making this light but engaging novel an urban fantasy series kickoff full of promise." (Dec.)
Monday, October 15, 2007
Publishers Weekly genre review round-up.
(October 15th issue)
Lotsa vampires and a well-deserved starred review for Ellen Datlow's newest collection. As always, if you want to read all the fiction reviews, click here.