Monday, October 1, 2007

Publishers Weekly genre round-up
(October 1st issue)

Great stuff here this week! And as usual, to read the full fiction reviews, click here.
Eclipse One: New Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Jonathan Strahan (Nightshade): * Starred Review * "Each of the 16 selections in Strahan's superb anthology (the launch of an annual series) does a disturbing take on a premise that genre fans may find familiar from more mundane examples of science fiction, fantasy or horror. Paul Brandon and Jack Dann's “The Transformation of Targ” and Ysabeau S. Wilce's “Quartermaster Returns,” both horror stories, simultaneously unsettle and amuse. Jeffrey Ford's metaphorical “The Drowned Life” explores a debtor's despair. Peter S. Beagle's “The Last and Only or, Mr. Moscowitz Becomes French” veers all too close to contemporary reality, while Terry Dowling's “Toother” is as much about the grim realities of the Napoleonic and American Civil Wars as it is about the horror of serial killers. Ellen Klages's “Mrs. Zeno's Paradox” plays a delightful twist on the classical thought experiment. Gwyneth Jones's “In the Forest of the Queen” is at once hauntingly ethereal and an arresting reinterpretation of humans wandering into faerie. Every selection both defines and challenges our genre expectations." (Nov.) [La Gringa notes: Perhaps this glowing review will end the online snarkiness about which contributor's names are highlighted on the cover. We hope?]

Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan (Knopf): * Starred Review * Lanahan, whose Black Juice won critical acclaim both in her native Australia and in the U.S., will further enhance her reputation with this fine second collection of 10 stories. Driven by beautiful, often quirky language and deep psychological insight, these works demonstrate a powerful sense of the marvelous. In “Baby Jane,” a boy on holiday hears a magical servant shout, “My queen is in difficulties. Is there a midwife here?... Any kind of leech, any wise woman,” and finds himself in charge of delivering a royal child; a different sort of child, an emotionally needy girl who fears she will “die of her distress” after being separated from her mother for a night, must show some gumption and outwit the terrifying, baby-eating ogre Wee Willie Winkie in “Winkie.” Other memorable characters include the dead souls in Limbo, who in “Under Hell, Over Heaven” earn brownie points by transporting the recently deceased to their final reward or punishment; and the eponymous “Daughter of the Clay,” an unhappy changeling who travels to fairyland and decides in the end that it's best for her “to stay silent, on my bottom among the Clay, and fill my mouth with fish.” Gritty, dark and sometimes very nasty, these stories are, at their best, worthy of comparison to the fairy tales of Angela Carter. Ages 14-up." (Oct.)

Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith (Little, Brown): * Starred Review * "Smith's YA debut (following the memoir West of Then) is an intensely atmospheric, angst-ridden paranormal thriller revolving around three Portland, Ore., teenagers. During a surreal, drug-filled summer, the three must come to terms with an incredible revelation: they're all supernatural entities known as changelings. The futures of artistic Ondine Mason, troubled Alaskan runaway Nix Saint-Michael and beautiful, ambitious Morgan D'Amici become irrevocably intertwined during a secret rave in the woods around Mt. Hood. They think they've come to a party, but a terrifying arcane ritual called the Ring of Fire reveals their true natures as well as their critical roles in a looming and potentially deadly otherworldly conflict. Powered by sharp characterizations and an almost dreamlike narrative, this amalgam of fantasy, horror and romance—first in a projected series—will strongly appeal to paranormal fantasy enthusiasts, particularly fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga, which, coincidentally, also takes place in the wilds of the Northwest. Discerning readers will appreciate Smith's subtle use of symbolism and imagery throughout. Ages 15-up." (Oct.)

Finding Magic by Tanya Huff (ISFiC): "This collection of 17 short stories by popular fantasy author Huff (the Smoke trilogy) celebrates an author praised for smart, funny dialogue, memorable characters and an optimism that's never naïve. The wise heroes of “I Knew a Guy Once” and “Slow Poison” know that even the most difficult goals—whether improving morale on a remote space mining station or defeating a brutal warlord—can be achieved with perseverance and patience. Traditional fantasy clashes hilariously with the contemporary world in “He Said, Sidhe Said” (a retelling of the old Scottish ballad of Tam Lin) and “Jack” (revisiting Jack and the beanstalk), while a Girl Guide leader faces a real challenge with her latest crop of Brownies in “Tuesday Evening, Six Thirty to Seven.” Several stories revisit familiar settings, including “After School Specials” (set in the world of Smoke and Shadows), “Not That Kind of War” (a prequel to the Valor series) and three stories—”The Demon's Den,” “Brock” and “All the Ages of Man”—set in Huff's friend Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar world. An essay on Huff's work by Erica L. Neely rounds out this highly entertaining volume." (Nov.)

The Duppy by Anthony C. Winkler (Akashic): "Jamaican-born novelist Winkler recounts the journey of Taddeus Augustus Baps, a 47-year old Jamaican man who becomes a “duppy,” or spirit, after he dies. Shocked by his unexpected death, Baps discovershe's unable to touch anything earthly and quickly surmises his new status will enable him to “overhear scandal and rumor, eavesdrop on backbiting and tale-telling” and witness men “grind” on their housekeepers. . . Winkler (Dog War) earns a lot of chuckles as he pokes fun at cultural stereotypes and the afterlife." (Mar.)

Succubus on Top by Richelle Mead (Kensington): "When a demon succubus falls for a mortal man, their relationship faces some sticky sweet obstacles in Mead's follow-up to her steamy 2006 paranormal debut, Succubus Blues. By day, shape-shifting beauty Letha, aka Georgina Kincaid, works at a Seattle bookstore; by night, in flagrante, she sucks the life energies of mortals. . . It's hard to suspend disbelief, but this urban sextacular is a hoot." (Jan.)

Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove (Roc): "Turtledove explores the mythical lost continent of Atlantis in this somewhat formulaic alternate history, the first volume of a planned trilogy revolving around the colonization of the legendary island. . . Featuring Turtledove's trademark multithread narrative and realistic depiction of warfare and its aftermath, the predictable story is disappointing; readers hoping to find Atlantis full of advanced civilizations or mythical creatures will have to settle for oversized, flightless birds, miles of undeveloped wilderness and the inevitable struggle between settlers from opposing countries." (Dec.)

Reader and Raelynx by Sharon Shinn (Ace): "At the start of Shinn's exciting fourth Twelve Houses fantasy (after 2006's Dark Moon Defender), King Baryn decides it's time to marry off his daughter, Amalie, given the precarious political situation in Gillengaria. . . Intrigue, love and magic weave into Shinn's hallmark romantic, happy-ever-after ending." (Nov.)

The Third Lynx by Timothy Zahn (Tor): "This gripping sequel to 2006's Night Train to Rigel takes hardboiled intelligence operative Frank Compton and his winsome assistant, Bayta, in search of an archeological relic. They hope to protect it from the Modhri, an alien group mind who needs it for a sinister plan that could lead to galactic war. . . Memorable characters such as Compton and Batya's wise Bellido ally, Korak Fayr; the growing intimacy between the pair; and loving details of the almost-plausible Quadrail technology lift this SF action thriller." (Nov.)

Reserved for the Cat: The Elemental Masters, Book Five by Mercedes Lackey (DAW): "A fantastic cat-and-mouse game among a shape-changing troll, Elemental Masters and a gifted dancer in Victorian England makes Lackey's latest Elemental Masters installment (after 2005's The Wizard of London) a charmer. . . This is Lackey at her best, mixing whimsy and magic with a fast-paced plot." (Nov.)

Ice, Iron and Gold by S.M. Stirling (Nightshade): "Stirling (The Sunrise Lands) shows off his prowess in both alternate history and military SF with his first short story collection. . . While the lack of thematic scope will limit the collection's potential audience, fans of David Drake, Harry Turtledove and Eric Flint will find Stirling's short fiction both meticulously researched and compelling." (Nov.)

The Haunted Forest Tour by James A. Moore and Jeff Strand (Earthling): "Underplotted and overstuffed with grisly mayhem, this extreme horror extravaganza unfolds like an exhibit at the supernatural theme park in which it's set. . . A belated plot thread concerning a businessman's deal with the monsters sealed with the sacrifice of human lives only underscores how much this story is intended primarily to be a simple bloody monster mash." (Nov.) [La Gringa notes: At $45 for little over 250 pages, they may Earthling may have doomed this book before it even launches.]

The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair (Bantam): "From its tongue-in-cheek title to its melding of romance and zombie-killing action, there's little in Sinclair's newest sci-fi romance (following Games of Command) that doesn't surprise, grip or entertain. . . Though it may prove too light for sci-fi enthusiasts, fans of romance and fantasy hunting for edgier fare can stop singing the blues." (Dec.)

Lord of the Night by Robin T. Popp (Grand Central): "Since vampires murdered her parents, Kacie Renault has sworn to slay any that cross her path. After casually dispatching a bloodsucker in her father's town of Hocksley, England, Kacie is surprised to find that she's become the target of a deadly vengeance campaign organized by the dead vampire's powerful family. . . The third entry in Popp's Night Slayer series (following Tempted in the Night) bristles with action; Popp's ability to keep tension crackling and sensuality palpable while crafting a twisty, satisfying story justifies her growing popularity among fans of paranormal romance." (Dec.)


Katie said...

I'm really looking forward to reading Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith. It looks like a good one.

Jeff Strand said...

Earthling Publications does high-end hardcover limited editions that are largely aimed at the collector's market. So while your average reader will quite understandably say "$45?!? Are they out of their freakin' mind?!? It's pure madness! Madness, I say!" there's actually a small-but-rabid audience for these things (THE HAUNTED FOREST TOUR is limited to 500 copies, not including the long-sold-out $250 version).