Sunday, December 2, 2007

Publishers Weekly genre review round-up
(December 3rd issue)

An early look at tomorrow's PW genre review. Some exciting stuff: a new collection of Phillip José Farmer, a new Alan Moore, and my good pal Dave Keck gets another swell review for his sequel to In the Eye of Heaven. ( ::: claps hands ::: )
Venus on the Half-Shell and Others by Philip José Farmer (Subterranean): * Starred Review * "Farmer appends his own name at last to his stories written under pen names borrowed from other authors' characters, most famously Venus on the Half-Shell, a novel allegedly by Kurt Vonnegut's fictional science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout. As Harry Manders, created by E.W. Horning, Farmer pens the suspenseful “The Problem of the Sore Bridge—Among Others.” As Rex Stout's psychologically and physically maimed Paul Chapin, he offers the violent “The Volcano.” A story by Harlan Ellison's Cordwainer Bird, “The Last Rise of Nick Adams,” discloses that Bird was related to Farmerian heroes the Shadow and the Spider. Finally, after demonstrating how Tarzan might have sounded had he been written by William S. rather than Edgar Rice, Farmer dons the mantle of Conan Doyle's Dr. Watson and introduces Tarzan to Holmes in “The Adventure of the Peerless Peer.” Only a writer as mature as Farmer could have pulled this stunt off so successfully." (Feb.)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill (DC/America's Best Comics): * Starred Review * "After several delays, the latest installment of Moore's pastiche of public domain literary figures is finally here and it's worth the wait. In 1958, two mysterious figures steal the Black Dossier, a compendium of information and articles relating to the league's most renowned incarnation, the group headed by the intrepid Mina Murray. The theft launches a tense chase as the thieves fight to stay one step ahead of thuggish government agents while reading the contents of the dossier, pieces that shed light on centuries-worth of secret and bizarre intrigues. Moore and O'Neill are in top form, crafting a virtually flawless fusion of prose and visuals that's an overwhelmingly dense and exhaustive nod to pre-existing works in media ranging from literature, legends, television and film, teasing the reader in the know with appearances by Orwellian totalitarianism, Lovecraftian abominations, Jeeves and Wooster, Bulldog Drummond, Ian Fleming's famed “double-o” operative, lusty Fanny Hill and a host of others, capped with a section requiring 3-D glasses (included). Too loaded with content to be fully absorbed in one reading, this is a challenging, adult volume that's a delight for fans of pop culture and lovers of heroic adventure." (Nov.)

The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison (Eos): "Red-headed witch Rachel Morgan has a demon after her, but that's just one of her many troubles in this action-packed sixth installment of Harrison's Hollows series (after 2007's For a Few Demons More). A nice guy might be moving into Rachel's town and life, but she's still getting over her last boyfriend, whose murder she has yet to solve. Elf politician Trent Kalamack wants her to go to the ever-after on a dangerous mission. Rynn Cormel, Cincinnati's new master vampire and ex-leader of the free world, is interfering in her life. Her friend, former demon familiar Ceri, is unexpectedly pregnant, by an unexpected partner. On top of all this, Rachel worries she may have had a too close encounter with a vampire and soon becomes concerned about her own abilities with demon magic. With the help of her feisty mother, Alice, and her pixy partner, Jenks, Rachel boldly tackles every challenge amid a cascade of plot twists that will delight Harrison's fans." 9-city author tour. (Mar.)

Seekers of the Chalice by Brian Cullen (Tor): "Cullen's freshman effort, the first in a fantasy trilogy loosely based on the ancient Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, fails to do justice to its inspiration. When Bricriu Poisontongue is tricked into falling into a dung heap, he retaliates by stealing the Chalice of the Just. This opens the Great Rift, setting evil free from the Otherworld. Handsome Cumac, son of the mortal hero Cucullen and the love goddess Fand, is sent to Earth to regain the chalice. Cumac searches for Bricriu, gaining renown and a band of Otherworldly heroes along the way. Bricriu must content himself with the company of a hag who, bemoaning her lost beauty, sings: “But now, my bony arms/ Are not worthy of my charms/ And I do not any longer seek/ Youths to favor with my charms.” Though former literature professor Cullen has an obvious understanding and love of myth and legend, his characters feel flat, their motivations petty and their adventures repetitive and predictable." (Feb.)

Tracing the Shadow: Book One of the Alchymist's Legacy by Sarah Ash (Bantam Spectra): "Despite a rocky start, Ash's new series, set in the world of her Tears of Artamon trilogy (Lord of Snow and Shadows, etc.), promises to grow into a compelling saga. When Alois Visant, Francia's head Inquisitor, accuses the entire College of Thaumaturgy of practicing magic, only two survive the purge: Linnaius, King Gobain's trusted “alchymist,” and his apprentice, Rieuk Mordiern. Rieuk joins a secret band of mages, only to find their leader, Arkhan, intends to turn him into a weapon to drive the Francians out of neighboring Ondhessar by stealing or discharging the four superpowerful aethyr crystals known as the Angelstones. Meanwhile, Linnaius takes the Vox Aethyria, a radiolike invention that uses magical crystals to transmit voices, to rival nation Tielen. With the multitude of characters now in place, Ash may be able to pull things together for the next installment, but the complex plot and political setting will leave some readers struggling." (Feb.)

In a Time of Treason by David Keck (Tor): "Equal parts historical fiction and epic medieval fantasy, the second volume of Keck's trilogy (after 2006's In the Eye of Heaven) finds heroic liegeman Durand Col and his liege, Lord Lamoric, invited to the court of King Ragnal to reaffirm their homage oaths along with other noblemen. They get there late, only to find that the paranoid ruler has imprisoned the earlier arrivals and begun a bloody campaign to eradicate traitors. Fleeing, Col finds himself once again battling the opportunistic duke of Yrlac, but the greatest treason of all is perhaps Col's hopeless love for Lamoric's wife. Combining meticulous detail and grand-scale storytelling, Col's mud-covered, flea-ridden adventure succeeds in large part by avoiding the conventions and clichés that doom so many comparable fantasy epics to mediocrity. The less than satisfying ending, however, isn't so much a conclusion as a pause before what should be a momentous third and final novel." (Feb.)

The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason (Signet Eclipse): "Gleason's latest in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles picks up a year after Rises the Night. Victoria Gardella is mourning her husband, Lord Rockley, and eager to get back to work as a venator. She becomes aware of a plot by the demon Akvan to break through the Door of the Alchemists and steal valuable secrets that will bring him to full power. Complicating matters is the return of venator Maximilian Pesaro, still in thrall to Lilith and determined to break free. Sebastian Vioget, ally of both Victoria and his vampire grandfather Beauregard, has a secret that will change the balance of power. And all three, none of whom trust each other very much, must band together to stop Akvan. The chemistry between Sebastian and Victoria is palpable, and Max is given a level of depth lacking in previous installments. Gleason, who ends the book on a cliffhanger, is really on a roll." (Feb.)

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