Sunday, December 9, 2007

Publishers Weekly genre review round-up
(December 10th issue)

Sneak peak at Monday's genre reviews. Enjoy!
The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury (Subterranean): * Starred Review * "A half century after its initial appearance, Bradbury’s fourth published book remains vivid and memorable. The original table of contents is restored (under Joe Mugnaini’s iconic original cover art), with Bradbury’s familiar and characteristically wistful, dreamy fantasy, such as “The April Witch,” a haunting tale of teenage dream-traveler Cecy and her desperate desire for romance, mingling with brilliant science fiction like the title story and the widely reprinted “A Sound of Thunder.” A few pieces have not aged so well, such as “The Big Black and White Game,” a clumsy discussion of race that was bold for its time but does little for the modern reader, but they’re well balanced by the inclusion of two charming short plays: “The Fog Horn,” an incomplete radio play that inspired the iconic if maladapted film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and “En la Noche,” which succeeds on page or stage, like most Bradbury, as a story of human sensitivities." (Feb.)

Duma Key by Stephen King (Scribner): "In bestseller King’s well-crafted tale of possession and redemption, Edgar Freemantle, a successful Minnesota contractor, barely survives after the Dodge Ram he’s driving collides with a 12-story crane on a job site. While Freemantle suffers the loss of an arm and a fractured skull, among other serious injuries, he makes impressive gains in rehabilitation. Personality changes that include uncontrollable rages, however, hasten the end of his 20-year-plus marriage. On his psychiatrist’s advice, Freemantle decides to start anew on a remote island in the Florida Keys. To his astonishment, he becomes consumed with making art—first pencil sketches, then paintings—that soon earns him a devoted following. Freemantle’s artwork has the power both to destroy life and to cure ailments, but soon the Lovecraftian menace that haunts Duma Key begins to assert itself and torment those dear to him. The transition from the initial psychological suspense to the supernatural may disappoint some, but even those few who haven’t read King (Lisey’s Story) should appreciate his ability to create fully realized characters and conjure horrors that are purely manmade." (Jan. 22)

The Undead Kama Sutra by Mario Acevedo (Eos): "Setting the stage for Felix Gomez’s hard-boiled third adventure (after 2007’s X-Rated Bloodsuckers), a dying alien tells the vampire PI to “find Goodman” and “save the Earth women.” Felix is already on a case, collecting pages of a manuscript called The Undead Kama Sutra that supposedly shows how to increase a vampire’s psychic energies and healing abilities through sex. The search has led Felix to the Florida Keys and researcher Carmen Arellano. After a guest at a vampire resort dies by alien energy blaster, Felix and Carmen track down the mysterious Goodman, a retired army colonel somehow connected to the disappearance of three other women. When Carmen is kidnapped by aliens, Felix must save the day. Curiously low on sex given the title and the example of previous volumes, the story collapses in a deus ex machina that may leave even Acevedo’s fans less than eager for Felix’s next escapade." (Mar.)

Singularity’s Ring by Paul Melko (Tor): "This superior debut initially resembles a straightforward YA adventure but abruptly veers into much stranger territory. Various factions struggle for control of the Ring, a colossal space station built around Earth by engineers who turned most of humankind into a group mind called the Community, which promptly figured out how to access other realities and vanished from this one. The few remaining humans genetically engineer their children to form “pods” of individuals so closely bonded that they function as one person. After stumbling on secret research during a training exercise, the teenage pod called Apollo Papadopulos soon find themselves on the run from shadowy forces who want to seduce or kill them. The setting extends from Earth orbit to the Amazon jungle, and the action ranges from a tense space rescue to an almost idyllic trek through the Rockies with a family of genetically altered bears. Though some loose plot ends dangle a bit, the ingenious character development and startling images and ideas are deeply satisfying." (Feb.)

Reaper’s Gale: Book Seven of the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson (Tor): "In this bloody and dour seventh entry in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series (after 2006’s The Bonehunters), the Letherii empire is under siege from within and without. The Tiste Edur uneasily rule the Empire of Lether, against the will of the Letherii people. Several factions in Lether seek to overthrow Rhulad, the emperor of a Thousand Deaths, who “is quite probably insane” and sinks further into madness every time he dies in combat and his sword resurrects him. Two forces also threaten Lether from the outside: the tribal Awl, led by the brutal warrior Redmask, force a confrontation, while a flotilla from the Malazan Empire sails toward the Letherii capital. The plethora of characters, attacks and counterattacks, hidden schemes and battling gods will mostly appeal to serious fans of brutal and complex epics, at least those who have fortified themselves by reading the earlier books." (Feb.)

The Other Teddy Roosevelts by Mike Resnick (Subterranean): "Comprising seven of Resnick’s alternate historical tales of Theodore Roosevelt, this slim collection easily takes the prize for narrow selection criteria. The best-known story is “Bully!” nominated for multiple awards following its 1991 publication, while the two most entertaining are arguably the two most recently written: 2001’s “Redchapel” and 2007’s “Two Hunters in Manhattan,” which respectively pit Roosevelt against Jack the Ripper and a vampiric New York crime lord. “The Bull Moose at Bay,” “Bully!” and “Over There” all find Roosevelt in futile and rather unflattering opposition to the forces of history, and “The Light That Blinds, the Claws That Catch” serves as an oddly ambivalent coda. A choppy appendix of Roosevelt facts and anecdotes largely copies from the smoother, more concisely biographical introduction. Those with special interest in Roosevelt or Resnick (Santiago) will find the collection well packaged, but for general readers, there isn’t enough material to justify the high price." (Feb.)

The Dragon’s Nine Sons: A Novel of the Celestial Empire by Chris Roberson (Solaris): "Roberson’s latest (after Set the Seas on Fire) takes a standard Dirty Dozen plot that contrasts awkwardly with its ornate Chinese vs. Aztec interplanetary milieu. Two of the Dragon Empire’s dissident officers, space captain Zhuan Jie and troop commander (or “bannerman”) Yao Guanzhong, are tapped to infiltrate and destroy an enemy asteroid base. But before they can blow up the rock, they must first master their squadron of outcasts and improvise the rescue of dozens of prisoners marked for blood sacrifice. Cogently choreographed action and vividly drawn opposing cultures are intriguing (for instance, Mexica spacecraft are hardwired to work only when primed with human blood) but Roberson’s subtly distant tone, heavy-handed foreshadowing and narrow focus leave readers struggling to properly grasp the larger conflict. Tight, fully resolved character arcs leave few direct openings for the epic series the book supposedly begins. There’s potential here, but little polish and less context." (Feb.)

Dead Perfect by Amanda Ashley (Zebra): "When Shannah, dying of an obscure, incurable disease, passes out on the stoop of Ronan, who is a vampire, two birds are killed with one stone: Ronan moonlights as a romance author and needs a woman to pretend to be him on tours (especially during the daylight hours); Shannah needs Ronan’s blood to stay alive. As he coaches her to impersonate him and feeds her, Ronan falls more and more in love. And with each passing day, Shannah’s body grows weaker, but she resists being turned into a vampire because she doesn’t want to lose her humanity entirely. It’s the age-old vampire-human dilemma, given a clever and funny turn by Night’s Touch author Ashley." (Feb.)

Ghost of a Chance by Kate Marsh (Obsidian): "Part-human, part-otherworldly exorcist Karma Marx agrees to clear her oily human husband Spider’s haunted house in exchange for an uncontested divorce. At the house on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, she finds a poltergeist cop named Adam who claims that he, rather than Spider, owns the house; a psychic, Savannah; a bunch of imps who keep turning up, and many other denizens—almost all of whom have a reason to hate Spider. When he’s found dead, suspects abound; thanks to a seal that Adam places on the house, everyone is trapped for 12 hours, during which Karma and Adam are determined to identify the killer. Marsh (as Katie McAlister, author of The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires) throws in a bit of a twist at the end, but despite lots of noisy activity, the investigation often plods." (Feb.)

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