Thursday, January 29, 2009

Forthcoming 2009: Quarter 2

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Usually early in whatever quarter of the year we're in I like to take a look at the Locus list of books coming out in the next quarter. I just like to see what's coming out that I should keep an eye out for. It's about that time. So, here's what I think looks good in the second quarter of 2009. Obviously, publishing schedules can and do change.

April
The God Engine, by John Scalzi: New Scalzi, and a novella? Yeah, I've gotta get me some of that. (Regarding Henry? Witness?)

The Revolution Business, by Charles Stross: I am seldom enthused about Stross's fiction, but I'd be happy with another half dozen more of this series.


May
Federations, by John Joseph Adams (editor): I like JJA's work as an anthologist, so there's no way I'm missing this one.

The City & the City, by China Mieville: Hey, it's new Mieville. I'm not sure I really care what it is about. It's worth a look.

Night of Knives, by Ian Cameron Esslemont: New Malazan from the other guy who created the world.

Son of Retro Pulp Tales, by Joe R. Lansdale (editor): First one was good, time for more.

World's End, by Mark Chadbourn: I know nothing, but I think this is going to be one of the major US releases of the year - along with the rest of Chadbourn's novels coming out in 2009.


June
Well...nothing. Joe Abercrombie's book is UK only, and nothing else really interests me.

Here's my Q1 list for 2009.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Companion to Wolves, by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear

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A Companion to Wolves
Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
Tor: 2007

There is no good reason why I avoided A Companion to Wolves for so long, except that the idea of “companion animal fantasy”, even one which twists the sub-genre as much as this novel was reported to have done, simply did not sound appealing. Even so, A Companion to Wolves is co-written by Elizabeth Bear, so there is only so long I could put off reading it.
I should never have waited so long.

A Companion to Wolves is set on a cold, low tech world. Men live in towns ruled by their Lords, but the towns are in constant peril from trolls and wyverns. Protecting the towns are the wolfcarls, men bonded to wolves who form the first and last line of defense for the towns. This is a harsh land. Towns are called on to tithe a number of their young men to join the wolfcarls, but the lord of Nithogsfjoll orders his children to stay behind closed doors when Hrolleif comes for tithe. Njall disobeys his father and inadvertently comes to the attention of Hrolleif, and then defies his father further by honoring the tithe and travelling to the wolfheall to see if he might bond a wolf.

One of the primary concerns of Gunnarr, Lord of Nithosgfjoll, is that his son will bond a female wolf and thus have to “lay down” for all the men of the hall when it is time for the wolves to mate (and, as far as Gunnarr knows, all the time). Gunnarr may have some of the mechanics correct, he has missed the soul of the wolfheall by a mile.

There would not be much of a story of Njall does not bond to a wolf. He bonds the konigenwolf pup Viradechtis. A konigenwolf is a dominant female wolf. They are rare and destined to be the leader of their pack. This means that Njall, now called Isolf, will be the brother to the wolfpack leader, and the human mate to the male wolf which mates with Viradechtis. It’s a little complicated, but makes perfect sense as Monette and Bear tell the story. The short explanation is that the konigenwolf is the dominant wolf and leads the wolves of the pack. The human male who is brother (bonded to) to the male wolf that mates with the konigenwolf is the human leader of the wolfheall. Trust me, it makes sense.

The wolfheall is, mostly, an alpha male society and A Companion to Wolves is extremely male heavy. The warrior society of this harsh, cold land necessitates this fact.

This may be part of what was my initial turnoff which led me to avoid A Companion to Wolves for almost two years – the whole “gay companion animal novel” thing, though to be fair, if a novel could be described as a “hetero companion animal novel”, I wouldn’t want to read that one either. The thing is, such a limiting description is unfair and inaccurate. Oh, Gunnarr’s fears are partially correct, but at the same time everything fits the world which Monette and Bear have created. Nothing feels forced, and as Isolfr tries to feel his way, the reader gets the same introduction as Isolfr.

The expectation with all the alpha-maleness would be that A Companion to Wolves would be overwhelmed with hard-headed, harsh maleness. Arrogance. The wolfheall has some of that, but these men all need to live, work, and fight with each other in close quarters. There are friendships, and within the friendships there is a surprising tenderness.

Most surprising is just how sexy a novel A Companion to Wolves is. I’ve no clue what the intentions of Monette and Bear were in this regards, but several passages were hot and touching (at the same time), others were painful, but my reaction upon coming to the conclusion was that there was a good deal of sexiness to the situation and storytelling. For all the brutality that A Companion to Wolves contains, and given the role of the wolfheall in protecting the towns there is a lot, there is tenderness, grace, and beauty to be found within these pages.

This novel, which I avoided reading for so long, is easily one of the best novels I will have read this month, and even though it is only January, I expect it will be one of the best novels I will have read in all of 2009. It’s damn good.


It is also worth noting, now that I hopefully have talked everyone into reading this damn fine book, that Monette and Bear have just recently sold two sequels to A Companion to Wolves. When I first read that post I wasn't too excited, beyond the fact that I like Bear's work and don't want her to starve, but now that I've actually read the first book....ohhhh yeah. Bring them on! I have only the vaguest guess as to what An Apprentice to Elves might be about, and I would guess that A Reckoning of Men would suggest that bad things are to come (which is good for the reader), but I really don't know.

It's okay. I can wait.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Deathtroopers Cover = awesome.

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Okay, so I generally don’t post about cover art, but the cover of Joe Schreiber’s forthcoming Star Wars horror novel Deathtroopers is awesomely awesome.

Monday, January 26, 2009

British Science Fiction Award Nominees

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(via Torque Control)


Best Novel
Flood by Stephen Baxter
The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod
Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Best Short Fiction
“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse 2)
Crystal Nights” by Greg Egan (Interzone 215)
Little Lost Robot” by Paul McAuley (Interzone 217)
“Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment” by M. Rickert (F&SF, Oct/Nov 2008)

I’m not sure, exactly, how much I care about this award. I’ve got all my interest wrapped up in the Trifecta of the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy, but it’s worth noting anyway. Besides, I’ve been half-heartedly meaning to read The Gone-Away World for a while now.

I’ll for sure read the short stories, if I can find copies of them all (my library doesn’t have Eclipse Two yet, for some reason). Not sure about all four novels.

-And for the sake of superficial gender examination, there are eight fiction nominees. Only one is written by a woman (Mary Rickert). I don’t know how this award tracks historically.


(I'd have linked to the M. Rickert story, but it seems to connect to a page which you need to sign up for some publication thingy to read, and I'm not overly excited about that and nor do I want to support it. If there are any direct links to the story, I'd still love to read it)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, by David Petersen

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Okay, so I'm not quite sure how to talk about graphic novels, but I finished Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 the other day and I had to post something about it.

David Petersen takes the premise that there is the whole culture of mice society that exists hidden from the rest of the world. Protecting the mice as they travel paths between their cities and towns are the Mouse Guard - the elite of the mice.

The Guard patrol borders, find safeways and paths through dangerous territories and treacherous terrain, watch weather patterns, and keep the mouse territories free of predatory infestation. They do so with fearless dedication so that they might not just exist, but truly live.

Fall 1152 features three Guardsmice (Saxon, Kenzie, Lieam) who begin the novel searching for a missing mouse and end up as part of a larger problem facing the Guard.
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 is filled with narrative tension, a great story, and quality art.

In short, David Petersen told a story I could completely get into and want more from.

Even better, there's going to be a Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 and then a book on Black Axe (Which will make sense after you've read Fall 1152)

And, because enough is never enough, what I really want to know is what happens in the 856 years between 1152 and today.

Basically, Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 is awesome.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fathom, by Cherie Priest

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Fathom
Cherie Priest
Tor: 2008


The latest novel from Cherie Priest is a break from her three previous Eden Moore southern gothic tales of the supernatural set in eastern Tennessee. Fathom brings the action farther south, deep into Florida and set back in the 1930’s. I want to include Cherie Priest’s description for Fathom because it is far more intriguing and interesting than what I could come up with:

Basically, this is a story about an ageless water elemental with a plot to bring old gods back to glory, and exterminate the human race while she's at it. But humanity has a few surprise allies hidden between the cracks, including a decomposing patron of the earth and his minion -- a girl who was saved from certain death by being turned to stone.

[...]

Anyway, there you have it. Sea monsters, pirates, teenaged girls turned into stone, and a plot to destroy the world in order to replace it with something stranger, and worse. It's water and fire, myth and mystery. It's urban legend (rural legend?) with a dash of the archetypal and terrible.

See? Who wouldn’t want to read that? Even had I not read and loved her three Eden Moore novels, that’s a good tease for Fathom.

When a writer who has only published one particular series decides to write a completely unrelated novel there is a bit of a risk for the reader. What if the writer can only do the one thing really well and the new novel isn’t nearly as good? This is a valid fear for a reader. After all, who has time for crappy novels? Outside of the limited edition Dreadful Skin, Fathom marks Cherie Priest’s first venture outside the world of Eden Moore. Should the reader fear?

No.

Fathom cements the fact that readers should trust Cherie Priest to deliver a truly outstanding novel, one which is smoothly readable and accessible while telling a dark supernatural story set in America’s past. Readers should trust Cherie Priest because wherever she chooses to take them, the ride will be more than worth it.

Fathom is the story of Bernice and Nia, cousins who become far more when an act of violence (plus a water witch and an earth monster) remakes each girl into something both more and less than human. Both the water witch and the earth monster (for lack of better terms) changed the girls for their own purposes and they set the girls on an inevitable path of conflict. One girl to destroy the world, the other to save it.

Cherie Priest tells a beautiful, haunting, deadly, enthralling, exciting story with Fathom.

When I wrote up my list of the best novels published in 2008 I left a spot for the really great novel which I just didn’t have the chance to read in 2008. I know there is another novel I am reading right now which also deserves a spot on the list, but there is no question that Fathom is one of the ten best novels published in 2008. As good as Not Flesh Nor Feathers was (and it was really, really good), Fathom is just as good. If you’re not reading Cherie Priest, you should be.


Reading copy provided courtesy of Tor Books

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Soldiers Live, by Glen Cook

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Soldiers Live
Glen Cook
Tor: 2000


Though there are two more Black Company novels rumored to be on the horizon, Soldiers Live is currently the final novel of the Black Company. Soldiers Live does not exactly bring everything full circle. The Company is about the intermingling of tradition and change, of past and present. Soldiers Live embodies this idea. When Glen Cook first published The Black Company he created a distinct cast of characters who comprised the core of the Company: Captain, Croaker, One Eye, Goblin, Elmo, Lieutenant, the Captain, Silent. Through these characters, and others, Glen Cook built the identity of the Company. The Black Company was a mercenary company, though. They were always at war in the employ of somebody, at least in the opening volumes of the series. In war, people die. Soldiers die. The original cast, which I am quite sure was beloved by many fans, was depleted. The Black Company was a mercenary company and when one soldier falls another soldier steps into his (or her) place. Over the years, over the eight previous novels (plus an offshoot novel), the overall cast of the Company has changed.

After being on the back burner for the previous four novels (for a variety of reasons the last four novels have been narrated by Lady, Murgen, and Sleepy), Croaker is back as the Annalist of the Black Company. Croaker was the original narrator of the series back when he was Annalist and medic. Glen Cook’s vision of the series, his storytelling, is strongest when Croaker narrates.

Soldiers Live picks up several years after the conclusion of Water Sleeps. The Company is building their strength in a world behind a Shadowgate, the world where the Nyueng Bao likely originated from. They intend (and do) return to their own world to finish their fight against Soulcatcher, Mogaba, the Daughter of Night (the long ago kidnapped of Croaker and Lady), and Narayan Singh (the one who kidnapped the kid), and to finally stop the Goddess Kina from returning and bringing about the world destroying Year of the Skulls. Soldiers Live is a novel of conclusions, of endings. For Croaker the story is personal. The most important aspect is that it is his daughter in question, the one he never had a chance to meet because of Narayan Singh. The other important part of the novel, for Croaker and for longtime fans, is that Soldiers Live gives the first glimpse of Khatovar. The Black Company is known as the last Free Company of Khatovar, though nobody knows what that means anymore given that it has been 500 years since the Black Company left Khatovar. Khatovar has long been an obsession of Croaker’s. What Glen Cook shows the readers is not at all what might be expected, and yet it is more poignant and powerful because of that surprise.

Glen Cook resolves all of the major plot threads that had been left dangling for several volumes, but he does so in a way that feels like this is the way the stories should tie together, that he isn’t just jamming everything in to satisfy the patient reader. After ten volumes Glen Cook cannot possibly make Soldiers Live feel completely fresh, but one thing that Cook has done a good job of (even when a couple of the books kind of sucked) was making sure that he does not simply tell the same story over and over. Croaker has changed over the years. Lady has changed. Soulcatcher has not (interestingly enough). The Black Company itself, under command of Sleepy, has drastically changed and by the end of Soldiers Live the readers sees that change will not cease. The Company at the end of the novel is not the Company we were first introduced to. This is perhaps Cook’s greatest accomplishment with The Chronicles of the Black Company, that he constantly shakes up the status quo and is not afraid to take chances.

While coming back to Croaker could be viewed as a chance to capture what made the series so great to begin with (Murgen’s two volumes really were a mess), it was an appropriate choice. It was a chance to bring the narration full circle and through the much older eyes of Croaker, show the changes that have taken place. Sleep or Suvrin would not able to show the contrast nearly as well as Croaker. Between Water Sleeps and Soldiers Live, Glen Cook has given The Black Company a fitting send off. He has Croaker repeat throughout the novel “Soldiers Live. And wonder why” as a bit of a mantra, of sorrow and question, and of acceptance that frequently the characters will never know the reason why things occurred. They just get on with their job.

That is Soldiers Live.

If there really will be two more novels of the Black Company I will welcome them. If not, Soldiers Live is a very good way to say goodbye. Nearly everything that needed to be addressed in the novel and the series was addressed, or at least touched on.

It was worth the journey.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Alembical, edited by Lawrence M. Schoen and Arthur Dorrance

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I've covered each of the four stories in Alembical in previous posts.

"America, Such as She Is", by Jay Lake
"13 Miles to Paradise!", by Bruce Taylor
"Harvest", by James Van Pelt
"Now You See Us", by Ray Vukcevich

This is a bit of a wrap up post, not too much of a review. At this point clicking on the story links will be more informative than anything I could repeat here.

So, here's the short version. There are two stories (out of four) which are quite good - the Jay Lake and the James Van Pelt. I swear this has nothing to do with the fact that both writers share my first initial. "America, Such as She Is" is exceptionally strong and I hope to see it on Award ballots over the next year. It's really that good and I feel strongly about the story. "Harvest" is a strong second-best.

After that, there's a bit of a drop off. I believe that some readers would completely disagree with my assessment and would think Bruce Taylor's story was the strongest, or even "Now You See Us". The fact that I think those readers are wrong does nothing to deny that possibility. Each story in Alembical is well written and competent. I believe that two of the stories rise above well written and competent, and one of those two achieves something greater all together.

The fact is that with Alembical you have 78 pages of excellent fiction that I do recommend. You also have 72 pages of fiction which I cannot recommend, though which could also be considered well written and competent. Think about your average collection or anthology. If more than half of the content of the anthology or collection is worth recommending, you've probably hit on a fairly solid anthology. Alembical fits that bill. For Jay Lake's story alone, I would recommend finding a copy of the anthology. For fans of novellas, I'd recommend finding a copy. The editors here made a point to publish novellas, the longer length story which can be more difficult to find a home for in magazines. Alembical is not the best thing since sliced bread, but Mr. Lake's story shines. Mr. Van Pelt's story is also worth getting a hold of. It's a solid anthology of four original novellas.


Reading copy provided courtesy of Paper Golem.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Uptown Girl: Begin the Begin

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I am not quite sure where I first heard of the Uptown Girl comics. Can't even speculate. Here's what I do know: I requested the first collection of Uptown Girl comics, Begin the Begin through my library's interlibrary loan system and I've spent the last week delighting in this strip.

Uptown Girl was first published in Spring 2002 and is a monthly comic written and drawn by Bob Lipski. Set in Minneapolis (in the Uptown neighborhood, even), Uptown Girl tells the story of, well, Uptown Girl and her friends Ruby Tuesday and Rocketman. Uptown Girl is a reporter for City Pages, Ruby Tuesday an artist, and Rocketman...well, he's a very exciteable guy who is something of a professional slacker, but is quite loyal to his friends. Together they get through their days meeting new people, solving problems (like that of Jack and Diane), occasionally dispatching bad guys such as Bad Bad Leroy Brown or Mack the Knife.

It's cute and simple, but a great deal of fun. Appropriate for just about all ages, though slightly older folks will get the obvious (yet still cleverly done) references.

Begin the Begin covers the first twelve issues plus the first annual of the Uptown Girl series. I'll be requesting the subsequent volumes via ILL, but I think I want to buy the volumes myself.

It's really quite good, and a locally drawn comic, which makes it all the cooler. I wish I discovered Uptown Girl before now.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Alembical: "Now You See Us"

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The final story in Alembical is Ray Vukcevich's "Now You See Us".

Here we have the story of Maggie and David. They met at a county fair in Oregon. He was besotted immediately, and she responded but also talked about her theory of how time worked, that Jerry Garcia was "dead now . . . but it won't always be now."

Years later David is off writing a book in Norway, Maggie studying with Time Monks in Finland. Without getting into too much detail, after David's plane crashes just outside his destination he discovers a whole lot of weirdness going on. Maggie loops back into David's story eventually.

The exact nature of the weirdess is undefined until late in the story. In a sense this doesn't matter because for the first half (or so) of the story I was intrigued as to where Vukcevich is bringing the story. How would this time thing work? What was going on in Norway? Vukcevich gets at the answers to these questions.

And yet, despite the fact that Vukcevich has some good ideas, "Now You See Us" never quite comes together in any satisfying way. In the end "Now You See Us" comes across as a bit of a mess. Everything flowed through the end semi-naturally enough, and I can't say exactly what didn't work, except...

"Now You See Us" didn't work.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

graphic novels by women...

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If I plan on reading a bunch of graphic novels this year I want to read as many by women as by men. I mentioned this before, but the bunch I have out from the library are all written by men. Besides skewing the ratios I'm trying to achieve this year, I just want different perspectives, different stories.

After some googling, I came across these links.

From Blogher
.

This is probably the best list I found and will be the most useful. From Comics Worth Reading.

From Time Magazine.

I'm sure there are other sources to find this sort of thing, and I'm more than willing to take recommendations in the comments here (for really good graphic novels in general, and for graphic novels written by women in specific)

Here's what I already have read, am reading, or will read in the near future:
Sandman
After 9/11
Uptown Girl
Transmetropolitan
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight
Angel: After the Fall
Star Wars Legacy
Mouse Guard: 1152
Three Shadows
A People's History of American Empire
Locke and Key
Magician: Apprentice
Dark Wraith of Shannara
Out of Picture: Volume 1
Lost Girls

Not a woman writer in the bunch, and as far as I know, only one woman artist for Lost Girls. I mean to read American Widow at some point from Alissa Torres.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Alembical: "Harvest"

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The third story in Alembical is from James Van Pelt, "Harvest". The story opens with the lines,
I bought Neil Young's Harvest CD on Friday, the day Merle Meecham killed both his parents. It was a mistake.

The narrator goes on to discuss why the mistake was purchasing the CD, not the Meecham boy murdering his parents. The killing almost feels like afterthought, except that the murder puts the reader on alert to stick through the mundanity.

"Harvest" follows Graham (our narrator, first person perspective) and his two friends, Linda and Rachel, as they discuss the killing just like everyone else in school. The friends talk about it and we get a sense of the town and of Merle. Linda is a Christian, Rachel a bit of a pagan with an interest in seances and contacting the dead.

There is not a strong supernatural element to the story, though it does crop up briefly a couple of times.

I wonder if a working knowledge of Neil Young's music and the song "Harvest" in particular would not add an extra layer of resonance to the story. It might. I don't have that knowledge, so i can't say for sure.

Regardless, "Harvest" meanders into Graham doing his own investigation of what happened to Merle and why that boy who was briefly was Graham's friend killed his parents. Everything in the story feels appropriate, that these are things real teenagers might do. "Harvest" comes across as authentic and compelling. Readers will want to know what happens next and readers will care about Graham and his friendships. At least, I did.

Mr. Van Pelt does an excellent job telling this story. It may not quite reach the heights of "America, Such as She Is", but it is easily the second best story in Alembical.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Errata

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I don’t have much to say about it, but I rather liked Jeff VanderMeer’s new story “Errata”. It’s chock full of meta weirdness, but quite good. You can find it over at Tor.com.

Nebula Awards Change Rules

(via Niall)

Sounds like the Nebulas have revised their rules and the changes should help the Nebulas make sense.

The one that makes the most sense to me is, and this is Niall's wording because apparently I can't read rules and figure out what it means (seriously, not being sarcastic)

No more rolling eligibility; the awards are now tied to the calendar year

Now, what I hope this means is that the Nebulas in 2010 will be for the stories published in 2009. I almost called it the 2010 Nebulas, but I think technically that it would be the 2009 Nebulas. I just have problems calling awards which take place in one year by the naming convention of the previous year.

That just sounds stupid, but it's my issue.

Regardless, I believe that this particular change will be a good one.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Alembical: "13 Miles to Paradise!"

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The second story in Alembical is Bruce Taylor's "13 Miles to Paradise!" Coming on the heels of Jay Lake's outstanding "America, Such as She Is", I had very high hopes. Perhaps too high.

"13 Miles to Paradise!" takes the Garnet family on a drive the Paradise Visitor Center at Mt Rainier National Park. Bruce Taylor tells the story by giving each member of the family in the car an inner monologue to get forth everything they are thinking. The father, Mark, starts out and the reader gets the father's anger and the reasons why and through each character shift we learn more about the family.

The first thing that struck me was that Mark's inner monologue was extremely scattered and ran on and on. Yeah, that's what an inner monologue would be, but it wasn't the greatest thing to read. The second thing that struck me was that for the most part Mark's visible anger seemed to have caused every member of the family (wife, son, daughter, mother in law) to become introspective about nearly the exact same thing. Sure, there are character differences and personal introspection, but everybody thinks about the nature of family and the nature of Mark's anger and the influence it may have on the rest of the family, and where it came from.

It seemed too coincidental. Too neat, too perfect. Oh, the family is a bit of a mess, as are all families (I believe), but in the case of "13 Miles to Paradise!" I felt that the characters were only thinking those thoughts because it fit the story that Bruce Taylor wanted to tell and not because it was organic to the story. That's picky, and potentially unfair (though I disagree), but whatever Mr. Taylor attempted, I'm not sure he pulled it off.

On to the next!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Alembical: "America, Such as She Is"

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Alembical is the first volume in what may become a series of novella anthologies from Paper Golem Press. Paper Golem has previously published Prime Codex, a reprint anthology. Alembical features stories from Jay Lake, Bruce Taylor, James Van Pelt, and Ray Vukcevich.

I'll be covering each of the four stories with brief reviews / blog posts.

The first story in Alembical is Jay Lake's "America, Such as She Is", an alternate history which posits that the United States lost World War II when Germany dropped two nuclear bombs on American cities - Portland and Baltimore. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is considered "the last freely elected president of the United States". The United States has become an occupied nation in the aftermath of the war, by Germany in the East and by Japan in the West.

That's what happened. It's not what the story is about.

"America, Such as She Is" is really three stories. Two of the stories are about people, both unnamed. One man traveling up the Pacific coast, stopping at a small town looking for somebody to the north who can help him, though the reader does not know what for. Not initially. He seems to be a drifter, but he's not just that. He is a former soldier, a man with a skill. A woman is a prostitute in a town which may be in the Pacific islands. The location does not truly matter, except that the town is occupied by a Japanese base and through this nameless woman's eyes we see the pain of an occupier. Through this woman's eyes we see that for the locals it does not matter who the occupiers are, only that there are occupiers.

The third story comes out through both the woman and the man, though mostly from the man. Through these storylines, and through excerpts of speeches and newspaper articles, the fallen America becomes a character and becomes a story itself. Jay Lake manages to get across the emotional and economic depression that would surely come from America's defeat and from German and Japanese occupation, and from the eventual (yet natural) co-opting of America by German (read, Nazi) values.

"America, Such as She Is" is perhaps the most realistic alternate history I’ve read. I've had the chance to read a handful (maybe a double handful) of Jay Lake’s fiction and of those stories, this is quite easily his best.

Brutal story. Excellent story.

If this is the opener to Alembical, I have to wonder what the other three stories bring to the table. "America, Such as She Is" is outstanding. If Mr. Lake is ever inclined to write more stories with this settting, or expand the idea into a novel - I'm there. If not, I count myself lucky to had the chance to read this one.

Yeah, I just gushed. This one deserves it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Blogger Book Club: March's Selection

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Alright, I've been thinking about this for a while and since Larry and Fabio put me in charge of the next round of the Blogger Book Club, I've been trying to come up with what the next book should be.

I knew after Camp Concentration and Schismatrix Plus that I definitely wanted to go in another direction. I wanted to touch on gender, race, something more modern.

This may be the obvious choice for me, but I've been wracking my brain for another option that has a bit of distance from today and touches on what I wanted. I'm open to suggestions for when my turn on the book club comes back around. Anyway.

The selection for the March Blogger Book Club is:

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler

We'll do this two months from today, so the Book Club will run March 9 - March 15 (counting the weekend here).

We've got gender, we've got race, we've got post apocalyptic literature. It's only fifteen years old, but I think it is a good choice.

Parable of the Sower was nominated for a Nebula in 1994 for Best Novel (the follow up, Parable of the Talents won the Nebula for Best Novel in 1999)

Friday, January 09, 2009

2009 Nebula Award Nominees: The Long List

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Via the SFWA Website, below is the preliminary ballot for the 2009 Nebula Awards (which, given the weird way the award works is for the 2008 season, which means a fair amount of 2007 fiction. You dig?)

What this means for you, the viewer, is that my Nebula season is about to begin where I read and write about as many of the nominated works as possible. I'm excited. You should be, too. This blog should be a flurry of award activity and posting.

I've already read a small handful of these (two novels, three novelettes, one short story) and I wouldn't be surprised if "The Prophet of Flores" or Territory makes the final ballot (probably Brasyl, too...)

Novels
:
Abraham, Daniel: A Betrayal in Winter (Tor, Jul07)
Barzak, Chris: One for Sorrow (Bantam, Sep07)
Bull, Emma: Territory (Tor, Jul07)
Doctorow, Cory: Little Brother (Tor, Apr08)
Goonan, Kathleen Ann: In War Times (Tor, May07)
Le Guin, Ursula K.: Powers (Harcourt, Sep07)
McDevitt, Jack: Cauldron (Ace, Nov07)
McDonald, Ian: Brasyl (Pyr, May07)
Pratchett, Terry: Making Money (Harper, Sep07)
Rothfuss, Patrick: The Name of the Wind (DAW, Apr07)

Novellas:
Asaro, Catherine: The Spacetime Pool (Analog, Mar08)
Benford, Gregory: Dark Heaven (Alien Crimes, SFBC, Jan07?)
Eskridge, Kelley: Dangerous Space (Dangerous Space, Aqueduct Press, Jun07)
Finlay, Charles Coleman: The Political Prisoner (F&SF, Aug08)

Novelettes:
Bowes, Richard: If Angels Fight (F&SF, Feb08)
Flynn, Michael F. : Quaestiones Super Caelo et Mundo (Analog, Aug07 (Jul/Aug07 issue))
Gardner, James Alan: The Ray-Gun: A Love Story (Asimov's, Feb08)
Goldstein, Lisa: Dark Rooms (Asimov's, Nov07 (Oct/Nov 07 issue))
Kessel, John: Pride and Prometheus (F&SF, Jan08)
Kosmatka, Ted: The Prophet of Flores (Asimov's, Sep07)
Moles, David: Finisterra (F&SF, Dec07)
Sinisalo, Johanna: Baby Doll (The SFWA European Hall of Fame, Tor, Jun07
(trans. from the Finnish by David Hackston))
Wentworth, K.D.: Kaleidoscope (F&SF, May07)

Short Stories:
Allen, Mike: The Button Bin (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, Oct07
(Reprinted in Transcriptase)
Cassutt, Michael: Skull Valley (Asimov's, Nov07 (Oct/Nov 07 issue))
Finch, Sheila: Stranger Than Imagination Can (The Guild of Xenolinguists, Golden
Gryphon Press, Sep07)
Ford, Jeffrey: The Dreaming Wind (Coyote Road, Trickster Tales, Viking Juvenile, Jul07)
Henderson, Samantha: Bottles (Realms of Fantasy, Apr07)
Hobson, M. K.: The Hotel Astarte (Realms of Fantasy, Jun07)
Johnson, Kij: 26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss (Asimov's, Jul08)
Jones, Gwyneth: The Tomb Wife (F&SF, Aug07)
Kelly, James Patrick: Don't Stop (Asimov's, Jun07)
Nestvold, Ruth: Mars: A Traveler's Guide (F&SF, Jan08)
Plante, Brian: The Astronaut (Analog, May07)
Rickert, Mary: Holiday (Subterranean #7, Sep07)
Scholes, Ken: Summer in Paris, Light From the Sky (Clarkesworld Magazine, Nov07)
Van Pelt, James: How Music Begins (Asimov's, Sep07)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

a good year: or, missed a few

Wednesday, January 07, 2009 1
And now that I came up with my list I thought of some stuff that wasn’t on the locus list but I have reason to believe will be published in 2009

The Other Lands, by David Anthony Durham
Scenting the Dark and Other Stories, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Mary's first book - ooh!)
The Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest: I’m pretty sure I’d follow Cherie anywhere, and given that I think this is set in the same world as her wonderful short story “Tanglefoot”, I’m in.

This also brings my list up to the 19 books I initially wanted

Actually, it might be 20 because I think Elizabeth Bear has the sequel to All the Windwracked Stars slated for a fall release. I hope. And if I’m really good, maybe Emma Bull’s Claim (sequel to Territory). And Eclipse Three. And…

Yeah, this’ll be a good year.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

16 Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2009

Tuesday, January 06, 2009 10
Last year I stole this from the Gravel Pit because I thought it was a great idea to look at the titles from the full year to come rather than just what might be interesting in a single quarter. Locus only went up to September, so if I am missing a great title, it is only because I am not aware of it yet.

This list is mostly in order of my interest, but after the first couple it becomes a real jumble. Tis the season for lists and no actual content.


1: A Memory of Light, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (??): Yeah, as if there is a question about this. I've spent the majority of my fantasy reading life with Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time, and even the least of his work has been a joy to read. Whether this is split into two volumes or published as one extraordinarily mammoth volume, A Memory of Light is without a doubt the one book I want to read in 2009 if, for some reason, I would read only one book.

2: A Dance with Dragons, by George R. R. Martin (??): I wrote about this last year and it was the #1 novel I most looked forward to. Here, it is still #2. I believe and hope that 2009 will give us the new George R. R. Martin. If it does then fantasy fans shall rejoice. Or, they should.

3: Best Served Cold, by Joe Abercrombie (July): Mr. Abercrombie may have a slight problem with being placed at number three on any list, but sir, look at your company. I've still only read the first two volumes of The First Law and have the third at home, but it doesn't really matter what Best Served Cold is actually about. I'll read anything Mr. Abercrombie writes.

4: Seven for a Secret, by Elizabeth Bear (March): So, y'all know how I feel about Elizabeth Bear, right?

5: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Three, edited by Jonathan Strahan (March): I thought the second volume was fantastic, I still want to read the first, and I expect this is going to be one of the classics of the field of "Best Of" anthologies. There's no question here.

6: Chasing the Dragon, by Justina Robson (August): A fourth Quantum Gravity novel? Ohhhh yeah! I really have no idea where Robson is going with this series and I find the idea of the broken hero Lila Black fascinating. Sure, there are plenty of broken heroines, but Robson does this one very well.

7: The Revolution Business, by Charles Stross (April): I am seldom enthused about Stross's fiction, but I'd be happy with another half dozen more of this series.

8: The Walls of the Universe, by Paul Melko (February): I thought the short story this novel is based on was excellent, so this is a novel I've been waiting for ever since I heard an inkling it might be real.

9: The City & The City, by China Mieville (May): Hey, it's new Mieville. I'm not sure I really care what it is about. It's worth a look.

10: The City Without End, by Kay Kenyon (February): This is a series improving with each of the first two volumes and Kay Kenyon is proving herself to be a writer who commands attention. And deserves it.

11: The God Engine, by John Scalzi (April): Well, this is on the Locus list, but I'm not seeing it on the SubPress forthcoming catalog. Will it come out in April? I dunno. If it does, or if it comes out in December, a new Scalzi story (a novella, a non-novel length story with a plot!) is worth reading.

12: Steal Across the Sky, by Nancy Kress (February): I've only read a small amount of Kress's work, but I'm at the point that I want to read anything new she publishes all the while I seek out her older work.

13: Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson (June)

14: Federations, edited by John Joseph Adams (May): I like JJA's work as an anthologist, so there's no way I'm missing this one.

15: The Son of Retro Pulp Tales, edited by Joe R. Lansdale (May)

16: The Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch (??): Originally slated for 2008 publication, then early 2009, I don't see The Republic of Thieves on any schedule. As such, if I had any inkling this entry into The Gentlemen Bastards would be published in 2009, it would be much, much higher on the list. Since I don't, it will get an honorary place on the list. I think there is a far better chance of seeing the new George Martin.


To look at a full year, these are the sixteen titles I most look forward to, the titles I would actually want to highlight. Now, I may be missing something exceptional here, and if so, let's add it to the list!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

December 2008 Reading

Saturday, January 03, 2009 0
Here's the final list of what I read in 2008, the December issue.

1. The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy – Ellen Datlow (editor)
2. Ender in Exile – Orson Scott Card
3. The Starry Rift – Jonathan Strahan (editor)
4. Twilight – Stephanie Meyer
5. Schismatrix Plus – Bruce Sterling
6. Transmetropolitan: Back on the Streets – Warren Ellis
7. Caine Black Knife – Matthew Stover
8. Dark Wraith of Shannara – Terry Brooks
9. Lost Girls: Book 1 – Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie
10. You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop into a Coffee Shop – John Scalzi
11. The Field Guide – Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
12. Lost Girls: Book 2 – Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie
13. Lost Girls: Book 3 – Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie
14. Pandora’s Star – Peter F. Hamilton

To give an update on my Gender and Reading Habits post from last month, 6 of the 14 books I read in December were written by women, which would be 42.86%. This would be my second highest percentage of the year, but the caveat here is that four of my six were co-written by women, not solely written by women. Worse, you could make a solid case that Lost Girls should be counted as one entry, not three (despite the fact that the book I read was split into three volumes).

Being generous, I read 50 out of 157 books in 2008 which were written by women. 31.85%.

That's too low.

I have a bunch of graphic novels out from the library, though, and from what I can tell, most (if not all) of those are written by men. This will uncomfortably skew my numbers, so even on graphic novels, which I want to read more of in 2009, I'm going to have to find a balance, to get a wider ranger of perspective.

Previous 2008 Reads
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November

Total: 157 Books

Friday, January 02, 2009

Looking Backward and Forward: Resolutions Made and Kept

Friday, January 02, 2009 0
I had no plans on making any resolutions for 2009 and I completely forgot about the ones I made for 2008 until I read Larry’s post about his resolutions. I'm convinced that I blogged about my 2008 resolutions, but if I did, I can't find it.


Read 10 Short Story Collections: Accomplished. 14 Collections. I made a point to read more single author collections last year and given that I was able to work my way through most of the World Fantasy Award nominees for Collection, it was easy to keep up with collections. I would like to keep this number fairly consistent for 2009.

Read 10 Anthologies: Failed. 7 anthologies. I started out strong, but there was always another novel which I wanted to read and anthologies slipped down my priority list. Also, I did not read as many of the World Fantasy Award nominated anthologies as I had planned / wanted. Had I done so I would have met this goal. So, once again I would like to read more anthologies. I think I’ll be able to pull this off and I plan to make a point of it. More anthologies. There are several anthologies I have in mind already for 2009.

Read 4 Philip Roth Novels: Epic Fail. 0 Novels. Didn’t even crack one. I have The Dying Animal out from the library, own Operation Shylock, and there are several I intend to read in 2009. It’s not an official goal (as I don’t have official 2009 goals), but I hope to read at least a couple Roth novels.

Read 10 Terry Pratchett Novels: Quit. 0 Novels. I've read 14 Discworld novels, but I came to a realization midway through the year – More often than not, Discworld is a chore to read. The thought of reading a new Discworld novel exhausted me. Yeah, there is some good stuff in there and I’ve enjoyed several, but Discworld has consistently been more work than I feel it is worth. I’ll miss Death, but Discworld is right out.


Over the last two months I feel as if my reviewing has slacked off a bit. I have a really good explanation in terms of “personal reasons”, but I don’t think it really holds water. I just haven’t sat down to write the reviews. Now, I don’t plan to review absolutely everything I read, but if I don’t do a full on review I’d like to at least do short blurbs on what’s going on. Besides, I do want just review more. There will be some exceptions to this as some of what I read will be committed to review elsewhere (yay!) and as these are short format reviews I do have permission to do full reviews here, but I don’t really see me doubling up on those books. I’ll link them up when available, though. Other fuller reviews will be delayed as I intend to still submit reviews to Strange Horizons and The Internet Review of Science Fiction. If I get really ambitious I’ll throw something at Rain Taxi, but it would have to be the right book. I intend to find other markets for my reviewing, and hopefully at least one of those will work out.

To supplement the book reviewing, especially if I am able to place reviews at other markets, I want to talk more about short fiction again. That’s something else that fell off in 2008. It will pick up. I intend to do monthly roundups of the short fiction I read in the previous month, and perhaps some story reviews. Obviously the award seasons for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards will bump these numbers, as will my collection / anthology reading, but I want to read more from the online ‘zines – especially some of those I previously neglected. Besides which, I have a couple of back issues of Asimov’s, four of Weird Tales, and I recently won a year’s subscription to Interzone. I may not be able to afford to subscribe to Weird Tales again, but I have quite a few magazines at home that really need to be read. I’m still debating whether I want to / can afford to throw $20 at Electric Velocipede for an outstanding offer (expires Jan 8) for a year’s subscription plus two Night Shade titles. It’s an awesome deal and I really like Electric Velocipede.

Not sure if I want to try to interview more authors in 2009. My interview with Nancy Kress could have been better (my fault), and I see ways I could have improved the Elizabeth Bear interview. Even over e-mail, interviews are something I really struggle with and I feel like I can’t do as good of a job as I want unless I’m intimately familiar with the author’s work. We’ll see. I know Larry has said in the past that he tries to do several rounds over e-mail so he can ask follow up questions and to improve the overall flow of the interview, so if I do try my hand at more of these, that’s a tactic I may want to employ.

As I said, I don’t have any official resolutions and this will be all about perception, but that’s what I would like to do in 2009 for the blog (and with reviewing in general).

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Air Dates for Shadow Unit: Season Two

Thursday, January 01, 2009 1
From Emma Bull and Elizabeth Bear comes the announcement I've seriously been waiting for since the end of May - the air dates for the second season of Shadow Unit.

This is my excited face.

Bull and Bear point you to the message board, but because I'm quite nice, I'll list them out here. They've spread out the episodes quite a bit more for Season Two. The first Sunday of each month now.

Episode One: "Lucky Day", written by Emma Bull and Elizabeth Bear: March 1, 2009
Episode Two: "Sugar", written by Leah Bobet: April 5, 2009
Episode Three: "The Sin Eater", written by Emma Bull: May 3, 2009
Episode Four: "Getaway", written by Emma Bull: June 7, 2009
Episode Five: "Wind-Up Boogeyman", written by Elizabeth Bear: July 5, 2009
Episode Six: "Cuckoo", written by Will Shetterly and Emma Bull: August 2, 2009
Episode Seven: "Smoke & Mirrors", written by Elizabeth Bear: September 6, 2009
Episode Eight: "Not Alone", written by Holly Black: October 4, 2009

The only downside here is that I (and all other right minded people who love Shadow Unit) have to wait a month between episodes. The positive here is that Shadow Unit will last from March (happy early birthday to me!) into October.

I don't know if "Not Alone" will be a (short) novel length work like Refining Fire was, but after the goodness, nay, greatness that the first season was, Shadow Unit: Season Two is my single most anticipated fiction of 2009.

And yes, this includes the conclusion to Wheel of Time, The Republic of Thieves, or A Dance with Dragons.

Seriously.

After that season finale, I have to know what happens next, if what I believe is true, and what the fallout is.

If you haven't read Shadow Unit yet, start with the first episode, "Breathe". You've got time before the next season starts to get all caught up.

If you have finished Season One, don't forget to catch the eighteen teasers which are set after the conclusion of Refining Fire.
 
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