Sunday, July 19, 2009

Books Received - Science Fiction & Fantasy

I am going to try a little experiment and devote Sundays to some coverage of science fiction and fantasy. Urban fantasy and paranormal will still get the lions share of time Monday to Saturday, but I figure a little diversion into SF&F is OK for a blog called SciFiGuy. One of many reasons is that there are some terrific books in these genres that deserve notice and I also want to acknowledge some of the titles that I receive, even if I may not get an opportunity to review them in the immediate future. The following were received from my friends at HB Fenn this past week.

By Heresies Distressed by David Weber (July 7/Tor)
This is the third book in the Safehold series. He writes terrific action and adventure and features strong female characters. He is particularly known for his Honor Harrington books about Commander Harrington and her military career in the Royal Manticorian Navy. I've read a good number of these and thoroughly enjoyed them as well as several of his collaborative novels with Eric Flint and John Ringo.
Now the battle for the soul of the planet Safehold has begun.

The Kingdom of Charis and the Kingdom of Chisholm have joined together, pledged to stand against the tyranny of a corrupt Church. The youthful Queen Sharleyan of Chisholm has wed King Cayleb of Charis, forging a single dynasty, a single empire, dedicated to the defense of human freedom. Crowned Empress of that empire, Sharleyan has found in Cayleb's arms the love she never dared hope for in a 'marriage of state.' In Cayleb's cause, his defiance of the ruthless Group of Four who govern mother Church, she has found the task to which she can commit her mind and her courage. It is a cause for which she was born.

Yet there are things Sharleyan still does not know. Secrets Cayleb has not been permitted to share, even with her. Secrets like the true story of humanity on Safehold. Like the intricate web of lies, deception, and fabricated 'religion' which have chained humanity for almost a thousand years. Like the existence of the genocidal alien Gbaba, waiting to complete mankind's destruction should humans ever attract their attention once more. Like the existence of a young woman, Nimue Alban, nine hundred years dead, whose heart, mind, and memories live on within the android body of the warrior-monk she knows as Merlin.

And so Empress Sharleyan faces the the great challenge of her life unaware of all that task truly entails...or of how the secrets the man who loves her cannot share may threaten all they have achieved between them...and her own life.
The Years Best Science Fiction: 26th Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois (June 23/St.Martins Griffin)
I can think of no better way of discovering and sampling the wide spectrum of voices in contemporary science fiction. As the title implies, this annual collection has been going strong for many years.
FROM PUBLISHERS WEEKLY - This annual anthology remains the best one-stop shop for short fiction, and it's a must for fans of literary SF. The notion of intelligence links several stories. Nancy Kress, in "Computer Virus," posits an intelligent computer program trying to save its life, but it does so by risking that of a child. The dense and busy "Lobsters" by Charles Stross considers the implications of denying intelligent uploaded constructs here, of lobsters human rights or autonomy. Michael Blumlein's zany "Know How, Can Do," easily the best story, posits a self-aware worm linked to a human brain, told from the point of view of the worm, "Flowers for Algernon"-style, as it acquires human intelligence, language and emotions. Alternative realities remain a productive theme. In "The Two Dicks," Paul McAuley posits an alternative reality where Philip K. Dick, who in this world wrote mainstream fiction instead of SF, meets Nixon. Ken MacLeod's ambitious, character-driven "The Human Front," set in an alternative reality just a little different from ours, describes a man's growth toward adulthood in a war-torn Britain. Dan Simmons, Alastair Reynolds, Maureen F. McHugh and Paul Di Filippo also contribute especially memorable tales. Although one could quibble with Dozois's choices and there are one or two clunkers in here this anthology is an enjoyable read that overall maintains high standards of quality and variety. It's essential for SF fans who simply don't have time to separate the wheat from the chaff on their own.
The Sunless Countries by Karl Schroeder (August 4/Tor)
The Sunless Countries is Book 4 of the Virga series and Karl on his website says that it can be read as a standalone novel. I am particularly intrigued by this quote from SF Revu - "Karl Schroeder's Virga saga establishes itself as an SF saga of the same order as LeGuin's Earthsea stories, Asimov's Robot stories, and Niven's Ringworld stories." That would indeed place it among august company. I really hope to read this one before the summer is out.
In an ocean of weightless air where sunlight has never been seen, only the running lights of the city of Sere glitter in the dark. One woman, Leal Hieronyma Maspeth, history tutor and dreamer, lives and dreams of love among the gaslit streets and cafés. And somewhere in the abyss of wind and twisted cloud through which Sere eternally falls, a great voice has begun speaking.

As its cold words reach even to the city walls—and as outlying towns and travelers’ ships start to mysteriously disappear—only Leal has the courage to try to understand the message thundering from the distance. Even the city’s most famous and exotic visitor, the sun lighter and hero named Hayden Griffin, refuses to turn aside from his commission to build a new sun for a foreign nation. He will not become the hero that Leal knows the city needs; so in the end, it is up to her to listen, and ultimately reply, to the worldwasp.
The Dame by R.A. Salvatore (August 14/Tor)
The Dame is the second book in the Saga of the First King series from prolific fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore. Best known for his series of books in the Forgotten Realms series, Wikipedia claims he has sold more than 10 million copies of his books and eighteen of them have been New York Times best-sellers. Despite my extensive reading in fantasy, R.A. Salvatore is a gap in my reading and I can make no recommendation one way or another. I suspect if you like sword and sorcery, this is for you.

The vast road network of Honce, completed a decade before, had brought great optimism to the people of the land. Commerce could travel more freely and so could armies, and those armies, it was hoped, would rid the land at long last of the vicious, bloody cap dwarfs and goblins. For the first time, the many individual kingdoms, the holdings of Honce, would be brought closer together, perhaps even united. For the last few years, those promises had become a nightmare to the folk, as two powerful lairds fought for supremacy of a hoped-for united kingdom.

Bransen Garibond, the Highwayman, held little real interest in that fight. To him the warring lairds were two sides of the same coin. Whichever side won, the outcome for the people of Honce would be the same, Bransen believed. A journey north, however, taught Bransen that his views were simplistic at best, and that some things--like honor and true friendship-- might truly matter.

In The Dame, Bransen’s road becomes a quest for the truth, of Honce and of himself, a quest to put right over wrong. That path is fraught with confusion and fraud, and a purposeful blurring of morality by those who would seek to use the Highwayman’s extraordinary battle skills and popularity among the commonfolk for their own nefarious ends.

The Touch by F. Paul Wilson (July 7/Tor Forge)
This is book three in Wilson's Adversary Cycle series after The Keep and The Tomb. It is a reprint and an update from the original 1986 edition (see the Library Journal reference below). Many of you may have seen the screen adaptation of The Keep. Very creepy. I am a fan of his Repairman Jack series and he can definitely write an edge of your seat story.
Library Journal - A seemingly chance encounter with a dying derelict gives Dr. Alan Bulmer the ability to heal with a touch. At first he denies his ability, but then he sets out to explore it. Soon, he learns that some gifts come with their own curses. First published in 1986, this substantially revised edition of classic psychological horror also features a short story, "Dat-Tay-Vao," explaining the origin of the doctor's gift. As part of the author's project to bring together all the novels of his "Secret History" and integrate them with his Repairman Jack novels, this volume is suitable for fans of both series and hard-core horror fans.

Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America by Robert Charles Wilson (Jun 23/Tor)
I was thrilled when I saw this title arrive. Robert Charles Wilson is the author of numerous SF novels including the Hugo award-winning SPIN which was stunning. I've yet to read it's sequel AXIS. The steampunk-themed Julian Comstock is an expansion of his novella Julian: A Christmas Story (2006) which was also a finalist for the Hugo Award.

From Publishers Weekly Starred Review - Hugo-winner Wilson (Axis) perpetrates a kind of skewed steampunk novel set in a postcollapse, imperial United States returned to 19th-century technology and mores. Julian Comstock, the disgraced nephew of the tyrannical American president, grows up in a small town in what was formerly northern Canada. Adam Hazzard, Julian's working-class friend, and Sam Godwin, a bluff old retainer and secret Jew, struggle to keep Julian alive despite his uncle's hatred and Julian's proclivity for annoying the repressive Dominion Church. When Julian is drafted to fight the invading Dutch in Labrador, exaggerated tales of his heroism, written by would-be novelist Adam, catapult the young aristocrat to unwanted fame. Written with the eloquence and elegance of a Victorian novel, this thoughtful tale combines complex characters, rousing military adventure and a beautifully realized, unnerving future.


  1. I've recently began looking at R.A. Salvatore books. The covers are awesome!! I have not read any yet but they look to be intense and action packed. I thought I'd find one of the older, smaller series and give that a try before plunging into one of the larger ones.

  2. Cybercliper RA has a wealth of titles to choose from. Being able to start and finish a series without waiting for the sequels is wonderful when you discover an authors backlist.


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