With November come thoughts of Thanksgiving and the knowledge that we can be thankful for the ever prosperous bounty of good sf/fantasy reading that falls both into clearly delineated genre categories and books that cross subgenres in inventive ways.
A pair of “big” sf stories showcase the genre’s flexibility. Peter F. Hamilton’s Great North Road is a tale that works on cosmic and personal levels, while The Cassandra Project by Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick is set in the near future and revolves around a 50-year-old NASA cover-up. John C. Wright’s The Hermetic Millennia delves into the most distant of futures, while the “Debut of the Month,” When the Blue Shift Comes, is an unusual end-of-the world story that pairs first-time sf author Alvaro Zinos-Amaro with Robert Silverberg, a giant of the genre.
Urban fantasy has a strong showing in Kevin J. Anderson’s Unnatural Acts, the second in what promises to be a popular fantasy detective series, while Suzanne Johnson’s River Road embellishes an urban fantasy series set in New Orleans. Steampunk and cowboypunk (or Weird Western fiction) make a showing with Mark Hodder’s A Red Sun Also Rises and Mike Resnick’s The Doctor and the Rough Rider. Alternative history in the form of David L. Parrott’s The Last Best Hope provides a new spin on the premise of a Southern victory in the Civil War.
A quartet of anthologies displays a diverse approach to multistory volumes. The best works of single authors are presented in Derryl Murphy’s Over the Darkened Landscape and James Van Pelt’s Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille. The second in editor Yanni Kuznia’s series, A Fantasy Medley 2, features four novellas by contemporary authors Tanya Huff, Amanda Downum, Jasper Kent, and Seanan McGuire, while Diverse Energies, edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti, celebrate cultural diversity in 11 captivating tales.
Mass market paperbacks provide more enjoyment for urban fantasy readers with new additions to Keri Arthur’s Dark Angels series (Darkness Hunts), Tami Dane’s Sloan Skye series (Blood of Dawn), and E.S. Moore’s Kat Redding series (Blessed by a Demon’s Mark). Finally, Steven Harper’s third Clockwork Empire title (The Dragon Men) adds to the growing steampunk subgenre.
Rounding out this column are some lists of award-winning books and podcasts. Happy Thanksgiving!
Hamilton, Peter F. Great North Road. Del Rey: Ballantine. Jan. 2013. c.976p. ISBN 9780345526663. $30. SF
In the 22nd century, bioil (plant-based fuel) dominates the economy, with off-planet sources providing most of the supply. When an apparently invisible monster stalks a scientific expedition investigating a largely unexplored but resource-filled planet, a 22-year-old murder case may hold the answers that can save the lives of the exploratory team and bring justice to a woman perhaps wrongly convicted of mass murder. The author of the Void Trilogy (The Dreaming Void; The Temporal Void; The Evolutionary Void) has written a gripping saga that blends wilderness survival, police procedural, political and social intrigue, and dynastic sf into a mammoth tale featuring believable characters and exceptionally skilled storytelling. VERDICT Hamilton excels at telling “big” stories, and his latest novel proves no exception. A stand-alone thriller with potential for multivolume expansions set in an all-too-believable future, this should appeal to a wide audience and have crossover potential for mainstream thriller fans.
McDevitt, Jack & Mike Resnick. The Cassandra Project. Ace: Berkley. Nov. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9781937008710. $25.95. SF
As director of NASA’s public affairs department Jerry Culpepper believes wholeheartedly in the organization’s mission to explore space. When budget cuts and lack of public interest in the face of more pressing political and social issues threaten the agency’s existence, a notorious entrepreneur plans a privately funded voyage to the moon and approaches Culpepper with a proposition both attractive and politically explosive. When Culpepper uncovers hints of a 50-year-old cover up involving NASA and the moon landings, he discovers where his loyalties and commitments truly lie. VERDICT Veteran sf authors McDevitt (Nebula) and Resnick (see his The Doctor and the Rough Rider, reviewed below) combine their considerable talents to tell a tale of conspiracies, of hope and despair, and of individual courage. Their near-future sf thriller should appeal to a wide audience and deserves to cross over into the adventure/suspense mainstream. [Previewed in LJ 8/15 Genre Fiction Spotlight Feature, “Hungry for SF,” by Kristi Chadwick—Ed.]
Parrott, David L. The Last Best Hope: A Civil War Alternative History. Storyteller. Nov. 2012. c.265p. ISBN 9780984725496. pap. $14.99. FANTASY
The South’s victory at the Battle of Gettysburg has ensured the defeat of the Union. Now Jefferson Davis is president, Abraham Lincoln survives as a fugitive confined to a wheelchair, and slavery is the law. Former Union Army Capt. Ezekiel Edwards and fellow survivors of Gettysburg try to make a living drilling for oil in northern Pennsylvania, where they must deal with John Wilkes Booth, the new, unstoppable Pinkertons, and an unforgettable woman named Chastity Stottish. When Edwards discovers the identity of the mysterious gentleman under Chastity’s care, his life takes on new meaning and great danger. VERDICT The author of Murder in Manzanar and The Curious Case of Punxsy Phil turns to alternate history to tell a story of common soldiers in uncommon times and of the problems that beset a nation united politically but still divided on its most essential issues. Believable characters, both historic and fictional, and credible atmosphere and dialog add to the richness of this complex tale of personal courage. It should appeal to fans of Civil War tales and alternate history.
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The following titles are reviewed in the November 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
CHECK THESE OUT
Anderson, Kevin J. Unnatural Acts. Kensington. (Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. Bk. 2). Jan. 2013. c.325p. ISBN 9780758277367. pap. $15. FANTASY
Piers, Anthony. Luck of the Draw. Tor. (Xanth). Dec. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780765331359. $25.99. SF
Hodder, Mark. A Red Sun Also Rises. Pyr: Prometheus. Dec. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9781616146948. pap. $17.95. FANTASY
Johnson, Suzanne. River Road. Tor. Nov. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780765327802. $24.99. FANTASY
Resnick, Mike. The Doctor and the Rough Rider. Pyr: Prometheus. (A Weird West Tale). Dec. 2012. c.290p. ISBN 9781616146900. pap. $17.95. FANTASY
Wright, John C. The Hermetic Millennia. Tor. Dec. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780765329288. $25.99. SF
COLLECTIONS & ANTHOLOGIES
Diverse Energies. Tu. Nov. 2012. c.320p. ed. by Tobias S. Bucknell & Joe Monti. ISBN 9781600608872. pap. $19.95. SF
A Fantasy Medley 2. Subterranean. Nov. 2012. c.160p. ed. by Yanni Kunia.
ISBN 9781596065147. $20. FANTASY
Murphy, Derryl. Over the Darkened Landscape: Stories. Fairwood. Nov. 2012. c.198p. ISBN 9781933846354. pap. $15.99. SF
Van Pelt, James. Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille. Fairwood. Nov. 2012. c.308p. ISBN 9781933846347. $17.99. FANTASY
Cargill, C. Robert. Dreams and Shadows. Harper Voyager. Mar. 2013. 446p. ISBN 9780062190420. $24.99. Fantasy