As the holidays approach and winter settles in, two “big” sf/fantasy titles are guaranteed to find large audiences. Terry Brooks’s Bloodfire Quest: The Dark Legacy of Shannara continues the author’s latest series in his most popular fantasy world, while Star Wars® fans can look forward to Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars®: Scoundrels, featuring Han Solo in his other role as rogue and smuggler.
Some notable sf titles this month include Thomas Boyczuk’s The Book of Thomas, a postapocalyptic tale of faith and religion in an artificial world, and Sean O’Brien’s Vale of Stars, a classic story of space colonization with timely moral and ethical issues. An alien attack on a human colony planet forms the focus for a space mystery in M.C. Planck’s The Kassa Gambit. The fallout from a catastrophic eruption in North America provides Harry Turtledove with ample grist for his alternate-history mill in Supervolcano: All Fall Down.
Fantasy ranges from an epic struggle between light and darkness in Crown of Vengeance, coauthored by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, to the story of one woman’s battle to find a place for herself and her children in Jay Lake’s Kalimpura. A classic fairy tale gets revamped in Melissa Lemon’s Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem. Finally, this month’s featured debut, R.S. Belcher’s The Six-Gun Tarot, offers a tale of the Wild West that’s unlike any other.
A quartet of anthologies provides reading for a variety of tastes. Fans of epic fantasy can enjoy their favorite authors in a shorter fiction style in Epic: Legends of Fantasy, while superhero and zombie comics devotees can sample a variety of tales in The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius and Women on War!: A Zombies vs. Robots Anthology. Helen Marshall’s Hair Side, Flesh Side introduces an exquisite stylist to the world of horror fiction.
Urban fantasy continues to have the edge in mass market paperbacks, with a new Edge story by Ilona Andrews (Steel’s Edge) and a new addition to Diana Pharaoh Francis’s “Horngate Witches” series (Blood Winter). The single sf title, the newest in Brett Patton’s “Armor Wars” series (Mecha Rogue), offers a strong example of military sf.
Boyczuk, Thomas. The Book of Thomas, Volume I: Heaven. ChiZine. Dec. 2012. 270p. ISBN 9781927469279. pap. $16.95 SF
For as long as anyone can remember, the Church has ruled the Spheres of the Apostles, an artificial construct whose origins have been lost in the past. After Thomas’s father is executed for heresy, the priests take the boy to an orphanage, where his beautiful singing voice attracts a recruiter for the Sistine Choir. As Thomas travels with his new master through a chaotic and dangerous world, he witnesses cruelty and violence that lead him to doubt the faith he has tried so hard to follow. VERDICT The author of Nexus: Ascension launches a new series that describes the journey of a soul in a time of tribulation and postapocalyptic ruin. As Thomas makes his way through the world, his backstory is gradually revealed, adding richness and somberness to a dark novel that is reminiscent of Walter M. Miller Jr.’s classic A Canticle for Leibowitz.
The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction
for the Modern Evil Genius. Tor. Feb. 2013. 368p. ed. by John Joseph Adams.ISBN 9780765326447. $25.99; ISBN 9780765326454. pap. $14.99. SF
Behind every superhero lurks a diabolical villain whose exploits gave purpose to the hero’s actions. Noted anthology editor Adams (see above; Brave New Worlds) has compiled a no-holds-barred collection of 22 stories that are all told from the villain’s point of view. From Theodora Goss’s brilliant tale of a band of women brought together by their fathers’ notoriety (“The Mad Scientist’s Daughter”) to Marjorie M. Liu’s insightful story of the molding of a legend among supervillains (“The Last Dignity of Man”), these short pieces demonstrate the seductive power of the “bad guy.” VERDICT In addition to the overall excellence of the stories, fans of superhero fiction should enjoy the variety of interpretations of the terms “mad scientist,” “super villain,” and “evil genius.”
Marshall, Helen. Hair Side, Flesh Side. ChiZine. 2012. 250p. ISBN 9781927469248. pap. $16.95. HORROR
For her seventh birthday, Chloe receives the body of a saint to be her companion in “Blessed.” A graduate student seeks out the graves of literary giants as places for her to meet her lover in “Dead White Men,” while the Angel of Death falls in love with Jane Austen in “The Book of Judgment.” A tour de force of imagination, this remarkable debut collection uses the conventions of dark fantasy and horror as the framework for some of speculative fiction’s most unusual stories. VERDICT Fans of experimental fiction and exceptional writing should find a wealth of enjoyment here.
For all the latest reviews in this subject area and more, check out our new Book Verdict site! Book Verdict is fully accessible to all users, though certain content and functionality are only available to subscribers.To log in to your account, click here. To view the new subscription options, Get Started With Book Verdict Pro Today.
Don’t know if you have an account with us? It’s easy to check and verify your email, or create a new account.
The following titles are reviewed in the December 1 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
CHECK THESE OUT
Brooks, Terry. Bloodfire Quest: The Dark Legacy of Shannara. Del Rey: Ballantine. Mar. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780345523501. $28. FANTASY
Lackey, Mercedes & James Mallory. Crown of Vengeance. Tor. (The Dragon Prophecy, Bk. 1). 2012. 608p. ISBN 9780765324382. $27.99. FANTASY
Lake, Jay. Kalimpura. Tor. Jan. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780765326775. $27.99. FANTASY
Lemon, Melissa. Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem. Sweetwater Bks.: Cedar Fort. Dec. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781462111459. $16.99. FANTASY
O’Brien, Sean. Vale of Stars. JournalStone. Dec. 2012. c360p. ISBN 9781936564613. pap. $16.95. SF
Planck, M.C. The Kassa Gambit. Tor. Jan. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780765330925. $24.99. SF
Turtledove, Harry. Supervolcano: All Fall Down. ROC: NAL. Dec. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780451464811. $26.95. SF
Zahn, Timothy. Star Wars ® : Scoundrels. Del Rey: Ballantine. Jan. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780345511508. $27. SF
COLLECTIONS & ANTHOLOGIES
Epic: Legends of Fantasy. Tachyon. Dec. 2012. 624p. ed. by John Joseph Adams. ISBN 9781616960841. pap. $17.95. FANTASY
Women on War!: A Zombie vs. Robots Anthology. IDW Pub. Dec. 2012. 304p. ed. by Jeff Conner. illus. by Ericka Lugo. ISBN 9781613774076. pap. $19.99. HORROR
Herbert, James. Ash. Tor. Dec. 2012. 640p. ISBN 9780765328960. $26. HORROR