THE ADJECTIVE CINEMATIC is often applied to books to describe a novel that transports readers so completely into the story that they can almost “see” everything described on the page as if it were a movie playing inside the reader’s head. Certain characteristics are shared, such as short scenes and changes of perspective that maintain tension. Sf and fantasy are highly imaginative genres, with similarities to film that include lots of action and dialog rather than description to animate characters. There exist many great examples of cinematic speculative fiction, some of which have been filmed and some of which are just begging for adaptation, if only special effects could adequately create their worlds.
This month brings us some new titles destined to be filmed one day. M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts would make for an amazing picture if the right child actress were found to portray the ten-year-old protagonist. The second book in Paul Cornell’s otherworldly London series, The Severed Streets, could be a great combination of police procedural and occult fantasy (à la Grimm or The X-Files) and has in fact been optioned for British TV. Action-scene master Joe Abercrombie is back with another gritty fantasy called Half a King, which would thrill fans of dark fantasy like Game of Thrones.
The gothic fantasy of Katherine Harbour’s Thorn Jack seems tailor-made for a TV series on the WB, with its pretty and dangerous fairy creatures lurking around a college campus. California Bones by Greg van Eekhout is like The Italian Job crossed with “The Dresden Files” and would make an awesome heist movie if the magic wasn’t so completely weird. Finally, James S.A. Corey’s “The Expanse” series, one of the sf properties that I am most looking forward to seeing filmed one day soon, returns with Cibola Burn.
Corey, James S.A. Cibola Burn. Orbit: Hachette. (Expanse, Bk. 4). Jun. 2014. 592p. ISBN 9780316217620. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316217606. SF
After the events of 2013’s Abaddon’s Gate, humanity has access to thousands of worlds outside our solar system, but that doesn’t mean that the conflict between inner and outer worlders has ceased. On the lithium-rich planet of Ilus, a settlement established by a renegade ship of Belters puts them in direct opposition with an Earth-based corporation that was granted rights to the planet by the United Nations. The tension between the two groups has grown violent, and the UN sends James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante to mediate the dispute. But the two groups will have bigger problems to face when a disease strikes settlers and company workers alike; in addition, the planetary activities seem to have awoken remnants of the protomolecule left behind on Ilus. VERDICT Combining an exploration of real human frailties with big sf ideas and exciting thriller action, Corey (pen name for authors Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham) cements the series as must-read space opera.
Debut of the Month
Itäranta, Emmi. Memory of Water. Harper Voyager. Jun. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780062326157. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062326164. SF
Noria Kaitio’s home in the far future Scandinavian Union is hardly recognizable after climate change resculpted the physical landscape (it hasn’t snowed in a century) and China’s domination of much of the globe has reshaped the political world. Because Noria’s father is the local tea master, her family has a larger water ration than most of her neighbors, who face constant shortages. The tea ritual also brings important people from the ruling military regime to her home from as far away as the capital in New Qian. Although it is unconventional to train a girl to perform the tea ceremony, Noria’s father teaches her the rituals and shares with her a dangerous secret. VERDICT The writing is gorgeous and delicate in this dystopian award-winning debut, which is unique in both its setting and the small scale that Finnish author Itäranta employs. A larger world, with huge problems, is hinted at but not shown. Because the reader stays with the beautifully realized character of Noria and the village she inhabits, the tension is high even though the pacing remains measured.
Lawrence, Mark. Prince of Fools. Ace. Jun. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780425268780. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101630938. FANTASY
Being tenth in line for the throne of the Red March is a pretty good gig for Prince Jalan. He has his pick of pretty girls, the wine is always flowing, and he can usually charm his way out of trouble. But he will need more than charm and quick wits to face the hardship coming. There are rumors that the dead are rising, and Jal seems to be one of the few who can see the Silent Sister who hovers over his grandmother, the Red Queen. Caught in a curse from the mysterious crone, Jal finds that his fate is linked to that of an escaped slave from the Norse lands, and the two must travel to the far north to undo the spell. VERDICT Jal is a perfect cad of a hero. Although he cheats and lies and seems as shallow as can be, when push comes to shove he is not a bad man to have at your back (as long as it’s in his best interests). Set in another part of the world Lawrence explored in his “Broken Empire” series (Prince of Thorns), the book’s exciting action and quick-witted dialog make it a fantastic summer page-turner for epic fantasy fans.
van Eekhout, Greg. California Bones. Tor. Jun. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780765328557. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429946858. FANTASY
In the Southern Kingdom of California, Daniel Blackland is a thief and an osteomancer, able to use the magic imbued in certain bones to give himself power. As a child he witnessed the killing of his father by the mysterious ruler known as the Hierarch and then went underground. The local crime lord wants to hire him for a job, but Daniel isn’t interested until he hears that it might finally be a chance for him to steal back a weapon made by his father that contains Daniel’s own bones. He puts together a crew to break into the Hierarch’s compound, but even the best thieves in Los Angeles are going to have a hard time stealing from the most powerful man in California. VERDICT In van Eekhout’s (Norse Code) first hardcover for adult readers, a combination of caper novel and urban fantasy packs a wallop. Daniel and his team banter even while up to their necks in danger, and the magic system in which eating the bones and flesh of creatures can grant you their power is unique and fascinating (if a little icky). Highly recommended.
Check These Out
Abercrombie, Joe. Half a King. Del Rey: Ballantine. Jul. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780804178327. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780804178334. FANTASY
Britain, Kristen. Mirror Sight. DAW. (Green Rider, Bk. 5). May 2014. 784p. ISBN 9780756408794. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698146471. FANTASY
Coates, Deborah. Strange Country. Tor. (Wide Open, Bk. 3). May 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780765329028. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429948470. FANTASY
Cornell, Paul. The Severed Streets. Tor. May 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780765330284. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429943857. FANTASY
Dellamonica, A.M. Child of a Hidden Sea. Tor. Jun. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780765334497. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466812352. FANTASY
Green, Simon R. Property of a Lady Faire. ROC: NAL. (Secret Histories, Bk. 8). Jun. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780451414311. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698145597. FANTASY
Harbour, Katherine. Thorn Jack. Harper Voyager. (Night & Nothing, Bk. 1). Jun. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780062286727. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062286741. FANTASY
Haydon, Elizabeth. The Merchant Emperor. Tor. (Symphony of Ages, Bk. 7). Jun. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780765305664. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429943970. FANTASY
Klaus, Susan. Flight of the Golden Harpy. Tor. Jun. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780765337559. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466835061. SF
Lackey, Mercedes. Blood Red. DAW. (Elemental Masters, Bk. 10). Jun. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780756408978. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101637890. FANTASY
Lindskold, Jane. Artemis Awakening. Tor. May 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780765337108. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466830493. SF
McGuire, Seanan. Sparrow Hill Road. DAW. May 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780756409616. pap. $16. FANTASY
Moyer, Jaime Lee. A Barricade in Hell. Tor. (Delia Martin, Bk. 2). Jun. 2014. 332p. ISBN 9780765331830. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429948180. FANTASY
VanderMeer, Jeff. Authority. Farrar. (Southern Reach, Bk. 2). May 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780374104108. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780374710781. SF
QUOTABLE “I’ve never liked walking. If God had meant man to walk he wouldn’t have given us horses. Wonderful animals. I think of them as the word ‘escape,’ covered in fur and with a leg at each corner.”—Mark Lawrence, Prince of Fools
Carey, M.R. The Girl with All the Gifts. Orbit: Hachette. Jun. 2014. 416p.ISBN 9780316278157. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316291804. SF
With the return of Game of Thrones to HBO, fans can get their fix of the dark fantasy series once again, but George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” books are not the only speculative fiction work coming to screens big and small in the coming months. It may seem like every book is optioned for film these days, but some projects are looking like more of a sure thing than others. Here’s a rundown of some of the most exciting sf/fantasy adaptations in the works.
In Production/Sure Things
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (fantasy/time travel), TV series on STARZ, fall 2014
The Giver by Lois Lowry (sf/dystopia), film release, August 2014
The Strain by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro (sf/horror), TV series on FX, 2014
The Terror by Dan Simmons (horror), TV series on AMC, possibly fall 2014
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (fantasy), TV series on BBC, late 2014
Wool by Hugh Howey (sf/dystopia), casting, possible 2015 film release
Redshirts by John Scalzi (sf), greenlit for TV series on FX
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (horror), preproduction for possible 2015 release
Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien (sf/dystopia), filming now
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson (sf), possible 2015 film release
Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke (sf), optioned for Syfy channel miniseries
Ringworld by Larry Niven (sf), optioned for Syfy channel miniseries
“Kingkiller Chronicles” series by Patrick Rothfuss (fantasy), optioned for TV series by Fox
Special Neil Gaiman bonanza His novels The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Anansi Boys, and The Graveyard Book, as well as his groundbreaking “Sandman” graphic novel series, are all in development. American Gods is probably in the pipeline as well, having been dropped by HBO, but now it’s back in development for TV with FreemantleMedia.
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (sf)
The Passage by Justin Cronin (horror)
The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (sf)
Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan (sf)
Vicious by V.E. Schwab (sf)
Lexicon by Max Barry (sf/dystopia)
Wishful Thinking/Optioned, But Don’t Hold Your Breath
“The Vorkosigan Saga” series by Lois McMaster Bujold (sf)
“The Culture” series by Iain M. Banks (sf)
Neuromancer by William Gibson (sf)
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (sf)
“The Dragonriders of Pern” series by Anne McCaffrey (fantasy)
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (sf)
“The Dark Tower” series by Stephen King (horror)
Mass Market Paperbacks of Note
Hulick, Douglas. Sworn in Steel. ROC: NAL. (Tales of the Kin, Bk. 2). May 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780451464477. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101586686. FANTASY
Drothe was always a crook, but now he is a crook with responsibilities. In this sequel that picks up soon after the events of the marvelous Among Thieves, our antihero is now a Grey Prince, one of the criminal elite. But he will have to clear his name and fight off rivals if he wants to enjoy his new place as underworld royalty. Just as wickedly enjoyable as the first book, this series sophomore effort will suit those looking for fast-paced action in a grim fantasy world.
Molles, D.J. The Remaining. Orbit: Hachette. (Remaining, Bk. 1). May 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780316404150. pap. $10; ebk. ISBN 9780316404136. SF
As one of 48 specially trained officers who are only activated in case of national catastrophe, army captain Lee Harden has a special mission. When he comes out of his sealed bunker to a world devastated by plague, he must fulfill his mission to protect what is left of America. This four-book series was a huge hit when the author self-published it in 2012, and those who crave a military take on a zombie-like outbreak will want to check it out. The other volumes will be released in upcoming months.