I would like to start out this month by welcoming aboard Jessica E. Moyer, my new co-columnist. Jessica has recently been appointed a visiting assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Main Library, after working as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the author of several works on readers’ advisory service, including a forthcoming book on titles that crossover between adult and teen audiences. But most important for our purposes, Jessica is an avid fan of sf and fantasy. She and I will be sharing reviewing duties as well as continuing to bring you useful news and tips for working with the speculative fiction fans in your libraries. I couldn’t be happier to have Jessica on the column.
Jessica’s Serial Reading
I’m thrilled to be joining Megan as co-columnist. As a lifelong sf and fantasy reader I’m excited to be able to share some of my favorite discoveries as well as news of the sf/fantasy world. Lately, I’ve been interested in serial fiction, and this summer will see a bumper crop. John Scalzi’s four-part End of All Things, coming in July and August, continues the serial publication style of The Human Division, but this time he’s written four linked novellas with a rather serious tone.
K.J. Parker has timed his outing as British author Tom Holt (see Newsworthy below) with the launch of his digital-only serial work, The Two of Swords (Orbit: Hachette). The first three parts were released in May, with parts four, five, and six scheduled for June and July. What makes Parker’s project distinct is that he has not yet finished the book. All we know for sure is that he plans to finish it in 2016 and anticipates monthly episodes. I’ve sampled the first three releases, and Parker’s longtime fans will be thrilled, while new readers interested in serial stories will find this a great starting point. With his trademark dark style and low magic, Parker begins the tale of two warring empires, each led by a brilliant general determined to hunt down and defeat his brother. In Part 1, the men of a remote village march off to war, leaving behind the women and children, only to find no one to take charge when they arrive at the depot.
Steampunk fans will not be left adrift this summer as authors Clay and Susan Griffith will be publishing the first three volumes in their new alt-Victorian series. See p. 64 for a full review of the first volume, Shadow Revolution.
Debut of the month
Hunder, Logan. Witches Be Crazy. Night Shade. Jun. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9781597808200. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781597805780. FANTASY
This fast-paced and humorous take on traditional fantasy stories stars Dungar Loloth, a middle-aged blacksmith–turned–innkeeper with a reputation for grumpiness and violence, and mysterious musician and sidekick Jiminy. These two unlikely heroes may be the only ones who can save the kingdom after the untimely death of King Ik. But to reach the palace they will have to battle deranged knights, magical trees, and a remarkably dangerous village of man-hating women. Assisted by gay pirates, a disgraced knight, and two women who fled their community of misandrists, Dungar and Jiminy take on desperate odds in their quest. VERDICT Hunder’s engaging debut cleverly skewers traditional fantasy tropes with two seemingly unbeatable (and unconventional) protagonists, and the nonstop action will keep readers flipping the pages late into the night. Suggest to fans of Tom Holt who appreciate his mix of humor and imagination.
Cline, Ernest. Armada. Crown. Jul. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9780804137256. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780804137263. SF
Living in the shadow of the father he never knew, Zachary Lightman is devoted to all things sf, especially video games such as Armada, in which he can pilot drones and fight an alien enemy attacking Earth. One afternoon as he sits in class during the final days of his senior year of high school, Zach sees a flying saucer outside the window. And not just any flying saucer: a Glaive Fighter, just like the enemy ships from the game. Zach fears that he’s going crazy, but he soon discovers that the skills he has been honing on video games might be the key to saving the world. VERDICT With another winning teen protagonist in Zach, Cline mines the nostalgia and geek spheres just as successfully as he did in his acclaimed debut, Ready Player One. The works that obviously influenced the story line, such as Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and the films The Last Starfighter and Star Wars, feel like homages rather than borrowings—a rap artist sampling the best beats out there to create an irresistible jam. [See Prepub Alert, 3/9/15.]
Jemisin, N.K. Fifth Season. Orbit: Hachette. (Broken Earth, Bk.1). Jul. 2015. 512p. ISBN 9780316229296. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316229302. FANTASY
In a world plagued by cataclysmic tectonic activity, the only way to survive is to constantly prepare for the next fifth season. But no one is ready for the scope of the disaster that strikes when the capital city of a continent-wide empire is subsumed in a massive rift that spreads hundreds of miles. Using alternating points of view, Jemisin explores the lives of several characters in the years leading up to the cataclysmic disaster. VERDICT Multiaward winner Jemisin breaks uncharted ground with this long-awaited title that introduces a fresh world and trilogy, creating a completely realized society inhabited by three varieties of humans and a nonhuman species that lives inside the earth. With Jemisin’s record of prestigious literary honors, plus her strong following, this is a must-buy for all speculative fiction collections and an excellent recommendation for fans of Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn” trilogy.
Nix, Garth. To Hold the Bridge: An Old Kingdom Novella and Other Tales. HarperCollins Children’s. Jun. 2015. 416p. ISBN 9780062292520. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062292544. FANTASY
Australian author Nix shows off his mastery of the short form with this diverse collection. The stories range from his popular “Old Kingdom” series (“To Hold the Bridge”) to a prequel from his lesser familiar postapocalyptic sf title Shades Children (“You Won’t Feel a Thing”). A special standout is “The Quiet Knight,” a contemporary tale about a teenage boy who finds his voice through live action role-playing. This powerful story offers sharp insight into the minds of teens, gamers, and anyone else who has ever felt out of place. Many of the pieces have been previously published in Australian collections or magazines but will not be well known to U.S. readers. VERDICT Speculative fiction fans who have yet to discover Nix will embrace this outstanding introduction. The author’s fans as well as those who regularly read “Year’s Best” anthologies will seek it out.
QUOTABLE “The city groaned like a revenant new-woken on the slab, and shambled forth hungry for food it lacked a tongue to name.”
newsworthy In late April, World Fantasy Award–winning pseudonymous author K.J. Parker was revealed to be British humorist Tom Holt. As Parker, Holt has penned brilliant fantasy novels for the last 17 years, including The Folding Knife, Sharps, and The Two of Swords, currently being serialized online by Hachette imprint Orbit. His fantasies feature dark and often magic-free worlds with complicated, nuanced characters. The unexpected reveal was made via popular British sf blog Pornokitsch. Readers can sample both sides of Holt/Parker in this month’s column, with a review of The Good, The Bad and The Smug (Holt) and our first look at Two of Swords (Parker), under “Jessica’s Serial Reading.”
Anderson, Kevin J. Blood of the Cosmos. Tor. (Saga of the Shadows, Bk. 2). Jun. 2015. 448p. ISBN 9780765333001. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429966481. SF
Humanity and their allies, the Ildirans, narrowly escaped destruction at the hands of the Shana Rei in The Dark Between the Stars. They can no longer depend on the ancients known as the Gardeners and a new weapon may lead to their extinction in this latest volume of Anderson’s galaxy-spanning space opera.
Brooks, Terry. The Darkling Child. Del Rey: Ballantine. (Defenders of Shannara, Bk. 2). Jun. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780345540799. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780345540805. FANTASY
Paxon Leah was an untried youth in High Druid’s Blade , but he has now spent five years in service to the Druids. When the magic of the wishsong is detected, Paxon is sent to find the singer before he falls into the hands of the dark sorcerer Arcannen.
Lindskold, Jane. Artemis Invaded. Tor. (Artemis Awakened, Bk. 2). Jun. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780765337115. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466830509. SF
Continuing the story begun in Artemis Awakened, stranded archaeologist Griffin, aided by native huntress Adara and her puma Sand, searches for the technology of those who terraformed the planet. But Griffin’s arrival may have led others to Artemis.
Willrich, Chris. The Chart of Tomorrows. Pyr: Prometheus. (Gaunt & Bone, Bk. 3). Jul. 2015. 500p. ISBN 9781633880580. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781633880597. FANTASY
Willrich’s adventures always feature interesting and exotic landscapes, and this latest (after The Silk Map) shifts the action to a Norse-inspired setting. Poet Persimmon Gaunt and thief Image Bone seek their son Innocence, who turned to evil after his release from a pocket dimension.—MM
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