SF/Fantasy Reviews, June 15, 2012

several standout titles mark the selections for June, with sf and fantasy being fairly evenly balanced and featuring a couple of horror titles as well. The sf offerings include a trio of big novels‚ both in page count and in content. David Brin’s Existence takes humanity’s future from an accidental discovery to the distant edges of the galaxy. In James S.A. Corey’s Caliban’s War , the story begun in Leviathan’s Wake unfurls with further complications and the potential for interplanetary war. Finally, Blue Remembered Earth follows one family’s legacy into the far future as Alistair Reynolds launches a new series. Warren Hammond’s KOP Killer adds to a gritty sf noir series set on a war- and riot-torn planet.

N.K. Jemisin’s The Shadowed Sun takes the top spot in fantasy this month with the brilliantly written conclusion to her two-volume Dreamblood saga, while husband-and-wife writing team Tracy and Laura Hickman ( The Bronze Canticles series) kick off a new series with Eventide, a bard’s search for stories that will save his life. Mercedes Lackey contributes Home from the Sea, the seventh installment in her Elemental Masters series, and Beth Bernobich follows up her debut novel, Passion Play, with Queen’s Hunt, a fantasy set in an exotic world on the edge of rebellion. In a departure from standard fantasy, Sarah Marques retells Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Muskateers with a twist in Sword & Blood, the first in her Vampire Musketeers series. Teetering between psychological horror and weird literature, David Nickle’s Rasputin’s Bastards replays the uncertain years just after the Soviet Union’s demise. Rhiannon Held introduces a new kind of werewolf in Silver, this month’s featured debut.

Three story collections provide a variety of tales for readers to discover. Steven Erikson’s The Devil Delivered and Other Tales gives fans an insight into the author’s many sides. Hex Appeal contains wizard-based urban fantasy shorts by some of the genre’s most popular authors, including Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, and Simon R. Green. Finally, 21st Century Dead brings the zombie legend to life‚ or unlife‚ once more.

Mass market paperbacks also make a good showing, particularly in urban fantasy and fantasy series, including Cassie Alexander’s urban fantasy debut, Nightshifted, set in a modern-day hospital. Spellcrossed is the second in Barbara Ashford’s series about a small summer stock theatre. Paul S. Kemp’s The Hammer and the Blade introduces a pair of fast-talking heroes in a traditional fantasy setting. Also, Tami Dane adds to her Sloan Skye series with Blood of Innocence, Jess Haines continues her H&W Investigations novels with Stalking the Others, and Jaye Wells tells another Sabina Kane story in Blue-Blooded Vamp. Announcements for the British Fantasy Award nominees and a tribute to beloved children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak round out the column.


starred review starBrin, David. Existence. Tor. Jun. 2012. c.560p. ISBN 9780765303615. $27.99. SF

Gerald Livingston makes his living by recovering space garbage, collecting a century’s worth of defunct satellites, rocket parts, and other detritus. When he brings in a strange orb, rumors spread around the world about the alien nature of the object. Then it begins to speak. The world is thrown into chaos as factions quarrel over the object’s meaning, and scientists and the military question its authenticity and motives. Hugo and Nebula award winner Brin (Startide Rising; The Postman) returns to grand-scale sf with a tale that challenges the definition of humanity, the purpose of life, and the mystery of existence. VERDICT Featuring memorable characters and masterly storytelling, Brin’s latest novel provides food for thought and entertainment. Fans of Vernor Vinge and Arthur C. Clarke, as well as Brin’s own sizable fan base, will enjoy this multidimensional story. [Five-city regional tour.]

starred review starCorey, James S.A. Caliban’s War. Orbit: Hachette. (The Expanse, Bk. 2). Jun. 2012. c.624p. ISBN 9780316129060. pap. $15.99. SF

On Ganymede, which once supplied food to the outer planets, Martian Marine Sgt. Roberta (Bobbie) Draper survives an encounter with a monstrous alien protomolecule that has already established a base on Venus. As Earth and Mars threaten to come to blows, a far-seeing UN administrator seeks to unite both factions. When a scientist’s child goes missing, Outer Planets Alliance peacekeeper James Holden and his crew agree to search for her, and the endeavor takes him into the center of a political and military storm that might destroy the galaxy. Coauthors Daniel Abraham (The King’s Blood; The Dragon’s Path) and Ty Franck, writing as James S.A. Corey, have crafted a worthy sequel to Leviathan’s Wake. VERDICT Compelling characters and a plot that combines political intrigue with military sf create a memorable story that begs for film adaptation.

starred review starJemisin, N.K. The Shadowed Sun. Orbit: Hachette. (Dreamblood, Bk. 2). Jun. 2012. c.528p. ISBN 9780316187299. pap. $14.99. FANTASY

Gujaareh, fabled city of dreams where peace is the only law, now bears the burden of conquest by the Kisuati Protectorate. Worse than the harassment of people in the streets by Kisuati soldiers, a plague sweeps through the city, killing people with nightmares of madness. Hanani, the first woman allowed into the healing priesthood of the goddess Hananja, and Wanahomen, an outcast prince of the Banbarra tribe, form an unlikely partnership dedicated to freeing Gujaareh from its conquerors and finding the cause of the nightmares. This sequel to The Killing Moon features some of the same characters, but tells a larger and very different story as a nonviolent people learn to fight for their freedom. Jemisin (The Inheritance Trilogy) brings to life an exotic world of gentleness and savagery, of dreams and their dangers, and, first and foremost, of people who struggle to remain true to themselves. VERDICT The author’s exceptional ability to tell a compelling story and her talent for worldbuilding have assured her place at the forefront of fantasy.

The following titles are reviewed in the June 15 print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.

Bernobich, Beth. Queen’s Hunt: A River of Souls Novel. Tor. Jul. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780765322180. $24.99. FANTASY

Hammond, Warren. KOP Killer. Tor. Jun. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780765328274. $25.99. SF

Hickman, Tracy & Laura Hickman. Eventide: Tales of the Dragon’s Bard. Shadow Mountain. Jun. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781609088972. $23.99. FANTASY

Lackey, Mercedes. Home from the Sea. DAW, dist. by Penguin. (Elemental Masters, Bk. 7). Jun. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780756407278. $25.95. FANTASY

Marques, Sarah. Sword & Blood. Prime. (The Vampire Musketeers, Bk. 1). Jun. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781607013310. pap. $14.95. FANTASY

Nickle, David. Rasputin’s Bastards. ChiZine. Jun. 2012. c.486p. ISBN 9781926851594. pap. $16.95. Horror

Reynolds, Alastair. Blue Remembered Earth. Ace: Berkley. Jun. 2012. c.512p. ISBN 9780441020713. $26.95. SF


Erikson, Steven. The Devil Delivered and Other Tales. Tor. Jun. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780765330024. $27.99; pap. ISBN 9780765330051. $14.99. FANTASY

Hex Appeal. Griffin: St. Martin’s.Jun. 2012. c.368p. ed. by P.N. Elrod. ISBN 9780312590727. pap. $14.99.FANTASY

21st Century Dead: A Zombie Anthology. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2012. c.352p. ed. by Christopher Golden. ISBN 978031265841. pap. $14.95. Horror

Additional sf & Fantasy

Talley, Brett J. The Void. JournalStone. Jul. 2012. c.242p. ISBN 9781936564439. pap. $16.95. HORROR