Sci Fi/Fantasy Reviews, August 2012

Urban fantasy takes the lead in this month’s selection of summer titles. Known primarily for his collaborations with Brian Herbert in the world of Dune, Kevin J. Anderson presents us with a wisecracking detective intent on solving his own murder (Death Warmed Over). Rachel Caine’s Two Weeks’ Notice brings urban fantasy and zombie lit to a new level of sophistication and seriousness. This month’s feature debut depicts a supernatural-dominated world in Phillipa Bornikova’s This Case Is Gonna Kill Me.

A trio of novels deviates from the expected tropes of traditional fantasy. Paula Brandon’s The Wanderers, the concluding volume to her “Veiled Isles” trilogy, depicts a world of strange magic in a quasi-Renaissance setting. Anthony Huso’s Black Bottle blends steampunk and eldritch horror with more traditional fantastic elements. Mark Lawrence’s King of Thorns depicts a world that is darker and grittier than most fantasies.

Fans of hard science fiction will enjoy Christian Cantrell’s Containment, which explores the fate of a human colony on the surface of Venus, and Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner’s Fate of Worlds, the spectacular conclusion to their “Ringworld” and “Fleet of Worlds” series.

Anthologies reflect a range of topics and styles, from the smorgasbord of strong emotions and single-minded passions on display in Obsession to the gay characters and universal subjects featured in Wilde Stories 2012: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction.

Urban fantasies continue to dominate mass market paperbacks. Ilona Andrews expands the world of Kate Daniels in Gunmetal Magic while Michelle Rowen’s Blood Bath & Beyond starts a new chapter in her “Immortality Bites” series.

starred review star Caine, Rachel. Two Weeks’ Notice: A Revivalist Novel. Roc: NAL. Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780451464620. pap. $7.99. FANTASY

Brought back from the dead by way of an experimental drug called Returné, funeral director Bryn Davis needs regular injections to maintain her existence. When other recipients of the drug disappear and Bryn discovers evidence of a powerful and dangerous conspiracy, she turns for help to the only people she can trust but soon discovers that trust is not as simple as it seems. VERDICT Caine’s second series entry (after Working Stiff) continues to raise the bar for urban fantasy. Bypassing the wisecracking prose of similar series, it deals realistically and compassionately with both the undead and the dead and achieves depth in the process. Caine is also the author of the “Weather Warden” series.

starred review star Cantrell, Christian. Containment. 47North: Amazon. Aug. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9781612183626. pap. $14.95. SF

A talented scientist and one of the first humans born in the V1 colony on the hostile surface of Venus, Arik dedicates himself to creating an artificial photosynthesis that will provide enough oxygen to support V1’s population. After an accident leaves him seriously injured, Arik awakens to discover that his wife is three months pregnant and that the addition of one more member will overtax the colony’s oxygen supply. His attempts to speed his recovery and discover the cause of his accident, however, lead him to a terrible secret that lies at the heart of the colony while testing his resources, his strength, and his faith in humanity. ­VERDICT This first novel by a software developer is a gripping tale that combines hard science fiction with psychological drama. It is sure to appeal to fans of Vernor Vinge and Kim Stanley Robinson.

starred review star Grimes, Linda. In a Fix. Tor. Sept. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780765331809. pap. $14.99. FANTASY

Ciel Halligan is an aura adaptor, a human imitator, and there are many like her out there. The trait lends itself well to careers in covert operations, but becoming a spook doesn’t sit well with the macho males in her family. So Ciel runs a business impersonating clients, giving them a way out of sticky situations they’d rather not deal with personally. When her current client’s fiancé is kidnapped by neo-Vikings, Ciel finds herself caught between two men who play havoc with her emotions. When the case heats up, so does the attraction she feels for both of them. Can Ciel convince them she’s adult enough to play in their game, and will she survive to see where the fates will lead her heart? VERDICT Urban fantasy and paranormal novels crowd the shelves these days, so this reviewer is impressed by debut author Grimes’s fresh take on the genre. Fans of both hard and soft fantasy and crime drama will love her protagonist’s spunky, irreverent attitude as well as Grimes’s character-building skills and unusual storyline.—Debbie Haupt, St. Charles City/Cty P.L., MO

The following titles are reviewed in the August print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Anderson, Kevin J. Death Warmed Over. Kensington. (Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.). Aug. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780758277343. pap. $15. FANTASY

Brandon, Paula. The Wanderers. Spectra: Bantam. (Veiled Isles Trilogy, Vol. 3). Aug. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780553583830. pap. $15. FANTASY

Dearborn, Kristin. Trinity. DarkFuse. Oct. 2012. c.264p. ISBN 9781937771249. pap. $16.99. HORROR

Huso, Anthony. Black Bottle. Tor. Aug. 2012. c.448p. ISBN 9780765325174. $27.99. FANTASY

Lawrence, Mark. King of Thorns. Ace: Berkley. (Broken Empire, Bk. 2). Aug. 2012. c.464p. ISBN 9781937007478. $25.95. FANTASY

Niven, Larry & Edward M. Lerner. Fate of Worlds: Return from the Ringworld. Tor. Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780765331007. $25.99. SF

Richardson, Kat. Seawitch: A Greywalker Novel. Roc: NAL. Aug. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780451464552. $25.95. FANTASY

Sniegoski, Thomas E. In the House of the Wicked: A Remy Chandler Novel. Roc: NAL. Aug. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780451464569. pap. $15. FANTASY


Dick, Philip K. Upon the Dull Earth: The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 3. Subterranean. Aug. 2012. c.432p. ISBN 9781596065123. $40. SF

Murphy, C.E. Baba Yaga’s Daughter and Other Tales of the Old Races. Subterranean. Sept. 2012. c.264p. ISBN 9781596063822. $40. FANTASY

Obsession: Tales of Irresistable Desire. Prime. 2012. c.312p. ed. by Paula Guran. ISBN 9781607013433. pap. $15.95. FANTASY

Wilde Stories 2012: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction. Lethe. Aug. 2012. c.236p. ed. by Steve Berman. ISBN 9781590213971. $25; pap. ISBN 9781590213988. $15. SF

Docotorow, Cory & Charles Stross. The Rapture of the Nerds. Tor. Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780765329103. $24.99. SF