Science Fiction/Fantasy Reviews, September 15, 2012

September welcomes an abundant harvest of strong sf, fantasy, and horror. This month’s feature debut, Richard E. Gropp’s Bad Glass, combines conspiracy theory with dark fantasy for a memorable reading experience. A new werewolf series kicks off with Amanda Carlson’s Full Blooded. Major genre author Tad Williams makes his urban fantasy debut in The Dirty Streets of Heaven, set in the borderland between life and the afterlife, while Richard Kadrey’s Devil Said Bang switches between Los Angeles and hell. Alex Bell’s fantasy adventure, Lex Trent Versus the Gods, pits a sometimes likable rogue against a group of spoiled deities.
Science fiction with an emphasis on science comes to the fore in Greg Egan’s mind-stretching The Eternal Flame. Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter Legion places fantasy elements in a scientific context—complete with big guns. Dave Swavely’s Silhouette introduces a sf technothriller series for fans of cyberpunk and its offshoots.
Horror makes a significant showing as Halloween approaches. Rob DeBorde’s Portlandtown brings the Western gothic to life, while traditional haunted house horror is the focus of Jonathan Janz’s House of Skin. Classic horror is also highlighted in the anthology A Book of Horrors, edited by Stephen Jones.
While urban fantasy continues to dominate mass market paperbacks, Joe McKinney’s Mutated provides fodder for fans of zombie fiction, and space opera makes an appearance in Michael Cobley’s Seeds of Earth. In addition to the reviews, the column takes a look at a digital-first publisher, perhaps a portent of things to come.

starred review starDeBorde, Rob. Portlandtown: A Tale of Oregon Wyldes. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9781250006646. pap. $15.99. HORROR

When the town gravedigger discovers retired marshal James Kleberg digging up the corpse of a man whose name Kleberg can’t remember, Kleberg’s son-in-law Joseph Wylde brings him to live with his family in the boomtown of Portland. Small-time criminal Henry Macke, however, remembers what Kleberg forgot; with the aid of a book of spells he revives the corpse of the Hanged Man, a legendary gunslinger. Soon, the Hanged Man is on the hunt for Kleberg, the man responsible for his death. VERDICT DeBorde’s extraordinary first novel, a dark fantasy set in the Old West, tells a compelling tale of the battle between evil personified and a remarkable family with special abilities. Fans of Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series will enjoy discovering this accomplished writer.

starred review starWilliams, Tad. The Dirty Streets of Heaven. DAW, dist. by Penguin. (Bobby Dollar, Bk. 1). Sept. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780756407681. $25.95. FANTASY

As an advocate for souls awaiting the judgment that will determine where they spend the afterlife, an earthbound angel known as Bobby Dollar walks a thin line between his commitment to absolute good and his sympathy for imperfect humanity. But when someone begins stealing the souls of the newly dead before they can face judgment, Bobby must investigate. The celebrated author of such epic fantasies as the “Shadowland” series now tries his hand at urban fantasy with a tough, likeable hero and a multidimensional plot. VERDICT The author’s many fans as well as urban fantasy enthusiasts will enjoy Williams’s take on Heaven’s less desirable places as well as his wry humor and keen insights. [Previewed in Kristi Chadwick’s Genre Spotlight feature “Hungry for SF,” LJ 8/12.—Ed.]

Egan, Greg. The Eternal Flame. Night Shade. (Orthogonal, Bk. 2). Sept. 2012. c.300p. ISBN 9781597802932. $26.99. FANTASY

Alien scientists launched the generation ship Peerless in hopes its crew could find the technology needed to help their home planet avoid destruction by a shower of meteors known as the Hurtlers—but now the expedition is in danger of being derailed by a fuel shortage. On board, astronomer Tamara discovers a huge object traveling in a linear trajectory past the ship, and she believes this object could provide the help they need. In the meantime, biologist Carlo searches for solutions to the food shortage on board the ship and finds, instead, a way to reinvent the act of giving birth so that it does not result in the mother’s death (this species gives birth by fission). VERDICT Set in a universe where the speed of light is not fixed and where the dominant species is protean in form, this sequel to The Clockwork Rocket explores science’s impact on culture and its ability to alter the very fabric of life. The author imbues his characters with a ferocious individuality that belies their amorphous appearance. Egan’s fans as well as lovers of sf that emphasizes hard science should welcome this tale of courage and self-sacrifice.

The following titles are reviewed in the September 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Bell, Alex. Lex Trent Versus the Gods. Headline, dist. by Trafalgar Square. Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780755355181. pap. $11.95. FANTASY

Carlson, Amanda. Full Blooded. Orbit: Hachette. (Jessica McLain, Bk. 1). Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780316205207. pap. $12.99. FANTASY

Correia, Larry. Monster Hunter Legion. Baen, dist. by S. & S. Sept. 2012. c.624p. ISBN 9781416537960. $24. FANTASY

Hayes, Lee. The First Male. Strebor: S. & S. (Zane Presents). Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781593094393. pap. $15. HORROR

Janz, Jonathan. House of Skin. Samhain. Sept. 2012. c.312p. ISBN 9781609289218. pap. $16. HORROR

Kadrey, Richard. Devil Said Bang: A Sandman Slim Novel. Harper Voyager. Sept. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780062094575. $24.99. FANTASY

Swavely, Dave. Silhouette: A Peacer Novel. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9781250001498. $24.99. SF


A Book of Horrors. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2012. c.448p. ed. by Stephen Jones. ISBN 9781250018526. pap. $15.99. HORROR

Harrison, Kim. Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond. Harper Voyager. Oct. 2012. c.528p. ISBN 9780061974328. $24.99. FANTASY

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2012. Prime. 2012. c.544p. ed. by Rich Horton. ISBN 9781607013440. pap. $19.95. SF


starred review starCarey, Jacqueline. Dark Currents: Agent of Hel. Roc: Penguin. Oct. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780451464781. $26.95. FANTASY

Connolly, Tina. Ironskin. Tor. Oct. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780765330598. $24.99. FANTASY

Cornwall, Emma. Incarnation. Gallery: S. & S. Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781439190357. pap. $15. FANTASY

Drake, Jocelynn. Angel’s Ink: The Asylum Tales. Harper Voyager. Oct. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780062117854. pap. $14.99. FANTASY

Shinn, Sharon. Still Life with Shape-Shifter: A Shifting Circle Novel. Ace: Berkley. Nov. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780425256817. $25.95. FANTASY